HAJO - Over 300 intoxicated bulbul birds fought one another so that their cheering owners could win a trophy and cash, as spectators crowded this village to watch this part of Assam’s harvest festival.
Every year the dusty roadside village of Hajo, 30 km west of Guwahati, Assam’s main city, comes alive during Bhogali Bihu, the Assamese harvest festival that began Wednesday this year.
High on locally available intoxicating herbs, scores of the Redvented Bulbul, a small bird belonging to the Pycnonotus cafer family, are locked in a bitter fight amid cheers from thousands of spectators.
Bird fights have been an integral part of the Bihu celebrations in Assam with the locals of Hajo preparing for the annual event with tremendous enthusiasm - a tradition dating back centuries.
The two-day event that concluded Thursday in the precincts of the sacred Hindu temple of Hyagriva Madhava here saw at least 300 birds being coaxed and cajoled to fight by their owners - all for a trophy and a cash reward of Rs.1,001.
‘The preparations for the event begin at least two weeks in advance with people catching birds using various ingenious means like bamboo traps and other baits,’ village elder Dharani Das said. Once caught, the owner grooms the 20-centimetre-long bird for the big day.
‘We make a concoction containing bananas and some locally available intoxicating herbs, some black pepper, clove, and cinnamon, and feed the bird regularly to make them strong and sharp for the fight,’ local resident Madahab Bora said.
Tied with a string on its legs, the inebriated birds start fighting one another aggressively, surrounded by clapping crowds who gather in large numbers at the temple ground.
‘These bird fights are going on for ages and is now an integral part of the Bhogali Bihu traditions. People in hordes come to witness this annual festival from far,’ said Sunkon Deka, a schoolteacher.
‘Once the fight is over, the locals set all the birds free,’ an organiser of this unique bird fight said.