A village in central Assam’s Kamrup district on Thursday observed a unique ceremony for a bird which, in the folklore of some countries, is fabled to bring home babies. The villagers organised a baby shower for the greater adjutant storks nesting in their neighbourhood.
Panchamrit is an Assamese ceremony entailing a spread of fruits, vegetables and local delicacies for a bride as well as a pregnant woman. It is observed to pray for long life and strong family bonds for the bride and for maternal and child health.
For the residents of Dadara and adjoining Pacharia villages, about 25 km northwest of Guwahati, the greater adjutant storks are family members. The nesting season thus merited a celebration.
The bird is called ‘hargila’, meaning bone swallower, in Assamese. “This is the breeding season for storks, and some 300 women of the area decided to celebrate the advent of stork babies the traditional way,” Purnima Barman, an award-winning conservationist and leader of the all-women Hargila Army, told The Hindu.
The women began gathering at the Hathiatol Temple in Pacharia village around 10 a.m. Each brought homemade delicacies for the ceremony that lasted more than two hours.
“The hargilas are usually seen scavenging around garbage dumps. They seem ungainly but they are family and we love them. So as elders of the family, it is our duty to maintain our tradition for them,” said Lakhi Das, a Pacharia resident. Ms. Barman said, “The food, obviously, could not be given to the birds. For all of us, it was an occasion to get together for a feast besides taking the conservation campaign to another level for wider participation.”
Assam has about 800 of some 1,200 greater adjutant storks found across wetlands in south and southeast Asia. Dadara and Pacharia villages have about 150 pairs.
Greater adjutant storks build colonies on tall trees during their breeding season in winter.
“We found 200 birds in the area during the last nest counting,” Ms. Barman said.