Do you know the wonderful story behind what brings the Demoiselle Cranes to Khichan village?
Once upon a time, Ratan Lal Maloo, a native of Khichan who had been working in Odisha, returned to his village. Since he did not have a lot of work to do, his uncle gave him the job of feeding pigeons – a task he willingly accepted.
Ratan Lal and Sunderbai, his wife, loved the idea as it aligned with their philosophy as Jains who believe it’s their duty to give alms and be charitable. A young Ratan Lal would carry big sacks of grains to the feeding place and his wife would disperse them on the ground after filling the grain in an earthen vessel.
That year amongst the pigeons, squirrels, and other native birds that came to feed, a hundred cranes visited too. It was the month of September and Ratan Lal and Sunderbai had never seen big, black and white birds like this ever before. They enquired around and found out that they were in fact, migratory birds that had recently been spotted in the area around winter season. And so began the story of Ratan Lal’s lifelong commitment to the birds. He began observing them closely and saw the numbers growing rapidly until February when they all disappeared almost overnight.
Ratan Lal had to wait until next winter to see the birds, word had spread amongst the demoiselle cranes and that winter the number went up to 150. The cranes began to grow in numbers and so Ratan Lal asked the village panchayat to give him some land on the outskirts of the village. The panchayat agreed and some of the villagers joined him in building a chugga ghar (bird feeding home), with a granary and a fence. Several traders also supported the initiative by supplying grains.
What started initially as a few dozen visiting birds has today become a major migration with the number being recorded at 15,000 in 2010. After a lifetime of protecting the birds, Ratan Lal Maloo or the Birdman of Khichan as he’s fondly known, passed away in 2011 but his legacy in the form of his feathered friends still continues. They return in constantly increasing numbers every winter.
A plot of empty land turned into a haven for birds. This is honestly the purest man to nature relationship one can ever witness.
If you’re thinking of visiting, stay at the nearby Dera Dune Retreat which works with the local community and organises excursions to Khichan village.