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Home / India News / 2007 / May 2007 / May 5, 2007
Punjabs fascination with pigeon flying
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Punjabs fascination with pigeon flying

`Kabootarbazi or Pigeon Flying was a sport popularised by the Mughals in India.

By Ravinder Singh Robin/Karan Kapoor

Amritsar/Ludhiana, May 5 : `Kabootarbazi' or Pigeon Flying was a sport popularised by the Mughals in India.

Today, it is still a favourite pastime for bird lovers in Punjab. Flying pigeons fascinates Punjabis, especially the non-resident category.

A visit Dauke village on the Indo-Pakistan border showcases how villagers have taken to "pigeon farming' in a very active way to meet this demand and excitement for `Kabootarbazi'.

To be a successful `kabootarbaaz' or pigeon flyer, one has to be conversant with the breeds of pigeons. In the subcontinent, it is well known that only people in Lahore breed high-flying pigeons. But the million-dollar question is; how do people in Punjab fly Lahori pigeons?

Surrounded on three sides by Pakistan, Dauke is a non-descript village near ttari. Only a fragile bridge at Attari connects it with the rest of India.

A tight security vigil keeps the villagers safe from infiltrators, but no security can stop these `white infiltrators' - the fancy pigeons -- from crossing the border.

A stamp on their feathers authenticates that they belong to Pakistan. Actually, during the summers, there are various pigeon competitions that are held in Lahore. Sometime pigeons fly high and cross the border into Dauke Village.

"Pigeons fly to this side of the border in search of food and water.

We catch them when they sit on our rooftops. The pigeon flyers (in Pakistan) feed their pigeons with highly intoxicating drugs before fly them high in the sky.

Sometimes pigeons miss their destination and cross over the border. They do not reach Doake, but many other villages near the border," says Pratap, a pigeon farmer in Dauke.

A lot of residents in Dauke and nearby villages have taken up "pigeon farming'. They are happy that their work doesn't invite any customs duty, emigration charge or any quarantine inquiry. They just feed them and profit by selling them off.

High-flying pigeons from Pakistan fetch a better price than the Indian variety.

"We have customers from Ludhiana who pay 12 to 15 dollars for a pair (of pigeons) carrying a Pakistani stamp," says Kulwinder Singh, a pigeon fancier.

Birds not only make for good business, but many bird lovers believe in feeding the famished Pakistani pigeons and looking after them as guests.

Pigeons in the border villages are also seen as "Messengers of Peace"

Villagers residing along the Radcliff Line still prefer to send their "love and affection" to each other with the help of pigeons, as they fly fearlessly with the attached "love tags".

The breeding pigeons can be a distinct advantage for many bird lovers.

There are two non-resident Indian brothers in Ludhiana, for whom pigeon flying and breeding means everything.

Bhupinder and Rajinder Singh Jolly own a lavish mansion in Ludhiana's posh Sarabha Nagar colony, a building that attracts every passerby, simply, because pigeons are their favourites!

The brothers run a taxi service and restaurants in New York, but spend six months of the year in Punjab, just to take care of their darling birds.

It may seem as quite a costly affair!

A childhood hobby of keeping pigeons brought them extraordinary fame.

Ask anyone in Ludhiana, and they will willingly lead you to the `Kabootarwala Ghar' - the house of pigeon flyers.

"It's not a matter of money, but a hobby. We work six months abroad, at our restaurants and taxis, but I put everything on hold to visit Punjab to fly pigeons.

Sometimes our children have major loss in studies, as we come here on months-long leave. We have an immense attachment with pigeons and love them like they were our children," says Bhupinder Singh Jolly.

The fascinating hobby of breeding and flying pigeons earned them the title of `Best' Pigeon Flyers in Punjab. The Ludhiana houses some 350 fancy pigeons, and they have been winning pigeon flying competitions galore.

In Ludhiana alone, there are dozens of pigeon fanciers, who get together and compete to see how long their bird will remain airborne.

"It's an expensive pastime. Earlier, people kept pigeons as a hobby, now it has becomes a fashion statement.

They even bet in lakhs of rupees. We live for six months in Punjab and that means a huge business loss abroad and there are expenses here in addition. A hobby of pigeon flying is indeed a costly affair," says Rajinder Singh Jolly.

"I don't know much of Ludhiana, but many villagers are NRIs from Canada and England who come especially to bet on pigeons. These high-flying pigeons participate in competitions with the aim of seeing how long their birds will remain airborne.

In Ludhiana, we NRI brothers have a huge contribution in popularizing pigeon flying. Many have tried to slowdown the hobby, but whenever we come to the city, we meet people and motivate them to organize competitions," said Bhupinder.

Pigeons are a very hardy species, easily housed and require no complex feeds compared to some exotic bird species. Most pigeons have a strong homing instinct and can be released to fly at liberty, and trained to return to their loft, and source of food.

The whole world is fascinated with this beautiful bird. So do Punjabis, who hold a special affection for these birds.


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