This is one of a series of stories highlighting some of the remarkable achievements of the animal welfare movement in India.
The Meenakshi Temple at Madurai, in southern India, is one of the largest temples in the world. It is dedicated to the Goddess Meenakshi, a form of Parvati, who is the wife of Shiva. Her vahana, or symbol, is the parrot, and she is depicted holding a parrot on her finger.
The species of parrot she holds is the Indian Ring-necked Parakeet or Rose-ringed Parakeet, which is native to India.
In an online article from September 19, 2005, attributed to Mike Schindlinger, entitled “Free Sky for Meenakshi Temple Parrots,” it was reported that the temple birds were being freed, and in the future only one pair of parrots would be kept in the temple.
According to P. Bhaskaran, Executive Officer of the Temple, the birds were being freed in response to requests from animal welfare organizations like Blue Cross of India. Similar requests had been lodged by the Tamil Nadu Forestry Department.
Dr. Chinny Krishna, Chairman Emeritus of Blue Cross of India, recalls that there used to be around 600 parrots being kept in an aviary of the temple.
Surrounding shops sold parrots to pilgrims visiting the temple, who then donated them to the temple in honor of Meenakshi.
People generally had no idea that the parrots were captured from the wild, and that for every parrot that survived, eight or nine may have died during the process of capturing them, so it was a very cruel process, and a very poor way to honor the Goddess Meenakshi.
Dr. Krishna pointed out that, starting around a hundred years ago, each year, unfortunately, many thousands of parrots were donated to the temple, but only around 600 parrots were there in the aviary at any one time. Since parrots easily live for around 60 years, something was not right. Clearly, most of the parrots did not survive in a situation where their caregivers had not been trained in how to care for them. They suffered from neglect.
For around 30 years, Dr. Krishna, representing Blue Cross of India, had been writing to the temple authorities, asking them not to keep parrots and to refuse to accept donations of parrots to the temple.
At long last, the battle was won; living parrots are no longer sold in shops near the temple, and they are not donated to the temple.
Dr. Krishna noted that, unfortunately, when they were freed without being acclimatized or rehabilitated first, most of the parrots probably did not survive.
Whenever birds are released after being kept in captivity, they need to go through a process of rehabilitation undertaken by a qualified wildlife rehabilitator. In most cases where birds are born in captivity, they can never be released back to the wild, but there are exceptions. Only a wildlife rehabilitator is able to make this assessment, on a case by case basis.
The good news is that parrots no longer suffer being captured from the wild to be sold to pilgrims or being kept inappropriately in captivity at the temple in Madurai. The Goddess Meenakshi can feel a sense of joy that her beloved, beautiful birds are at last free to fly in the pure winds of heaven.
To read the article, “Free Sky for Meenakshi Temple Parrots, click here.”
To visit the website of Blue Cross of India, click here.
Top photo: J.M.Garg / GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version… / Wikimedia Commons / Rose-ringed Parakeets
Second photo: Nireekshit /This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. / Wikimedia Commons / Rose-ringed Parakeets
© Sharon St Joan, 2014