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Saturday , November 10 , 2012
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Owls pay price in festival of prosperity
- Beeline for silver idols of Lakshmi-Ganesh on eve of Dhanteras

An injured owl found at Rajendra Nagar and (above) a woman purchases a Ganesh idol on Friday. Pictures by Naveen Kumar and Jai Prakash

Wish for prosperity has no limits.

People seem to have found easy victims in innocent owls even as they spend thousands to bring home a pair of Lakshmi-Ganesh idols — all for better fortune.

At least four injured barn owls — one in Begusarai and the rest in Patna — have been rescued during the past fortnight. Birdwatchers and wildlife experts in the state are concerned that these nocturnal winged creatures are being targeted to offer as sacrifice during Diwali.

On October 18, an owl was rescued at the swimming pool of Moin-ul-Haq Stadium followed by another at Road No. 11 at Rajendra Nagar on October 20. On Thursday, the third one was found at College of Arts and Crafts near Patna Museum.

Navin Kumar, a member of the Indian Bird Conservation Network (IBCN), handed over the three injured barn owls to Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park, where they are under treatment and observation. “All three owls had mysterious injury spots. Two owls had bruises on the neck, while the third one was injured on its wings. At first look, they seemed to have been attacked not by other birds or animals but probably by bird catchers,” said Navin.

He added: “Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, is worshipped on the night of Diwali. However, a few people also sacrifice owl, the traditional mount of the goddess Owls, especially barn owls, are targeted between Dussehra and Diwali.”

Another owl was found injured in Begusarai on October 25. “The owl was found on the roof of my two-wheeler showroom. As it could not even fly, I decided to hand it over to Patna zoo,” said showroom owner Raju Singh.

Arvind Mishra, the state co-ordinator of IBCN, claimed that owls were targeted at this time of the year for business purpose, as well. “Patna, Hajipur, Siwan and Begusarai among other places have become owl trading centres with Baheliya (Gulgulwa) and other such nomadic groups involving in this practice. Owls are utilised in various purposes, including black magic, street performances, taxidermy, cuisine, occult medicines, capturing other birds, decorative purposes and even for gambling in owl eggs,” said Mishra, adding that hunting and trade in all Indian owl species is banned under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

However, owls are not at all a threat to most of the worshippers in Patna.

Jewellery shops in the state capital have witnessed a huge rush to take home expensive Lakshmi-Ganesh idols.

“Though the price of silver is sky-rocketing, people are going for idols of Lakshmi and Ganesh,” said Ramesh, the manager of New Alankar Jewellers.

He added that last year they sold 25 pairs of idols on Dhanteras but this year it would break their records as they had already sold 12 such pairs. The price of a pair of idols ranges between Rs 1,500 and Rs 1,38,000.

Those who cannot afford such idols go for the colourful ones made of clay. Such idols have also flooded gift shops with pick-up price ranging between Rs 68 and Rs 300. The shops have also some eco-friendly idols of Lakshmi-Ganesh made up of coconut shells and jute, clay and natural colours.

As go-green is the new mantra, devotees are avoiding idols made of chemical, plaster of Paris, plastic, or thermocol (polystyrene) and picking up ones made of biodegradable material so as not to pollute the surroundings. “The clay idols are new hot picks of customers these days. You won’t believe that I was out of stocks just two days ago and have ordered few more,” said Ramesh, the owner of a gift shop.

“According to the myth, the Ganesh trunk turned towards right is inauspicious. We have gone through each of the idols before displaying it for customers,” said Mithilesh, a shopkeeper near Patna Women’s College.

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