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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Crows in Indian tradition and culture

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Crows form an important link in the natural ecosystem of an area. These are confident, brave, offensive and careful birds visibly blamed as cunning, egoistic, quarrelsome, selfish and most adaptable birds. These are regarded as over cleaver birds. A story about dialogue between a crow-father and his crow –son very popular in Indian society goes like this –

Once, while teaching lessons of life to his son, a crow-father said, ‘My son, now that you are grown up, you have to go into the world where you may have to fly alone in the atmosphere dominated by the most dangerous animal of the world – man. So while sitting anywhere due to some important work beware of men moving around. Mind it that if a person bends down and tries to expand his hand to the ground, you must fly away at once. Do you know why?”

“Why father?” the son-crow asked.

“Because, in that case you must take it for sure that he will pick up a piece of stone to throw on you”- explained the father crow.

“But father … if the man is already carrying the piece of stone with him…?” - said the son-crow.

“Well my son, you have passed the examination with distinction, and now you are wiser than me” said the father – crow satisfactorily.

The Hindu scriptures mention crows as descendants of evil spirits and demons. There these birds have been regarded as descendants of Kakasur – a demon in the body of a crow. Still, manywhere else, these birds have traditionally been regarded as messengers and informers since long. Indian ladies of rural settings have been treating them as friends and informers of their husbands working at far off places in some cities.

The migration of men from rural to urban areas of India during the initial phase of the industrial revolution left rural ladies alone at homes that had to rear children and handle household affairs on their own. Being mostly illiterate, they had to depend on the post men and some school going boys and girls of the village for reading, writing and posting messages for their husbands. If a crow sitting at the top of a house cawed repeatedly, it was regarded as a sure signal of arrival of some guests or an important and long awaited member of the family.

In Hindi poetry and in many folk songs, a lady of some rural areas has been mentioned promising gold plating of the beak of a crow who could deliver a   message to her husband. Thus days of sadness used to pass gradually and the crow remained unrewarded. Now, in my opinion, crows might had been cunning but rather less than the ladies who often forgot to reward them after the crows literally completed their assignments. In the modern industrialized world where most of rural ladies have accompanied their husbands to cities leaving their villages;  and fields have been intoxicated by agrochemicals due to the Green Revolution, most of the crows have migrated to urban areas where dumps of garbage and food-leftovers are abundant to be found.

Key Words: crow, ecosystem, cunning, cleaver, evil spirit, scriptures, messenger, rural, urban, poetry, tradition, India, unrewarded, ladies, industrial revolution, postmen, informer, messenger, green revolution, intoxicated, migration

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