Kabutarbazi (pigeon fighting)

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In Ajmer

The Times of India, Jan 29 2016

Shoeb Khan

Kabutarbazi: Not a game, but art of war

It is about the time for the sun to set when nearly 15 pigeons make a flutter at the rooftop of Haji Manzil, a five-storied house built along a narrow alley in Ajmer’s thickly populated Khadim Mohalla. It’s Syed Imran Chishty setting the pigeons free from their little cages, exclaiming ‘burr burr’, ‘tha tha’, ‘dhar dhar’ — the ‘bird language’ in which he is directing them into a flying formation. And in no time, it’s a sight to behold as the birds flap free in a pattern across the skyline. Two hours into the act, and Chishty lets out cries of ‘ Aao, Aao’. The birds obediently follow the instructions, and are back in their cages.

All this was not anotherday activity. Chishty was preparing his pigeons for the three-month long Kabutarbazi match that kicked off from January 26. The game is about a participant’s pigeons influencing the pigeons of the opponent and bringing them to their terrace.

And these pigeons are no ordinary ones. The colourful desi and videsi variety can cost as much as Rs 35,000 a bird and they are fed solely on nuts.

When TOI went up to the fifth floor of Haji Manzil, Chishty — who is also a khadim at Ajmer Dargah — threw before us a multi-coloured collection of his 500 birds that included Basra breed from Iraq, several from Iran and indigenous ones that he has christened Roshan Chirag and Khale, to name a few.

Chisthy has employed three servants to look after his flock round the clock at his 400 square feet terrace.

“This is an expensive sport and is not cruel in any way. The pigeons are treated well and given a royal treatment. Their diet has badam, munakka, desi dhee, mirchi, charu magaz, akal khera, muleti, etc, mixed in bajra so that they become robust and have the stamina for flights lasting as long as three hours,” said Chishty.

His flock won the contest held on January 26. That evening his competitor, whose terrace is 300 metres from his, had released their trained 21-member flock into the sky. Chishty’s birds were in V-formation while his opponent’s were in Upattern. After 15 minutes of battle in the skies, Chishty’s birds managed to bring the opponent’s to their base.

The prize was not in cash. The winning team got to pick 10 pigeons among the ‘captives’.

Elsewhere, Baitul Hasnain Haveli of Ramganj in Jaipur is gearing up to take revenge of last year’s defeat.

“This time I have Geerabaz variety from Lucknow and I am giving special food to it,” said Sameer Ahmed, a final year student of St Xaviers College in Jaipur who has inherited this sport from his forefathers.

Practised primarily in parts of Ajmer, Jaipur and Shekawati, this medieval form of entertainment is alive and kicking, though in small pockets of the state.

And it’s an expensive passion – maintaining a flock of hundred may cost Rs 2-3 lakh per annum, something which is forcing many to give it up.

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