I came across a video on Youtube of a Swamiji from Mysore catering to birds in his ashram and having the Guinness record for maximum species of birds in an aviary. That led me to make the journey from Mumbai to Bengaluru and then a motorbike ride to Mysore. Oddly enough, not many people from Mysore seem to know about this jewel in their crown.
Nestled on the Ooty highway, in Mysore city, I reached ‘Shukavana’ an aviary within the premises of the ashram of ‘Shri Ganapathi Sachidananda Swamiji’ who is a versatile personality. He has developed a music therapy based on the ‘Ragaragini Vidya’ – an ancient musical tradition that can cure ailments and augment spirituality. Moreover, he has a multi-storeyed personal museum that has more than a few thousand artifacts from different parts of the world where he has traveled -including musical instruments, currency, antiques and cultural objects. The ashram also has a bonsai garden, temple and a hall for functions. The Swamiji himself is a well-spoken and eloquent personality who can hold discussions on subjects related to spirituality and worldly matters. He has traveled across the globe and conducted musical sessions for healing and also holds the world record for maximum people chanting in one place. The ashram recently held the 75th birthday celebrations of the Swamiji.
The aviary is built in a well thought about manner where the birds have enough freedom to fly about with trees in the center and the cages all around. Earlier they were always free to fly about but since visitors were scared of some birds that led them to getting stressed, they are restricted to the cages now. Every morning Swamiji feeds them personally. There is a well-equipped bird care center and hospital adjacent to the aviary. A behavioral expert and a doctor on care are always looking after the birds. Some of the birds who have physical or psychological problems are shifted to the care center.
Almost all the birds in the aviary belong to the family of parrots- Macaws, Cockatoos etc. They have the world record for the maximum number of species – 477. Thanks to their in-house bird specialist – Dr. Srilakshmi- I learnt more about the birds in 30 minutes that I haven’t known in the last 30 years.
Bird brains are compact, but unlike those of humans, are fully utilized. Hence they are very intelligent and are able to imitate human voices. They are monogamous and normally are so attached to their partners that their loss makes them depressed. They can starve to death in 2 days. Their life span is an average of 60 years. The male cannot be differentiated from a female without a DNA test.
The birds were all colorful and created an uplifting environment of happiness and fun. Cameras are not allowed and only the ashram’s official photographers clicked pictures for a minimal cost. Revenues from the pictures go towards feeding the birds as there are no entrance charges. (www.sgsbirds.com)
I appreciate the special permission I got to have a closer look at the birds, understand their behavior and appreciate their beauty and usefulness to nature. Came out singing- I believe I can fly…