Ravi is a traveler and foodie who loves to visit off-the-beaten-track places and understand the culture, history and customs behind them.
The Magical State of Assam
The northeastern state of Assam, India, is a land of many natural oddities.
- Assam is home to Majuli, the largest river island in the world. Majuli is famous for its breathtaking beauty and warm, vibrant people.
- Assam is the most prosperous biodiverse land in the world. Its diverse environments include bamboo forests, rainforests, lush grasslands, swamps, and wetlands.
- It is known for the highest population of wild buffalos in the world.
- The largest one-horned rhino population is found in Kaziranga national park, a UNESCO world heritage site.
- And lastly, Assam is known for Jatinga, a mysterious, small village in the Dima Hasao District. Jatinga is known for a bizarre natural phenomenon of birds "committing suicide." The locals also describe the village as the valley of death for birds.
Yes, birds are committing suicide. Unbelievable, isn't it so? However unheard of it may sound but some of the world’s best scientists and ornithologists have been trying to figure out this phenomenon for the past fifty years or so. This strange mass suicide of birds has made this village one of the creepiest places on earth.
The Mysterious Village of Jatinga
Jatinga came into the limelight in 1960 when the famed naturalist, EP Gee, and renowned ornithologist, the late Salim Ali, visited this village to study the veracity of the bizarre phenomenon of bird suicide. What they found was mind-boggling.
They found that the strange phenomenon happens just after the culmination of the monsoons, during September and October. During these months, most of the water bodies in Assam and nearby states get flooded, and birds lose their nests. So, they start migrating to other places, and Jatinga comes on their migration path.
And while doing that, something strange happens to them. Hordes of birds would fly directly into the village walls, buildings, and even trees, thus instantly killing them. More than 44 species of local and migratory birds, like, tiger bittern, little egret, black bittern, pond heron, Indian pitta, and kingfishers, commit suicide as the village gets flooded with the dead bodies of the birds.
The strangest thing is that birds do this from 7 pm to 10 pm, while in the daytime, everything is normal. Another bizarre fact is that most of these bird species are diurnal and should not be flying at night.
As per the locals, evil spirits terrorize the birds forcing them to commit suicide. Some even believe the birds are evil demons flying over the sky to trouble them. Some villagers even resort to capturing them with bamboo poles and beating them to death.Currently, wildlife and bird societies in India have visited the village to persuade them to stop killing the birds.
Despite the danger that happens every year, the birds continue to fly over the same small area of 1500 by 200 meters yearly to their deaths. This bizarre Bermuda Triangle of birds’ death remains unexplained mainly, despite studies by the world’s best ornithologists.
Several ornithologists have discarded the "bird suicide" theory, claiming that the villagers themselves are killing the birds. According to them, local tribals entice birds using artificial lights or lanterns and then kill them with bamboo sticks. Assam's best-known ornithologist, Anwaruddin Choudhury, who has spent decades studying this phenomenon, supports this theory by saying that juvenile birds get attracted to the lights and thus fall prey to the villagers.
However, the theory fails to explain why the birds only get attracted to the lights between September and October, and that too only in specific weather conditions. Another reason against the theory is why the birds do not protect themselves from danger. There are no reasonable explanations for these questions.
Another theory explains the phenomenon in terms of high winds and altitude. According to this theory, a combination of high altitude, high winds, and fog experienced during these months cause disorientation in the birds, and they start banging themselves against buildings and walls to their deaths.
Yet another theory claims that the unusual weather during these months changes the magnetic properties in the underground water creating disorientation in the birds and resulting in their bizarre behavior.
However, none of these theories have entirely been able to explain the bizarre behavior of the birds. Whatever the truth, it is hard to discount that there is definitely something creepy about the quaint village of Jatinga that has successfully baffled the best brains in the world.
Jatinga is a famous bird-watching center that comes under the district forestry office in Haflong. It can be reached in multiple ways.
- By Air: LGBI Airport (Guwahati) is 369 km away. Buses and private taxis are available from Guwahati.
- By Train: The nearest station to Jatinga is Lumding junction, about 400 km away. Tourists can travel to Guwahati by rail, then take the connecting Shatabdi Express to Lumding and continue traveling on the Hill Queen to Lower Haflong Junction. From Haflong Junction, private taxis and auto rickshaws are available to Jatinga.
- By Road: State-run bus services and private taxis run between Guwahati, Tezpur, and Upper Assam to Jatinga village.
- Best time to Visit: August to November after monsoons
- Where to Stay: Jatinga has no hotels, so the best option would be to stay in Haflong or Silchar and take a day trip to Jatinga
- Eating Options: Not much of dining options are available. It is better to carry your own food.
Presently, some development activities have been undertaken by the Government of Assam to promote tourism in the village. As part of these initiatives, hotels and some beautification activities are in the works to develop the place. You can find more details in the tourism portal of the Assam government.
- Jatinga Bird Suicide Mystery: This Spooky Place Is Where Birds Go and Commit Suicide
- The Unbelievable Mass Suicide of Birds! Have You Ever Heard of Jatinga?
- Why A Tiny Village Called Jatinga In Assam Is One Of The Creepiest Places on Earth
- JATINGA: The Valley of Mysterious Bird Suicide Point in Assam
- Jatinga Dima Hasao
- The birds of Assam-Anwaruddin Choudhury
- Jatinga Bird Deaths
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Ravi Rajan