The Bihar Post

Nipah alert? This village in India’s Bihar state considers bats as their ‘protectors’

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PATNA: Medical experts have alerted people about bats, now being held responsible for spread of deadly Nipah virus in southern Indian state of Kerala claiming around a dozen lives so far.

Doctors have also warned the masses against coming in contact with bats and not eating the fruits eaten by this blind nocturnal birds often seen hanging upside down from trees.

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But in sharp contrast to such strict warnings, a village in the eastern Indian state of Bihar has given shelter to these birds and has also been worshipping them for centuries, considering them as their “protectors” as well as the “symbol of prosperity”.

Sarsai village located in Rajapaker block in Vaishali district is a classic example of how the masses have established harmonious relations with the birds found in plenty.

Villagers say no function in the family is complete unless they have offered prayers to these birds. According to authorities, some 50,000 bats—some of them around 5 kg in weight— have occupied space on dozens of trees situated around a pond at this village.

According to villagers, bats have settled at this village since middle ages while the district was suffering from dangerous epidemic diseases like cholera which had then claimed scores of lives.

“But once these nocturnal creatures settled at our village, the deadly disease suddenly vanished from there. Since then, we have been worshipping these bats. They have proved lucky for us,” remarked a local villager Amod Kumar Nirala.

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He said it is strictly prohibited for villagers to kill and even harm the bats here. “Our great grandfathers believed that the village is out of any danger as long as these bats stay there. They believed sudden trouble might befall on the entire village once anyone killed the bat,” Nirala explained adding they have been filling water in the tanks by raising donation so that the bats could survive.

According to him, the villagers have also been warned against plucking fruits from fruit-bearing trees planted in abundance so that the bats didn’t face the food crisis.

The bats live on trees like Peepal, Chenopodium and Semar situated around a historic pond believed to have been constructed by a King in the 15th century. As per folklore, this pond spread over in around 52 acres of land was constructed by Raja Shiva Singh of Tirhut in 1402.

Villagers claim bats have not only been protecting them diseases or natural disasters but also alerting them about outsiders.

“They (bats) start screaming if any stranger enter the village but don’t make a noise on the entry of villagers,” said another villager.

The unique love for bats by villagers continues even as they have been blamed for spread of deadly Nipah virus. The virus causes high fever, headache and coma in extreme cases.

Image courtesy: Social media

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