Diwali Is A Dark Time For India’s Owls

The illegal trading of owls is still going on in the national capital region, despite persistent efforts made by the authorities to put an end to it.

There is a high demand for owls during Diwali, when Goddess Laxmi, who rides on owl, is worshipped.

Occult practitioners say that sacrificing the bird on the night of the festival brings wealth and fortune.

The practice of sacrificing owl begins after Dussehra and peaks on Diwali.

Often people who want to have luxurious life often land in the search of owls at the Kabootar Bazaar opposite Red Fort in Old Delhi. The place can be identified easily as exotic birds are displayed openly in the few shops that make up the bird market.

Recently, a team of HT landed at the Kabootar Bazaar looking for a dealer. At first, few shops refused to solicit in our ‘quest’ for a ‘desi ullu’. But later the team was guided to a shop in the corner of the market where a middle-aged couple had just sealed the deal for an adult owl for Rs 14,500.

The report showed that one can get a small owl for as low as Rs 5,000 and the adult one for Rs 14,000.

The dealer also offered to sacrifice the owl on our behalf on Diwali night for an extra some of Rs 10,000.


A priest standing close to the shop explained that the idea behind this ritual of owl sacrificing is to not let the goddess of wealth leave your house.

“So, on Diwali night, when Lakshmi ji enters your house, if you sacrifice her vaahan she will stay with you forever.”


A dealer while negotiating the price of an owl at the Kabootar Bazaar in Old Delhi. (Raj K Raj/HT Photo) hindustantimes.

The dealer told HT that the owl trade is banned here and he has to get it from Moradabad, fully aware of the illegality of the business.”

Abrar Ahmed, renowned ornithologist and an expert in owls said that Delhi is the centre of the trade and the majority of the birds are supplied from Kanpur, Moradabad, Pilibhit, Lucknow and Nainital.

“Nothing is going to change unless the government decides to save these species,” Ahmed said.

India is home to 32 species of owls, 13 of which Ahmed discovered being sold as part of the illegal trade in wild birds. Most, if not all, are included on International Union for Conservation of Nature’s “Red List” of threatened species, while at least one, the forest owlet, is critically endangered, according to “Imperilled Custodians of the Night,” a report from Abrar said.

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