Jatinga – The village and the mystery around it

Many times over the years I have heard about this small hill town called Jatinga nestled somewhere on a ridge of the Borail hills in the Dima Hasao district where, on dark moonless nights, birds come to kill themselves! To be honest, whenever I heard anything about the bird suicide in Jatinga thing, I always took it with a pinch of salt until one day, I decided to google it up. To my surprise I found that all of it was actually true and even more surprising was the fact that quite a few renowned ornithologists too have tried to actually find out the reason behind the birds committing suicide there.

Jatinga Bird watching tower

Bird watching tower – Jatinga

I felt like an idiot for having never believed anything about a phenomenon which has been happening since the past 100 years!! I always wanted to go there to find out more about this phenomenon and as luck would have it, one fine day on a solo ride to Haflong, I took a detour to visit the Jatinga village. I liked the quaint little village as soon as I entered its boundaries. Too bad, I had no camera on that ride apart from my smart-phone.

view from Jatinga village

The view below from Jatinga village

Just as you enter the village (from Silchar side and towards Haflong), there is the bird-watching tower which has a lot of photographic as well as textual records detailing the phenomenon, a lot of photos of different species of birds. The sentry there gave me a tour of the place and answered a lot of questions of mine.

Silchar- Haflong highway at Jatinga

Silchar- Haflong highway at Jatinga

During the dark and moonless nights of September and October, just after the monsoons start making way for the cold and foggy winters, between 6.30 and 9.30 PM (not sure how true these are), some 44 species of local birds become strangely disoriented and plunge to the lights of the houses below, he said.

Details of different bird species - Jatinga bird-watching tower

Details of different bird species – Jatinga bird-watching tower

Why do they do so, nobody knows but what I did not know until I talked to the caretaker of the bird-watching tower was the fact that not all the birds that come swooping down attracted by the lights actually commit ‘suicide’. In reality, on landing, most of the birds are just disoriented and not dead, it is the locals who actually do the killing because of their superstitious beliefs.

views from Jatinga village

The views from Jatinga village

Before I came here, I somewhere inside me, wanted to actually see it happening, the birds flying in and smashing themselves over a very small area of 1.5 x 2 kms but after being there and listening to things first hand, I don’t think I would ever want to see that. The poor birds flying disillusioned falling on the ground and then people instead of helping them, killing them off. No, I would definitely never like to witness something like this!

How to reach Jatinga?

Located in the North-Cachar Hills of Assam, Jatinga can be reached by road and rail. Below are the ways to reach Jatinga.

By Road: Jatinga falls off the East – West corridor, very near to Haflong, the only Hill-station of Assam. The nearest major town to it’s south is Silchar (98 kms) while the nearest major town on the North is Guwahati, both well-connected by the East-West corridor. From Haflong, you can easily take an auto-rickshaw to Jatinga.

By Train: Jatinga has its own station and is part of the North-East Frontier Railway network. There are multiple trains daily that connect it to Silchar, Lumding and Guwahati. Guwahati is well-connected to the rest of India.

By Air: Jatinga does not have an airport of its own. The nearest airport from Jatinga is at Silchar which is around 98 kilometers. There are multiple daily flights from Silchar to Kolkata and Guwahati. The distance between Jatinga and the Guwahati airport is around 320 kms.

“As fog comes on a moonless night
When the wind blows in direction right
Jatinga turns into an island of search light
& birds appear like ghosts from nowhere!!” – Website of Dima Hasao

Did you know about this place before, ever heard about it? Do you know about any other such mysterious phenomenon and would like to share?

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21 thoughts on “Jatinga – The village and the mystery around it

  1. Lovely views of Jatinga village. The name Jatinga made me jump to the post. My blog has a post on Dima Hasao written by my father in law, who was posted in the Haflong district long time back. I too would want to go there someday. 🙂

    • Thanks Somali! Each one of us has some place or the other that gets us excited and I am really glad I could evoke similar emotions in you. I want to read more & more about that region which has remained almost isolated all these years, it would definitely be a pleasure to read your father in law’s post which must be giving a glimpse of the region during olden times 🙂

  2. Yeah I had the same imagination of the birds flying and smashing against something as they land, therefore “committing suicide” ! Luckily you went there to check it out and got the true facts 🙂

  3. Rajiv bhai,
    I read about this village earlier. But discarded the belief as many other unseen, baseless stories.
    It is disheartening to know villagers actually kill them.
    However it is still mysterious why only in this part of world birds feel delusional?

    • I was in your position Ankur bhai, until “I went there. And yes, as far as I could learn, people concerned are still trying to figure out why that happens!

  4. Really a nice place but very small . small places are not so much popular as others but they have more natural and untouched beauty.

  5. i crossed Jatinga many a times and heard this story as well. what i did not know was that people actually kill some of the birds there. that’s disturbing.

  6. Was totally surprised finding the locals killings these birds ! Is it really true ? did you happen to talk with some other locals , you should definitely visit there during the monsoon ! It’s so intriguing ,more than the George Martin Novels ! – http://umaabharath.com

    • It indeed is Uma, not everybody likes to talk about it as soon as they feel you are taking much interest. However, I did get to talk with my share of locals and sadly, that’s how it is. The local belief is that these flying birds are some kind of bad amen for them and their village and hence they kill them!!

  7. I wish to visit Jatinga someday. Have heard so much about the birds and the unsolved mystery behind it! I first read about it in a children’s thriller written by the renowned Bengali author Sunil Gangopadhyay.

    Nice pictures of the place. Thanks for sharing… 🙂

    • Thanks Maniparna. I too was intrigued by this place for long before I finally went there. If you wish to visit, make sure you visit in October and more importantly, don’t be on tight schedule. As per the locals, the weather has to be just perfect for the bird to show up.

  8. That is a interesting fact… well there are very funny rituals especially in villages, one of my known girl, her whole family was go for a festival very excitely for cuting hens or something. Very similarly in the news, there is a festival where they slaughter cows!!, now Govt. banned it!! … yesterday on paper I read somewhere there is a tradition where people fast to attain mosha and Govt. is against the practice branding such a thing as suicide… Well… Bomkesh Bakshi would have solved the mystery gathering the clues, I am disoriented after yesterday I realised I watched all 34 episodes of the old serial, wonder what I will watch to entertain me…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGEcqJhglaY
    Anyway…goodday, the place is nice hill station though… I am not against killing of all birds though, the pigeons keep dirtying the window sill laying eggs… last year instead of throwing the eggs, I cleaned the pigeon mess, those babies flew away without any regard, this time again stupid thing laid one egg, my Mom told throw it… I am undecided on what to do with it… I changed the egg location but the pigeons have no brain to know that… I think I got to check on it and see… I am not prepared to clean up that bird’s mess… you pat the pigeon babies na, big insects come…so dirty!!…anyway

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  11. I have been hearing stories about it from many years. I think that its high time I should pay a visit. Thanks for reminding me of my backyard. And I will carry my camera along 🙂

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