If the dove stands for peace, the owl signifies wealth. The people's belief in the owl as the creature that portends prosperity was seen again on Wednesday, when the bird became scarce as thousands went shopping looking for it.
They wanted to buy owls on Dhanteras (pre-Diwali worship of Goddess Laxmi, whose vehicle the owl is), even at Rs 5,000.
Bird-catchers from as far as the Himalayan Terai had lined up stalls in Hajipur and Vaishali, where they sold the birds at a hard bargain. The number of owls sold this year has been much more than last year, with one seller putting the number close to 175.
“Owls are supposed to be the mascot of fortune and prosperity in Hindu mythology. Its entry into homes on Dhanteras promises affluence and peace,” said Munna Babu, a tantrik (a practitioner of esoteric cults).
At sacred Konharaghat, two birds-catchers from nomadic tribes sold over 20 owlets within an hour of opening.
Said Nagendra Rai, a saint, “Owls trapped from the Sonepur Kalighat areas and Hajipur’s Konharaghat areas happen to be most auspicious. Legend has it that Lord Vishnu had descended here at the site of Hariharnath Temple (Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva) in Sonepur,” he added.
Spelling out the special religious significance of owls trapped in the region, a local resident (name withheld) said: “Since black jackals are found in and around the southern sides of Hajipur’s Konharaghat and Sonepur’s Kalighat areas, owls trapped from these areas are much in demand during the day of Dhanterus and Diwali too. But the prices are exorbitant — between Rs 3,000 and Rs 5,000”.