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Wednesday, Nov 20, 2019

Wildbuzz: A treasure hunt, the pigeon hunter

Let us meet a pigeon fancier of a decidedly different persuasion, a hobbyist who loves falcons and pigeons with equal fervour

punjab Updated: Apr 28, 2018 23:50 IST
Vikram Jit Singh
Vikram Jit Singh
Hindustan Times
A Peregrine falcon with a pigeon killed in the high skies.
A Peregrine falcon with a pigeon killed in the high skies.(AAMIR RIZWAN KHAN)

Art historian Prof Brijinder N Goswamy’s eye has lavished attention upon countless paintings celebrating the mystical confluence of aesthetics, creativity and nature. The Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awardee has authored 25 books but recollects with a childlike fondness the Mewar painting of a rhino’s capture, Kashmiri depictions of falconry or the lushness of nature cast in the Kotah tradition. When I put to him a curious, simple query as to which was his favourite nature painting, his spontaneous answer was a reference to a Nainsukh classic from 1735-40.

“That painting dwells upon elephants, wild and tame in a landscape. In its depiction of nature, it is unmatched in Pahari painting. In this delicately-coloured, poetically-visualised work, Nainsukh comes as close to painting a ‘pure landscape’ as he was ever to do. The true subject of the painting is nature — notwithstanding the central focus on capture of wild elephants — and Nainsukh’s evident love for nature’s gentle vistas and life-enhancing rocks and water and dazzling foliage,” Prof Goswamy told this writer

The Nainsukh painting of elephants and magnificent nature.
The Nainsukh painting of elephants and magnificent nature. ( PHOTO: MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, BOSTON )

He drew attention to an esoteric wonder, a treasure hunt for the art connoisseur’s eye, and the one which he has not dwelt upon in his recent, celebrated tome on Nainsukh.

“If we examine the elephant painting under a magnifying glass, a monkey with a red face peers from one of the trees in the upper right half of the work. Then, we see another monkey, and then another monkey. We discern deer sitting on rocks in the lake. The detailing of the minuscule monkeys/deer is undertaken with such dexterity by Nainsukh that the figures do not blur or unduly distort under magnification,” said Prof Goswamy.

He wondered whether Nainsukh was teasing the viewer with the sheer intricacy of his skills or had the painter laid a bet with a friend to try and find the concealed monkeys and deer in the magnificent work.


In last week’s columns, I had highlighted the illegal killing of migratory falcons by rogue pigeon fanciers of Punjab. Let us now meet a pigeon fancier of a decidedly different persuasion, a hobbyist who loves falcons and pigeons with equal fervour. Aamir Rizwan Khan is one such pigeon enthusiast who does not retaliate when falcons hunt his expensive highflyer pigeons. His tolerance is worthy of emulation by fellow pigeon hobbyists.

A pigeon with a neck wound after escape from a falcon.
A pigeon with a neck wound after escape from a falcon. ( AAMIR RIZWAN KHAN )

Come September and Peregrine falcons fly from the extreme north of Russia and stay till April in Khan’s hometown of Samastipur in Bihar.

“A female Peregrine hunted my best female pigeon when she was returning to the loft. The falcon struck my pigeon mid-air with such speed that her white feathers were blown into the skies. The falcon then decapitated my pigeon’s neck with its powerful beak, shaped like a tooth to tear the prey’s neck with contemptuous ease,” Khan told this writer.

“A Kalduma highflyer of mine was taken by another Peregrine but the falcon accidentally flew into a big Semul tree while engaged in dislocating the captured pigeon’s neck. The Kalduma managed to slip away and returned to the loft but carried a deep injury in the neck,” Khan added.

“A juvenile Peregrine hunted 15 of my best highflyers. But I have hundreds of pigeons and I can bear the loss. I am equally passionate and thrilled by watching Peregrines on the hunt. Peregrines will fly just 20 feet above my house eyeing my pigeons or high in the sky like a speck chasing and swooping upon my birds. I feel sad for my pigeon when it is killed but at the same time I do not wish any harm to befall the falcon as pigeon predation is its natural instinct,” he added.

Khan has been in the forefront of raising awareness on the killing of raptors by fellow pigeon fanciers. He is also working on a film and a project to document the falconry heritage of the traditional Mirshikar tribe and the Darbhanga royalty.

The author can be contacted at