Sunday, June 2, 2013

Unique enclosures for domestic birds designed by Tharus

Domesticated birds make an important part of Tharu households. Depending upon the location, you will find pigeons, chickens, ducks, and even geese in the house premises. The method of keeping the birds and design of enclosures were unique in the days of yore.   

With the passage of time, I have been observing that the traditional enclosures for domesticated birds are being replaced with modernised versions. The influx of ideas from neighbouring communities has largely been responsible for the change.

However, some uniquely designed enclosures are still in use. Few months ago I was in the Eastern Nepal and Rana Tharu villages in Kailali district of Far Western Nepal. It was interesting to see different types of cages and coops for domesticated birds there. 

Lohoda is a beautiful coop mostly made of clay mixed with hay and cow dung. It has two parts – the base and the cover with openings for air. There is enough space for a rooster inside. The coop is cleaned, the hay kept as litter on the base is changed every day and the enclosure is tamped from time to time.
Jhauwa is made of cane/rattan and is usually large enough for half a dozen roosters. It can be easily moved around and is generally used as a temporary means of keeping the birds safe from cats and other predators. Besides, it prevents the birds from moving around the house, dirtying and nibbling vegetables in the kitchen garden. 

Khudela is an earthen enclosure, large enough for a pair of birds. Generally, lids woven out of bamboo culms are used to cover these coops. They are hung at a height so that dogs and other animals don’t reach and harm the birds. I have seen these arrangements in Eastern Nepal as well where the whole room is used to keep domestic animals and birds together. The goats occupy the base of the room and the birds are kept in these enclosures hung at a height.

Khop is a temporary cage made of bamboo culms. It is generally used to pair pigeons. The pigeons are kept in the cage for almost a fortnight until they bond well and form an inseparable pair. After that they are transferred to the permanent mud enclosures. It is also used to take birds to markets to sell.  
Perwa ghar is a permanent mud house for pigeons. They are kept at a height so that other animals don’t reach the pigeons. It has many compartments with each having enough space for a pair. It’s a common sight in Tharu households throughout Nepal.   

Called dhok or khop, it is a wooden coop mainly for ducks and roosters. They have wooden doors and are big enough to hold at least half a dozen birds.

So, next time you enter a Tharu household, ask for the traditional enclosures for domesticated birds. And if you come across any interesting and unique design, add it to this list.

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