Published on August 3rd, 2016 | by Aisha Abdelhamid0
Birds Find Paradise Under Sri Swamiji’s Wings
Appealing for more reverential treatment for birds, Sri Swamiji has founded a lush, serene paradise in Mysore, India, called Shuka Vana, or Parrot Park. The delightful tropical landscape flashes with rainbows of color as rare and exotic parrots, macaws, and cockatoos flit and chatter in this verdant haven.
Dr. Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji is the founder of Avadhoota Datta Peetham, a Hindu Ashram, or spiritual locus of Indian cultural activities, yoga, music, and religious instruction.
Recognized around the world for his compassionate heart and extraordinary vision, Sri Swamiji urges the end to needless deforestation and polluting the atmosphere. He says, “birds are vital to the existence of the human race,” and he notes that “their alarmingly diminishing numbers in recent times do not bode well.”
Shuka Vana Offers a Haven for Endangered Birds
Established within the grounds of his ashram, Sri Swamiji’s 21-acre Shuka Vana features a veterinary and rehabilitation center, a one-acre aviary, and 82 individual bird rooms. There are more than 1,500 birds of over 370 parrot species, many listed as endangered or critically endangered.
To name only a few types of parrots residing at Shuka Vana, there are African lovebirds, African greys, blue-naped parrots, caiques, cockatoos, conures, lorikeets, and a colorful spectrum of macaws. With lifespans ranging from 60 to 120 years, every parrot in this paradise must be enjoying long, happy, healthy lives.
Designed with technical assistance from Singapore’s Jurong Bird Park, Shuka Vana opened in 2012. Collecting parrots from South Africa, South America, Austria, and other countries, Sri Swamiji’s colorful flock has attracted worldwide acclaim.
Members of the Avian Society of India, as well as internationally popular speakers, have participated in activities at the park. “The world’s top 150 bird followers and researchers have visited Shuka Vana and appreciated our efforts,” notes the soft-spoken holy man.
An Epiphany of Birds in the Amazon
Sri Swamiji grew up in the Mekedattu woods on the banks of the Cauvery, one of India’s many beautiful and sacred rivers. He relates, “I was passionate towards helping birds and was fortunate to spend time looking at a huge tree every day that gave shelter to thousands of them. Once I saw an injured bird battling for life outside my house. I nurtured it till it flew back to the woods. This is how my tryst with bird life started.”
Then, in August 2011, while visiting Angel Falls in Venezuela, Sri Swamiji lost his footing and fell down about one hundred feet. As he regained consciousness, the Hindu Swami found hundreds of Amazonian birds surrounding him. Amazed by their presence, Swamiji regarded this moment as an epiphany and made plans to build a rehabilitation center for injured birds.
Now his Shuka Vana offers veterinary care and a peaceful sanctuary for rehabilitating injured or neglected birds. Donors from all over the country bring parrots in need of help to Sri Swamiji. Assisted by a support team of 54 attendants, he clearly enjoys hand feeding his colorfully feathered friends.
A Spiritual Guide to Parrots
His close, daily devotion to his parrots has finely honed Sri Swamiji’s spiritual understanding of parrots. “When we see the smile of another individual we respond with a smile,” he says, “recognizing and acknowledging the sameness of species, even if we do not share the same language, culture, or ethnicity.”
“But,” Swamiji adds, “we do not do the same with animals, birds, reptiles, or insects.”
He explains, “A parrot, on the other hand, naturally identifies with and shares the expressions of all those whom it notices around it, regardless of species. It empathises with everyone and everything that it comes in contact with, and blends its voice with theirs.”
“Its talent for reproducing human speech and songs,” relates Sri Swamiji, “arises out of this empathy and inclusiveness, granting it the required level of concentration to grasp the nuances of sound.” He continues, “Because it ignores the differences, a parrot is not intimidated at the magnitude of the task of learning to speak different tongues or repeating the sounds made by different objects.”
Noticing that parrots have fascinating capabilities for mimicking human speech and singing, Sri Swamiji has trained many of his birds to understand Sanskrit, Kannada, Telugu, and English. Visitors to Shuka Vana are often graciously greeted by the birds saying “namaste,” “welcome,” or “good morning.”
Many of the birds can also chant more than 400 phrases, including the Hanuman Chalisa, a famous Hindu devotional hymn. Swamiji notes, “birds love to feel the vibration of music and Vedic chants.”
Birds Offer a “Strong Positive Influence”
Appealing for more “sensitive, reverential, and friendly treatment of the avian species,” Sri Swamiji’s goal is to increase humans’ appreciation of birds. He repeats his urgent request to end needless deforestation and polluting the atmosphere.
One of the many benefits offered by caring for birds, says Sri Swamiji, is that “the reverence shown to these parrots will exert a strong positive influence.” Feeding, housing, training, and maintaining them, he adds, “will enhance both the individual’s worldly and spiritual lives.”
Noting the “particularly soothing and healing effects of birds and their sounds on humans,” Swajimi invites guests to come to Shuka Vana and visit with his beautiful rare birds.
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