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Birds Sarus Home

Jahangir and the Sarus

Extracts from Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri - the Memoirs of Jahangir. Translated by A. Rogers and edited by H. Beveridge. Reprinted in 1999 by Low Price Publications, New Delhi. The references below are to the second volume.

The Pairing of the Saras

Page 16. At this time the pairing of the saras, which I had never seen before, and is reported never to have been seen by man, was witnessed by me. The saras is a creature of the crane genus, but somewhat larger. On the top of the head it has no feathers, and the skin is drawn over the bones of the head. From the back of the eye to six finger-breadths of the neck it is red. They mostly live in pairs on the plains, but are occasionally seen in flocks. People bring a pair in from the fields, and keep them in their houses, and they become familiar with men. In fact, there was a pair of saras in my establishment to which I had given the names of Laila and Majnun. One day a eunuch informed me that the two had paired in his presence. I ordered that if they showed an inclination to pair again they should inform me. At dawn he came and told me that they were about to pair again. I immediately hastened to look on. The female having straightened its legs bent down a little : the male then lifted up one of its feet from the ground and placed it on her back, and afterwards the second foot, and immediately seating himself on her back, paired with her. He then came down, and, stretching out his neck, put his beak to the ground, and walked once around the female. It is possible they may have an egg and produce a young.

Affection For Its Mate

Page 17. Many strange tales of the affection of the saras for its mate have been heard. The following case has been recorded because it is very strange. Qiyam K., who is one of the khanazads (houseborn ones) of this Court, and is well acquainted with the arts of hunting and scouting, informed me that one day he had gone out to hunt, and found a saras sitting. When he approached, it got up and went off. From its manner of walking he perceived signs of weakness and pain. He went to the place where it had been sitting, and saw some bones and a handful of feathers on which it had been sitting. He threw a net round it, and drew himself into a corner, and it tried to go and sit in the same place. Its foot was caught in the net, and he went forward and seized it. It appeared extremely light, and when he looked minutely he saw there were no feathers on its breast and belly : its flesh and skin had separated, and there were maggots. Moreover, there was no sign of flesh left on any of its members : a handful of fathers and bone came into his hand. It was clear that its mate had died, and that it had sat there from the day it lost its companion.

Himmat K., who is one of my best servants, and whose word is worthy of reliance, told me that in the Dohad pargana he had seen a pair of saras on the bank of a tank. One of his gunners shot one of them, and in the same place cut off its head and stripped it of its feathers. By chance we halted two or three days at that place, nad its mate continually walked round it, and uttered cries and lamentation. "My heart," he said, "ached at its distress, but there was no remedy for it save regret." By chance, twenty-five days afterwards, he passed by the same spot, and asked the inhabitants what had become of that saras. They said it died on the same day, and there were still remains of feathers and bones on that spot. He went there himself, and saw it was as they said. There are many tales of this kind among the people, which it would take too long to tell.

Incubation

Page 23. On Monday, the 21st, the saras, the pairing of which has been related in the preceding pages, collected together some straw and rubbish in the little garden, nad laid first of all one egg. On the third day (afterwards) it laid a second egg. This pair of saras were caught when they were a month old, and had been in my establishment for five years. After five and a half years they paired, and continued doing so for a month; on the 21st of the month of Amurdad, which the Hindus call Sawan, the hen laid the eggs. The female used to sit on the eggs the whole night alone, and the male stood near her on guard. It was so alert that it was impossible for any living thing to pass near her. Once a large weasel made its appearance, and he ran at it with great impetuosity, and did not stop until the weasel got into its hole. When the sun illuminated the world with its rays, the male went to the female and pecked her back with its beak. The female then rose, and the male sat in her place. She returned, and in the same manner made him rise, and seated herself. In short, the female sits the whole night, and takes care of the eggs, and by day the male and female sit by turns. When they rise and sit down they take great precautions that no harm shall come to the eggs.

Page 25. From Sunday, the 3rd, till the eve of Thursday (the 7th) rain fell. It is strange that on other days the pair of saras sat on the eggs five or six times in turn, but during this twenty-four hours, when there was constant rain and the air was somewhat cold, the male, in order to keep the eggs warm, sat from early in the morning until midday, and from that time until the next morning the female sat without an interval, for fear that in rising and sitting again the cold air should affect them, and the eggs become wet and be spoilt. Briefly, men are led by the guidance of Reason, and animals according to the Divine wisdom implanted in them by Nature. Stranger still is it that at first they kee p their eggs together underneath the breast, and after fourteen or fifteen days have passed they leave a little space between them, for fear the heat should become too great from their contact with each other. Many become addled in consequence of heat.

Care of Young

Page 32. On the eve of Mubarak-Shamba (Tuesday) the 21st, the saras hatched one young one, and on the eve of Monday, the 25th, the second : that is, one young one was hatched after thirty-four days, and the other after thirty-six days. One might say that they were one-tenth larger than the young of a goose, or equal to the young of the peafowl at the age of a month. Their skin was of a blue colour. On the first day they ate nothing, and from the second day the mother, taking small locusts (or grasshoppers) in her mouth, sometimes fed them like a pigeon, or sometimes like a fowl threw them before them for them to pick up of themselves. If the locust were small, it went off well, but if it were large, she sometimes made two or three pieces of it so that the young ones might eat it with ease. As I had a great liking for seeing them I ordered them to be brought before me with every precaution that no harm might happen to them. After I had seen them I ordered them to be taken back to the same little garden inside the royal enclosure, and to be preserved with the greatest care, and that they should be brought to me again whenever they were able to walk.

Page 39. At first the male saras used to hold its young one by its leg upside down in his beak, and there was a fear that he might be unkind to it and it might be destroyed. I accordingly ordered them to keep the male separately, and not allow it near its young ones. I now ordered by way of experiment that it should be allowed near them, that the real degree of its unkindness and affection might be ascertained. After allowing it, he displayed much attachment and kindness, and his affection was found to be no less than that of the female; I thus knew that this performance was out of real love.

Territoriality

Page 42. On this day a strange sight was witnessed. The pair of saras that had had young ones were brought from Ahmadabad on Thursday (the 25th). In the Court of the royal enclosure, which had been placed on the bank of a tank, they were walking about with their young ones. By chance both the male and the female raised a cry, and a pair of wild saras hearing it, and crying out from the other side of the tank, came flying towards them. The male with the male, and the female with the female, engaged in a fight, and although some people were standing about, the birds paid no heed to them. The eunuchs who had been told off to protect them hastened to seize them. One clung to the male and the other to the female. He who had caught the male kept hold of it after much struggling, but the one who seized the female could not hold her, and she escaped from his hand. I with my own hand put rings in his beak and on his legs and set him free. Both went and settled in their own place. Whenever the domestic saras raised a cry they responded.


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