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
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.
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.
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.