Patna: While bats are being blamed for the spread of the deadly Nipah virus in southern Indian state of Kerala that has claimed around a dozen lives so far, one village in Bihar is worshipping them.
While on the one hand doctors in the south have been warning people against coming in contact with the creatures and refraining from eating fruit nibbled by the blind nocturnal creatures, people from Sarsai village in the eastern Indian state have not only given shelter to these mammals but also have been worshipping them for centuries, considering them their “protectors” as well as the “symbol of prosperity”.
The village, located in Rajapaker block in Vaishali district of Bihar, is an example of how the masses have established a harmonious relationship with the mammals found in plenty. Villagers say no function in the family is complete unless they have offered prayers to these mammals. According to authorities, some 50,000 bats — some of them weighing up to 5kg — inhabit dozens of trees situated around a pond in this village.
According to villagers, bats have lived in the village since the Middle Ages when the district was suffering from dangerous epidemic diseases such as cholera, which had claimed scores of lives. “But once these nocturnal creatures settled in our village, the deadly diseases suddenly vanished from there. Since then, we have been worshipping these bats. They have proven lucky for us,” local villager Amod Kumar Nirala said.
He said it is strictly prohibited for villagers to kill or even harm the bats here. “Our great grandfathers believed the village would be out of any danger as long as these bats stay there. They believed sudden trouble might befall on the entire village if anyone killed a bat,” Nirala explained, adding they have been filling water in the tanks by raising donation so that the bats could survive.
According to him, villagers have also been warned against plucking fruits from trees planted in abundance so that the bats didn’t face a food crisis.
The bats live on trees such as Peepal, Chenopodium and Semar, situated around a historic pond believed to have been constructed by a king in the 15th century. As per folklore, this pond, spread over around 52 acres of land, was constructed by Raja Shiva Singh of Tirhut in 1402.
Villagers claim bats have not only been protecting them against diseases and natural disasters but also they have been alerting them about outsiders. “They [bats] start screaming if any stranger enters the village, but don’t make a noise on the entry of villagers,” said another villager.
The unique love for bats continues unabated in this village, even as they are being blamed for the deadly Nipah virus that is causing serious alarm in Kerala. The virus causes high fever, headache and coma in extreme cases.