Teeming with colourful avian species, this verdant habitat in Mysuru beckons with musical greetings and lilting religious chants. Exotic birds such as multi-coloured parrots, macaws, cockatoos from around the world are housed at the Shuka Vana, aka Parrot Park, a haven for birds and a rehabilitation centre for rare and endangered species of parrots from across the world.
The park was founded by Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swami, founder and head of Avadhoota Datta Peetham at Mysuru in 2012. It is also a rehabilitation centre for injured birds that get veterinary care in the beautiful surroundings.
While visiting Venezuela’s Angel Falls in August 2011, the swami slipped and fell a hundred feet. When he regained consciousness, he was amazed to see hundreds of Amazon birds surrounding him. This was the moment when he decided to set up a centre with the best facilities for treating injured birds.
He started the 21-acre Shuka Vana on the Mysuru-Ooty National Highway, 140 km from Bengaluru, with just two exotic birds, and collected them whenever he went abroad. Today, the park has 1,500 birds belonging to 370 species, weighing from 15 grams to 1.5 kilos, collected from South America, South Africa, Austria and other countries. It has been designed with technical inputs from officials of Jurong Bird Park, Singapore.
There are all kinds of parrots, macaws, Sulphur-crested cockatoos, sun conures, caiques, African greys, Albino Fischer’s Africa lovebirds, blue-naped parrot and Grey diamond dove, to name a few. Their life span varies from 60 to 120 years. In February, scores of delegates from the Avian Society of India and speakers from around the globe visited Shuka Vana. People from across the country have donated birds to this park. “The world’s top 150 bird followers and researchers have visited Shuka Vana and appreciated our efforts,” swami says.
The birds here greet visitors with “good morning”, “namaste” or “welcome”. Some of them have been trained to sleep at the stroke of 7 pm. Parrots can chant more than 400 phrases, including the Hanuman Chalisa, and about 40 birds have been trained to understand Kannada, Telugu, Sanskrit and English.
Recollecting his childhood days in the Mekedattu woods on the banks of River Cauvery, the swami says, “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.”
Initially, he chose 40 birds for training and taught them to chant words such as va, na, ma, sa, etc. When the birds responded positively, he and his staff devoted months for the birds to learn chanting Rama, appaji, amma, Dutta. He says that birds love to feel the vibration of music and Vedic chants. When he is away, 54 attendants care for the birds.
Another fascinating aspect of Shuka Vana is that it has parrots symbolising planets, zodiac signs and musical notes. A music composer as well, the swami has come out with an album called Bird Zodiac, which has 12 healing melodies. He claims that a specific bird with a distinct hue and a soothing chirp can be associated with each of the 12 zodiac signs as per spiritual books.