VILLUPURAM: Environmental activists are now talking about pollution caused by crackers during Deepavali, and requesting people to celebrate a smoke-free festival. However, in a village near Vanur, people have been avoiding crackers for over a century to ensure the safety of bats.
Kazhuperumpakkam village is situated near Vanur in Villupuram district and about 400 families live here. They have an unusual practice of not bursting crackers even during Deepavali as they do not want to disturb hundreds of bats found on a tree in the village.
C Velayutham, a septuagenarian, said, "It's a century old tale. In those days, some Brahmin families alone lived here. They brought other people to the village for farm work. A large number of bats were found on a Tamarind tree near the houses. As the bats were eating the fruit, the Brahmin families started placing food for them. Male members of the families used to climb on the tree and place a huge vessel in between branches and fill it with water. During my childhood, my friends and I enjoyed seeing their movement and used to feed them. Over the years, the villagers started to ensure the safety of the bats and the village panchayat banned bursting of crackers. Even after the members of the Brahmin families left the village, the ban continued."
T Kannan said,"People new to the village initially used soundless crackers. Over years, they too started to observe the ban. When I was young, there were thousands of bats. Now, there are only some hundreds left. We have also banned hunting of bats and sent a warning to Narikoravas. In the late 1990s, a group of them started living under the tree and they promised that they will not hunt the bats. However, some of them placed traps on the tree during night as bat flesh was believed to have medicinal value. So, the bats shifted to another banyan tree. When we realised this, we sent the Narikoravas out of the village."
N Anandhi, a resident of Kazhuperumpakkam, said,"Even when there was the scare of Nipah virus a few years ago, we did not kill the bats. Health Department officials then inspected the village and confirmed that there was no threat from the bats."
Villagers said the bats have now shifted to another banyan tree as the old one lost branches.