Interest in owning pigeons has changed from a mere hobby to a serious passion for many locals.
Chandra Man Shrestha involved himself in the pigeon breeding business about 35 years ago and invests equal passion and enthusiasm even to this day. A small cozy room in his Bhimsenthan home stays abuzz with the cooing of pigeons of different sizes, breeds and ages. His birds sit comfortably - playing around in the room in search of food grains scattered on the floor. Ensuring favorable temperature according to the changing seasons should be taken into consideration.
He also sells the birds to interested buyers. The price ranges from 300 rupees to 5000 - depending on the breed and type. Pigeon fanciers, hobbyists and school children are his regular customers. This passion has helped him make lots of friends and he remains rather busy at home, chatting with people coming to him to buy some birds. The visitors take tips from him about the art of pigeon keeping and he proudly shares his knowledge with them. The profession helps him support his family and more than a job, it is a hobby to him.
Baishakh is an important month for him. He will be working as a judge for the Pigeon Flying Competition - an annual event in Nepal that started about 14 years ago. Talking about the tournament, he shared that the event organized by Nepal Pigeon Keeper’s Association and Himalayan Pigeon Flying Club is a source of entertainment for many people. He added that it was also organized in honor of the tradition of pigeon flying, which has been popular for a long time in Nepal.
The day of the tournament starts when the contestants go up to their terrace early in the morning and release 5 to 7 pigeons from their houses. These birds are distinguished by colorful bands fastened around their legs. Two judges keep a record of time from the terrace until the birds fly back from where they started. Also, they should be seen flying in the sky frequently to ensure they haven’t landed elsewhere. If not, the particular bird will be disqualified. Flight-duration of the five longest flying pigeons will be totaled, which will determine the winner. The day is a result of months’ long training and grooming of the birds, and assurance of balanced diet and clean water for them. Their daily performances is also recorded before a few days of the tournament.
Shrestha’s love for birds is the same as it was when he was just a twelve year-old boy. His neighbor used to pet pigeons while he was young. His fascination towards the birds was so passionate that he ended up buying six pigeons for himself. As time passed by, the number of pigeons increased, and so did his passion. “When I see my pigeons flying high in the sky, I feel really happy,” he shares. They make him feel the presence of peace and freedom. The vocation has indeed been fruitful to him, not only financially but also personally. Anyone who knows him can see how content and happy he is with his occupation.