Misunderstanding Owls : a conspicuous feature of common human perception

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DSCI owl

Is it not strange that we humans generally associate moronity or imbecility with intelligence of owls.This is probabily the height of our impercetibility?

In India white owl (barn owl) is represented as vehicle of godess Laxmi, the godess of wealth, signifying both temporal as well as spiritual wellbeing. Syncretism of symbolic owl is projected in mythology across various cultures, cults, countries, civilizations across the globe.

Defence Services Staff College (DSSC) Wellingon, Ooty

Roman Godess of Minerva, the virgin godess associated with multifarious intellectual faculties such as wisdom, music, poetry, medicine plus arts, crafts and handiworks. She is depicted alongwith a sacred bird, “The Owl of Minerva”, representing wisdom and knowledge.

Where as , in China owl is an symbolic illustration of distinction of “Yang” projecting positivity, masculinity, brightness plus a fountain of active positive energy. Acient Greeks characterisized acclaimed Godess Athena, the envisioning daughter of god Zeus, as the godess of reason, intelligence, arts and literature. She invariably accompanied by her eternal companion, in form of small owl as her inseparable consort.

The then Indian Army General Bipin Rawat visited the Defence Services Staff College (DSSC) in Wellington between March 14 and March 16 in 2018 (photo courtsey : The Hindu )

However in antidiluvian Arabia, owl was considered as the imminent harbinger of catastrophe.

I happened to visit Defence Services Staff College (DSSC) Wellingon, Ooty during 1978, being greatly impressed by the predominance of ” The Owl”. The crest of this premier Military institute is an owl perched atop crossed swords representing emblem of Mars ( the Roman god of war). The owl in this emblem signifies godess of Minerva ( godess of wisdom), with an inscriptive motto, “Yuddham Paraga”, meaning to fight war with wisdom.

Supreme Court Of India

Similarly crowned owl, occupies a dominating place in the crest of Canadian Army Command and Staff College (CACSC) situated at Kingston, Ontario. Inscribed boldly below is “Tam Marte Quam Minerva”, simply meaning, ”as much by the pen as the sword”. Australian Command and Staff College ( ACSC) situated at Queenscliff Victoria, has a flying owl embedded in its crest.

In year 1996, I got nominated for attending a ten month programme at DSSC, Wellington, Ooty, leading to Master’s in Military Science.

Crest of Australian Command and Staff College ( ACSC) situated at Queenscliff Victoria

My posting as Security Chief of Supreme Court of India, became a stumbling block in my cherished aspiration of attending this prestigious course at the picturesque locales of Ooty. The Mandarins ( the wise owls) sitting in the portals of Delhi Police Head Quarters (PHQ), with a single stroke of their powerful pen, poured cold water over my dream. My ambitious plan for undergoing training amidst idyllic settings of acclaimed “blue mountains” of Nilgiris was easily shot dead, so it appeared to me.

Raising of a new security at Apex Court was much more sacroscant, than attending of a interesting Military course. The ‘great owls’ sagaciously played a owlish game, succeeding so well in their machavillian machination, as probably the pressure from Supreme Court of India probably had become unbearable.

Crest of Canadian Army Command and Staff College , Kingston, Ontario

Lodged within the periphery of our farm was a majestic mango tree, providing cool shade during the summer’s day, plus sweet juicy crop of mangoes, during sizzling dry summers. It was a rumoured speculation that around midnight pebbles dropped from above the large thick canopy of its abundant dark green leaves and widespread branches. This phenomenon believed to be handiwork of “some ghostly creatures”.

During heated summer months when the fields were ploughed and left fallow for their rejuvination, on account of intervening period after harvesting of “rabi” awaiting sowing of “kharif” crop. One scorching evening, accompanying my inquisitive natured uncle, we decided to investigate prevailing mysterious spooky manifestation.

Exactly as had been reported, actually happened, small pebbles fell at regular intervels, from above the mango tree, followed by some flapping stirring noises. Undeterred we decided to proceed ahead with our business of crucial investigations. Using strong torchlight beam for scouring across the darkness, but failed to find anything unusual under the thick canopy of this majestic tree.

We decided to move out in the open fields, soon our patience yielded positive results. A pair of owls were spotted flying overhead. Our surreptitious watch revealed that these clever birds picked up small pebbles from adjoining fields and dropped these from the height, on the large umbrella of mango tree. Such maneuvering was for dislodging the small birds resting within the confines of this suspected large tree. This intelligent ploy being used advantageously for their swift and easy nocturnal hunting.

Once during cold wintery night time, scouting in the Shivalik hills we heard strange low pitched eerie noises resembling human wailing screams. Being familiar with such tricks of owls, we soon spotted a huge shisham tree from where these noises were emanating. On throwing stones at the tree, huge owl flapping his robust wings took a swift flight.

Subsequently more queer noise emerged from nearby tall eucalyptus tree and followed by weird sound from a big neem tree. We successfully succeeded in scaring away well camouflaged owls operating from their cocealed lofty perchings. After an intriguing game of hide and seek, these owls decided to call it a day (rather night). All these field tactics of owls failed badly, falling flat on their faces, failing to frighten us in any spooky manner.

Undoubtedly the owls remain the unknighted knights of the dark starry nights.Whereas we humans , many a times , stumble into irretrievable pitfalls, even during clear visibility of broad day light. Owls being nocturnal birds, resultantly we hardly bother to make serious efforts to enquire and understand much about their habits and habitats.

The birds which can pierce the pitch darkness of the black nights with their extraordinary eyes, must certainly be having something exceptional about them?

(Author of the article is former Deputy Commissioner of Delhi Police)

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