Birds of a feather come together to create a world record

This Mysore aviary just set the Guinness world redcord for ‘most bird species in an aviary’. The man behind this amazing initiative is Sri GanapathySachchidanandaSwamiji. He is not only a collector of rare and exotic birds but also a healer who rescues endangered, injured and abandoned birds only to restore their health. R. Uday Kumar visited the aviary and filed this report.

The Guinness Book of World Records recently confirmed that the beautiful ShukaVana Bird Home in Mysuru has the most kinds of birds in a garden. Located at the AvadhootaDattaPeetham, SGS Ashrama, Ooty Road, Datta Nagar, Mysuru, Karnataka 570025, the striking 50m-high free-flight, one-acre aviary has around 2,100 colourful residents of 468 different species, according to the Guinness World Record’s website.

Established in 2012, ShukaVana is also a rehabilitation centre for birds is in the serene premises of AvadhootaDattaPeetham, located in the picturesque foothills of Chamundi Hill. Sri GanapathySachchidanandaSwamijiwho established the aviary is not only a collector or rare and fast depleting exotic birds but also a healer who rescues endangered, injured and abandoned birds and offers them a shelter at his aviary.

A spiritual guide to parrots

His close, daily devotion to his parrots has finely honed Sri Swamiji’s spiritual understanding of parrots. “When we see the smile of another individual we respond with a smile,” he says, “recognizing and acknowledging the sameness of species, even if we do not share the same language, culture, or ethnicity.”. He explains, “A parrot, on the other hand, naturally identifies with and shares the expressions of all those whom it notices around it, regardless of species. It empathizes with everyone and everything that it comes in contact with, and blends its voice with theirs.”

Noticing that parrots have fascinating capabilities for mimicking human speech and singing, Sri Swamiji has trained many of his birds to understand Sanskrit, Kannada, Telugu, and English. Visitors to ShukaVana are often graciously greeted by the birds saying “namaste,” “welcome,” or “good morning.” . Many of the birds can also chant more than 400 phrases, including the Hanuman Chalisa, a famous Hindu devotional hymn. Swamiji added “birds love to feel the vibration of music and vedic chants”.

How it all started

Sri Swamiji grew up in the Mekedattu woods on the banks of the Cauvery and was passionate about helping birds and used to spend time looking at a huge tree every day that gave shelter to thousands of them. Once he saw an injured bird battling for life outside his house and nurtured it till it flew back to the woods. This is how his tryst with bird life started.

Later in August 2011, while visiting the Angel Falls in Venezuela, Sri Swamiji lost his footing and fell down about one hundred feet. As he regained consciousness, he found hundreds of Amazonian birds surrounding him. Amazed by their presence, Swamiji regarded this moment as an epiphany and made plans to build a rehabilitation center for injured birds. Now his ShukaVana offers veterinary care and a peaceful sanctuary to recovering or rehabilitating birds.

However, it must be noted this is not the only world record in his kitty. Swamiji currently holds not one or two but a whopping eight Guinness World Record titles! His records include — Largest Hindu Smriti, Most people chanting and Largest display of bonsai trees among others. In 2016, a record-breaking display of bonsai trees was hosted at the International Bonsai Convention and Exposition in his ashram which consisted of 2,649 cultivated plants.

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