Assam Journals

Jatinga - The Fall of a Sparrow

A March 1999 trip to Assam by kharkhuwa

Quote: Once every year, they come flying in thousands, crossing international barriers with impunity. They come in beautiful, brilliant colours and hues —- bright yellow, deep turquoise, black with red heads, deep browns, whites, shades of green —- all driven by a sole impulse: to commit suicide at Jatinga.

Jatinga - The Fall of a Sparrow


Jatinga is located on a spur of the Haflong ridge, the headquarters of the North Cachar district in Assam (India). An off-the-beaten-track destination, it is a beautiful valley surrounded by hills of the Borail ranges. Not much to write home about in terms of tourist facilities, although interested tourists may contact the Tourist Information Officer, Haflong for further information (phone 00-91-3673-2468).

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Jatinga is located in the North Cachar Hills. It is 9 km from Haflong, which is Assam’s only hill station, located 364 km from Guwahati.

Mystery of the Mass Suicides

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The mass suicides at Jatinga take place in the nights in September–October, and the conditions have to be just right: it must be a moonless, misty night with the faintest of breezes blowing from north to south. The birds come in a steady stream and tend to fly straight into the ground, battering their heads. For the villagers at Jatinga, the ritualistic arrival of the birds means a flurry of activity. Armed with flaming mashaals (firebrands) and lamps, the villagers commence their vigil at the spot—actually a fairly large expanse of land—favoured by the birds. The birds flying to their doom dash themselves against the firebrands held high in the air and the lamps on the ground and ...Read More