When Delhiites ask your favourite site in Delhi bird hospital is not the answer they’re looking for. Not even close. But in this girl’s opinion, visiting the Jain Birds Hospital —aka Charity Birds Hospital, aka Delhi bird hospital—is one of the most fulfilling experience in the capital.
You might not think of birds as cuddly creatures. (I surely did not). Be that as it may, seeing the love and tenderness that Dr. Nawnit Kumar and his staff care for the pet birds of Delhi–and more than a few wild hawks—is heart melting. We’ve recently taken to our blog soapbox over our disgust with overall animal welfare in India, but the Jains and their Delhi bird hospital showed us another side of the human-animal relationship.
If PETA members are the world’s most vigilant vegetarians, Jains are the most spiritual. Nonviolence and the equality of all living things are the main pillars of Jainism. Directly or indirectly supporting the injury or death of any living thing—from your neighbour to the mosquito on his arm—is unacceptable. Beyond abstaining from meat, fish, and eggs, Jains abhor the use of leather. You must remove shoes, belts, and all BDSM gear before entering a Jain temple. And Jains hold a special place in their big, warm, animal-loving hearts for birds, believing them to be demigods incarnate.
Delhi’s Jains founded the Delhi bird hospital in 1929, and they have been treating the city’s sick and broken birds ever since. Some birds are pets. Others are brought in from the streets. All are treated pro-bono. The hospital runs on donations, yet the Delhi bird hospital was one of the only places in India we weren’t asked for money.
After walking up the wonderfully mural-covered stairway, we entered the hospital’s compact waiting room. It holds two desks and three chairs. Dr. N was at his desk and all three chairs were occupied. A man sat in one, a woman in the next, and a chicken sat closest to the door. The woman spoke little English, and I no Hindi, but we managed to establish that her pet chicken had taken a tumble. She was waiting for her followup appointment to have the chicken’s cast removed.
The only thing cuter than that little chicken cast would have been a little chicky cone of shame.
Moments after we arrived, a man—probably a hospital volunteer, but possible just a concerned and badass citizen—rushed through the doors with an adult hawk in his bare hands. No big deal.
And apparently this is not uncommon. There were about a dozen patients in the hawk ward the day of our visit. One was going to be released in a nearby park later in the day.
In case you’re wondering how a hawk, or any other bird, ends up at the Delhi bird hospital, remember that this is India; there are lots of ways. Murals instruct visitors how to avoid some of the most common avian mishaps.
And all of this amazingness was just in the lobby. From there we took a u-shaped walk through two aisles of floor-to-ceiling cages to meet the patients. At the Delhi bird hospital, birds are grouped by genus. The hospital treats all sizes and types of birds from pigeons to parrots. There was even a peacock in one “bed”.
I particularly enjoyed the room where two men sat facing each other at a table beside the window. Each had a basket of pigeons and was hand-feeding his charge seed.
We ended our look around in the Delhi bird hospital ICU. As a lovely bookend to our visit, we were just in time to see yet another chicken having her itty-bitty chicken leg splinted and bound.
With so many more “important” sites to see, the Delhi bird hospital only gets a two-sentence flyover mention in Lonely Planet. But it’s well worth a visit, and not at all difficult to find. It’s in the Digambar Jain Temple complex (the temple is also worth a shoeless, belt-less look around) right across the street from the main entrance to the Red Fort.
To all those plotting Delhi itineraries, I say this: put a bird on it.