Indian literature is full of stories about birds. The fables of Panchatantra and Hitopadesha are famous and translated into many languages. The seed for all such stories is in the Upanishads, Mahabharata and Ramayana. But certain stories are embedded so deep in Sanskrit and Tamil books that miss our attention. Tamil Bird Man story found in 2000 year old Sangam literature is one of them. Famous Tamil poet Paranar sang about him in five poems. The verses about the mysterious bird man Ay Eyinan are found in Akananuru (verses 148,181,208 etc). To be praised by Paranar, one must be as great as an emperor. Later poet Avvaiyar praised Athiyaman Neduman Anji just for getting a verse on him from Paranar (Puram 99). He was paired with another great poet Kapilar.(For more details about Paranar, please read my article No Brahimns, No Tamil).
Ay Eyinan was a friend of a chieftain called Nannan. Nannan was attacked by a king from a neighbouring country. He was so worried about leaving his town unprotected. Ay Eyinan came to his help and protected his town. When Njimili attacked that town, Ay Eyinan was killed in the battle. Immediately a large flock of birds came to protect his body from scorching sun light. When his body was taken, the birds moved with it and sheltered him like an umbrella. He was a friend of birds, probably like our great emperor Vikramadiya who even knew the language of the birds!
Sakuntala, heroine of the world famous drama Shakuntalm by Kalidasa, was named a bird girl. Sakunta means bird in Sanskrit. Abandoned at birth by her parents Visvamitra and Menaka, Sakuntala was looked after by birds. They encircled her protectively so that she remained unharmed until sage Kanva finds her. Kanva gave her the name Sakuntala, because she was first adopted in a sense by the birds who cared for her (More bird stories are in my article Animal Einsteins Part 1 and Part 2)
Sage who called hundreds of birds
Tiruvannamalai near Chennai is famous for its Shiva temple and sages who lived there. Among the famous poets and sages of Tiruvannamalai are Arunagirinathar, Ramana Maharishi and Seshadri Swagal (1870-1929). Seshadri Swamigal performed a number of miracles and one of them was about birds. Venkatachala Mudaliyar and his wife Subbalakshmi Ammal were his great disciples. One day Swamigal visited them and asked Subbalakshmi whether she would like to watch some fun. When she said yes, he just waved his hands looking at the sky. Hundreds of birds came within minutes and occupied the trees and terrace of nearby houses. All kinds of Indian birds were there. It was 4 pm in the evening. When Subbalakshmi Ammal sympathized with the bird lings in the nests and asked him to send the birds to their nests he just pulled a thread from his towel and blew it in the air. All the birds flew away in a few minutes.
Those who have watched Alfred Hitchcock’s film The Bird may be familiar with such scenes.