In a striking example of empathy towards winged creatures, several villages in Tamil Nadu have celebrated Diwali without bursting firecrackers to avoid scaring birds and bats in their areas.

For a long time, people of Koothankulam village in Tirunelveli district, which has a bird sanctuary, have avoided bursting firecrackers during the festival. Interestingly, they also avoid using loudspeakers in places of worship or during family functions out of concern for birds in their village.

A variety of birds like flamingo, pelican, spoonbill, painted stork, egret, duck, tern and ibis visit the lake in the sanctuary where several migratory birds also arrive. Similarly, the people of Vavval Thoppu in Salem, Perambur, a village near the temple town of Seerkazhi in Nagapattinam and Vishar near Kancheepuram refrained from bursting firecrackers so as to not scare bats in their areas.

Villagers of Perambur say the decision to abstain from bursting firecrackers was taken about a century ago so that bats and birds do not get scared. The people of Vadamugam, Vellode and six other villages near the Vellode birds sanctuary in Erode celebrated the festival yesterday sans firecrackers to support birds for the 18th year in a row.

The villagers stuck to their decision of avoiding firecrackers though the lake in the sanctuary is bereft of migratory birds as the water body is almost dry. White pelicans from countries like Australia and New Zealand usually visit the lake during September, October, and November.

Kuppanna Gounder, 65, recalled that led by elders, 18 years ago, eight villages took the decision of not bursting firecrackers to help save migratory and local birds that flock the sanctuary.   Only sparklers and toy guns were used by children, he said.