The deserts of the Rann of Kutch, which melt into the arid Banni grasslands hold many unexplained mysteries apart from the varied species of birds. Spread across 3,846 sq km, this grassland is witness to a strange light phenomenon on any dark night.
Locals who have been seeing it since time immemorial, call it Chhir Batti in their Kutchhi-Sindhi language, with Chhir meaning ghost and Batti meaning light.
Jugal Kishor Tiwari, an ornithologist of Moti-Virani village, who was earlier employed as a BHNS scientist and ecologist for Seawater Foundation of USA, has seen these strange lights several times. “I first came to know about these during the study of birds in Banni in 1990. We were there to trap some birds for a BNHS project and were distracted by these lights,” said Tiwari.
“The light, which is as bright as a mercury lamp changes its colour to blue and sometimes red. It is like a moving ball of fire, which sometime stops or moves as fast as an arrow. On November 5, 2005 my team found these lights at seven places. We have shown this phenomenon to several experts including well-known American ornithologist Bill Clark. He was amazed and had no explanation,” Tiwari said. He, however, said that he had not been able to capture this phenomenon on video or a film roll.
“No, they are not ghosts as is believed by people in this area. It can be anything. Strangely enough, though this has been a part of life of Banni grasslands for centuries together, no one has been able to come up with a suitable explanation. As long as there is no sound explanation, people would assume these to be ghost lights,” he said.
He said that these lights can only be seen after 8 pm on dark nights and are always 2-feet above the ground to about 8- to 10-feet in the air.
Tiwari said the lights had not harmed any one so far except that if one followed them one could be misled from the road into the thorny jungles.
“It’s like the lights playing hide and seek. Even if you decide not to follow them, they can creep up on you. It’s something like the light following you. This is not only mine but has been every body else’s experience here,” he said.
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