The Indian Roller

The Indian Roller is usually found upon bare branches of trees in thin deciduous forests and grasslands.

This bird also dwells in open cultivated areas and can be seen perched on electric wires in our urban regions. Earlier known as the Blue Jay, its brilliant colors and shades make a great color palette reference for an artist.

The Indian Roller is named after the striking aerobatics it displays. Their version of bathing is a direct dive into the water from a high altitude! They communicate with each other in harshchack calls and also produce metallic boink sounds. This bird is sure to captivate any watcher anywhere!

Indian Roller ; Illustration by : Pooja Gupta

My first sighting

The Roller is considered a sacred bird in Hindu mythology, associated with Lord Shiva. My first encounter with this bird was at home, during the festival of Dussehra and Durga Puja. I got to know it as ‘Palapitta’, the Telugu name. As a child, I eagerly waited to see this bird. I’d wake up early in the morning, run straight out of the house to see if the ‘man with the bird’ had arrived.

I’d watch him go from door to door showing the bird off to everyone. He would bring it out from under his shirt and bless us kids with a swoop of its wing over our heads.

Of course, my excitement changed over the years. I saw that its wing was tied to his shirt and slowly lost interest in seeing the bird this way. It was a point of conflict in my head, questioning the ethics of a ritual that sparked my interest in this magnificent bird

Deep down I felt the need for a change early on, though many attempts have been made in recent years to ban this rite and to encourage the sighting of the Roller in the wild. As for me, I did this illustration of the Indian Roller about two years ago, circulating it among family and friends as an alternative form of seeing the bird at home during the festive season. Fortunately, it put a smile on many faces 🙂


Edited by Dominic D’Cruz