160 kilometers southwest of Bikaner is a sleepy, nondescript village. The village lies in the Phalodi tehsil of Rajasthan and is a part of the unforgiving terrains of the Thar Desert. The Khichan village is not a tourist spot; it doesn’t even have any interesting places to see. So why are you reading about it?
A unique tradition
Nearly 700 kilometers away from the Rann of Kutch, the Khichan village receives very little rainfall and the landscape consists of vast patches of barren land.
But the Khichan village is home to a unique tradition, one that has been passed down for generations. A trip to the village at this time will present sights of people emptying bags of grains on big, open pieces of land. Bhanwar Ramji is a native of the village and has been doing this every single day from September to March for the last 11 years! This particular village welcomes a special guest every fall!
This is the reason why! The Demoiselle Cranes travel long distances and hungry from the quests, they land in the Khichan village to consume the grains spread out by the villagers. It’s an unbelievable sight as thousands of these hungry birds fill the skyline above Khichan village, flying down in formations to rest their bodies! It is said that up to 35,000 birds land in Khichan village each year and when it gets really cold the numbers can swell up to 40,000+ birds!
Having spent their summers in Mongolia, the Demoiselle Crane embark on an epic journey to India. On their way, they cross the mighty Himalayas at altitudes of more than 26,000 feet. It takes them roughly 15 days to get to Khichan village and they have been following this route for the last 70 years!
And it’s not only the birds that follow this tradition. The people of Khichan village follow the painstaking process of collecting and grains that feed these birds every day during the fall season. Through donations from organizations and people from all over the world, they are able to fund this tradition – something that has become a part of their lives now. It is estimated that the birds consume around 6,35,000 kilograms of grain each year from October to March!
And as soon as spring arrives, it’s time for the Demoiselle Cranes to leave. The people of the Khichan village bid adieu to their guests, who leave behind a village that again falls back into anonymity and silence!
How Khichan Village started this tradition
Ratanlal Maloo was a native of Khichan village working in Odisha. In the 1970s, he moved back to his village but since there were any employment opportunities available there, his uncle asked him to feed pigeons. He would carry grain sacks to the feeding place, and his wife would help him spread the grains on the ground. A number of pigeons, sparrows and squirrels started coming to the place; peacocks also occasionally visited the place. Soon, in the fall season, a few Demoiselle Cranes started halting at Khichan village. That number grew every year and soon Khichan was hosting hundreds of these Cranes each year.
But the birds caught the attention of dogs, who started hunting them. To prevent this, Ratanlal asked the village elders to give a piece of land outside the village for bird feeding. The villagers built a bird feeding home or a Chugga Ghar with a granary near it. The land was fenced to stop dogs from coming in. And this is what started the trend of the Demoiselle Cranes migrating to Khichan village each year! The village achieved international recognition and was featured in Birding World magazine in an article titled, “Khichan – the Demoiselle Crane village”.
How to get to Khichan Village
The closest big city to Khichan village is Jodhpur which is 150 kilometers away. There is a town that’s close by, Phalodi, which has a railway station as well. The railway station is connected to cities like Jaisalmer, Bikaner, and Jodhpur.
If you are traveling by road, you can drive all the way to Khichan. The roads are pretty good for the most part. There are bus services available till Phalodi from all major towns in Rajasthan.
Hotels in Khichan Village
The Khichan village doesn’t have any hotels or B&B’s but you can find a few of them in Phalodi village 5 kilometers away. Khichan has become a popular place for bird watching and watchers from all over the world come here during the fall season to see the migration.
Hotels are few and you won’t find any luxury options. Click here and here to see all hotels available in Phalodi village.