Amidst the high profile buildings, influential decision makers and people frolicking, stands a roundabout of unique significance – The Pigeon Square (also called Kabootar Chowk in the local language). Home to over two hundred pigeons the Kabootar Chowk is situated right in front of the Sindh High Court and very near to The Sindh Assembly, Karachi. This roundabout is serving as the feeding ground for pigeons who land in uncontrolled number in the morning, stay till the daylight and depart as soon as the sun sets. Previously known as the Gandhi Chowk, the square serves as an attraction to the local lower middle class population. This site serves as a free form of entertainment for the underprivileged people. A local Rashid said, “I bring my daughter Fatima here every weekend in the evening. She enjoys watching the birds as we feed. It’s also less crowded on Sunday compared to other days as there’s less traffic, too!”
The roundabout had a statue of Mahatma Gandhi before the partition as a reminiscent of his non violent movement. It was because of his statue that the square got named “The Gandhi Chowk” in the British India Bombay Presidency. However, after the partition, the statue was sent back to India hence the epicenter of the roundabout no longer has the monument on it. It only gets covered by the army of pigeons landing at all hours during the day.
Home to a thousand species of pigeons flocking at various points in the city, Karachi and her people are interested in feeding and watching the pigeons gather. Kabootar Chowk is the prominent one with its name solely dedicated to “Kabootars/Pigeons” themselves. Some of the species found include Rock Pigeon, Speckled Wood Pigeon, Yellow Eyed Pigeon, Common Wood Pigeon and Snow Pigeon.
Mohammad Sarhidi who sells bird feed near the Kabootar Chowk on weekdays is dedicated about his work, of being the source of food for this creation of God. “They flock in huge numbers at open spaces like in Hyderi and here on (Kabootar Chowk) where they are fed. Some crows also land here along with pigeons. I have been selling bird food here for some sixteen years now. Feeding the birds is a beautiful activity and people enjoy it all over the world”, Mr Sarhidi said as he handed over a packet of bird food to the buyer.
The food for pigeons is made from grains, lentils, rice and millet. Most of the sellers of the bird food buy it from Jodia Bazaar in bulk.
“I buy and keep a 15 day stalk of bird food with me to sell on the stall,” Mr Sarhidi from Kabootar chowk informed.
People buy feed here for difference prices ranging from 100 rupees till even 800. Kids do it with so much enjoyment while their parents teach them the goodness of this charitable and pure act. The practise of feeding birds also takes place in more parts of Karachi like Clifton, North Nazimabad and Saddar as much as it is popular outside Pakistan.
The Pigeon Square holds uncanny resemblance with London’s Trafalgar Square and predominantly with Istanbul’s Taksim Square. Stood in between one of the important buildings of the city, it is more of a landmark. Trafalgar Square caters to birds in great number with tourists feeding them as well as clicking pictures and sitting by the birds.
Moreover, Kabootar Chowk also resembles The Taksim Square in Turkey’s major city. Taksim Square’s central monument area is the largest place for pigeons in Istanbul. It is also the most important part of the city where demonstrations and protests have taken place in the past. A site where people come up with their demands and reservations and pressurize the authorities in the government offices surrounding, to make decisions that would affect the lives of the people, just like how crucial and significant policies for the province are made in the Sindh Assembly and the Sindh High Court nearby the Pigeon Square/ Kabootar Chowk. The Provincial Assembly of Sindh is a house of elected representatives coming from different political parties in Sindh. And, Sindh High Court is the highest judicial institution in the province of Sindh.
Despite being compared with places of interest from around the world, Kabootar Chowk has a lot of potential of becoming a major attraction in the city. With proper care taken and cleanliness ensured benches can be placed and fountains can be introduced to beautify this historically unique landmark. The chowk provides a perfect view of the beautiful architecture of the High Court’s building and serves as the center point to some of the most important buildings around. Developing and beautifying Kabootar Chowk will increase the worth of the area even more.
Written By: Allia Bukhari (Team PS)