Like Trees, Birds too have a strong association with Mythology in India. This endearing story of Bhima and the Blue-Throat, a beautiful little brown bird with a brilliant blue-coloured throat, describes how the bird got its unique blue patch.

Bhima lay down on the forest floor after a tiring day and a hearty meal. The joyous season of spring was breaking through the cold of the winter. Flowers bloomed. Birds chirped. Brooks babbled.

The comfort of sleep beckoned as Bhima looked around him to admire the scenic location. He noticed the mountains rising in the distance and the thick cluster of trees enveloping him. Groups of little birds hopping on the grass and dozens of colourful butterflies hovering around the shrubs. But the Pandava warrior did not notice a little green snake slithering in the grass behind him. Eyelids heavy, he was soon lulled into a deep sleep.

Jolted awake by a shooting pain behind his ear, Bhima sat up and saw the snake slide away. Fear, like he had never known before, gripped him. He felt the venom spreading inside his body and his head felt dizzy. How could he get the venom out of his body? What could he do to prevent the venom from taking his life? Bhima looked around him in desperation. There was nobody he could turn to for help.

A little red-throated bird that was hopping on the ground nearby, noticed Bhima’s agony. Quickly flying over to him, she dipped her pointed beak into the wound caused by the snake bite and began to suck out the venom. Poking her bill into the prince’s flesh over and over again, the little bird sucked out all the venom and spit it out.

Bhima watched in amazement and marvelled at the kindness and efficiency of the little sparrow-sized bird.  A tiny little creature had saved the life of the mightiest of warriors. He felt humbled.

And then his face turned pale in horror, as he noticed the little red patch at the bird’s throat slowly turn blue. Filled with venom, the little bird slumped onto the ground. Bhima felt dreadful. All his might and strength could not save a little bird that had selflessly and graciously, saved his life.

As Bhima worried, a band of bulbuls hopped over to help the little bird. Sucking out nectar from red flowers in the bushy shrubs, they emptied it into the throat of the dying bird. As the nectar got into the bird’s throat, the venom was washed away and the bird’s strength revived. Soon she was able to stand and after a little while, she began to merrily hop around as usual.

Bhima looked at the little bird that had saved his life and felt humbled by a creature the size of his palm. ‘No longer red-throated,’ he noticed as the blue throated bird hopped around busily on the ground searching for insects.

‘You are Nil-kanthi!’ he exclaimed, in gratitude. ‘Blue throated just like Mahadev. And hence you shall be known as Shiva’s bird,’ Bhima proclaimed.

The Blue- Throat is a sparrow sized, olive-brown bird that migrates to India during the winter months. The male has a startlingly brilliant blue throat. Drawing its name from mythology associated with Shiva, the bird is called Nilkanthi in India.


Story collected:  Mallika Iyer

Source : Bird Legends of Ancient India by M Choksi, Orient Longman Publications.

Image source: Wikimedia commons

Location: Pan-India