The pursuit of breeding, training, and flying Pigeons (Columba livia Domestica) is an old sport. In Delhi, it is associated at least with the earliest Mughals, as Emperor Babur’s father is said to have died in an accident while attending to his pet pigeons.

It will be about the Birds and their Culture and the People who make both possible. It tells about how social structure, Society, Politics, Religion, History, and Kinship become a part of Kabootarbaji. Quite a few of the enthusiasts from old Delhi, maybe totaling 200 continue to pursue this ancient Sport. At any one time, we may calculate more than 10,000 pigeons being raised in the Delhi area. However, the practice is no doubt a dying art with modern-day sports replacing Kabootarbaji in the popular cultural pursuits of Old Delhi. In the past as well as now all such traditional Sports served to strengthen the self-identification of a society and interpersonal societal bonds. An average Kabootarbaj keeps around 150 pigeons while champions have more than 500- 1000 pigeons.

Cities and sites:

The Kabootarbaji thrives in Old Delhi (Deelampur, Ballimaran, Jama masjid), as well as Agra, Bareilly, and Rampur. Most of the time Kabootarbaji is performed on terraces/roofs of individual residential houses. There are cages where pigeons are kept. There are times some neighbors complain to the police saying that it is creating a bad environment in their locality. Kabootarbaj needs a terrace and cages to keep pigeons so that they cannot fly away and as well as remain protected from cats.

Breeds of pigeons:

There are different types of pigeons bred according to the different requirements of separate aspects of Kabootarbaji, for example- Madrasi, Kabli, Patiala, Lal Sheraji, Kala Sheraji. For aerobatic tumbling during flight, Golebaj pigeons are bred. For endurance flying a different kind of pigeon is used. ‘Homing’ pigeons that race back to their original location from vast distances are yet another kind. There are some breeds presently on the path to extinction as well.

Each individual member of the family is assigned a separate role and task. For example, Men train Pigeons, and Women in the family prepare the birds’ food. Almonds, ghee, bajra, jafran, are some of the unexpected items in the birds’ diets.

Training and Feeding:

Every individual bird fancier train pigeon according to their own way and gives food on a different plan. The training method varies with time as it depends upon an individual how much time he is going to take to lift up pigeons, from 10 days to even 3 months or more.

Initially, a Kabootarbaj used to practice training in the night by putting lights on the terrace to avoid pigeons from being taken by other Kabootarbajs or pigeons flying in the daytime to see a lot of areas and can wander away. Flying in the nighttime results in less fear of losing pigeons at an early stage of practicing.

Kabootarbaji players and their hierarchy:

There is a hierarchy-based economy, caste, and family and work connections, among those who practice “Kabootarbaji”. Rank and position are given to individuals based on economy, caste, and family identity. There are ranks such as Ustad, Khalifa, Shagird. There is a “dawat” or Party organized by an Ustad where many Kabootarbaj comes and a ceremony called “Pagadi bandhana” is done. The purpose is to make new Khalifa and Shagird, and lineages are started. There is a hierarchy in making Ustad and Shagird on the basis of class and caste and there is a proper ritualized ceremony for doing this. Before flying an Ustad does not count the number of pigeons and neither after that. But he is able to recognize if some pigeon from another roof has come onto his terrace. Male and female cages are separate and pigeons by themselves go to their own cage only. On average Kabootarbaj spends around 5 to 10 thousand Rupees per month.


Kabotarbaji plays an important part in the family economy of the bird hobbyists, and there is a significant exchange of money within the community of Kabootarbaj. They use abusive language towards their competitors during Kabootarbji from a terrace but after the game is over, they meet in the evening as friends. They all meet at one point in the evening where they will discuss how many they captured and if they know that their kabootar was captured by a known person, either they pay for it or it is returned for free sometimes. There are Kabootarbaj of all religions and social sections, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Dalit, and so on. The pigeons which are captured from others are never sold in the home area markets because there are chances, they will return to their own master; instead, they sell them far away. Pigeons are bought and sold from local markets in Old Delhi and sometimes from outside Delhi as well. They cost from 500 rupees up to 10,000 rupees each. During summer wings go off naturally. Mostly Kabootarbaji is done early in the morning for the whole year but it is done more during the Winter. Competitions take place mostly in winter and the biggest event is on 26th January.

Kabootarbaji shows how fearless, or daring a Kabootarbaj can be by showing off the capability of handling a number of pigeons single-handedly. It is a combination that depends upon the time of flight, the number of pigeons taken out for flying, and the courage in the bird handler. Pigeons are money or symbol of currency which can be exchanged for actual rupees in the market. While starting the day’s kabootarbji or golebaji it is always considered important to know whose pigeons are flying at that moment and from which terrace. They are so connected to each other and know each other and can recognize each other from afar as well. They have information about their opponents: how many birds, which breed they might have etc. It is a network as well as a competition.

Kabootarbaji is like a game in which understanding the general character of pigeons and their capabilities is vital. And within that, the sportsman adds training, strategy, and power according to his own capabilities.