Chir Batti – ghost lights in Kutchh Banny

Strange lights are seen over the vast plains south from Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, India. These are the weird Chir Batti – “ghost lights”. It is hard to tell whether this landmark is meteorological phenomenon or something else.
Marshy, desolate wetlands – Banni grasslands – rise just a few metres above the sea level – although sea is some 80 km far from here.

Earlier the giant Indus River was flowing in the plains of Rann of Kutch – but after the great earthquake of 1816 the river changed its route and moved 100 km to the west. Several rivers have deposited here thick sediments over many thousands of years.

Soil here is salty and can not sustain rich vegetation – thus the area is without trees, plant cover is sparse.

In the grasslands are located several lagoons. Although the vegetation is sparse, area is rich with life – numerous rare birds and animals. Over the last decades Banni grasslands gradually turn into destination for ecotourists.

100 km to the east there are the ruins of the ancient Dholavira – metropolis of Indus Valley Civilization, occupied 4,500 years ago.

If you happen to be there, try the beautiful Hodka resort created by the indigenous people of region – amazing and beautiful round mud huts characteristic of local unique culture of Maldharis.

Chir Batti phenomenon starts in the darkness, reportedly only after 8 PM.

Several reports about sightings come from the surroundings of the extinct Kiro (Keero, Khiero) volcano west from Charri Dand lagoon but there are reports about sighting of 4 lights to the north east from the lagoon in the 23rd January 2010. It is possible that surroundings of Kiro get mentioned more often because it is comparatively popular spot for the search of fossils – Jurassic ammonites and belemnites. After birdwatching around Charri Dand visitors tend to stay in the surroundings of Kiro until the darkness.

Chir Batti are round or pear shaped balls of fire, glowing like mercury lamps. Their color is white, blue, red, also yellow.

Balls of light are floating above the ground, in 0.6 – 3 m height. Sometimes they are moving around slowly, sometimes – fast as arrows.

Phenomenon continues at least for several minutes. Sometimes is seen one ball of light, sometimes – more (reported 7 balls of light). Sometimes one ball divides into two.

Especially weird is the interaction of lights with visitors. If one walks away, Chir Batti happen to follow him. Around Kiro hill they may follow up to the nearby Fulay village. But it is never heard that balls of light have done any harm.

There happens though another thing – if one decides to follow the ball, the light moves away and the searcher gradually gets away from the road into salt flats or thorny thickets.

There have been attempts to take pictures or movies of Chir Batti but thus far – without success.

“Chir Batti” in the local Kutcchi – Sindhi language means “ghost light”. Local people have been observing this phenomenon since olden times and are convinced that these are ghosts.

Little was heard about this phenomenon outside this remote area until recent times. As Rann of Kutch and Banni grasslands gained recognition as important breeding location of rare birds and animals, here came biologists and ecologists and a bit later – nature loving tourists too.

One of the local long-time biologists – Jugal Tiwari – is the most often cited observer of Chir Batti phenomenon. He says that has seen the lights more than 100 times. His team setting out bird traps in night time has been distracted by these weird lights many times.

Phenomenon, of course, is well known also to soldiers of Indian Border Security Force who patrol the area in night time – they simply have to know what lights appear here in night time. Some consider that the lights somehow are caused by militaries themselves but eyewitnesses deny it.

Banni grasslands by far is not the only location where such phenomenon – sometimes called “Earth lights” – is observed.

Of course, one explanation could be igneous gases. For thousands of years Indus has deposited here millions of tons of organic sediments and it might be logical to assume that methane and related gases are seeping through the ground and somehow ignited. But in such case there would not be observed well delimited balls of powerful light floating close to the ground for several minutes – such ignitions of methane most likely would be barely visible and, possibly, formed like torchlights.

It seems – there is no scientific exploration yet for this phenomenon.

10 locations with unusual meteorological phenomena
10 locations with unusual meteorological phenomena
GRK Trip Report Dec 2009, Digital Frescos. Accessed in 29 August 2010
CHER BATTI The Strange lights of Banni grasslands in Kutch, Gujarat, Message in Yahoo Groups by ecologist Jugal Tiwari. Accessed in 29 August 2010
The Banni Grasslands of Kutch, Swati Sani. Accessed in 29 August 2010
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