The Indian Village Where Monkeys Own 32 Acres of Land

The people of Upla, a small village in India’s Maharashtra state, allegedly hold the local monkey population in such high regard that they have had land registered in the animals’ name.

Farmland is very precious in India, a country where land disputes between humans are fairly common. That only makes the situation in Upla, a village of 1,600 people and around 100 Rhesus macaques that much more intriguing. Indians have always held the monkeys in high regard, feeding them and including them in various rituals, but the people of Upla have gone beyond that, registering 32 acres of land in the monkeys’ name, a fact acknowledged by the village head.

Photo: Erik-Jan Leusink/Unsplash

“While documents clearly state that the land belongs to monkeys, it is not known who created this provision for the animals and when it was done,” the village sarpanch (head), Bappa Padwal, recently said. “The village is home to nearly 100 monkeys now, and their numbers have dwindled over the years as the animals do not stay in one place for long.”

As for the state of the monkey’s land, well it’s not like anyone can consult the owners about it, so the forestry department carried out plantation on it, which I’m sure the macaques would approve of.

According to the Times of India, villagers feed the monkeys whenever they appear at their doorstep, and some still follow the tradition of first offering gifts to monkeys during a wedding ceremony, and only then carrying on with the proceedings.

Photo: Dylan de Jonge/Unsplash

It sounds like monkeys are virtually worshipped, or at least respected in Upla, but the locals sang a very different tune a couple of years ago. Back then, several news outlets reported that around 300 macaques were terrorizing the local population, stealing their food, entering their homes uninvited, and even physically attacking them.

“Crops of many farmers have been damaged by the gang of monkeys, who move around in large groups. People are scared to even walk in the village,” one local said at the time. “If we try to drive them away, they attack us.”

I guess a lot has changed in Upla over the last couple of years…

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