National Bird of India

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Indian Peacock ~ Pavo cristatus:

The Indian peacock, ‘Pavo cristatus’, is a colourful, swan-sized bird, with a fan-shaped crest of feathers, a white patch under the eye and a long, slender neck. It was named as the National Bird of India in 1963. The male of the species is more colourful than the female, with a glistening blue breast and neck and a spectacular bronze-green trail of around two hundred elongated feathers. The peacock symbolises qualities like beauty, grace, pride and mysticism.

In the Hindu mythology, a peacock is called ‘Sun bird’ or ‘Sarp Bhuj’ and is associated with Kartikeyan (‘Skanda’ or ‘Subramaniyam’), the Commander-in-Chief of gods and son of Lord Shiva, as his vehicle. Peacock is also considered as the son of ‘Garuda’. Lord Krishna is often depicted with a peacock feather in his headband. The peacock was also held in high esteem by the people of the Indus Valley Civilization and one of the Harappan potteries portrays a peacock carrying a dead body in its stomach.

The peacock is mentioned in the ‘Rigveda’ as the favourite bird of god Indra. The peacock also finds a mention in the ‘Sukla-Yajurveda’, ‘Aitereya Brahmana’, ‘Aranyakas’ and the ‘Sankhya’. In Sanskrit texts the peacock has been described by various terms such as ‘Mayura’ (i.e. killer), ‘nilakantha’ (having blue neck), ‘shikhin’ (having a crest), ‘chitrapichaka’ (having coloured feathers) and so on . Poet Kalidasa (5th century A.D.) had a great fascination for the peacock and referred to it in many texts, including ‘Raghuvamsa’, ‘Abhigyana-sakuntalam’ and ‘Meghadoota’. Other classical Sanskrit poets like Banabhatta and Bharavi referred to the peacock in their works ‘Kadambari’ and ‘Kiratarjuniyam’ respectively. Ashoka (3rd century B.C.) in his edicts completely prohibited the killing of this bird and created wildlife sanctuaries (‘abhyaranyas’) for them. The golden throne of the former kings of Delhi was referred as the ‘Peacock Throne’ or the ‘Takht-e-Tavus’.

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