1927 | 11,233,916 words
Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....
OUR NATIONAL BIRD: THE PEACOCK
Its Myths and Legends
Descriptions of the ancient hermitages of our land, Bharatavarsha, always contain passing references to that indigenous, spectacular bird with the hundred eyes (which has been now recognised as our national bird), and every poet from that hoary Valmiki, who sat under the cool and scented shades of the lofty trees in the forest groves, which were conducive to the pursuance of his studies, selected this bird and its activities for his theme. The bird provided him with ample material for his imagination and fancy, so much so, that literary works throughout the ages have something or other to sing about it, of some aspect or other of it. The pleasing note of this beautiful bird in its natural setting attracted, and brought inspiration to, the poet or the philosopher, who gave expression to his thoughts, in lyrical poetry or in metaphysical speculation. The Peacock was, in the ancient myths of India, looked upon as the vehicle of the goddess of wisdom–Saraswati (The Muse) and served1 as the favourite of the gods too; no wonder that in works of art, mythology and religion, we find that this bird was made use of as a motif, thereby reflecting the beliefs and conceptions held from time to time.
Historically speaking, it will be seen that, on the potsherds collected in the Cemetery H at Harappa, there are designs of the peacock. 2 According to Rev. T. Foulkes, there are some allusions in the Bible to the imports from India in the Mosaic period (C 1491-1450 B. C.) such as precious stones, ivory, garments, armour, spices and peacocks, the rich oriental merchandise of the days of King Hiram and Solomon having been shipped from the seaports of Dakhan. Caldwell in his Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian Languages holdsthe view that the Hebrew Biblical term for peacock, tuki, corresponds to the Tamil word toghai. The peacock was domesticated during the days of Solomon in Judea and was brought to Greece from the East by Alexander the Great, and in course of time it spread westwards. Ornithologists opine that the Far-East is the native ground for the two species of peacocks. This bird belongs to the family of the pheasants (large gallinaceous variety) from its characteristic features. Of the two species of peacocks, one is the blue-breasted bird of India and Ceylon, while the other is the green variety of Java and Burma. Of these, it may be said that the Indian bird is quite common and is also the best known.
Archaeologists have identified the specimens of ivory, ape and peacocks found among the collections from the graves of Tutenkhamen in Egypt as being of Indian origin (Exhibited in the Cairo Museum). The Kadambas of Mysore claim their origin from Mayuura Sarma, which is accounted for by a story about the peacock. 3 The Kushan ruler Kanishka had for his emblem or seal the figure of the peacock. The peacock served as his favourite device on the coins. Some of the gold coins struck by the Gupta ruler Samudra Gupta also bear on them the peacock design. On the obverse of these coins, we see the figure of the king feeding the peacock with a bunch of grages, while on the reverse is depicted the picture of Kartikeya, riding on the peacock.4 rulers of the Vijayanagar dynasties also struck on some of their copper coins (provincial types) the figure of the peacock. 5
In the Aswametiha Prakarana of the Taittiriya Samhita (Kanda V), there is a mention of the peacock along with other fauna, dwelling in the forest Sauri balaakarshyo mayoorah syenaste gandharvaanaam.
Amarasimha in his Naamalingaanusaasana gives the different terms applied to the peacock in Sanskrit classics. Thus, the peacock is termed Mayoora: Minaati Sarpaara Mayooraah, i. e., that which teases the serpents. Barhi indicates that which has a tail or barha (Barhamasyaaseetti barhi). The Peacock is termed Neelakantha, because of its saphire-coloured neck. It is believed that this bird devours serpents. So it is termed bhujangabhuk. On account of the crest adorning its head, it is known as Sikhaavala or Sikhi. It is called Keki, because of its noise (keka). As it dances with the sound of the clouds (storm), it is called Meghanaadaanulaasi. The crescent-like marks on its feathers give it the term Chandrakamechaka. The term Mayooraka connotes a peacock catcher. It is stated in the Ayodhyakaanda that peacock catchers were also followers of Bharata when he went in quest of Rama in exile (Chap. 73).
In the words of Sri Aurobindo, It is an unfortunate tendency of the English mind to seize what seems to it grotesque or ungainly in an unfamiliar object; thus the elephant and the peacock have become almost impossible in English poetry, because the one is associated with lumbering heaviness and the other with absurd strutting. The tendency of the Hindu mind on the other hand is to seize on what is pleasing and beautiful in all things and turn to see charm where the English mind sees a deformity and to extract poetry and grace from the ugly.” 7 In the light of the foregoing observations, we have to take up the study of the Indian peacock.
In musical treatises, we see that note C of the gamut (European scale), corresponding to the Shadja, is associated with the voice of the peacock (Shadjam rauti mayoorastu–Naarada or Shadjam mayooro vadati.) 8This Shadja has inturn two sounds vadi and Samvadi, the sounding or sonant and consonant sounds. The peacock’s voice is termed Keka in Sanskrit literature and consists of two syllables Ke, and Ka and is onometopoetical Ke ka vaani mayoorosya. These two syllables correspond to the sonant and consonant. Kalidasa, in his Magnum Opus, Raghuvamsa (The house of the Raghus) while describing the journey of king Dilipa to the hermitage of sage Vasishta, says that the noise of the axles of the chariot, which resembled the roaring voice of the clouds, drew the attention of the birds which in turn produced the Keka (Canto: 1-39). The same poet gives us a description of the city of Alaka in his Meghaduta, where the domesticated peacocks roamed about with their tails ever-shining and their necks uplifted with their cries Kekotkanthaa bhavana sikhino nityabhaasvatkalaapa–II-3.
In the Aranya Kaanda Valmiki gives a picturesque description of the dense forests through which Rama passed during his peregrinations. These parts were in close proximity to pools and reservoirs of water, where the scenery was pleasing. The hermitage of Agastya was located near mountain valleys echoing with the sounds of peacocks. The hillocks looked charming with trees bearing blossoms.
“Mayoora naaditaah ramyaah praamsavo bahukansaraah
Drisyante girayassaumyaa phuliaistarubhiraavritaah.”
We see that in such surroundings, the calmness of nature permeated the consciousness and was really conducive to a soothing effect on the restless state of one’s mind with the result that all warring tendencies were transformed as if by alchemy into the peaceful.
Sudraka in his Mrichchakatika (Act V-23) describes the peacocks whose dexterous notes resembling the clarion call (get up, get up) awakened the ruddy geese (cranes) from their slumber, when they in turn flew their wings wide, embracing each other as if they were startled.
“Ehyeheeti sikhandinaam patutaram kekaobhiraakranditah
Proddeeyeva halaakayaa sarabhasm sotkanthamaalingitah.”
In his Ritu Samhaara, the great poet Kalidasa has made a study of the life of this bird in the six seasons commencing with summer and has given descriptions of its activities. For this bird, the rainy season serves as a period of jubilant activity, when it extends its tail (feathers) and indulges in the dance. The rains serve as an inducement to this bird for indulging in its exalted dance (kalaapinaam uddlzata nritya hetoh.) The beauty of mountains streaked everywhere with waterfalls, while their high rocks were kissed by the stooping clouds, and their sides presented a gorgeous chaos of peacocks.” (Canto 11-6) The author of the Mayoora Doota showers his encomiums on this bird thus: “When the showers rain, you dance with delight. Even the gods take pleasure in observing your dance without twinkling their eyelids. The celestial danseuse Rambha was constrained to give up her conceit by observing your graceful dance.” (Na cha hante rambhaam parigalita dambhaam swahridaye.)
The poet Sarngadhara addresses this bird thus: “Oh, peacock, your note is pleasing to the poets. Your feathers look like the locks of women decorated with flowers. Like the neck of Iswara, yours is also dark and pleasing to the eye. You have established friendship with the king of clouds….I cannot locate or attribute (the cause) by what particular merit you attained this unique positionas your reward.” (Subhaashitaratna bhaandaagaara.) The graceful dance
of this bird is proverbial and the Mayoora Nritya is by itself a type in the Indian art of dance.
A lady who is separated from her lover pines after her lord in soliloquy thus: “The rains are showering uninterruptedly. The peacocks have indulged in the dance. Either my lord, or the God of Death himself, can alone put an end to my sorrows.
“Patatyaviratam vaari nrityanti cha kalaapinah,
Adya kaantah Kritanto Vaa duhkhasyaantam karishyati.”
Dandin who is one of the authorities on Indian Aesthetics observes thus: “During the rainy season, the peacocks make a ring of their feathers by spreading them wide and with their sweet notes indulge in the dance.”
“Mandaleekrita barhaani kaantairmadhurageetibhih,
Kalaapinah pranrityanti kaale jeemutamaalini.”
Kalidasa depicts the picture of this bird with its perch on the lofty trees on the banks of a river thus: “The peacocks, which have their habitat near the banks of the river, having their tails and expanded, would gather strength (would become intense or powerful) to the hearers, being full of affection, while the sound of the waves in the waters follow the musical notes (in harmony) like the sound of the tambourine.” cf. Raghuvamsa: XVI-64.
The advent of the peacock with its dance harbingers the coming of the monsoon Varshaakaala. The whirling syres of the dust, besides the scorching sun, cause great affliction in summer. So the cooling showers would be a cause of relief. In pictorial descriptions of the Megha raaga (a melody mould in Indian music), which is allied with the emotion of exuberant joy as a sequel to the monsoons, we see that the artist invariably gives a portrayal of the peacocks indulging in their graceful dance amidst the silva along with a ground of the deer, as also the cloudy horizon.9
Udaya, the author of the Mayoora Sandesa (a fourteenth century work) selects the peacock for conveying a message of a languishing lover, who is separated from his spouse at a stage of despondency. 10 The peacock messenger is thus addressed: “With a view to cause satisfaction (acquiescence) to the world, you indulge in your dance, thereby creating happiness at a time when it withers, being stricken or affected by the scorching sun. So I approach you, who are the descendent of that race of Indra (crest jewel 11 and) the only solace to those oppressed by grief, in the same manner as the sun is approached as a friend of the lotus.”
“So aham yaatah saranamadhunaa twaam vipannaaika mitram
Mitram padmaakara iva patati rindravamsaavatam.”
(Purvabhaga: sl. 15.)
So Munidburandhara, the author of Mayoora Doota (wherein the subject matter relates to the despatch of a message from Vijayamritasuri to his preceptor) addresses or describes the bird thus: “When oppressed by the scorching sun, people hanker after your voice. As you are always of a courteous nature, you send your note to please those who are oppressed, as a matter of obligation. In response to your note, the clouds shower rains. You have great affection and love towards the people. This may be the reason, why you not fly up in the air; but always prefer to remain on the ground. Being a great devotee of the muses, you have earned for yourself great esteem and regard. By constant meditation on the muses, your life has been rendered pure (of upright character).”
The peacock has always been described in classical literature as the friend of those who are in need. In Kishkindhakaanda, Rama feels the agony of his separation from Sita, when he sees the peacocks with their splendid plumage and tails moving in groups and indulging in their dance. The crested peahens being afflicted by love follow their mates on the tablelands. Having widened their radiant wings as though in jest, they move about. Rama says that no fiend ever abducted the peacock’s mate. He addresses his brother in a spirit of agony “Oh Lakshmana, even in animal nature, there is an affliction. This peahen abides with its mate (leads a family life).” Canto: I-36-42.
Valmiki describes in another passage of the Kishkindhakaanda the ostentatious display of their tapestry. He says that the inebriated peacocks, with their feathers spread, rendered the taverns glitter (Mayooramattaabhiruta pranrittair aapaana bhoomi pratimaa vibhaati–Canto XXVIII-34). In Bhavabhuti’s Uttara Ramacharita (Act: 111-20), Rama recollects certain incidents connected with his life in the forests on seeing the Kadamba trees and speaks in exalting terms of Sita thus: “This Kadamba tree was looked after and reared by Sita and now we see it well developed with branches, yielding bunches (bouquets). The peacock which has perched on the lofty branch is recollecting in gratitude the many-kindnesses of Sita like kinsmen.”
Madhava while pining after Malati expresses his grave concern and soliloquises that the blue-necked peacock refuses to answer his queries about Malati, but indulges in the dance, expanding its heavy tail and plumage like a fan. (Kekaabhirneelakantastirayati vachanam taandavaaducchikhandah. Malati Madhava: IX-30.)
The Yaksha gives directions to the cloud regarding the spot where his abode is located in the city of Alaka thus: “In between the Asoka and Bakula trees is a golden perch having a crystal slab and built at the bottom with jewels (emeralds) as shining as young bamboos; on which at the close of the day, sits thy blue-necked friend the peacock, made to dance by my wife with the clappings of the hands, rendered charming by her jingling bracelets.” Megha Doota: 11-18. In the message conveyed to his spouse, the Yaksha says, “In the shrub of the Priyangu creepers, I imagine or visualise your body, in the glance of the timid deer your glance, in the moon the beauty of thy face, in the tufts of the peacock’s feather thy hair and in the small ripples of the rivers, the sporting of thy eyebrows.” (Op. Cit: 11-43.)
When Dasaratha entered the forest on horseon a hunting expedition, it chanced that a peacock brushed by his side displaying its feathers. Though the bird was noticed by the king, he did not give any heed to it. But his recollections were, instead, directed towards his spouse’s locks (which were decorated with coloured flowers). So he let the bird scot-free in the woodlands (Raghuvamsa: IX-67).
“Api turagasomeepaadutpatantam mayooram
Na saa ruchira kalaapam baanalakshyi schakaara
Rati vigalita bandhe kesapaase priyaayaah.”
In Act IV of Vikramorwaseeya, we see that the megalomaniac Pururavas who was separated from the celestial nymph roams about in the wild and institutes enquiries with the peacock for tidings: “Oh saphire-throated bird, I beseech you kindly to let me know if you had any occasion to meet my beloved queen in the woodland. She resembles the moon in her face and the swan in her movements. Bythese features (characteristics), you will be able to recognise her.” The bird keeps silent without giving any answer to his query, but continues to triumph with its gorgeous mass of plumes, which stream with splendour in the winds. The hero then soliloquises to himself with the conclusion that the queen must be dead with the result that the bird must be feeling proud in the absence of a rival. In his woes, he thinks that the bird rejoices, while others suffer pain.
When Lakshmana under the directions of Rama left Sita in the forest (near Valmiki’s hermitage), it is described by the poet (with pathos) that “the peacocks gave up the dance; the trees refused to blossom; the deer dropped down the blades of darbha grass which they had held for chewing. It looked as though all participated equally in the sorrows of Sita, and even in the forest, the feelinghad become excessive or strong.” (Raghuvamsa: XIV: 69.)
“Nrityam mayooraah kusumaani vrikshah darbhaanupattaan vijahur harinyah
Tasyaah prapanne samadukhabhaavam atyantamaaseet ruditam vane api.”
In the conception of the Hindus, the letters of the alphabet are regarded as divine and each of these has a form holding missiles, vehicles etc. Accordingly, iconographic and pictorial representations are thought of in the Dhyanaslokas as enunciated in the Paancharaatraogoma. In the Mantra Sastras (the Science of spells etc.,) we see that each letter has its own favourite deity.12 Thus in the Siddhasabara Tantra are described the various forms which preside over each and every letter. The spirits which preside over the letters ai, o, na, dita and na are depicted as being seated on the peacock. The same work tells us that the form presiding over vyaakarana (grammar) is seated on the peacock (Mayooraabha Satodara). Besides the above, the thirty-two forms of Sakti which correspond with the thirty-two forms of Aghora Murty (a form of Siva) have for their vehicle the peacock.
Of the seventeen forms of Subrahmanya, four aspects, viz., Kartikeya, Shanmukha, Kraunchabhedana and Vayudisi skanda have the peacock for their Vahana (vehicle) as described in the Saivagama. There is an allusion to Skanda’s peacock (in sloka 46 of the Purva Megha) which indulges in the dance when the cloud passes over the city of Ujjain, whitened by the light of Siva’s moon. Udaya in his Mayoorasandesa addresses the bird thus: “That Generalissimo of the Devas (Skanda) was unable to face the crowd of enemies without having you for his vehicle. By having you, he was able to create a feeling of terror among the Titans headed by Taraka, thus being able to pierce through their flanks. Such being the case, how could the tongues of mankind be satiated without showering their encomiums on you?” (Sloka: 14)
In the Saiva and Karanagamas, the form of Ananda Tandava Murty is depicted as wearing the peacock’s tuft of hair (Barhi pincha). Kankala Murty (a form of Siva) holds the plumes in his hand. In the Ganesa Purana, Ganapati is described as riding on the peacock and is therefore termed as Mayooresa.
Kalidasa depicts Bhavani as making use of the tapestry of the peacock’s plumes, decorating her ears with them along with lilies. The pictures of Krishna are always depicted of wearing for his crown the feathers of the bird for ornamentation. The poet Jayadeva in Canto II of his Gita Govinda gives a description of Krishna’s head dress (diadem formed out of the tuft of the peacock’s feathers (Chandraka charu mayoora sikhandaka mandala valayita kesam. 13 Similarly we find a passing reference in Megha Doota. The Yaksha says: “The dark body of the cloud will attain to a great splendour as that of Vishnu, dressed, as a cowherd does by means of a peacock’s plume of, glittering lustre.” (Barheneva sphurita ruchinaa gopaoesasya vishnoh). 1.15.
Among the Jains, it is believed that the feathers of the peacock ward off evil. The Jain Munis who practise austerities of continence etc., always carry with them fly whisks made of the plumes of the peacock. So Muni Dhurandhara (the pre-eminent sage) praises the bird thus; “In Your kingdom, there is no place for serpents (Bhujangas), or paramours. (A pun is made on the word Bhujanga–Doublemeaning.) On hearing your voice, they flee away. For that matter, if only your feathers are worn by them, they will be free from all fears (as if by a talisman).”
A musical instrument known as taush or Mayoori fiddle which is similar to the sitar takes its name from the peacock-like resonator.
When describing the greeshma (Summer) and the autumnal seasons, Kalidasa gives in his Ritu Samhara a clear perspective of the scorching Sun in summer, with the whirling gyres of dust, forcing the snake to drag its coils under the peacock with the face hung downwards. The peacock in turn does not kill its enemy, the snake, though it places its mouth near its tail (1-13 and 16). In the autumn, the bird gives up its dance. This period is favourable to the swans (III-18).
In works relating to Yoga Sastra, a posture styled Mayooraasana (or peacock posture) is described. This comes under the group of Asanas which begin with face downwards. According to Ernest Wood, this posture resembles the Plant balance of Western gymnastics. The directions are: keeping the legs stiff and straight and the hands up, balance the body on the elbows, parallel with the ground. The position may be retained from a fewseconds up to about two or three minutes. 14
A Jataka tale describes that the form that was to be the Buddha was born as a peacock of golden colour in one of its previous lives (Jataka No. 491). It was made king when it grew up. The peacock saw his own reflection in the waters and realised that he was the most handsome. As a measure of safety, he repaired one night to the Himalayan regions and settled on a hillock in that range–free from mankind, wild beasts and reptiles. A bird chaser spotted him out, and, at the point of his death, disclosed the secret to his sons. The queen of the country had a vision of the bird in her dream preaching the Dhamma. She exclaimed that the king of the peacocks was escaping and directed her servants to catch him. The queen conveyed the news to her husband and said that she would perish in the event of the peacock not being traced out. Thus, for six generations of kings and fowl-catchers to come, this bird could not be waylaid. It was also announced that the person who partook of the bird’s meat would become immortal. The seventh hunter in the seventh king’s reign (successive generation) was able to detect that this bird was lonely without a mate. The bird catcher however maneuvered to bring a pea-hen and beguiled the peacock with this mate. When the peacock was enamoured by the hen, the bird catcher was able to snare it. A sixth sense prevailed on the fowler who reflected that he should not betray the bird, which had been quite safe against all attacks and hand it over to the king for some consideration. This act seemed to him unseemly. In the meanwhile, the peacock expected that the fowler would kill him. When be set the arrows to the bow, the peacock requested the bird catcher to present him to the king for some guerdon. Unexpectedly, the fowler declared that he was not prepared to catch him; but instead he set the bird free and renounced his craft. In this manner, the hunter performed an act of Truth, by which all the other creatures in bondage were set free. The bird said:
“The hunter traversed all the forest land
To catch the Lord of Peacocks snare in hand
The glorious Lord of Peacocks he set free
From pain as soon as he was caught.”15
In Nacca Jataka is narrated the story of the peacock’s wedding (No. 32). The birds had their King Mallard, who had a lovely daughter. She expressed her desire to select her husband. King Mallard mustered all the birds of the country around the Himalayas. The king’s daughter reviewed the crowds of birds that were gathering and suddenly her eyes were set on the peacock with his neck of jewelled sheen and tail of variegated hue. She pointed out this bird and said, “Let this be my husband.” Old King Mallard held an assembly of birds. The Peacock was also called for an interview. The king said, “Friend Peacock, this princess, in choosing her husband among these birds, has fixed her choice on you.” The peacock being puffed up with pride spread his wings and in dancing exposed himself in defiance of all decorum. Said the king thus in the assembly:
“A pleasing note is yours, a lovely ,
A neck in hue like lapis lazuli,
A fathom’s length your outstretched feathers reach
Withal your dancing loses you my child.”16
In the first of the fourteen rock edicts, Emperor Asoka makes a confession that the slaughter of thousands of animals daily in the royal kitchen was reduced, limiting the supply only to two peacocks and an antelope, however not invariably. At the end of the edict, there is the following note: “Even these three living creatures shall not be slaughtered.” 17
Sir Vincent Smith gives two illustrations of the figures of the peacock represented in Mughal art in his monograph on The History of Fine Art in India and Ceylon. We see on the east gateway (False gate) of Akbar’s tomb, the figures of the peacock standing on a vase with its feathers outstretched. Above this peacock could be seen the ornamental decoration in symmetrical form of two more peacocks (with closed tapestry) standing face to face. This vase motif was current or in fashion during the times of the Mughal ruler (Jahangir). 18 The exquisite delicate of two tiny peacocks painted by Jagannath, whom Abul Fazal designated as Jagan also convey a true impression of their perfect execution. 19
The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, who was a great patron of fine arts, is always remembered for the peacock throne which was prepared in his reign. It is said that this throne had for its support two peacocks set with innumerable jewels and is considered as a grandiose work of art. In the pages of history, we see that in works of art, not only the jeweller, but also the brass smith, carpenter, mason or the potter ever since the days of the Harappan culture adopted this popular design of the peacock for purposes of ornamentation.
According to Kenneth Anderson, the peacock forewarns the animals in the forest of the advent of the cheeta or the tiger by its sound. 20 It is also stated that this bird has a great fascination for the spotted cat and naturalists have observed that the poor bird will stare and stand until it is killed. The hunters take stock of this drawon the part of this bird and cover themselves with the coat of the leopard and get close enough to capture it alive for purposes of sale or spear it for supper.
In the words of Denton Scott, “Clever, shy, vain and gorgeous, the exotic peacock is one of the most dazzling jewels in nature’s show-case….people who keep peacocks claim that when you have owned them, you are captivated for ever. Their beauty and flaming colour are such that you feel something vital has gone from your life if the rainbow bird is no longer there.”
At the end of his work, the author of the Mayooradoota thus sums up the case of the peacock: “Your greatness is unmeasurable or incomprehensible. After great deliberation the creator has blessed you with a beautiful form. You have established yourself in the land of merit (Punyabhoomi). 21 Because men of merit (or good behaviour) cannot be had in other lands.”
1 Sankaracharya in one of his hymns describes the goddess of wisdom as the peahen which roams about in the forest of knowledge (sacred precepts)–Aagama Vipina majooreem.
2 Stuart Piggot: Prehistoric India p. 234.
3 Mysore Gazette. Vol. II–Part I p. 25.
4 C. J. Brown: Coins of India–Pl. VII.
5 Mysore Archaeological Report for 1929.
6 It has been believed in the jungle and Puranic lore of India that peacocks are dreadful enemies of serpents. A naturalist (William Bebe) has recorded his experiences during his strides to a Ceylon jungle while he was in very close proximity to view a peacock playing with a deadly Russel’s viper. He says, “The birddidn’t attempt to kill the snake, just teased it. Then tiring of the game, he ran down the slopes and flew away, in the full light, his train, a wonderful coloured tapestry.”
7 Kalidasa Vol. II
8 This note Shadja is defined in the texts as that which originates from or touches six positions or organs connected with utterance: the nose, throat, breast, tongue, palate and the teeth (Naasakantha murastaala jihvaa dantaamscha samsaprusan. Shadjassanjaayate yasmaat tasmaat shadja iti smritah.) The seven swaras or notes generate from the voice box (cord) or from the strings. (Tantreekanta janmaswara viseshah). The primary notes of the Indian gamut other than the shadja are: Nishoada (B), Rishabha (D) Gaandhara (E) Madhyama (F) Panchama (G) Dhaivata (A)–Nishaadarsabha gaandhaara shadja madhyama dhaivatah. Panchamaschetyaml sapta taantrikaantothitaah swaraah. (Amara)
9 This raga is supposed to produce the rain. According to an account given by H. E. Popley, it is stated that a dancing girl drew from the clouds with this raga a timely refreshing shower at a time when drought and pestilence prevailed in Bengal and thus was able to save the rice crop. cf. Music of India: p. 67.
10 In Sanskrit literature, there are several Sandesa kaavyas in which the hero (lover), who is separated from his beloved under peculiar circumstances (due to a curse or other cause) selects his envoy and sends him with a message. Thus Rama sends his messenger in the form of the monkey (Hunuman) to Sita, while she was a captive at Lanka (cf. Sundarakanda). Nala selects the swan to deliver his letters to Damayanti before the Swayamvara. In Megha Doota, we see that the Yaksha sends his message to his spouse from the Asram at Ramagiri. These lyric poems gave fillip to subsequent writers, who in their poems depict the transmission of messages on such analogies. In Mayoora Sandesa of Udaya and in the Mayoora Doota of Munidhurandhara (a Jain work), we see that the peacock is selected as the conveyor of the message. The poets of Kerala also selected birds for errands of the heroes and heroines in their Kavyas. Thus, in Gridhra Sandesa, Suka Sandesa, Kokila Sandesa, Chaataka Sandesa, Garuda Sandesa, Bhramara Sandesa and Koka Sandesa, the birds selected are the vulture, parrot, cuckoo, Chaataka, Garuda (sacred eagle), butterfly and the Chakravaaka (ruddy goose) respectively. (cf, Mayoora Sandesa edited by Dr. Kunhan Raja.) Vedanta Desika or Venkatanatha (1268-1369) in his Hamsa Sandesa sends the message of Rama to Sita through a swan.
11 Due to the spell of a curse from sage Gautama, Indra’s body was covered by innumerable marks resembling the crescent or the eye. The peacock’s plumage is covered by innumerable crescent like marks. So the appellation that the bird in its pedigree belongs to the race of Indra. In Greek myths, it is held that the hundred eyes of Argus, who was slain by Mercury were transferred by Juno to this bird, which is remarkable for its magnificent plumage.
12 The Sanskrit term for the letter is akshara, which means the noumenal or the eternal as against the phenomenal or the fleeting world. The Alphabet is the Akshara or Varnamaalika, i.e., the garland of letters. These letters with their divisions (varga) constitute the limbs of the goddess of wisdom as described by Sri Sankaracharya in his invocatory verse of the Prapanchasaara;
Virachita mukha baahaa paadamadhyakhya hritka”
These letters in turn have their mystical import or significance and are used in the mantra sastra as seed letter (bhijaaksharaas). Cf. The Garland of Letters by Woodroffe. A Fairbanks in his Book of Scripts says thus; “The marvellous faculty of writing has led various races to attribute to it the gods; Assyrian, Egyptian, Chinese, Indian, and Scandinavian deities have all been held to have given man the knowledge of writing.” Joseph Champion said in 1750 as follows: “Next to God, the author and giver of all sciences, it seems rational to think it was derived from Adam.”
13 cf. Edwin Arnold: The Indian Song of Songs. Radha says: “Oh Dancer, strip thy peacock crown away,
Rise thou whose forehead is the star of day
With beauty for its silver halo set.”
14 cf. Ernest Wood: Yoga. In Suresvara’s Manasollaasa (6-24-6), mention is made of this aasana along with others. This aasana is said to be favourable to Rudra. In Dattatreya Kalpa, the Mayooraasana is described thus: “With the head and leg raised up towards the sky (in an earnest posture like the stick) one wards off all sins (by way of bodily ailments etc.)
15 Ethel Beswick: Jataka Tales.