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Peacock Bird Characteristics, Pictures and Symbolism
Peacock is the name of the male peafowl that belong to the Asiatic species of flying birds in the genus Pavo of the pheasant family, Phasianidae. This graceful bird's vibrant plumage is what makes it most beautiful among all the birds. The peacock is designated as the national bird of India and the provincial bird of Punjab.The female is a peahen and the offspring peachick. Peahens lack the long eye-spotted tail and have a grey/brown color. There are 3 species of peafowl namely Indian Peafowl, Green Peafowl and Congo Peafowl.
The color mutations of Indian Peafowl very rarely occur in the wild, but selective breeding has made them common in captivity. In this mutation, the adult male is melanistic with black wings. Young birds with the nigripennis mutation are creamy white with fulvous tipped wings. The genetic variation is the result of production of melanism in the male. In the peahen it produces a dilution of color with creamy white and brown markings.
Characteristics of peacock
The crest atop the head of a peacock acts like a crown. This crown adds to its beauty along with the provoking plumage. These erect decorations can be compared to the head of a girl with flowers adorning the hair. The beak is long and pointed on the blue or green colored face. Patches of white color outline the eyes like some make-up put for brightening up.
This is the classic feature that makes a peacock extravagantly beauteous. God has woven the tail of a peacock like a train of designed and colored feathers. This character distinguishes its ‘strut’ from a mere ‘walk’. Peacocks usually make the brilliant display of its plumage to attract females. Mating starts during rainy season and the dazzling dance of the peacocks at the outset of the rains is a spectacular show off. The array of yellow, blue and green colors in its fanned tail is a result of the angle at which light shines through the feathers.
Peacocks are one of the largest flying birds in the world. It is more than 2 feet tall when stood erect. In the fanned tail position it would high more than 5 feet. The bird has a relatively long blue colored neck. The feet looking like that of an emu, the three-toed peacock struts that establish it “proud”.
The Indian peacock feathers look eye-spotted with hues blue and green surrounded by gold. Long, thin wires of these hues are closely knit that makes this feather stand out. This color combination is one cause for the iridescence of these feathers. But the main cause of this vibrancy is optical interference Bragg reflections, based on regular, periodic nanostructures of the barbules (fiber-like components) of the feathers. Masks, costumes or crafts are decorated by these beautiful plumes with a dramatic flair. Peacock feathers have a length of 11” normally.
Peacock feathers have got a prominent place in the spiritual world. Their power of healing is very well appreciated in different cultures. With the proper guidelines of use, peacock feathers allow the individual to connect with the Universal Healing Energy and use this energy to heal people of all of their complaints, imbalances and disease.
Peacock symbolism speaks of attributes such as:
Peacock is considered to be divine and a good cause in various cultures. Let’s have a look at its significance and symbols in them.
1. In Hinduism
In Hinduism, peacock is related with divine powers. Goddess Saraswati, Lord Krishna and Lord Muruga are associated with peacocks in a way with several implied meanings.
Goddess Saraswati is the deity of knowledge, meditation, spirituality, purity, arts, good cause and river. Worshipping her would shower the believer with knowledge in his area of interest. A peacock stands beside her which is a symbol of pride and beauty. As Goddess Saraswati is related with a good cause, she is conveying the message that inner beauty is real and pure rather than external.
Lord Krishna wears a peacock feather in his head. Also he ties one on the flute he plays. It is said that one day Krishna was playing his flute in the Govardhan hills. His song was so melodious and enchanting that peacocks in the hills started dancing to the rhythm of the song. At the end of the play, the King of the blissful peacocks touched Lord Krishna’s Lotus feet and gave its plumes to honor him. God Sri Krishna accepted them and wore one on his head and tied another one on his flute.
Peacock is also the mount of God of war Murugan, also called Karthikeya, the brother of Ganesha. The Peacock became the mount of Murugan and flew around the world and to the heavens. When the peacock holds a serpent in its claws or beak, its power in destroying malevolent cosmic forces is symbolized. By the medieval period the peacock also became a symbol of the ocean. As a cosmic symbol the peacock represents totality as does Murugan. Hindus celebrate the festival "Thaipoosam" to commemorate the occasion when Parvati gave Murugan the "vel" or spear. Devotees dance holding "kavadi" in their shoulders that is decorated with peacock feathers.
2. Yezidi culture
The Yezidis or Yazidis are a Kurdish speaking people who live principally in Northern Iraq. Peacock is the vehicle of their Supreme Power in the creation of cosmos.
The Yezidi (Yazidi) cosmology and religion is non-dual. According to them, a transcendental God created the Seven Great Angels, whose leader was Tawsi Melek, the Peacock Angel. Yezidis believe that the Supreme God was originally “over the seas” that has coincidence with the Biblical passage, “And the Spirit of God (as seven Elohim) moved upon the face of the waters”. While playing with a white pearl, their Supreme God cast it into this cosmic sea. The pearl was broken from which the universe was created.
The Supreme God then created or manifested an angel in this mission. It was Tawsi Melek, the Peacock Angel. Six more great angels were then created to assist Tawsi Melek in his work. When Tawsi Melek descended to Earth, he assumed the form of a glorious peacock – a bird with green, blue, white, gold and brown colors. Landing in a place now known as Lalish, Tawsi Melek delivered his colors to the earth and endowed it with beautiful, picturesque locations.
3. Greco-Roman culture
In Greco-Roman mythology the Peacock is identified with Hera or Juno, the queen of Gods. She created the hundred-eyed giant Argus to watch god Zeus’ trysting places. When Argus spotted him with his maiden Io, Zeus turned her to a cow to save her from Hera. Hera understood the disguise and asked Zeus for the cow as a gift and he could not refuse her. Zeus sent the messenger of gods, Hermes to recover Io. But Argus’ hundred-eyes were always on the cow and Hermes had to play a trick to distract him. He played a sleepy tone on his flute and the hundred eyes of Argus fell into sleep one by one. Hermes killed him and changed the cow back into Io. When Hera found Argus dead, she plucked the one-hundred eyes and kept them on the tail of her favorite bird, peacock. These eyes symbolize the vault of heaven and the "eyes" of the stars.
Ancient Greeks and Europeans considered the one-hundred eyes of peacock as evil eyes.
Christian culture gives emphasis to the bird peacock by representing it as an emblem of immortality. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is what adds fact to this belief. Every year peacock sheds its feathers which get replaced by new, thick and brighter ones. Likewise, Jesus also appeared on the earth with more power and brightness during his resurrection. If the peacock is portrayed drinking from a vase, it symbolizes a Christian drinking the waters of eternal life. In addition, the multitude of eyes upon its gorgeous fan tail is being characterized as the “all seeing” church in Christianity.
5. In Asia
The Peacock bird is associated with Goddess Kwan-yin in Asian spirituality. Kwan-yin (Quan Yin) is an emblem of love, compassionate watchfulness, good-will, nurturing and mercy. The evolution of peacock is connected with this goddess in Asian culture. When the earth was created, she dwelt with the living beings that were newly made and taught them how to be kind to their fellow beings. But after she ascended, the animals started quarreling themselves and the watchful Kwan yin had to descend again to resolve their fights. As she could not watch the entire earth to spread the feeling of compassion, goddess Kwan Yin created the beautiful peacock with one-hundred eyes on its tail. She entrusted the bird to keep faith in its job of watching and spreading love.
6. In Islam
In Babylonia and Persia, the peacock is seen as a guardian to royalty and is often seen in engravings upon royal thrones.
Different peacock tattoos reveal different characters. As peacock is given a prominent place in almost all cultures of the world, wearing a tattoo of this glorious bird is considered to be optimistic. The etching of this colorful and flamboyant bird depicts beauty and grace. Even though it is the male species, a peacock tattoo is much coveted by the female folk owing to its vibrant appeal and feminine look.
The vibrant show of the fanned tail of the peacock is the result of integration of several hues and feathers. This symbolizes unity and royalty, so the peacock tattoo wearer should respect human values and should go harmoniously. A peacock tattoo is also an emblem of moral refinement, kindness, compassion, and love.
Chinese believed that a woman is blessed with a child if a peacock threw a glance at her. Also, a peacock tattoo is known to bring fortune to a pregnant woman with the arrival of her child. These beliefs made it a popular tattoo design among the ladies of China who aspire and reach pregnancy period. Peacock feather tattoos are the most popular among all the birds’ feather tattoos.
A peacock displaying its plumage
Have you seen peacock dance somewhere?
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© 2012 Radhika Sreekanth