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  • Why is Peacock our National Bird?

    “Wow!” exclaimed five-year old Rajat, “Look at the peacock, Amma, it’s dancing!” The kid grabbed his camera to shoot a video of the swaying feathered bird. He and his parents were driving down a suburb road in Kerala on a rainy day, when the peacock had suddenly emerged from a thicket. “Rajat, do you know that peacock is the National Bird of India?” asked his father. “No, Appa, why is it so”?

    “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”

    -John Keats, English poet

    ‘Pavocristatus’ meaning ‘crested peafowl’ is the biological name of the exotic peacock, which is common in India. Its velvety blue slender neck ends in a brightly coloured thick, long tail which has bright and shiny blue, green and bronze coloured feathers. A small silvery beak and a matching eye patch, topped with a majestic blue-green crownmakes peacock an epitome of nature in its royalty. The bird has thin long legs and flies into tall trees to roost. Green peacock, which is the male and can reach up to 10feet in length, looks even more mesmerizing in the rainy season when it spreads out its feathers and dances to woo female counterparts.

    Why is Peacock our National Bird?Peacock feathers are used for decorative purposes and are also used in many rituals. Peacock motifs are used in the architecture of Indian temples, designs on fabrics, old coinage and also in the modern day items of utility. The flesh of the bird was considered as cure for snake venom and it was observed that the presence of peacocks kept snakes at bay.Its beautiful feathers were initially used in the royal palaces to write important letters. It was considered as royal bird in the Gupta period. But how and why did peacock become a national bird of India? Especially when there were other birds for the status – such as the Sarus crane, Brahminy kite, the Swan or the Bustard?

    For a bird to be declared as ‘National’, certain criteria were kept in mind, the first being its national presence: it should be well distributed in the country and must be recognizable by common man. Secondly, it should have abstract representation in government publications. Thirdly, it should not be confused with the National bird of any other country. Peacock was a bird which easily satisfied all these, and more – its beauty and grace is a sight for sore eyes.

    Peacock has numerous references in the Indian culture and is also represented in the ancient art and monuments. Indian traditions have many legendary and religious beliefs associated with peacocks. There are also references of peacock in the Hindu mythology and in the Bible.In southern India, peacock is the bird that Lord Muruga rides on.They are found in all parts of our country, and are protected under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. Not only is this bird favourite with poets for their description of grace, love and beauty; but also farmers are fond of it as it feeds upon insects, frogs, snakes and other small which are enemies of their harvest.

    It is because of all these reasons and its abundant depiction in Indian legends and religious illustrations, that peacock was selected as the National Bird of India in a meeting held at Ootacamund in 1961, by the Indian Board for Wildlife. Sadly, the bird population is dwindling to the extent of extinction. The demand for its feathers for decorative, religious and many other purposes has endangered our national bird. It is time we spread awareness and oppose the killing of our magnificent peacock.

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