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The Indian Peafowl or Blue Peafowl (Pavo cristatus) is a large and brightly coloured bird of the pheasant family native to South Asia, but introduced and semi-feral in many other parts of the world. The species was first named and described by Linnaeus in 1758. The name Pavo cristatus is still in use now. The male peacock is predominantly blue with a fan-like crest of spatula-tipped wire-like feathers and is best known for the long train made up of elongated upper-tail covert-feathers which bear colourful eyespots. The Indian Peafowl is found mainly on the ground in open forest or on land under cultivation where they forage for berries, grains but will also prey on snakes, lizards, and small rodents. Their loud calls make them easy to detect, and in forest areas often indicate the presence of a predator such as a tiger. They forage on the ground in small groups and will usually try to escape on foot through undergrowth and avoid flying, though they will fly into tall trees to roost.
Prominent in many cultures, the peacock has been used in numerous iconic representations, including being designated the national bird of India in 1963. The peacock, known as Mayura in Sanskrit, has enjoyed a fabled place in India since and is frequently depicted in temple art, mythology, poetry, folk music and traditions. A Sankrit derivation of mayura is from the root mi for kill and suggested as meaning killer of snakes. Many Hindu deities are associated with the bird, Krishna is often depicted with a feather in his headband, while worshippers of Shiva associate the bird as the steed of the God of war, Karthikeya (also known as Skanda or Murugan).
The term “peacock” is commonly used to refer to birds of both sexes. Technically, only males are peacocks. Females are peahens, and together, they are called peafowl. Suitable males may gather harems of several females, each of which will lay three to five eggs. In fact, wild peafowl often roost in forest trees and gather in groups called parties. Peafowl such as the blue peacock have been admired by humans and kept as pets for thousands of years. Selective breeding has created some unusual color combinations, but wild birds are themselves bursting with vibrant hues. They can be testy and do not mix well with other domestic birds.
In Greco-Roman mythology the Peacock is identified with Hera (Juno) who created the Peacock from Argus whose hundred eyes (seen on the tail feathers of the Peacock) symbolize the vault of heaven and the “eyes” of the stars. In Hinduism the Peacock is associated with Lakshmi who is a deity representing benevolence, patience, kindness, compassion and good luck. Similar to Lakshmi, the Peacock is associated with Kwan-yin in Asian spirituality. Kwan-yin (or Quan Yin) is also an emblem of love, compassionate watchfulness, good-will, nurturing, and kind-heartedness. Legend tells us she chose to remain a mortal even though she could be immortal because she wished to stay behind and aid humanity in their spiritual evolution. In Babylonia and Persia the Peacock is seen as a guardian to royalty, and is often seen in engravings upon the thrones of royalty. In Christianity the Peacock symbolism represents the “all-seeing” church, along with the holiness and sanctity associated with it. Additionally, the Peacock represents resurrection, renewal and immortality within the spiritualteachings of Christianity. Themes of renewal are also linked to alchemical traditions to, as many schools of thought compare the resurrecting phoenix to the modern-day Peacock.
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