Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pavo Cristatus, Monsoon Maker

Since one of my Elle Schroeder Collections, Ancient Splendor, features 20K-22K antique Indian plaque amulet pendants and Mughul jeweled pieces, I’m always curious to know the significance of what I’m working, both for my benefit and that of my customers. One recurring theme in Indian pieces is perhaps the most beautiful bird on earth, pavo cristatus -- or, as we know it, the male half of the peafowl, the peacock.

Called "the bird with one hundred eyes" due to the eye-like patterns on its tail, the peacock is the national bird of India. The Peacock Dance, sometimes called the Monsoon Dance, plays an important role in the Indian ethos. Believed to be a harbinger of the approaching monsoon and hence, fertility, at the sight of dark clouds the bird spreads out its tail and starts dancing in rhythmic fashion, strutting and displaying its feathers in an impressive fashion as if welcoming the gathering of clouds at the end of the summer (although he’s just trying to attract a mate). And for Indians, at the height of their sweltering hot season, there can be no greater joy than the beginning of the rainy season.  

Its scientific name, pavo, derives from the Sanskrit, “pavana,” referring to the Hindu deity Vayu, the wind who is also the breath of life and the father of Hanuman. The peacock is the vahana (vehicle) of Kartikkeya, the god of war; Saraswati, goddess of knowledge, music and the arts also rides a peacock in the entourage of the Goddess Durga. Lakshmi, goddess of wealth, fortune, love and beauty, is also sometimes depicted with armbands in the form of peacocks.

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