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LEXICON

 

 

peacock

Common name for a kind of large, pheasant-like bird, of which males have bright and colourful feathers. In the Asian region there are only two known species, i.e. the Green Peafowl and the Indian Blue Peafowl (fig.), which also exist in a white, leucistic form, similar to albino-like animals. In Hindu mythology, where it typically refers to the Indian Blue Peafowl (fig.), Krishna is usually represented wearing a peacock feather tucked in his headband (fig.), and the peacock is the mount of Skanda; Karttikeya; and Sarasvati; as well as a dharani and its personification in the form of the goddess Mahamayuri, and ‒in addition‒ of the golden peacock Suvarnavabhasa, a former chaht of the Buddha as the Peacock King. In Buddhism, it is furthermore the mount of Amitabha. It is also the National Bird of India, and though native to the Indian subcontinent (fig.), it has also been introduced into many parts of the world, leading to the origin of feral populations in many of these regions. Its scientific name is Argusianus argus, and in English it is also known as Great Argus (fig.). Argus (Ἄργος) is Greek for ‘All Eyes’ and was the name of Argus o Panoptes (Άργος ο Πανόπτης), meaning ‘Argus the All-seeing’, a Greek mythological giant with a hundred eyes, and refers here to the multiple eye-like patterns on the male bird's elongated upper tail coverts. These large, colourful feathers, are often mistaken to be tail feathers, but the tail itself is actually brown and short, as in the peahen. Whereas males (fig.) have an overall blue head and neck, females have a whitish head with a dark brown crown and brown supercilium, and a scaled neck, which is greenish-blue above, and gradually changes to brownish grey-white towards the belly. Below, the female is white, whilst the upperparts are brownish-grey with tiny black-and-white lines on the wings (fig.). In Thailand, the peacock is a decorative symbol of Queen Sirikit (fig.), which is hence referred to as the Royal Peacock (fig.). In Thai, the Indian Blue Peafowl is called nok yoong india. Akin to some states of Myanmar, the peacock is a symbol of northern Thailand, where it is often found as a decorative item on temple gable boards (fig.) and in Lan Na-style architecture. It is also celebrated in the northern-style Peacock Dance. In Myanmar, the peacock is the symbol of the Konbaung Dynasty, i.e. the last dynasty that ruled Burma, while in the nation's practice of Theravada Buddhism and its relevant iconography, it is a symbol for the sun, that ‒in combination with the rabbit, which represents the moon (fig.) signifies Enlightenment, akin to the Chinese characters for sun and moon, i.e. (ri) and (yue), that when placed together as (ming), become to mean ‘bright’, ‘clear’, or ‘to understand. The peacock is hence often used decoratively, e.g. as in the Peacock Throne. In China, its tail is said to be a part of the compound immortal bird Fenghuang (fig.). In Sanskrit, the peacock is known by the generic name mayura and in Thai it is known as nok yoong (นกยูง) and by the generic term kai fah, while the Thai name for the Flame Tree is nok yoong farang, i.e. foreign peacock. See also WILDLIFE PICTURES.