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Fans Wanted!

Indian Peafowl, Kabini

‘The Indian Peafowl, or Blue Peafowl, is a large and brightly coloured bird of the pheasant family…’ Now, if that sounded like the most boringly plebeian introduction, blame Mr. Peacock. Understatement is so alien to anything connected with the male of the species, that even facts have to find their inner muse and dress up to belong in his exalted, extravagant universe. The Beau Brummell of the Indian forest, this dandy already has a fan following (no, we aren’t talking about the ‘thousand-eyed’ one attached to his tail) that’ll put our Facebook fashionistas to shame. India’s national bird (even if you’ve all along thought it was ‘tandoori chicken’), he has, for millennia, been a motif for artists, weavers, and architects. Were he on social media, he would be an Instagram phenomenon; when he unveils his beautifully iridescent blue fan and lets it quiver in a fluttering agony of desire, everybody and her aunt goes weak in the knees. Except the person being courted – the Peahen – who rarely shows any sign of having noticed his ardour, or the elaborate dance. Maybe the practical peahen suspects that she is only an excuse for this avian Narcissus to flaunt his goods. Or maybe she’s just being a woman. For all his metrosexual frippery, the male peafowl is also revered for his indomitable courage (you need to be brave to be a man and still dress like that, right?), especially in hunting down venomous snakes. In Hindu mythology, the Peacock is shown as the steed of Karthikeya, the God of war, who is also the patron deity of the Tamils, who call him Murugan or Mayilvaganan (‘he who rides a peacock’). But whether it is this fearlessness, or his sheer flamboyance, even a chance encounter with a Male Indian Peafowl will make you a fan for life.

Photograph: Kiran Poonacha Story: Rajesh Ramaswamy



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