The area where I live is awash with peacocks, peahens and peababies. I know so little about them I decided that this blog really needs to be about the National and sacred Bird of India which is so beautiful and so infuriating at the same time. Bit like India some may say ?
The story begins many years ago when my husband bought me a shawl from a very beauitful shop in London called Liberty's and while the eyes were depicted as red and not blue, so representationally inaccurate, it has been much admired and worn.
It continues with the true history of Gustave de Revilliod de la Rive who bequeathed all the land on which the Palais des Nations was built in Geneva. He stipulated in his will that peacocks should always roam free on the grounds.I would often walk in the grounds and admire the birds who defied Swiss regulation.
Now here in India they are found everywhere but more so in the open areas in South Delhi where I live. They play hide and seek in the bushes at the back of my house, they strut along the pathways chicks in tow. They perch on the fences and cry ferociously and infuriatingly and they dazzle daily with their feathers.They are mainly blue and green here but white peacocks also exist. The colours result from the micro- structures of the feathers and way light falls on them. Male birds have the upper hand here as you know and perhaps like most things male it is a carefully constructed and thought out plan- the goal is clear- to get the woman.
The eyes do it and their dance which is called a "shiver" is exactly designed to lure the women in. Once breeding is over they shed their feathers which grow back longer and finer the following year with trains reaching 1.5 metres in length. They roost in trees which seems almost an impossible feat as they seem unlikely flyers and balancers yet they manage well and their populations are healthy. They are considered a sign of good luck and well being in all of Asia.
Forever looking for the associations between my origins and my life here I have found a story of how peacocks got their eyespots.
According to Greek mythology, peacocks got their spots thanks to a woman named Io. She was a priestess to Hera, the wife of Zeus. Zeus took a fancy to Io and turned her into a heifer in order to disguise her. Hera who was no fool, tricked Zeus into giving her the heifer/Io as a present. Once she had the heifer in her possession, Hera appointed Argus, a man covered with eyes, to guard Io. Zeus then sent a minion to rescue the priestess, who killed Argus in the process. As a tribute to Argus and his many eyes, Hera bestowed the "eyespot" onto the peacock.
I have no idea if their marriage survived but all is well in peacock land where males can have more than one wife.