Updated: Apr 8, 2022
The poem “The Peacock” by Sujata Bhatt is from the collection of poetry Brunizem, published in 1988. Brunizem is a dark grassland soil found in Asia, Europe, and North America, the three worlds of Sujata Bhatt’s imagination. This collection of poetry has won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize (Asia) and the Alice Hunt Barlett Award. The poet in this poem catches the singularity of the bird peacock, its miraculous beauty, and the sense of stillness one feels in the presence of such beauty.
His loud sharp call
seems to come from nowhere.
Then, a flash of turquoise
in the pipal tree.
The slender neck arched away from you
as he descends,
and as he darts away, a glimpse
of the very end of his tail.
I was told
that you have to sit in the veranda
and read a book,
preferably one of your favourites
with great concentration.
The moment you begin to live
inside the book
a blue shadow will fall over you.
The wind will change direction,
The steady hum of bees
In the bushes nearby
The cat will awaken and stretch.
Something has broken your attention;
And if you look up in time
You might see the peacock
turning away as he gathers in his tail
to shut those dark glowing eyes,
violet fringed with golden amber.
It is the tail that has to blink
for eyes that are always open.
The poet initially describes the beauty and stature of the peacock. All through the poem, the poet personifies the peacock as ‘he’. “His loud sharp call /seems to come from nowhere.” the sound of the peacock is hard to be tracked and located as if the sound is from nowhere. Because it is actually hidden at the top of the pipal or peepal tree (a peacock can easily fly to the top of a tree). The unique color of Peacock, turquoise (blue color blended with green) is seen flashing in the green background of the pipal tree. When it finds a human observing it, it moves its slender neck and runs away faster than you could get only a glimpse at the end of its tail.
The poet now describes a small act that she was told to do if she is to see a peacock. One should sit on the veranda and read a book, not just any book but one of your favorites with great concentration. When the reader actually gets inside the book’s world, a blue shadow will fall on him/her, the wind will change direction (to slightly bring attention to what is happening around). The whole place becomes calm (“The steady hum of bees /In the bushes nearby will stop”).
The sound of the peacock is heard as the sound of the cat (“The cat will awaken and stretch”), this sound would seek attention and if seen in time without any delay, the person gets to see the peacock. The peacock, which turns away gracefully with all its feathers together in its tail as if to shut the eye patters all over it which is made of violet borders with golden amber fillers. “It is the tail that has to blink” (the action of the tail swinging is compared to blinking) but “for the eyes are always open” the patterns never disappear. The person gets the bliss of radiance which is spread deep inside the soul and feels the stillness that one can get in the presence of such beauty.
The description of the scene shows how hard it is to catch hold of the sight of a peacock (emphasizing the importance of the bird) because peacocks are sensitive, sacred birds that are not commonly seen social world. Indians consider them celestial and the symbol of beauty and power.
The common name of the Peacock is the Indian Peafoul, its scientific name is Pavo Cristatus was adopted in 1963 as the national bird of India. The national bird of a country is a designated representative of that country’s fauna. It is chosen on the basis of the unique qualities that the bird may symbolize. The national bird of India is the Indian Peafowl commonly termed as a Peacock. Vividly colorful and exuding oodles of grace, the Indian Peafowl commands a lot of attention. The peacock and its colors are synonymous with Indian identity. It is indigenous to India and Sri Lanka, but now features in countries all over the world. Peacocks are sometimes domesticated and kept in the garden for aesthetic purposes.
In Legends and Culture: The peacock has been a prominent feature in Indian literature as its splendid beauty is a source of inspiration for many. In popular legends, when the peacock displays its glorious plume, it’s a sign of rain. They have iconic status as the carrier animal of Lord Karthikeya. In Buddhist philosophy the peacock represents wisdom. The peacock and its feather motifs are prominent features in Mughal architecture. The peacock and the peacock feather are still popular motifs to be used in logos, textile patterns as well as designs.
Peepal or Pipal Trees:
They are also known as the Bhodi tree or Ashwatha tree in India. The peepal tree (Ficus religiosa or sacred fig) is very sacred in India. The Hindu scriptures mention it; in the Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna declares of all the trees, he is the Peepal. Hindus in India hold great spiritual regard for the Peepal Tree, they regard it as the tree beneath which Vishnu was born. People tie threads of white, red, and yellow silk around it to pray for progeny and reward parenthood.
Lord Buddha attained enlightenment by meditating under the Peepal tree. So it is also known as Bodhi Tree. According to the Buddha, ‘He who worships the Peepal tree will receive the same reward as if he worshiped me in person.
R.M. Balaji (Architect of Ittikai Architechture Studio)
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