Long ago at a local zoo (using a basic camera with limited zoom), I photographed this very proud and royal looking male blue or Indian peafowl (Pavo cristatus). With his flamboyant plumage in gemstone shades of sapphire, emerald, turquoise and gold, the peacock is a fitting subject for this week’s One-a-week Photo Challenge prompt, Regal.
Native to India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, the Indian peafowl is associated with deities in Hinduism and Buddhism and was considered a royal guardian and a symbol of paradise in India, Babylonia and Persia. Ancient Greeks believed these birds were immortal, an idea adopted by early Christians who used them to depict eternal life. The ocelli (‘eyes’) of a peafowl’s train have come to represent the all-seeing god and the heavens studded with the sun, moon and stars. Although the strutting of the peacock to display his magnificent train is a sign of pride and vanity in some cultures, in others the bird represents creativity and joy, with the quills being a metaphor for a writer’s inspiration.
The peafowl was introduced to the rest of the world, first by the upper classes as beautiful and entertaining symbols of their wealth and status, and eventually to zoos. In the Middle Ages, peafowl were considered a gustatory delicacy. Plucked and roasted birds would be presented at the feast table redressed in their feathers as if to appear alive. Apparently, they were coarse, tough and bad-tasting and were thought to cause indigestion and ‘bad humours’. Ah, well, if one has the money…
The term for a group of peafowl is bevy, but also muster, party or – most appropriate – ostentation!