peacocks and poison

Michael J. Sweet msweet at
Tue Aug 30 04:25:24 UTC 1994

Does anyone know of a written source for the belief that peacocks are able
to digest poison in general, and black aconite in particular.  Have seen
this in Tibetan texts, and trying to track down its Indic origin.  Two
knowledgable people have said this is a common belief in S. India, perh.
related to Siva Nilakantha and the cult of Kartikkeya, but can't cite any
textual origin.  Any ideas?  Thanks.

Michael Sweet
University of Wisconsin--Madison
msweet at

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From: Frederick M Smith <fsmith at>
Subject: Re: peacocks and poison
To: "Michael J. Sweet" <msweet at>
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See Rgveda 1.191.14 for the earliest reference to the peacock consuming 
snake poison. I have heard in Tantric circles (no known text) that the 
dark blue centers of the peacock's feathers can be prepared as a bhasma, 
along with other substances such as aconite, to be used as a
Fred Smith
School of Religion / Dept. of Asian Lgs. & Lit.
Univ. of Iowa

> From (Dr.dominik Wujaftyk 081594): dom at Tue Aug 30 17:23:29 94
Date: Tue, 30 Aug 94 17:23:29 EST
From: dom < (Dr.dominik Wujaftyk 081594): dom at>
Subject: Re: Suggestions for research topic..

> >I am interested in doing a research paper on some aspect of Indian 
> >science/technology. The time frame of the topic is preferably any time before
> >the 1950's.  However, more recent the better since I have to be able to
> >find some primary sources on the subject matter.  
> The authority on the subject is David Pingree who cannot be reached by
> e-mail.  I suggest you read his book in the History of Indian Literature
> series edited by Gonda on Indian Science and Mathematics.  There is plenty
> of primary material available back to the time just after Alexander.
> Peter Scharf

Actually David is reachable indirectly by email, through his research 
student and assistant Kim Plofker (who is actually in India right now,
I think).  E-Address: hmath at

But it would still be better to read David's books than to bother him
with email.

You should also look at vol. VI of _The Cultural Heritage of India_, ed. 
Priyadranjan Ray (Calcutta: Ramakrishna Mission, 1986, reprint 1991) which 
contains a number of useful essays on various aspects of the history of 
science in India.



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