Peacocks and Poison--one last time

James L. Fitzgerald jfitzge1 at UTK.EDU
Thu Mar 11 13:12:08 UTC 1999

There is an extended passage in the Raajadharmaparvan of the MBh
(12.120.4-16) which recommends various attributes and habits of the peacock
as indications of the way a good king should act as he performs his duty of
protecting his subjects.  It starts like this,

"Just as a peacock's tail has feathers of many colors, so should a king who
knows the Law display many different forms--sharpness, deviousness,
indomitability, truthfulness, and rectitude." [4]

And zlokas like this are typical of the whole passage,

"His words bland, his body smooth, a king endowed with Royal Splendor who is
well versed in the Learned Traditions should always keep his plans secret,
the way a peacock is mute in the autumn." [7]

There are references to the peackock's attacking snakes and eating insects,
and 11c might well refer to its eating flowers, but none to its eating

Jim Fitzgerald


James L. Fitzgerald           jfitzge1 at
Religious Studies              Phone: office:  423-974-6982;  423-974-2466;
University of Tennessee                home   423-539-2881
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