hamsa, goose and swan

Valerie J Roebuck vjroebuck at MACUNLIMITED.NET
Sun Feb 10 22:12:18 UTC 2002

>Yes, I am sorry that it throws no light on sun and breath but I do agree
>that Dominik should please ask Julia to enlighten us but not without paying
>pranams to my late countryman J.Ph.Vogel (= bird) who planted in my brain
>the idea that hamsa, apart from the etymology, also means "goose". Or so I
>recall, perhaps erroneously since I cannot now find his monograph "The
>goose in Indian literature and art" of 1962 (Leiden: Brill).

Yes, it's an excellent little book.  According to my notes, Vogel argues
convincingly that haMsa or rAjahaMsa is a mainly white form of the Indian
goose,  Anser indicus, while kalahaMsa is the greylag goose, Anser anser.
My understanding is that the swan is not native to South Asia, so when it
was eventually imported, the word haMsa was extended to that too.  But the
haMsas of classical Indian art are definitely stylized geese.

There's enough material in Indian art and literature to keep an
ornithologist happily employed for years.  (Starting with a famous Pahari
painting in the V & A, universally known as "The Lady with the Hawk" that
ought to be retitled, "The Lady with the Lugger Falcon".)

Valerie J Roebuck
Manchester, UK

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