Indian ornithology

jkirk jkirk at MICRON.NET
Wed Feb 13 18:53:58 UTC 2002

I too have puzzled over the hamsa-swan-goose question, so if it's not
ungermane, I enclose here a statement about the mute swan's migratory reach,
which includes what is termed "northwestern India".  If that designation
applies to the historic Gandhara area, then the appearance of swan-like
birds in Buddhist sculpture might not be such a stretch from what may have
been observed in the natural world.  But I also wonder, given that Gandharan
Buddhist art shows powerful Greek esthetic influences, if the "art swan" may
have first appeared with Greek art in the area. (Let's not forget the figure
of Leda and the swan.)  A specialist's knowledge of Gandharan area art would
be welcome.
Another question:  are there any images of Devi Sarasvati's vahana, before
the modern period,  that clearly show a goose?  I suspect that the 19th
century English preference for the term swan over goose noted by Lance
Nelson also carried over into colonial influences on the popular commercial
poster arts, where Sarasvati is shown with a clearly drawn swan (no goose)
at her side.
Mute Swan:
Palearctic, Nearctic, Ethiopian: The mute swan breeds in the British Isles,
north central Europe and north central Asia. It winters as far south as
North Africa, the Near East, and to northwest India and Korea.  (Reilly,
1968; Granlund, McPeek, and Adams, 1994)

Joanna kirkpatrick

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