Carved Peacock set on Lucite Base
Item No. T173
19th Century, Buddhist, Burma
14" x 11" x 0"
( 35.56 x 27.94 x 0 cm)
(H x W x D)
The peacock has an important role in Burmese culture. It was the emblem of the Kon-baung Dynasty (1845-1941) the last of the Burmese dynasties and it symbolized the belief that the monarchy descended from the sun. The Burmese Peacock Dance relates to droughts caused by the sun, and sacrificing a peacock is a gesture to bring forth rain and the heavenly gift of fertility.
The peacock also has considerable significance in the Buddhist religion, especially Theravada Buddhism which is practiced in Burma. In the Buddhist Jataka, the peacock is the shape under which the Bodhisattva teaches renunciation of worldly attachments. A peacock with outspread tail feathers was a prevalent motif over entrances of religious and government buildings. In esoteric Buddhism the peacock is a symbol of wholeness, since it combines all colors when it spreads out its tail in a fan. It exhibits intrinsic identify and the short-lived nature of all things, since its forms appear and vanish as swiftly as the peacock displays and furls its tail.
One of the Pali Suttas (Buddhist scriptures written in ancient Pali), Mahaparitta Pali ,pays homage to the Peacock,::
‘The great Being (the Buddha-to-be) was born a peacock,
fulfilling the necessary requirements for obtaining Enlightenment,
and having been arranged protection for himself by means of this protective discourse.
Him, the Great being although the hunters
Strived for quite a long time, they were not able to capture.
This was prescribed by Lord Buddha as an Exalted Charm.
Oh thou! Let us recite this protective discourse.
“There he rises, the thousand-eyed king.
Making the world bright with his golden light.
Thee I worship, O glorious wind, with they golden light, making the world bright.
Keep me safe, I pray, through the coming day.
“The saints, the righteous, wise in the entire holy lore,
They may protect me and to them I adore
Honour be to the wise, honour be to wisdom
To freedom, l and to those who had achieved freedom.
Having made this protection
The peacock went about to seek food.
There he sets, the thousand-eyed king.
He that makes the world bright with
His golden light.
Thee I worship, Oh glorious wind,
With my golden light making the world bright.
Through the night, still the next day, keep me safe, I pray.
The saints, the righteous, wise in the entire holy lore,
They may protect me, and to them I adore.
Honour to be to the wise, honour be to wisdom.
To freedom, and to those who had achieved freedom.
Having mad this protection, that peacock rested happily at home.
This carving was probably part of a decorative balustrade of a Buddhist monastery which would have consisted of a line of peacocks carved one next to another adorning the interior wall. Peacocks and rabbits represented the sun and the moon respectively.