It’s fascinating – peacocks enjoying immaculate conception, and conceiving through tears at that! At a very young age, I read in Kālidāsa’s Meghadūtam (The Cloud Messenger) that the rain cloud bearing tidings of her beloved to the lonely lady at Alakā will be greeted by the peacocks with tears in their eyes.

Śuklāpaṅgaiḥ sajalanayanaiḥ svāgatīkṛtya kekaḥ...” (Meghadūtam, Pūrvamegha)

But these aren’t tears causing conception. The poor birds are weeping tears of joy at the prospect of their union with their beloveds! The rainy season is the season of fecundity. The Vedas speak of this season as the time for the wedding of the earth and the sky.

And marriage – as far as the ancient sages are concerned – is solely to ensure reproduction! The cycle of reproduction goes on and on, and no reproduction can take place without touching each other, without – to put it briefly – the positive sexual act. There is nothing shameful about this and on the contrary, it is something to be proud of.

In the rainy season in India, this becomes very apparent. And Kālidāsa speaks of this very openly – yet subtly. In India, the peacock has for centuries been not only a symbol of prosperity, but also of love and physical union. In all well-to-do houses, there would be pairs of peacocks roaming the grounds.

These birds indicate material prosperity as well as success in love. They mate in the rainy season, and that is when the male is especially beautiful. Among birds, particularly, we notice the most spectacular plumage belongs to the male, while the female can get by with a drab look. This is because the male has to entice the female to come to it, not to shed tears, but to make love. A pair of lovers enjoys the sight of the peacock dancing to impress his spouse. The pretty wives clap their hands to make the birds dance.

tālaiḥ śiñjāvalayasubhagairnartitaḥ kāntayā me
yāmadhyāste divasavigame nīlakaṇṭhaḥ suhṛd vaḥ

(Where sits your blue-throated friend, whom my dearest used to teach to dance, clapping her hands with jingling bangles, at the close of day.)

— 'Meghadūtam (Uttaramegha)'

Tear fertilisation and other tales

There is nothing in the ancient texts that selects the peacock as the sole representative among all creatures – birds, mammals, amphibians, invertebrates, etcetera – for this kind of “tear fertilisation”. And why should they? One must remember that it was in India that the early texts on love and love-making go into the very essentials of eroticism.

In fact, there is a position in love-making which is designated the mayūra āsana, and it is meant for humans. The Kama Sutra speaks of a nail mark on the beloved’s body, called the mayūrapadaka. All this cannot be for a creature that makes love through tears, so to speak!

In the present wild fascination for so-called “traditional” ideas, let us not throw science to the winds. One must remember that scientific thinking was highly developed in ancient India. It is only in later times that superstition has taken the place of science, and old wives’ tales masquerade as facts.

Before airing such stories as facts, or accepting them as truth, we should at least try and find out what actually the truth is. One does not necessarily have to be a Sanskrit scholar (which I definitely am not), but so many works are at present available in excellent translation that it would be a pity to ignore them and grope for a wild surmise.