From koels, papihas and crows, we move to the peacock in this week’s episode in our series on representation of birds in Hindustani compositions. Traditionally, imagery about the peacock has been associated with the monsoon, stormy weather and heavy downpours. So it isn’t surprising to find references to the bird located in close proximity with that of frogs and crickets that have conventionally found place in poetic descriptions of rain-drenched surroundings.
Hindustani compositions mention the call of the peacock and others either as sounds that heighten the female protagonist’s desire to be united with her lover who is in a distant land, far removed from home, or as symbols that celebrate the fertility in nature and imply a celebration of fertility between the lovers.
This week’s selection of compositions contains references to not just the peacock, but also to the dadur (frog), papiha (hawk-cuckoo), and the koel (Indian cuckoo).
We begin today’s episode with a recording of a Meerabai pada composed and sung by the erudite and respected scholar-musician Dr Ashok Da Ranade. Listeners will notice the relevant references in the second verse. It is set to the 16-matra Addha or Sitarkhani taal. The pada has been sung by several vocalists, although many do not know that this was Ranade’s melodic composition.
The next track features a traditional bandish or composition set to the 16-matra Teentaal in Gaud Malhar, a raag prescribed for the monsoon. Sung by the well-known vocalist DV Paluskar, the composition carries references pertinent to our discussion in the sthayi, the first section and antara, second section.
The final track is an evergreen thumri sung by the Patiala gharana maestro Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. Once again, the antara carries some of the references mentioned earlier.