Birds Of Truth

Among all the birds, the parrot occupies a special place in the Indian literary and akriti traditions.

The Indian artist and the tradition of akritis responded not only to the luxuriant Indian environment around them, an environment of verdant groves and colourful birds, but was equally quick to translate references to birds in literature, into beautiful forms in textiles and fabrics, walls and canvas.

In particular, the many akritis of birds shows the clear connection Indian artisans and crafts people make between women and birds. Since times ancient, we have had the tradition of yakshis or tree nymphs or dryads which are icons of fertility and fecundity, who live in trees and who share their regenerative powers with trees and very often they are also associated with birds.

From the modest terracotta figurines of Kausambi or Chandraketugarh to the robust and earthly yakshis ornamenting the railing posts of Sanchi, sculptors of ancient India gradually introduced the theme of a woman with a bird as not only a beautiful motif, but also one of the recognisable expressions of the pictorial glorification of feminine beauty and sensuality. Full of grace and dignity, these figures represent the mystery of a woman’s secrets which are tenderly whispered in the ear of a bird. This theme endured throughout the centuries and flourished with aesthetic finesse on the beautifully sculptured walls of the great temples of medieval India. In Khajuraho, Bhubaneshwar, Konark or Halebid, yakshis and surasundaris or celestial beauties are frequently represented on temple walls confiding secrets to a friendly bird, often a blackbird or a parrot, curled around the nape of the neck or nestled in the palm of the hand.

Later in the kavya and the chitra tradition of the Rajput courts, the motif of a woman and the bird took another form and made strong associations with shringara rasa of Krishna. The woman and the bird remain an enduring and charming representation of shared fertility and secrets of love.

Among all the birds, the parrot occupies a special place in the Indian literary and akriti tradition. Harbinger of spring, pretty in colour and the vehicle of Kamadeva, the god of love, the parrot is considered the bird of knowledge and truth, and has a special connection with humans. In the Vetalapanchavimsati, King Rupasen’s parrot, Churaman, foretells the name and country of the king’s prospective bride. In a Jain tale, a courtesan, Anangasena by name, transforms the prince she is enamoured of into a parrot, by tying a magic string around his leg in order to keep him close. Parrots also have the gift of fore-knowledge to inform the hero of future luck or misfortune. They befriend lonely heroines and serve as trusted messengers as well as spies of husbands who are away and keep a watch on their infidel spouses.

In Bana’s Kadambari, the parrot, Vaishampayana, on hearing Sage Jabali’s tale is reawakened to the memory of its former love for the young ascetic maiden, Mahashveta. The Shukasaptati is a collection of 70 stories told by a parrot to a woman whose husband is away and which prevents the woman from going astray. The parrot’s pre-eminence as a bird that has not only knowledge, but clairvoyance sets the stage in the Shukasaptati. This was illustrated in Akbar’s atelier as Tutinama.

Amir Khusrau wrote: Khudaya chu khusrau darin bastan kuhn tuti-ye shud ze Hindustan — O God! You have created Khusrau like a parrot in this garden of Hindustan.

Om Namah Shivay

***Write ” Om Namah Shivay ” if you ask for God’s blessing on your life today. Please Like, Tag and Share to bless others!


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