It is not unusual for odd hour calls in my profession as a veterinarian. Cats and dogs also fall ill at night! But this nightly call was ‘unusually’ unusual and that too, from the biggest Hindu temple in Carrum Downs, Melbourne. I was requested to take a look at the temple peacock, which had fallen ill. This is the kind of work veterinarians are supposed to do without any fee, in the name of charity. No wonder, the Hindu community also expected me to perform the task in the name of Divinity and the temple.
Unaware of the significance, my daughter inquired why they were having a peacock at the temple. My wife explained that the peacock is God Muruga's vehicle. I thought to myself then the ‘rat’ and ‘ox’ also could be considered as vehicles, since they are the vehicles of God Ganesha and the God Shiva respectively. If the Kovil decides to adopt these animals in the name of Gods, then the temple compound and its surroundings would become a zoo, rivaling Melbourne Zoological Garden. I held the thought to myself, since it would be considered heresy by the ‘believers’. Religious beliefs are personal and blind enough to be beyond logic and science.
I told my daughter that the temple authorities were keeping the peacock for its beauty.
The next day, taking my family along, I went to the temple to kill two birds with one stone; I thought I could take care of the temple peacock while my family prayed to the God. My wife and daughter went in to pray and I went to see Mr. Rangaiah. Mr. Rangaiah, a south Indian, friendly and humble, was the caretaker of the peacocks and peahens.
As I went with Mr. Rangaiah to examine the peacock, I had a look at the enclosure where the peacocks were kept. The enclosure was made of steel rods and wire mesh. There was also a small shed where the peahen laid their eggs.
Mr. Rangaiah pointed out the peacock with a leg injury. I laughed and wondered silently whether that could be the unfortunate result of the poor peacock carrying God Muruga and his two consorts on its back. As per the legendary story, to beat his brother God Ganesha, God Muruga went on to circle the universe riding on his peacock while Lord Ganesha, cleverly, went around the parents, God Shiva and Godess parvathi, calling them his universe, claiming victory!
Mr. Rangaiah, a Tamil from India, a good cook, serves food to the devotees during festival times at such a speed that would make even the legendary cook King Nala blush. When he said that he never had any problem with peacocks for the past ten years, I replied in affirmation that peacocks seldom fall ill and they live a healthy life up to thirty years, more or less. I went inside the enclosure with Mr. Rangaiah and found that the peacock had an external leg injury. After giving antibiotics to the peacock, I left.
Next week, I went to the temple and on inspection, found that the peacock’s external injury had healed but yet it could not walk. It was lying flat in a corner and there were many eggs in the enclosure and it looked as though it had an internal injury. Rangalah had mentioned that it was the oldest peacock and the presence of many eggs indicated that it was the time of procreation for peacocks.
Haven’t you seen the peacocks copulating? A scene unfolds in my memory where a peafowl chased a peahen till the latter got exhausted and then the peafowl was seen mating with a peahen.
When I looked around the enclosure I saw five peahens and seven pea fowls. I remembered reading somewhere that one peafowl could cope with five peahens.
An alarm bell rang in my mind!
Another krushestra war had occurred in the enclosure, not for Panchali, but for peahens.
In the open, peacocks dance with their wings spread out for several minutes so as to attract as many peahens as possible! Just because a peacock lives in a temple should we expect it to be a celibate? One peacock was injured, when seven peacocks attempted to procreate!
Again I went to the enclosure and squatted in front of the wounded peacock. A silent conversation took place between us!
"Hi there, I am the vet. I would like to help you. What happened to you? Tell me the truth!"
The peacock looked up: "I am the eldest in the enclosure. Here, the young ones are mating a lot!
This year I did not get even one single opportunity. Out of sheer frustration, I flew over a peahen and trying to mount, I slipped. My leg got struck and now I am a cripple".
"Look! You are ten years old! Why can’t you be orderly in your conduct?”
"We live in the open forests for thirty or more years and this ten years is nowhere near, compared to that!’’
“You have to be restrained and should reduce your sexual activities, after coming to live in the temple, preferring to serve, in this divine atmosphere.”
"We are restrained throughout the year! When summer starts, when fresh blood flows through our body, we have no control; sunlight is the Viagra for us! We can neither rest nor sleep! We look for peahens; we cannot help! It’s not our fault, you see!”
“I know, Mr. P.Cock! Evan without your knowledge, pineal glands in your brain get stimulated…. O.K!
Let us observe for a week. If the medicine given by Rangaiah does not work, you would have to choose between Kailasam of God Shiva and Vaikundam of God Vishnu! That would be your abode of final destiny. Whatever happens, I would like to make a fresh appeal to God Muruga!’’
I said the last part aloud to the peacock, sarcastically!
Although the imaginary sarcastic conversation came to an end, the appearance of the peacock touched a tender spot in me and evoked my sympathy since the chances of the peacock to recover and its survival, appeared remote!
There is a place called Shravanabelagola , a hillock located near Mysore, in India. During a by-gone era, Jain saints spent their twilight years, meditating, preaching and teaching! And there they attain their Samadhi! Similarly, the temple management might have believed that if the injured peacock meets its end in that enclosure, it would reach the abode of God Shiva!
As for as I am concerned, I have studied the methods of treating animals based on western science; to me, the management’s beliefs based on faith, struck a discordant note. I told the temple management point blank that the peacock needed ‘euthanasia’ so that it would die in peace, avoiding its unnecessary suffering and pain! Also, I wanted a letter authorizing me to do it. But, there was no response from them for many weeks.
After some time, I went to the temple to inquire about the peacock, only to be told that it had attained its Samadhi, as in the case of the Jain saints. But, its body was thrown away openly, as done in the traditions of Persian, Zoroastrian religions. I wished I could have given it a proper burial, as Christians do.
That was a festival period and in that festive mood, the poor peacocks might have slipped off their minds!
Is there anyway a peacock could file a suit and seek justice for their ‘animal rights’? Could they, at least, issue a statement to the press?
In future, there would definitely be clashes among the peacocks during the mating season. Poor peacocks! I wish peacocks would be aware that if they do not refrain from sex, they run the risk of fatal injuries.