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Motif & Meaning – 3 The Case of the Double-Headed Peacock

September 08, 2014 2 min read

Preceded by the notes Motif & Meaning – Preface  & Motif & Meaning – 2

Art is inspired by life and tribal life lived close to the earth, nature  is often the most prominent inspiration. Depictions of the flora and fauna of the region are common in tribal art.

So in all the regions that are inhabited by peacocks, we can expect to see peacocks in the art of the people living there. So an element of nature that is as common as a peacock or flower might be present in the art originating from many different places.

However, when the stylised depictions of the same are unique and peculiar or uncommon in form these become uniquely associated with the tribe that uses them.

Further when such peculiar stylised depictions are found in two distinct & different cultures separated by geography, it arouses our curiosity and we begin to look for some connections and plausible reasons for this commonality.



1.1 Example: ATP-409 Antique Afshar Bird Rug.

ANtique Persian Afshar bird rugANtique Persian Afshar bird rug

Note the several double headed peacocks all over this rug.

1.2 Example: ATK-149 Dhaniyo or Dharaniyo Textile


Note the girls riding on the double headed peacocks!


The Art Producing Regions

ATP-409 is from South East Iran  (blue) while ATK-149 is from Gujarat in West India (pink) and the distance by sea or land appears to be between 1200 and 2000 km as the crow or peacock flies.



Did these double headed birds exist?

Do they appear in the folk lore or songs of these two regions?

Or were they mythological? Or symbolic?

Or is it just a stylised motif that one group devised and then somehow the unique meme was transmitted to the other group?

If that is the case then how did the meme get transmitted? In which direction? Marriage? Migration? Invasion?

There is the Parsi migration from Iran to Gujarat in the 8th-10th century. Do we have any reason to believe that the motif came from Iran to India with them? Are there any Parsi textile that support this?


No answers – just questions. These questions will remain – and keep the interest alive. Maybe someday there will be a clue or a hint. Maybe a reader will have a definitive answer.

Until then let us revel in the stimulation of the mystery!

[At this point I feel bad for the future researchers who will be asking this question regarding life in this decade. With the diffusion of this new innovation called the internet .. it will be sooooo difficult  for them to trace the historical path of memes & ideas…..so if we think we have it tough, just imagine the unanswered questions that the students in the year 2500 will have to face!!]


sept 2014

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