Originating from northern India, the Mayuri fiddle is a stringed instrument in the form of a peacock. The instrument is considered either a vina or a sitar, since sitars are derived from vinas, both categories are closely related (Weissmann 74). A vina is a stringed instrument with a long hollow gourd resonating chamber connected to a bridge design with strings that was introduced to India from Central Asian cultures around the 13th century. Peacocks in India were seen as sacred and worshipped so religiously that it actually became India’s national bird; hence, the killing of the animal was forbidden (Nair 19). The Mayuri fiddle came to exist through an exchange of stringed instruments along the Silk Road and was incorporated with the highly valued peacock, this instrument allowed for the Mayuri to be of great significance and was seen as a novelty item instead of a customary instrument (Clark 116). The Mayuri fiddle is an example of cultural hybridization between Central Asia and India due to the integration of Indian religion and musical instruments that were spreading throughout Eurasia. The peacock is the national bird of India and is where the bird is thought to have originated. They were mainly in southern India, roaming along the outskirts of the Himalayas, and dwelling a mixture of open fields and jungles (Nair 4). According to the bible, peacocks were actually present in Athens around 450 BC when it was said to have reached the Holy Land in ancient times and remained in the island of Samos after (Nair 2). It was Alexander the great who helped facilitate the spread of peacocks by taking two hundred peacocks to Macedonia by land, and from there it spread to Greece, Rome, and eventually to Caesar’s Palace (Nair 37). However, the Bible indicates that King Solomon also brought the peacocks to the Holy Land through Judea. Peacocks were introduced to the Holy Land by the Phoenicians who traded with the Muziris, who in turn introduced it to the Pharaohs of Egypt and Asia Minor (Nair 37). These pheasants, having traveled to Europe through different routes and cultural connections has found its place in kingdoms and temples. Although not as sacredly as it was held in India, kings, and religious establishments in Europe adapted the peacock into their cultures in various ways. Peacocks were known for their beauty, meat and the feathers in Europe and East Asia. There is an abundance of ways a peacock can be valued in the cultures it is received in. For example, the feathers on the Mayuri fiddle places an emphasis on the beauty and functions of the feathers, which were highly revered. The peacock feathers were believed to have medical properties and were considered sacred to temples (Nair 18). They were used to heal snakebites, used as a remedy for vomiting and were commonly smoked in a tobacco pipe. The feathers were used as ornaments for tombs to the Christians, but had a more devotional purpose in Buddhism, for example, for sprinkling water on altars and ad a medium for punishing worshippers. Peacock feathers were also used as a wand in Banaras (Nair 75). Peacock feathers were thought to also have the ability to repel demons and diseases (Nair 18). Aside from the mystical properties of the peacock feathers, they were not seen as majestic as they were in India. Peacock feathers were seen as evil to Europeans, many animals with distinctive eyes were regarded as having an Evil Eye, especially the peacock with its hundred-eye design on its feathers. On the other hand, in Asian countries, the feather became a symbol of glory and rank (Nair 76). The significance of peacock feathers on the Mayuri fiddle is the common adoration of the peacock in India and the beauty of the feather. Incorporating the peacock feather on the fiddle presents the fiddle with a naturalistic feature as well as a symbol of the peacock itself. As the peacock spread to Europe, it was received differently than it did in India and Central Asia....
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