The Parrot’s Tale
While the peacock is the national bird of India and so gets the obvious pride of place, it is the more humble, but equally vibrant parrot that has played a pivotal role in Indian history and tradition. Through millennia, the Indian parrot has been revered in texts, myths, legends and art. From the Vedas and Puranas to the popular epics and literary classics, parrots have been celebrated as messengers, storytellers and teachers. The tradition goes back to 2500 years ago.
The first written reference to the parrot (in the world) is found in the Rigveda, the earliest of four Vedas, dated to 1500-1200 BCE according to most estimates. Here, in the hymn 12 of Chapter 1, the bird is called Thiththi in Sanskrit and is credited with taking away a sage’s yellowness, interpreted by scholars as jaundice. By the time of the third Veda, the Yajurveda, dated to around 1200 – 900 BCE, there are ample references to parrots being kept as pets. In fact, there is even a reference in the Yajurveda to parrots ‘uttering human speech.’