Buddhist Fables

Buddhist Classics

Life and Legends of Buddha

The Illustrated Jataka & Other Stories of the Buddha by C. B. Varma Introduction | Glossary | Bibliography

056 – The Baveru Island

The dancing peacock

Once the merchants of Varanasi went to the Baveru Island. They carried a crow with them. At that time there was no bird in the island; and most people had not seen any bird in their life-time. So, when the crow was put on display the people thronged to look at the bird with great curiosity. Some remarked, “Look at its glossy colour!” Some said, “Look at its silky fur! Some said, “Look at its pretty beak and its jewelled eye-balls!” Thus, the people praised the bird. Later, they approached the merchants and said, “Sirs you have several birds like this in your land. You sell this to us because you can find another in your land”. And they offered them one piece of coin as the price of the bird. The merchants agreed to sell but demanded a higher price. Finally, the deal was made and the people bought the crow at the rate of one hundred coins.

The natives of the island then carried the crow in a pompous procession and placed it in a golden cage. The crow was treated with variety of meat, fish and wild fruits. Thus, a crow, which is known for ten evil characteristics, enjoyed all sorts of gains and praises.

Next time, when those merchants visited Baveru they brought a peacock. The peacock was trained to scream at the snapping of the fingers; and dance at the clapping of the hands. When the new bird was put on a display it amused the people by its dance and voice. Certainly, the peacock appeared far more alluring than the crow. So, charmed with the new bird, the people went to the merchants and eagerly expressed their desire to buy it. They said to the merchants, “Sirs you have several birds like this in your land. You sell this to us because you can find another in your land”

The merchants, who wanted a better bargain, said, “Sirs! We first brought a crow and you took it from us. Now, we bring a peacock and you want to take that, too. Next time, we would not bring any bird to your land.” But the people insisted and offered higher and higher price. Finally, the deal was made at the rate of one thousand coins.

The people then placed the peacock in a cage, which was made of seven jewels. They then treated the new bird with all sorts of fish and meat, honey and fried corn and so on. Since then the crow was hardly given any attention. No body then offered it anything. So, one day, when it got an opportunity to move out it flew from the cage with its shrill “caw, caw” and settled down on a dung-hill.

Before the crested peacock could appear
The crow enjoyed all gains of fruits and meat and was revered
But ever since to Baveru the honeyed voice peacock came
The crow was shorn off all its gains and fame.

See Baveru Jataka Jataka Pali No. 339.