The Dance of the Magnificent Plume

The grey crept over the blue, blanketing it slowly with a faint rustle. The eye-dazzling overhead light began to dim, tinged now as it was by the edgy grey. The faint rustle grew in volume, picking up steam to thunder out aloud the imminent arrival of rain. The head first bowed in acknowledgment. A second later, the shoulders shrugged and tensed, gathering the strength to lift the head skywards and fan out all the feathers gathered in the tail behind. Watchful as ever, the world hitched its collective breath for it knew the time had come for the dance of the magnificent plume. 

Sure enough, the show commenced a few seconds later when the first raindrops fell, giving rise to the rich fragrance of damp earth. The peacock let out a raucous cry, voicing its joy and then its plume fanned out in a dazzling fan of colour and movement.

The bird revelled in the moment, preening in pride on center stage and basking in the knowledge that the dance of his magnificent plume was being captured on video and would play on YouTube for time immemorial, courtesy Paul Dinning and Goldfinch Garden.

He had but just a few minutes to enjoy the limelight. The setting was just too primordial for any living creature to resist. They were drawn in all too soon into the dance.

The thunder served as cymbals to contrast with the melodious strings of the pattering rain. The rising fragrance from the damp earth was heady.  The whoosh-whoosh of the winds beckoned, inviting all to join in and sway merrily along.

Who could resist?

Not the trees that bent and swayed in childlike delight.

Not the ocean waves that ran up and did the long jump over beach walls, crashing over cars and people on promenades.

And, certainly not the streams and rivers gurgling along, gathering speed over the hills to catapult down as waterfalls or along rocky gorges.

As for the people?

The farmers wept in joy as they saw the clouds roll in. They brought out their dhols (a large, barrel-shaped or cylindrical wooden drum) and broke into a dance singing, “Ghanan Ghanan Ghanan/ Ghanan Ghanan Ghir Ghir Aaye Badra/ Ghane Ghan Ghor Kaare Chhaye Badra/ Dhamak Dhamak Goonje Badra Ke Danke/ Chamak Chamak Dekho Bijuriya Chamke/ Mann Dhadkaaye Badarwa,
Mann Dhadkaaye Badarwa, Mann Mann Dhadkaaye Badarwa. Kaale Megha, Kaale Megha Paani To Barsaao…” * 

While the farmers danced to the beat of their hopeful hearts and the sound of thunder, elsewhere a lovelorn young woman called to her dream lover – much like the peacock was himself engaged in the dance of his magnificent plume to attract peahens. Caught in the magic, the young woman sings, “O sajana, barakha bahaar aayee ras ki phuhaar laayi, aakhiyon men pyaar laayi…”*

The music plays. The dance unfolds, capturing the children’s imagination too. They jump into the fray, splashing to their heart’s content in the rain puddles galore. It’s raw choreography.

Young and old, male and female – all of Nature and all of the people join the peacock in his dance. It’s almost as if the peacock’s plume encompasses the entire world, which overnight transforms into a myriad number of colourful hues, swirling in a kaleidoscopic rain dance.

You have to watch it to believe it. The annual show of the Dance of the Magnificent Plume takes place in India with the arrival of the monsoon.

Don’t miss it. But if you can’t make it, experience it vicariously through this video of Shubha Mudgal singing Ab ke sawan aise barse…and watch how all of India erupts into song and dance with the arrival of the Rain Gods.

It’s a blockbuster of a show.

Author’s Note: I have often wondered why India turns into such a joyous nation with the arrival of the rains. Here are some reasons I have come up with (do add your own thoughts in the comments section):

  • Till recently, India was almost entirely agriculture driven. Being entirely dependent on the seasonal rains, the arrival of the monsoons was the most important event; one on which livelihoods and indeed, survival depended on. This fact is beautifully captured in the picturisation of the song Ghanan Ghanan from the film Lagaan. Perhaps those scenes from the film have been experienced time and again by the Indian populace and is now deeply embedded in our genetic memory. Of course, all of India knows that its economy is still too dependent on the monsoons providing water supply to the nation’s farms and cities.
  • From around October to June, India is a brown, dusty country. That same India is overnight transformed into a verdant, magical green with the first rains every year. Who wouldn’t rejoice?
  • Once the rains arrive, there is romance in the air! The peacock dances to attract peahens into mating. The human race, too, seeks romance and intimacy in the same season. It’s not for nothing that Bollywood films at one time always had the hero and heroine singing, dancing and romancing in the rain. Walk on India’s streets as the monsoon breaks or tune into any radio station and you will hear those romantic monsoon songs playing and on many lips.

On that note, I bid you adios. I am off for a walk in the rains with a song on my lips and a spring in my steps.

  • The song Ghanan Ghanan is from the 2001 Oscar nominated Bollywood film Lagaan. Translated, the lyrics mean “Rain heavy clouds are shading the sky/Dhamak Dhamak is the sound of the thunder clapping/ See, the lightning flashes light up the sky/ Our heartbeats are fluttering/ O, Grey clouds, please shower us with rain”.  The lyrics are by Javed Akhtar, the music is composed by A. R. Rahman and the singers are Alka Yagnik, Udit Narayan, Sukhwinder Singh, Shankar Mahadevan, Shaan, Kishori Gowariker, & Chorus. The film was directed by Ashutosh Gowariker and produced by Aamir Khan Productions.

  • The song O Sajana is from the 1960 film Parakh. Translated, the lyrics mean “Oh, my beloved, the rain-filled season of spring has arrived/ It has brought sprinkling droplets of nectar, it has brought love to these eyes….” The lyrics are by Shailendra and the music composer is Salil Chowdhury.


5 thoughts on “The Dance of the Magnificent Plume

  1. You picked the perfect songs to ilustrate your post. There is a romance in the air in India which is not apparent anywhere else in the world. I dont know what it is but it s been very well captured in your words. Enjoyed this very much.

  2. Ah!!! The joy of monsoon rain!!!! One needs to experience this first hand to completely understand this. Or perhaps the childhood exuberance of this brings back body memories. Thanks for sharing this Lata darlin’

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