, Volume 26, Issue 5, pp 455-487

A bird bereaved: The Identity and Significance of Valmiki's Krauñca

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Abstract

The key event at the start of the Sanskrit Ramayana attributed to Valmiki is the death of a bird at the hands of a hunter. In Sanskrit, that bird is termed krauñca. Various identifications have been offered in the past but uncertainty persists. Focusing on the text of the critical edition and drawing on ornithological data regarding the birds commonly suggested, this article establishes beyond doubt that Valmiki's ‘krauñca bird’ is the Indian Sarus Crane. It then considers a key verse in the southern recension, omitted by the editors of the critical edition, which supports this identification. Finally, the article explores the significance of the Indian Sarus Crane for the epic scene.