The Peacock Throne

, Hazrat-E-Dilli


The only known depiction of the Peacock Throne . Painting by Govardhan.
It was commissioned in 1628 and completed around 1634-1635.
One point to note is that it was not called the peacock throne but was then called the Takht-i-murassa or the jeweled throne. The name peacock throne came into usage in 18th century probably because  of the peacocks that decorated it.
It was built under the supervision of Bebadal Khan Saidi Gilani, the Daroba or superintendent of the goldsmiths. His payment or reward for the work was his weight in gold. Austin of Boudreaux is also listed as one of the other persons involved in the grand effort.

Tavernier who visited the Mughal Court in the reign of Aurangzeb describes the Peacock Throne:
It should be stated that the Great Mogul has seven magnificent thrones, one wholly covered with diamonds, the others with rubies, emeralds, and pearls.
‘The principal throne, which is placed in the hall of the first court, is nearly of the form and size of our camp beds; that is to say, it is about 6 feet long and 4 wide. Upon the four feet, which are very massive, and from 20 to 25 inches high, are fixed the four bars which support the base of the throne, and upon these bars are ranged twelve columns, which sustain the canopy on three sides, there not being any on that which faces the court. Both the feet and the bars, which are more than 18 inches long, are covered with gold inlaid and enriched with numerous diamonds, rubies, and emeralds. In the middle of each bar there is a large balass ruby, cut en cabuchon, with four emeralds round it, which form a square cross. Next in succession, from one side to the other along the length of the bars, there are similar crosses, arranged so that in one the ruby is in the middle of four emeralds, and in another the emerald is in the middle, and four balass rubies surround it. The emeralds are table-cut, and the intervals between the rubies and emeralds are covered with diamonds, the largest of which do not exceed 10 or 12 carats in weight, all being showy stones, but very flat. There are also in some parts pearls set in gold, and upon one of the longer sides of the throne there are four steps to ascend it.

Of the three cushions or pillows, which are upon the throne, that which is placed behind the King’s back is large and round like one of our bolsters, and the two others that are placed at his sides are flat. There is to be seen, moreover, a sword suspended from this throne, a mace, a round Bhield, a bow and quiver with arrows; and all these weapons, as also the cushions and steps, both of this throne and the other six, are covered over with stones which match those with which each of the thrones is respectively enriched.
I counted the large balass rubies on the great throne, and there were about 108, all cabuchons, the least of which weighs 100 carats, but there are some which weigh apparently 200 or more. As for the emeralds, there are plenty of good colour, but they have many flaws; the largest may weigh 60 carats, and the least 30 carats. I counted about one hundred and sixteen (116); thus there are more emeralds than rubies.
The underside of the canopy is covered with diamonds and pearls, with a fringe of pearls all round, and above the canopy, which is a quadrangular-shaped dome, there is to be seen a peacock with elevated tail made of blue sapphires and other coloured stones, the body being of gold inlaid with precious stones, having a large ruby in front of the breast, from whence hangs a pear-shaped pearl of 50 carats or thereabouts, and of a somewhat yellow water. On both sides of the peacock there is a large bouquet of the same height as the bird, and consisting of many kinds of flowers made of gold inlaid with precious stones. On the side of the throne which is opposite the court there is to be seen a jewel consisting of a diamond of from 80 to 90 carats weight, with rubies and emeralds round it, and when the King is seated he has this jewel in full view. But that which in my opinion is the most costly thing about this magnificent throne is that the twelve columns supporting the canopy are surrounded with beautiful rows of pearls, which are round and of fine water, and weigh from 6 to 10 carats each. At 4 feet distance from the throne there are fixed, on either side, two umbrellas, the sticks of which, for 7 or 8 feet in height, are covered with diamonds, rubies, and pearls. These umbrellas are of red velvet, and are embroidered and fringed all around with pearls.
This is what I have been able to observe regarding this famous throne, commenced by Tamerlane and completed by Shah Jahan; and those who keep the accounts of the King’s jewels, and of what this great work has cost, have assured me that it amounts to one hundred and seven thousand lakhs of rupees  (i.e. 10,700,000,000) which amount to one hundred and sixty millions five hundred thousand livres of our money (i.e. 160,500,000).”

Abdul Hamid Lahori, wrote in the Padshahnama
” Abdul Hamid, Shah Jehan’s Annalist writing in 1634 – It was, accordingly, ordered that, in addition to the jewels in the imperial jewel house, rubies, garnets, diamonds, rich pearls and emeralds in all weighing 230 kg should be brought for the inspection of the Emperor and they should be handed over to Bebadal Khan, the superintendent of the goldsmith’s department. There was also to be given to him 1150 kg of pure gold… The throne was to be three yards in length, two-and-a-half in breadth and five in height and was to be set with the above mentioned jewels. The outside of the canopy was to be of enamel work with occasional gems, the inside was to be thickly set with rubies, garnets and other jewels, and it was to be supported by 12 emerald columns. On the top of each pillar there were to be two peacocks, thick-set with gems and between each two peacocks a tree set with rubies and diamonds, emeralds and pearls. The ascent was to consist of three steps set with jewels of fine water”
The difference between two accounts seem to be that Tavernier described what he saw in Aurangzeb’s reign and Lahori described the project as it was supposed to be.
It seems that the diamonds and rubies were missing when Tavernier saw it because by then Shah Jahan was under house arrest in Agra Fort and these gems were in his possession.

#PeacockThrone was unfortunately dismantled and destroyed forever, after the assassination in 1747 of the Persian conqueror, Nadir Shah.

There is a Peacock throne in Topkapi Museum in Turkey which is often confused with THE peacock throne

Differences between the Topkapi Peacock Throne and Shah Jahān’s Peacock Throne

1. Topkapi Peacock
Has only eight very short vertical columns, without a canopy
Shah Jahān’s Peacock Throne
Had twelve long vertical columns that supported a dome-shaped canopy

2. Topkapi Peacock
The four legs are stout and intricately carved, but not encrusted with jewels
Shah Jahān’s Peacock Throne
The four legs and horizontal bars that support the base of the throne, were inlaid with gold, encrusted with diamonds, rubies and emeralds

3. Topkapi
The throne was ascended by a short stool, serving both as a step and footrest
Shah Jahan’s #PeacockThrone
The throne was ascended by four steps in laid with silver, and encrusted with jewels

4.Topkapi #PeacockThrone
A single cushion or pillow, decorated with gold braid and pearls, serves as a backrest on the throne
Shah Jahan’s #PeacockThrone
Three jewel encrusted cushions or pillows are placed on the throne, the larger and round one serving as a backrest, and the smaller flat ones placed on the sides

5. Topkapi #PeacockThrone
The throne is without a canopy
Shah Jahan’s #PeacockThrone
The underside of the canopy is covered with diamonds and pearls, with a fringe of pearls all round

6. Topkapi #PeacockThrone
The space between the vertical columns are occupied by enameled decorative panels, heavily encrusted with jewels, such as rubies, emeralds and pearls. However, there is no peacock motif on any of these panels
Shah Jahan’s #PeacockThrone
Above the dome-shaped canopy is a peacock with an elevated tail, encrusted with blue sapphires and other colored stones, and a body inlaid with gold, encrusted with precious stones, with a large ruby in front of the breast, from which hangs a pear-shaped pearl

7. Topkapi #PeacockThrone
No bouquets of flowers placed anywhere on the throne
Shah Jahan’s #PeacockThrone
On both sides of the peacock, a large bouquet of flowers, made of gold inlaid with precious stones, is placed

8. Topkapi #PeacockThrone
The short columns are enameled
Shah Jahan’s #PeacockThrone
The columns supporting the canopy are encrusted with beautiful rows of pearls

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