The Peacock Throne - Takht-i-Tā'ūs - As Described by Tavernier

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Tavernier's sixth voyage to India from 1663 to 1668

It was during Tavernier's sixth voyage to India, which he undertook between 1663 and 1668, he had the privilege of visiting the court of the great Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, at Jahanabad, at the invitation of the Emperor himself.

The main purpose of Tavernier's invitation to the Emperor's court, was for the Emperor to inspect whatever jewels Tavernier had brought from the west, with a view of purchasing them. During this visit Tavernier not only sold several jewels to the Emperor and his uncle Jaafar Khan, but established a close rapport with the Emperor, that prolonged his stay at Jahanabad. Tavernier was invited to stay on until the conclusion of the Emperor's annual birthday celebrations, and he also got the opportunity to inspect the jewel-studded thrones in the palace, including the principal throne, known as the Takht-e-Tā'ūs. He was also given the opportunity to inspect the valuable jewels belonging to the Emperor, excluding of course the jewels still held by his father Shah Jahān, whose throne he usurped, and who was still held in detention in Agra. In fact, it was just a few months after Tavernier inspected Aurangzeb's jewels, that Shah Jahān died in detention, on January  1666, and Aurangzeb was able claim all his jewels.

 

Summary of Tavernier's sixth voyage to India, starting in 1663 and ending in 1668

No. Starting from Date of starting journey Destination reached Date of reaching destination Type of journey
1 Paris November 27, 1663 Marseilles December, 1663 Land journey
2 Marseilles January 10, 1664 Smyrna/Izmir in Anatolia April 25, 1664 Sea voyage through Mediterranean
3 Smyrna/Izmir in Anatolia June 9, 1664 Erivan/Yerevan in Armenia September 14, 1664 Land journey through Turkey
4 Erivan/Yerevan in Armenia September 15, 1664 Tabriz in northwest Persia November 9, 1664 Land journey through Armenia and Persia
5 Tabriz in northwest Persia November 22, 1664 Isfahan, capital city of Persia December 14, 1664 Land journey through Persia
6 Isfahan, capital city of Persia February 24, 1665 Bandar Abbas southern port city of Persia April 1 to 7, 1665 Land journey through Persia
7 Bandar Abbas, southern port city of Persia April 1 to 7, 1665 Surat, port city on west coast of India May 5, 1665 Sea Voyage through Arabian Sea in the Indian Ocean
8 Surat, port city on west coast of India May 6, 1665 Jahanabad, new capital city of Mughal empire September 12, 1665 Land journey through Agra
9 Jahanabad, new capital city of Mughal empire November 11, 1665 Agra, former capital city of the Mughal empire November 1665 Land journey
10 Agra, former capital city of the Mughal empire November 25, 1665 Patna, city in northeast India December 20, 1665 Land journey via Allahabad and Benares
11 Patna, city in northeast India December 29, 1665 Dacca, capital of Bengal province January 13, 1666 Land journey via Rajmahal
12 Dacca, capital city of Bengal province January 29, 1666 Kasim Bazaar February 12, 1666 Land journey
  R  E  T  U  R N   J O U R N E Y    
13 Kasim Bazar April, 1666 Patna in northeast India May, 1666 Land journey
14 Patna, in northeast India July, 1666 Agra in north India August, 1666 Land journey
15 Agra, in north India August 1666 Surat on west coast of India November 1, 1666 Land journey
16 Surat, on the west coast of India February 1667 Bandar Abbas, southern port city of Persia March, 1667 Sea voyage through Arabian Sea
17 Bandar Abbas in Persia March, 1667 Isfahan, capital city of Persia April, 1667 Land journey
18 Isfahan in Persia December, 1667 Tabriz, in northwest Persia January, 1668 Land journey
19 Tabriz in northwest Persia January 1668 Yerevan, in Armenia February, 1668 Land journey
20 Yerevan in Armenia February 1668 Constantinople in Turkey May, 1668 Land journey
21 Constantinople in Turkey September 1668 Marseilles/Paris in France December 6, 1668 Sea voyage through Mediterranean

Tavernier's sixth voyage was his most memorable, that gives a first hand account of the magnificence of the Mughal court, and the most comprehensive description of the renowned Peacock Throne

Tavernier's sixth and last voyage to India, was indeed his most memorable voyage, as he had the rare privilege of visiting the mighty Mughal emperor in his palace, at the new Mughal capital of Jahānabad, where he remained as his guest for two months from September 12, 1665 to November 11, 1665. During this period he was a silent observer of court life in Aurangzeb's palace, and also had the opportunity of examining some of the extravagant thrones in the palace, that included the renowned "Peacock Throne" the most extravagant throne ever produced in the history of mankind. Tavernier gives a detailed and vivid description of the "Peacock Throne" in his book Le Six Voyages de J. B. Tavernier- The Six Voyages of J. B. Tavernier, published in 1676 in two volumes. The description of the throne appears in Chapter VIII of Volume II of his book, which concerns about preparations for the Emperor's annual birthday festival, during which he is solemnly weighed every year, and also about the splendor of his thrones and the magnificence of his court. The world is indeed greatly indebted to Jeane-Baptiste Tavernier, for his detailed and first hand account of this magnificent throne, designed and constructed for the great Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahān, in the 17th century, but was unfortunately dismantled and destroyed forever, after the assassination in 1747 of the mighty Persian conqueror, Nadir Shah, who carried an enormous booty from Agra and Delhi in 1739, that also included this "Peacock Throne." Tavernier's account of the Peacock Throne is the most comprehensive account of the throne available to modern historians. 

Tavernier, a traveller wearing a Moghul dress.The Six Voyages of Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, published in 1679.

The following is an extract pertaining to the Peacock Throne, from Chapter VIII, Volume II of Tavernier's book, The Six Voyages of J. B. Tavernier, translated by Dr. Valentine Ball in 1889

The principal throne, which is placed in the hall of the first court, resembles in form and size an out camp bed ; 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, that which faces the court being open. 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, forming 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 to 12 carats in weight, all 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 Emperor’s back is large and round like one of our bolsters, and the two others placed at his sides are flat. Moreover, a sword, a mace, a round shield, a bow and quiver with arrows, are suspended from this throne, and all these weapons, as also the cushions and steps, both of this throne and of the other six, are covered over with stones which match those with which each of the thrones respectively is enriched. I counted the large balass rubies on the great throne, and there are about 108, all cabuchons, the least of which weighs 100 carats, but there are some which weigh apparently 200 and 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 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 a peacock with elevated tail made of blue sapphires and other colored stones, the body of gold inlaid with precious stones, having a large ruby in front of the breast, whence hangs a pear-shaped pearl of 60 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, consisting of many kinds of flowers made of gold inlaid with precious stones. On the side of the throne opposite the court there is a jewel consisting of a diamond of from 80 to 90 carats weight, with rubies and emeralds round it, and when the Emperor is seated he has this jewel in full view. But in my opinion the most costly point 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 two umbrellas are fixed, on either side, the sticks of which are 7 or 8 feet in height and covered with diamonds, rubies, and pearls. These umbrellas are of red velvet, and embroidered and fringed all round with pearls. This is what I have been able to observe regarding this famous throne, commenced by Tamerlane and completed by Shāhjahān; and those who keep the accounts of the King’s jewels, and of the cost of this great work, have assured me that it amounts to 107,000 lakhs of rupees, which amount to 160,500,000 livres of our money.

Place reserved for the Peacock Throne in the Diwan-i-am at the Agra Fort

Place reserved for the Peacock Throne in the Diwan-i-am at the Agra Fort

Photo above, Creative Commons

Another extract pertaining to the Peacock Throne, from an article, titled "As priceless as the Peacock Throne" by K. R. N. Swamy, published in the Sunday Tribune of India, dated January 30, 2000

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". Of the 11 jeweled recesses formed around it for cushions, the middle one was intended for the seat for Emperor. Among the historical diamonds decorating it were the famous Kohinoor (186 carats), the Akbar Shah (95 carats), the Shah (88.77 carats), the Jehangir (83 carats) and the third largest spinel ruby in the world — the Timur ruby (352.50 carats). A 20-couplet poem by the Mughal poet-laureate Qudsi, praising the Emperor in emerald letters was embedded in the throne. On March 12, 1635, Emperor Shah Jahan ascended for the first time the newly completed Peacock Throne. The French jeweler and traveler, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, who had the opportunity to examine the throne at close quarters, confirms the court chronicler’s description... Its place in the two fortress-palaces of Delhi and Agra was usually at the Hall of Private Audience known as Diwan-I-Khas, although it was kept at the Hall of Public Audience known as the Diwan-I-Am when larger audience were expected.

  Portrait of Shah Jahan on the Peacock Throne

Portrait of Shah Jahan on the Peacock Throne

Significant differences between Tavernier's account and the court chronicler's account given in the Sunday Tribune article

The court chronicler's description of the Peacock Throne incorporated in the Sunday Tribune article and Tavernier's first-hand account published in his book of travels in 1676, are generally in broad agreement on the salient features of the thrones, such as its rectangular shape, standing on four legs at its corners, the 12 columns on which the canopy rests, and the type of gemstones embedded on the throne, such as balas rubies, emeralds, pearls, diamonds and other colored stones. However there appears to be some significant differences in the two descriptions of the Peacock Throne. Some of these significant differences are :-

1) Tavernier's account of the Peacock Throne was actually what he observed at close quarters during his two-month stay at Jahānabad in 1665, and his frequent visits to the palace during this period. But, the chronicler's account of the Peacock throne, based on the language used, appears to be a projected design of the throne, that was to be constructed in the future. It appears that the Peacock throne that was finally completed, and which Emperor Shah Jahān ascended for the first time on March 12, 1635, had significant differences from the original plan.

2) According to the original plan, given in the court chronicler's description the throne was to have a length of 3 yards (9 feet) and a breadth of 2½ yards (7½ feet). However, eventually when it was executed the length of the throne was 6 feet and breadth 4 feet, as described by Tavernier. The height of the throne according to the plan would have been 5 yards (15 feet), but Tavernier's account does not mention its total height, but only the height of the 4 legs at the corners, which was about 2 feet.

3) According to the original plan, the canopy was to be supported by 12 emerald columns, but Tavernier's account says that the 12 columns are surrounded with beautiful rows of pearls, which are round and of fine water, and weigh from 6 to 10 carats each. In fact Tavernier mentions in his account that the most costly aspect of this magnificent throne, in his view, are the pearls embedded on the 12 columns of the throne.

4) Another significant difference between the two accounts, is about the position of the peacock on the throne, from which it derives its name. According to the original plan, as described by the court chronicler, 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. Thus, if the reference to "pillar" here means "columns" there would be 24 peacocks right round the throne. However, according to Tavernier, he had observed only a single large peacock above the quadrangular-shaped, dome-like canopy, with an elevated tail, embedded with blue sapphires and other colored stones, and the body of the peacock, made of gold inlaid with precious stones, having a large ruby in front of the breast, from which hangs a pear-shaped pearl around 60 carats in weight. Apart from the single large peacock, Tavernier's account speaks of a large bouquet, consisting of many kinds of flowers, made of gold inlaid with precious stones, of the same height as the peacock, situated on either side of the peacock.

5) According to the original plan, the ascent to the throne was to consist of three steps, also set with jewels of fine water. However, according to Tavernier, he observed four steps on the longer side of the throne, used for ascending it, and embedded with the same type of gemstones used on the throne, and with matching designs.

Apart from the significant differences between the two accounts given above, there are several details given in Tavernier's account, which are not mentioned in the court chronicler's account, and vice versa.

Portrait of Shah Jahan

Portrait of Shah Jahan

Details given in Tavernier's account not mentioned in the court chronicler's account

1) In his account Tavernier gives details of the design in which the balas rubies, emeralds, diamonds and pearls are arranged on the four horizontal bars connecting the four vertical legs, from which the 12 vertical columns, supporting the canopy arise. In the middle of each bar, a large cabochon-cut balas ruby is placed, surrounded by four emeralds forming a square cross. Such square crosses are situated on either side of the central large square cross, along the length of the bar, but arranged in such a way, that while in one square cross a balas ruby occupies the center, surrounded by four emeralds, in the next square cross, an emerald occupies the center, surrounded by four balas rubies. The emeralds are table-cut and the intervals between the emeralds and rubies, are covered with diamonds, also table-cut and not exceeding 10 to 12 carats in weight.

2) There are three cushions or pillows, upon the throne, and the one placed behind the Emperor's back is large and round, and the other two placed at his sides are flat. The cushions are also studded with gems.

3) Tavernier's account also mentions some royal standards and weapons that are suspended from the throne, such as a mace, a sword and a round shield and a bow and quiver with arrows, all studded with gemstones.

4) Tavernier had counted the number of large balas rubies and emeralds on the throne, and mentions the total number of such stones in his account. According to him there are 108 large balas rubies on the throne, all cabochon-cut, the smallest weighing around 100 carats and the largest over 200 carats in weight. He also counted 116 large emeralds on the throne, all of very good color, but with many faults (a characteristic feature of emeralds), the largest weighing around 60 carats and the smallest around 30 carats.

5) The underside of the canopy is covered with diamonds and pearls, with a fringe of pearls all round.

6) On the side of the thrown facing the court, a jewel is suspended, that consists of a diamond of 80 to 90 carats in weight, with rubies and emeralds surrounding it. When the Emperor is seated on the throne, this suspended jewel is in full view right in front of him.

7) Tavernier then speaks about two large gem-studded umbrellas, which are not part of the throne, but are fixed on either side of the throne, at a distance of 4 feet from the throne. The central stick of these umbrellas with a height of about 7 to 8 feet are covered with diamonds, rubies and pearls. The cloth of the umbrella, is made of red velvet, and embroidered and fringed all round with pearls. The height of these umbrellas might give an indication as to the height of the throne, which in all probability was of the same height as the throne, or slightly shorter than it. Thus the height of the throne would have been around 7 to 10 feet.

 

Details given in the court chronicler's account not given in Tavernier's account

1) The court chronicler's account mentions several historical diamonds that decorated the Peacock Throne, such as the 186 carat Koh-i-Noor diamond, the 95-carat Akbar Shah diamond, the 88.77-carat Shah diamond and the 83-carat Jehangir diamond, apart from the 352.50-carat Timur Ruby, the 3rd largest balas ruby in the world. Tavernier undoubtedly would not have failed to mention, such significantly large diamonds and balas rubies on the throne, if actually they were incorporated on the throne. This apparent contradiction in the two accounts can be easily explained. For, when Tavernier was given the opportunity to inspect the Peacock Throne in 1665, all these historical diamonds and the balas ruby were in the possession of Shah Jahān, who was under house arrest at the Red Fort in Agra. In fact, it was just two months after Tavernier left Jahanabad and had reached Bengal, during his sixth and last voyage to India, that Shah Jahān died in detention, on January 22, 1666, and Aurangzeb was able to claim all these diamonds and gemstones. Thus, it was not possible for these historical diamonds and gemstones to appear on the throne, at the time Tavernier inspected it. The court chroniclers account of the Peacock Throne, appears to be at the time of reign of Shah Jahān, when all these historical diamonds and the Timur Ruby was incorporated on the throne.

2) A 20-couplet poem by the Mughal poet-laureate Kudsi. praising the Emperor in emerald letters was embedded on the throne. Tavernier, fails to mention this in his account, possibly because of his inability to read and understand what was written, or because  Emperor Aurangzeb after usurping his father's throne ordered its removal.

 

George Frederick Kunz's comments on the Peacock Throne in his book, The Book of the Pearl

"The Book of the Pearl" the most comprehensive compendium on pearls ever written, by George Frederick Kunz and published in 1908, has a reference to the "Peacock Throne" on page 458, in the chapter dealing with "Famous Pearls and Collections. According to G. F. Kunz the famous Takht-e-Taūs or Peacock Throne, contained the greatest accumulation of gems in the 17th century. The throne that was commissioned by Shah Jahān - the greatest of the Mughal Emperors, to whose period of rule most of today's standing monuments of the Mughal period belong to, including the Taj Mahal, one of the most beautiful edifices ever designed by man - was completed in the 8th year of his reign in 1634 A.D. However, Emperor Shah Jahān ascended the Peacock Throne for the first time on March 12, 1635.

Kunz relies on Tavernier's account of the Peacock Throne, published in his book of travels, of 1676,  Le Six Voyages de J. B. Tavernier- The Six Voyages of J. B. Tavernier. However, being mainly a book on pearls, he has restricted his description of the throne, to only those parts that were studded with pearls. Kunz says, "great quantities of pearls were used in the ornamentation of this throne, the arched roof, the supporting pillars, the adjacent sun-umbrellas, being well covered with these gems, many of them of great value. The choicest one was pear-shaped, yellowish in color and weighed about 50 carats (200 grains); this was suspended from a great ruby which ornamented the breast of the peacock." Quoting Tavernier, Kunz continues, "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."

 

Historical inaccuracies in Kunz's account of the Peacock Throne

Again, quoting Tavernier, he gives the total estimated value of the jewels entering into the ornamentation as 160,500,000 livres or $60,187,500. The remaining part of his account are full of historical inaccuracies. "The present value of the throne as it stands in the Shah's palace at Teheran, whither it was carried by Nadir Shah from the sack of Delhi in 1739, even though divested of many of its most valuable gems, is estimated at $13,000,000. The designer of the Peacock Throne was Austin de Bordeaux, who planned the magnificent Taj Mahal. He was named by Shah Jahān , "Jewel Handed"  and received a salary of two thousand rupees a month."

Nadir Shah invade Delhi and Agra in 1739, during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah. He plundered the treasury of the Mughal emperors, and carried away a booty estimated to be around 70 crores of rupees (700,0 00,000 -700 million rupees), that included the Peacock Throne, and several famous diamonds, such as the Koh-i-Noor, the Darya-i-Noor, Noor-ul--Ain, the Akbar Shah diamond, the Shah diamond, the Jehangir diamond, the Golconda-D diamond, the Prince's ruby, the Timur ruby etc. It is said that after the sacking of Delhi and Agra, Nadir Shah was able to exempt the Iranian people from taxes for at least 3 years. Shah Jahān's Peacock Throne glorified Nadir Shah's palace in Isfahan, the capital of Iran at that time, until 1747, when Nadir Shah was assassinated by  his own troops, and the country plunged into a period of anarchy. During this period the Peacock Throne was dismantled, and the valuable gold, diamonds, pearls and other jewels looted by his commanders and generals, and never recovered. Most of the crown jewels were also looted, but some of them recovered after the reunification of the country and the founding of the Qajar dynasty in 1796.

 

Kunz's assumption that Teheran was the capital of Nadir Shah was factually incorrect. The peacock throne was carried not to Teheran but Isfahan

Thus Kunz's account  of the Peacock Throne being carried to Teheran by Nadir Shah, where it stands in the Shah's palace divested of many of its valuable gems, is historically inaccurate, and written without verifying the facts. Kunz was wrong in assuming that Teheran was the capital of Iran, during the time of Nadir Shah in the mid-18th century. Nadir Shah's capital was based in Isfahan the former historical capital and not in Teheran, the modern capital of Iran. Teheran became the capital of Iran only in 1796, after the formation of the Qajar dynasty by Agha Mohammed Khan Qajar, whose coronation was held in Teheran and who assumed the title of "Shahanshah" (King of kings).

 

Kunz was not aware that the original peacock throne was dismantled and destroyed soon after Nadir Shah was assassinated in 1747. He assumed that the peacock throne in the Golestan Palace in Teheran, was the same peacock throne brought by Nadir Shah from India

Again, Kunz's assertion that the throne still stands in the Shah's palace at Teheran, divested of many of its most valuable gems, is also factually incorrect. Perhaps Kunz was not aware of the most significant event in the history of Iran, the assassination of the mighty conqueror Nadir Shah in 1747, in the immediate aftermath of which the crown jewels of Iran were looted, and Shah Jahān's Peacock Throne totally dismantled and the gold, diamonds, pearls, emeralds, and balas rubies encrusted on the throne stolen, and never recovered. The Peacock Throne which stands in the Golestan palace in Teheran today, is actually the throne that was formerly known as the "Sun Throne" and designed and constructed under the orders of Fath Ali Shah, who ruled between 1797 and 1834. A sun motif, a symbol of the Aryan race from whom Iranians claim there descent, encrusted with jewels, was incorporated on the top of the throne, from which it gets its name. A peacock motif or anything that represents a peacock, is not associated with this throne. How then did this throne subsequently acquire the name "Peacock Throne" ? Fath Ali Shah married a lady whose name was Tavous Khanoum Tajodoleh, and since then the "Sun Throne" came to be known as Takht-e-Tavous or the "Peacock Throne," Tavous in the Persian language means peacock. After Fath Ali Shah, his grandson Muhammad Shah (1834-48) who succeeded him, also used the Sun Throne or Peacock Throne. Muhammad Shah was succeeded by his son Nasser-ed-Din Shah (1848-96), who made some alterations to the Sun Throne or Peacock Throne, by adding some panels bearing Arabic verses in calligraphy.

The Sun Throne or Peacock Throne, constructed by Fath Ali Shah

The Sun Throne or Peacock Throne, constructed during the reign of Fath Ali Shah

Since the time of Fath Ali Shah, the Iranian monarchy itself came to be known as the Peacock Throne

Since the rule of Fath Ali Shah, the Iranian monarchy itself came to be known as "The Peacock Throne." The rulers of the Pahlavi dynasty who usurped  the throne from the last Qajar ruler Ahmad Shah Qajar in 1925, continued to use the Golestan Palace as their official residence, and the "Peacock Throne" as their official throne. In fact the coronation of the last Shah of Iran, of the Pahlavi dynasty, Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, was held in 1967, in the Grand Hall of the Golestan Palace. However, the throne used for the coronation on that day was not the "Sun Throne" or "Peacock Throne" with its raised platform, but another historic throne first used by Fath Ali Shah in 1812, known as the "Naderi Throne" which was more like a chair, without a raised platform. This throne was a portable throne that could be dismantled and reassembled when necessary, and was carried along as the Shah moved around in his domain, and also when he moved to his summer residence.

Golestan Palace, Tehran

Golestan Palace, Tehran

The "Naderi Throne" also constructed by Fath Ali Shah in 1812, was a portable gem-studded throne with its backrest designed in the form of a peacock tail

The "Naderi throne" constructed by Fath Ali Shah in 1812, has nothing to do with Nadir Shah, in spite of the resemblance of the names. "Nader" in the Persian Language means rare or unique, and thus the name is actually a reference to a unique throne. The throne is inlaid with gold and encrusted with diamonds, rubies, emeralds and spinels. There are 26,733 jewels encrusted on this throne, with four very large emeralds, and four very large spinels, embedded on the backrest. The largest emerald, spinel and ruby on the throne, weigh 225 carats, 65 carats and 35 carats respectively. The backrest is designed in the form of a peacock tail, with symmetrically placed pairs of ducks and dragons, incorporated, with a floral pattern in the center. The front panel of the foot stool incorporates a gem-studded lion motif, and the front panel of the seat, a gem-studded floral motif.

The Naderi Throne

The Naderi Throne

The Peacock Throne at the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul

The Peacock Throne at the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul, one of the most popular exhibits in the entire museum, previously thought to be the throne of Shah Ismail captured by Sultan Salim, after the Battle of Caldiran, has now been established by researches to be a throne that once belonged to Nadir Shah of Iran, that entered the treasury in 1758, eleven years after his death. The throne shows features of Indian craftsmanship, and is undoubtedly of Indian origin. The throne in the form of a raised platform stands on four stout intricately carved legs. A separate stool with matching carved legs, served both as a step to ascend the throne, as well as a foot rest. The throne is covered with a cushion, decorated with gold braid and pearls. The entire throne is covered with a red and green enamel wash, over which are intricate floral designs in gold, and set with rubies, emeralds and pearls. Eight short vertical columns, rise from the edge of the platform, and the space between the columns, except in the front, are covered with vertical decorative panels. Both the exterior and interior of these panels are heavily encrusted with jewels. The entire throne with its enameled decorative designs, encrusted with jewels, has a spectacular dazzling appearance, that amazes all visitors to the museum. Can this be Shah Jahān's Peacock Throne, carried away by Nadir Shah in 1739, and subsequently lost after Nadir Shah's assassination in 1747 ?

The Topkapi Peacock Throne

The Topkapi Peacock Throne

Comparison of the Topkapi Peacock Throne with Shah Jahān's Peacock Throne described by Tavernier

A comparison of the two peacock thrones bring out some fundamental differences between the two. These differences are shown in the following table :-

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

  Topkapi Peacock Throne Shah Jahān's Peacock Throne
1 Has only eight very short vertical columns, without a canopy Had twelve long vertical columns that supported a dome-shaped canopy
2 The four legs are stout and intricately carved, but not encrusted with jewels The four legs and horizontal bars that support the base of the throne, were inlaid with gold, encrusted with diamonds, rubies and emeralds
3 The throne was ascended by a short stool, serving both as a step and footrest The throne was ascended by four steps in laid with silver, and encrusted with jewels
4 A single cushion or pillow, decorated with gold braid and pearls, serves as a backrest on the throne 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 The throne is without a canopy The underside of the canopy is covered with diamonds and pearls, with a fringe of pearls all round
6 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 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 No bouquets of flowers placed anywhere on the throne On both sides of the peacock, a large bouquet of flowers, made of gold inlaid with precious stones, is placed
8 The short columns are enameled The columns supporting the canopy are encrusted with beautiful rows of pearls.

Thus, the above comparison of the two thrones without any doubt shows that the Topkapi Peacock Throne is not the same throne as Shah Jahān's Peacock Throne, as described by Tavernier. If the throne is not Shah Jahān's Peacock Throne, how did Nadir Shah come to possess it ? and how did the throne reach Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman empire, in the 18th-century ?

 

The origin of the Topkapi Peacock Throne and how it reached Istanbul

The Topkapi Peacock Throne was part of the loot carried by Nadir Shah from Delhi to Isfahan

The design of the Topkapi Peacock Throne without any doubt shows features of Indian craftsmanship, and thus its origin is definitely from India. When Nadir Shah captured the Mughal cities of Delhi and Agra, he was stunned by the riches possessed by the Mughal emperors. His forces emptied the Mughal treasury, and prepared large number of wooden chests that were filled all the valuables. The chests were filled with rubies, emeralds, pearls, diamonds and other precious stones, both mounted and unmounted. He was particularly attracted by Shah Jahān's Peacock Throne and also several other gem-studded thrones in the palace. According to Tavernier, there were at least seven gem-studded thrones in Aurangzeb's palace in Jahanabad. While Nadir Shah's forces were busy packing the gem-studded thrones and other valuables into wooden crates, he requested his unwilling host Emperor Muhammad Shah, to get his artisans to construct a second throne, on the same broad pattern as the original Peacock throne, before he left Delhi for Persia. This throne was said to resemble a divan, incorporating certain features of the Peacock Throne. When this divan-like gem-studded throne was completed, Nadir Shah, ordered the wooden crates and chests to be loaded on top of the Mughal emperor's herd of trained work elephants, and set out with his army towards the borders of the Mughal empire, before crossing over to his own domain. Despite harassment and killing of civilians that instilled fear in the population, his convoy was harassed at several places, but managed to get away largely unscathed, carrying most of the booty intact. Having reached Isfahan his capital, Nadir Shah installed Shah Jahān's Peacock Throne in his palace, from where he presided over his court. As was the custom those days, Nadir Shah, sent some valuable items from the booty as presents to monarchs of neighboring kingdoms, that included the Ottomans the Russians, and the Uzbeks.

 

Nadir Shah sends the Topkapi Peacock Throne as a gift to Sultan Mahmud of Turkey in 1747, just before his assassination, in a diplomatic exchange of gifts following the signing of a peace treaty at Kasri Sirin in 1746

Four years  after Nadir Shah's successful Indian campaign, in 1743, he attacked the Ottoman Turks, but was soon forced to negotiate a truce, due to revolts at home. In 1746, he resumed hostilities again with the Turks, and won a great victory over them near Yerevan in Armenia. He then moved to Anatolia, and planned to extend his campaign right into Istanbul. Sultan Mahmud of Turkey, who had already tasted defeat at Yerevan, was in no mood to engage Nadir Shah, and sued for peace. Nadir Shah in a surprising change of heart, accepted the offer, and a peace treaty was signed in 1746, at Kasri Sirin, to the relief of Sultan Mahmud. The signing of the peace treaty was followed by a diplomatic exchange of gifts, to foster goodwill and consolidate theri relationship. Among the gifts selected by Nadir Shah to be sent to Sultan Mahmud of Turkey, was the divan-like Peacock Throne, which he had brought from Delhi during his Indian campaign. Nadir Shah's diplomatic team that carried the divan-like Peacock Throne and other gifts to Istanbul, was headed by two of his trusted lieutenants Mohammed Mahdi Han and Sanli Mustapha Han. Sultan Mahmud's diplomatic team was headed by Ahmet Pasha, and carried an emerald and ruby encrusted dagger and other valuable items, as gifts for Nadir Shah. The two diplomatic caravans met near Baghdad on May 30, 1747, where the emissaries from both sides met each other and exchanged their gifts. The emissaries then started their journey homewards, and as Sultan Mahmud's team reached Hamadan, news reached them that Nadir Shah had been assassinated by his own troops in a rebellion. The team quickly left Hamadan until they reached the safety of Ottoman lands, and reaching Istanbul handed over the valuable gifts, including the Peacock Throne to Sultan Mahmud. Nadir Shah's two emissaries did not return to Isfahan and sought political asylum in Turkey, which Sultan Mahmud was very pleased to grant. Eventually, the divan-like Peacock Throne sent by Nadir Shah as a gift to Sultan Mahmud, entered the Ottoman treasury in 1758, from where it was transferred to the Topkapi Museum.

Back to Famous Pearls 2

You are welcome to discuss this post/related topics with Dr Shihaan and other experts from around the world in our FORUMS (forums.internetstones.com)

Related :-

1) Sara Pearl/Tavernier Pearl/Shaista Khan Pearl

2) Imam of Muscat Pearl

3) Shah Safi/Shah Sofi Pearl

4) Thrones of the Iranian Crown Jewels

5) Aurangzeb's collection of Pearls

 

 References :-

1) The Peacock Throne - From Wikkipedia, the free encyclopedia

2) The Naderi Throne - Iranian National Royal Jewels, Iranian Museums and Galleries. www,iranchamber.com

3) Famous Pearl Collections - Chapter 16, The Book of the Pearl - George Frederick Kunz.

4) Travels in India by Jean-Baptiste Tavernier - Translated from the original French edition of 1676 - Dr. Valentine Ball

5) Thrones of the Iranian Crown Jewels - www.internetstones.com



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