What is the Peacock Throne of the Mughal Empire?

By Sophy Owuor on July 22 2019 in Society

A painting of the Peacock Throne in the 1800s.
A painting of the Peacock Throne in the 1800s.

The Mughal Empire was one of the dynasties in the Indian Subcontinent and was founded by Zahiriddin Muhammad Babur in the 16th century. The empire broke off from the Timurid Dynasty of Central Asia following the ouster of Babur from his ancestral domain. The Mughal Empire was ruled by 17 emperors, with the last emperor, Bahadur Shah II, disposed of by the British in 1857. Like most emperors and kings at the time, the Mughal emperors ruled and made decisions from the throne. The emperors’ throne was a jeweled seat known as a Peacock Throne that was first commissioned in the 17th century and located in the Diwan-i-Khas.

Constructing the Throne

The Peacock Throne was commissioned by Emperor Shah Jahan whose rule is considered the Golden Age of the Mughal Empire. The emperor was the focus of all activities that went on in the empire including receiving petitioners and giving audience. To underscore his position as the emperor, Shah Jahan established a ruler’s court at the center of the empire. His vision of a throne was like that of the Throne of Solomon. To achieve this, the Peacock Throne was made of gold and covered in jewels. It floated above the ground and had a series of steps leading to it. The new throne was constructed by Said Gilani and his workmen and took seven years to be completed. The team used large amounts of gold, pearls, and precious stones, creating a masterful piece that had never been seen in the history of the empire and no other Mughal workmanship surpassed it. The cost of constructing the throne is estimated to be twice as much as the cost of constructing Taj Mahal. The Peacock Throne was beheld by such pride that only a few people including aristocrats and visiting dignitaries could see it.

Naming and Inaugurating the Throne

The new throne was completely different from the older throne of Jahangir which composed of a rectangular slab. The old throne was constructed in the early 1600s and was used by Jahangir (Shah Jahan’s father). Initially, the new throne had no official name and was frequently referred to as Ornamented Throne or Jeweled Throne because of the many jewels that covered it. However, the name “Peacock Throne” was given to the throne by historians much later because of the peacock statues featuring on the throne. The new throne was inaugurated on March 22, 1635, on the 7th anniversary of Shah’s accession to power. The date was chosen by astrologers and coincided with Nowruz (Persian New Year) and Eid-al-Fitr. The emperor took his seat on the throne on the third day of Nowruz upon his return from Kashmir.

Later Peacock Throne

After the original Peacock Throne was looted by Nadir Shah, the Shah of Persia, another throne was constructed for the Mughal Emperor. The replacement throne was also made of gold but not as much as the original Peacock Throne. It was also studded with precious stone and featured 12 columns. The columns supported a roof graced with four peacock statues; two on the top and the other two on the two ends. Each of the peacocks carried a pearl neckless on its beak.

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