Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Peacock Throne

The Peacock Throne (تخت طاووس), also known as the Sun Throne, is the imperial throne of Iran. The construction of the throne was supervised by the Governor of Isfahan, Mohammed Hossein Khan Sadr Isfahani. The Throne received its name from Fath Ali Shah’s wife Tavoos Khanoum Tajoddoleh, and the throne came to be known as Takht’e Tavoos or the Peacock Throne.

The throne has the shape of a platform, similar to the Marble Throne in the Golestan Palace. The original Peacock Throne was a famous jewelled throne that was the seat of the emperors of the Mughal Empire in India. Following Nader Shah's invasion of the Mughal Empire in 1739, he entered Delhi and sacked the city. Persian troops left Delhi taking with them the throne as a war trophy. When Nadir Shah was assassinated by his own officers in 1747, the throne disappeared, most probably being dismantled or destroyed for its valuables, in the ensuing chaos. As a result in the early 19th century the Persian emperor Fath Ali Shah commissioned the a Peacock Throne replacement, aka the Sun Throne, to be constructed. The name was later used rhetorically as a reference to the Persian monarchy. Following the construction of the new throne, it was used as the coronation throne from then onwards.

In spite of its name, nothing on the throne features a peacock. The Lion and Sun was the ancient symbol of kingship in Persia. When the Shah would be seated on the throne, he symbolized the lion, with the sun symbol behind his back. The Shah himself however could also be seen as the sun. The throne has the shape of a raised platform to which two stairs led. Its rectangular surface measuring 2.5 meters by 3.5 meters. The steps feature allegories of fierce creatures. Around the platform is a golden railing inscribed with calligraphy with Koranic verses. The throne is adorned by thousands of diamonds, emeralds, rubies and pearls. In the middle of the platform the sovereign would take his seat elevated above the ground. The throne originally also featured two sculptured birds on either side of the sun, facing it. This added to the symbolism of the elevated, floating throne, occupying a place away from earth and towards heaven.

During Nasereddin Shah’s reign, an emerald in one of the legs went missing. When the King realized this he ordered an investigation into finding the missing emerald. Eventually it was found in the possession of one of the custodians who claimed he had found it on the ground while cleaning the throne and had subsequently wrapped it in paper and set it aside but had not dared relay this information to the King after seeing his angered state. In spite of claiming innocence, the custodian was later killed.

At the end of the nineteenth century, the sovereign started taking his place on the steps of the throne instead of in the middle of it. Currently the original throne is located to the vault of the Central Bank of Iran, where it has been put on permanent display with the Iranian Crown Jewels. A replica of the Throne is kept at the Golestan Palace.

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