4th Day of Christmas

Four calling birds

Although not necessarily what the classic Christmas song refers to, the peacocks displayed in this exquisite lamp can easily replace the calling birds. In fact, it seems that this may not be new news! At some point in the history of the song, the four birds were referred to as “four canary birds” or “four mockingbirds,” progressing in time to colly and collie birds before becoming the calling birds sang about today. 

This type of Hindu temple lamp is known as a vriksha-deepa or tree lamp. It is made of brass and has 22 peacocks arranged in the form of a tree. In India, this kind of lamp was considered a sacred symbol of Agni (Fod of Fire) and Surya (God of the Sun). It was bought by John and Joséphine Bowes, for 400 francs from the Indian section of the Paris International Exhibition of 1867. It must have looked magnificent when lit on special occasions such as weddings - the lit oil in the small trays in front of each peacock would have been spectacular with dazzling reflections from the discs behind, which resemble fanned peacock tails.

Did you know? The peacock’s magnificent tail is not just for show – the birds also use their tails to make a noise by shaking their feathers. You might think it sounds like rustling grass in the wind, but scientists have proven that the noise is as loud as a car going past a few metres away - humans can’t hear it because the sound is so low pitched.


What year did John & Josephine Bowes bought this lamp?

1967 1867 1837

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