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Delhi Durbar


Delhi Durbar

The Delhi Durbar of 1911, with King George V and Queen Mary seated upon the dais.

The Delhi Durbar (Mughal term durbar.


  • Durbar of 1877 1
  • Durbar of 1903 2
  • Durbar of 1911 3
  • No further Durbar 4
  • Gallery 5
  • References 6
  • Bibliography 7
  • External links 8

Durbar of 1877

The Delhi Durbar of 1877. The Viceroy of India is seated on the dais to the left.

Called the "Proclamation Durbar", the Durbar of 1877 was held beginning on 1 January 1877 to proclaim Queen Victoria as Empress of India. The 1877 Durbar was largely an official event and not a popular occasion with mass appeal like later durbars in 1903 and 1911. It was attended by the 1st Earl of LyttonViceroy of India, maharajas, nawabs and intellectuals. This was the culmination of transfer of control of much of India from the British East India Company to The Crown.

Inside the Victoria Memorial in Calcutta is an inscription taken from the Message of Queen Victoria presented at the 1877 Durbar to the people of India:

We trust that the present occasion
may tend to unite in bonds of close
affection ourselves and our subjects;
that from the highest to the humblest,
all may feel that under our rule the
great principles of liberty, equity,
and justice are secured to them; and
to promote their happiness, to add to
their prosperity, and advance their
welfare, are the ever present aims and
objects of our Empire.

The Empress of India Medal to commemorate the Proclamation of the Queen as Empress of India was struck and distributed to honoured guests,[1] and Ramanath Tagore was made a Maharaja by Lord Lytton, viceroy of India.[2]

It was at this glittering durbar that a man in "homespun spotless white khadi" rose to read a citation on behalf of the Pune Sarvajanik Sabha. Ganesh Vasudeo Joshi put forth a demand couched in very polite language:

Her Majesty to grant to India the same political and social status as is enjoyed by her British subjects.

With this demand, it can be said that the campaign for a free India was formally launched,[3] which was the beginning of a great transformation for India.[4]

The durbar would later be seen as controversial because it directed funds away from the Great Famine of 1876–78.

Durbar of 1903

Lord Curzon and Lady Curzon arriving at the Delhi Durbar, 1903.

The durbar was held to celebrate the succession of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra as Emperor and Empress of India.

The two full weeks of festivities were devised in meticulous detail by Lord Curzon.[5] It was a dazzling display of pomp, power and split second timing. Neither the earlier Delhi Durbar of 1877, nor the later Durbar held there in 1911, could match the pageantry of Lord Curzon’s 1903 festivities. In a few short months at the end of 1902, a deserted plain was transformed into an elaborate tented city, complete with temporary light railway to bring crowds of spectators out from Delhi, a post office with its own stamp, telephone and telegraphic facilities, a variety of stores, a Police force with specially designed uniform, hospital, magistrate’s court and complex sanitation, drainage and electric light installations. Souvenir guide books were sold and maps of the camping ground distributed. Marketing opportunities were craftily exploited. Special medals were struck, firework displays, exhibitions and glamorous dances held.

Edward VII, to Curzon’s disappointment, did not attend but sent his brother, the Duke of Connaught who arrived with a mass of dignitaries by train from Bombay just as Curzon and his government came in the other direction from Calcutta. The assembly awaiting them displayed possibly the greatest collection of jewels to be seen in one place. Each of the Indian princes was adorned with the most spectacular of his gems from the collections of centuries. Maharajahs came with great retinues from all over India, many of them meeting for the first time while the massed ranks of the Indian armies, under their Commander-in-Chief Lord Kitchener, paraded, played their bands and restrained the crowds of common people.[6]

On the first day, the Curzons entered the area of festivities, together with the maharajahs, riding on elephants, some with huge gold candelabras stuck on their tusks. The durbar ceremony itself fell on New Year's Day and was followed by days of polo and other sports, dinners, balls, military reviews, bands, and exhibitions. The world’s press dispatched their best journalists, artists and photographers to cover proceedings. The popularity of movie footage of the event, shown in makeshift cinemas throughout India, is often credited with having launched the country’s early film industry.[7][8]

The India Post issued a set of two commemorative souvenir sheets with special cancellation struck on 1 January 1903 - 12 noon, a much sought after item for the stamp collectors today.

The event culminated in a grand coronation ball attended only by the highest ranking guests, all reigned over by Lord Curzon and more so by the stunning Lady Curzon in her glittering jewels and regal peacock gown.[9]

Durbar of 1911

Queen Mary at the Delhi Durbar 1911

On 22 March 1911, a royal proclamation announced that the Durbar would be held in December to commemorate the coronation in Britain a few months earlier of Queen Mary and allow their proclamation as Emperor and Empress of India. Without public forewarning, the announcement of the move of India's capital from Calcutta to Delhi was also made at the Durbar. Practically every ruling prince and nobleman in India, plus thousands of landed gentry and other persons of note, attended to pay obeisance to their sovereigns.

The official ceremonies lasted from 7 December to 16 December, with the Durbar itself occurring on Tuesday, 12 December.[10] The Sovereigns appeared in their Coronation robes, the King-Emperor wearing the Imperial Crown of India with eight arches, containing 6170 exquisitely cut diamonds, and covered with sapphires, emeralds and rubies, with a velvet and miniver cap all weighing 34.05 ounces (965 g). They then appeared at a darshan (a sight) at the jharoka (balcony window) of Red Fort, to receive half a million or more of the common people who had come to greet them.[11] A feature film of the event titled With Our King and Queen Through India (1912) – also known as The Durbar in Delhi – was filmed in the early color process Kinemacolor and released on 2 February 1912.[12]

A Delhi Herald of Arms Extraordinary and an Assistant Herald were appointed for the 1911 Durbar (Brigadier-General William Peyton and Captain the Hon. Malik Mohammed Umar Hayat Khan), but their duties were more ceremonial than heraldic.[13]

There is a magnificent tiara belonging to the present Queen called the Delhi Durbar Tiara. The necklace was presented to Queen Mary by the Maharanee of Patiala on behalf of the Ladies of India to mark the first visit to India by a British Queen-Empress. At the Queen’s suggestion, it was designed to match her other emerald jewellery created for the Delhi Durbar. In 1912 Garrards slightly altered the necklace, making the existing emerald pendant detachable and adding a second detachable diamond pendant. This is an 8.8 carats (1,760 mg) marquise diamond known as Cullinan VII, one of the nine numbered stones cut from the Cullinan Diamond. The necklace was inherited by the Queen in 1953[14] and has been worn by the Duchess of Cornwall at a state banquet where she met the Norwegian Royal Family.[15]

During the Durbar, the Gaekwar of Baroda, Maharajah Sayajirao III caused a stir during the presentation of princes when he approached the royal couple without his jewellery on, and after a simple bow turned his back to them when leaving. His action was interpreted at the time as a sign of dissent to British rule.[16]

King George V announced the movement of the capital of India from Calcutta to New Delhi during the Durbar and also laid the foundation stone of New Delhi. Generally the Durbar achieved its purpose of cementing support for British rule among the ruling princes, as was demonstrated by the support given during the First World War.

Twenty-six thousand eight hundred (26,800) Delhi Durbar Silver Medals of 1911 were awarded to the men and officers of the British and Indian Armies who participated in the event. A hundred and two were also struck in gold, a hundred of which were for award to Indian princely rulers and the highest ranking government officers.[17]

  • Ex. Lt. Ahmad ud-Daulah Khan Sardar Bahadur, Khan Bahadur, I.O.M, O.B.I,I.M,D. Khillat, Sword of Honour,Sanads Holder,Jagirdar & Hon’y Magistrate Specially presented by H.E. the C in C to his most Imperial Majesty. George V King & Emperor of India under Royal Invitation, at Delhi Durbar 1911.

Today Rashtrapati Bhavan.[19]

No further Durbar

While Indian National Congress passed a motion weeks after his accession calling for a boycott of any such visit, and in February 1937 Communist MP Willie Gallacher decried expenditure on such festivities in a country of such poverty.[20] The King's Speech of October 1937 included "I am looking forward with interest and pleasure to the time when it will be possible for Me to visit My Indian Empire",[21] to the satisfaction of Sir Hugh O'Neill.[22] However, the onset of World War II and the movement towards Indian independence meant this visit never happened.



  1. ^ The Illustrated London News 20 Jan. – 17 Feb., (1877) retrieved 3/18/2007 medal
  2. ^ Cotton, H.E.A., Calcutta Old and New, 1909/1980, p596, General Printers and Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
  3. ^ The Delhi Durbar,, magazine of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan,free india
  4. ^ KESAVAN MUKUL (Sunday, 29 May 2005) "STORY OF THE CONGRESS - Three pivotal moments that shaped early nationalism in India", The Telegraph, Calcutta, retrieved 3/19/2007 nationalism
  5. ^ Nayar, Pramod K. (2012). Colonial Voices: The Discourses of Empire. John Wiley & Sons. p. 94.  
  6. ^ De Courcy Anne (2003) "The Viceroy's Daughters: The Lives of the Curzon Sisters", Harper Collins, 464 pages, ISBN 0-06-093557-X, 61 page Abstract(biography) retrieved from Google 3/14/2007
  7. ^ Holmes Richard, "Sahib: The British Soldier in India 1750-1914". HARPERCOLLINS. 571 pages.
  8. ^ Bottomore Stephen (Oct, 1995) "An amazing quarter mile of moving gold, gems and genealogy": filming India's 1902/03 Delhi Durbar, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, includes extensive bibliography of the event, retrieved 3/18/2007 filming the Durbar
  9. ^ Cory, Charlotte (2002) Sunday Times, 29 December, retrieved 3/14/2007 "The Delhi Durbar 1903 Revisited",1903 Durbar, extensive description
  10. ^ . Calcutta: Superintendent Government Printing, India, 1911.Coronation Durbar, Delhi 1911: Official Directory with Maps
  11. ^ The Royal Ark, Royal and Ruling Houses of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas royal jewels
  12. ^ Filming the Delhi Durbar 1911 filming
  13. ^ Cox, Noel, A New Zealand Heraldic Authority? in John Campbell-Kease (ed), Tribute to an Armorist: Essays for John Brooke-Little to mark the Golden Jubilee of The Coat of Arms, London, The Heraldry Society, 2000, p. 93 & p. 101: "Two heralds, with ceremonial rather than heraldic responsibilities, were appointed for the Delhi Durbar in 1911... Delhi Herald (Brigadier-General William Eliot Peyton) and Assistant Delhi Herald (Captain the Honourable Malik Mohammed Umar Haiyat Khan)."
  14. ^ The Royal Collection, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, RCIN 200134 royal jewels
  15. ^ Daily Telegraph: 'Queen' Camilla wears Delhi Durbar tiara
  16. ^ "Indian maharajah's daring act of anti-colonial dissent". BBC News. 2011-12-10. 
  17. ^ Delhi Durbar Medals of 1911 1911 medal
  18. ^ Mukherjee Sanjeeb (Oct. 2001) Coronation Park - the Raj junkyard,, retrieved 3/18/2007 Coronation Park
  19. ^ "Museum and Galleries in Rashtrapati Bhavan". Retrieved 15 May 2012. 
  20. ^ .  
  21. ^ .  
  22. ^ .  


  • Army, Indian (1877). Soldiers' games: 'Imperial Assemblage'. Delhi, 3rd January, 1877. s. n. 
  • Codell, Julie, ed. (2011). Power and Resistance: Photography and the Delhi Coronation Durbars. Ahmedabad: Mapin.
  • Codell, Julie (2009), "Indian Crafts and Imperial Policy: Hybridity, Purification and Imperial Subjectivities," Material Cultures, 1740–1920: The Meanings and Pleasures of Collecting. Eds. A. Myzelev & J. Potvin. Aldershot: Ashgate, 149–70.
  • Codell, Julie (2004), "Gentlemen connoisseurs and capitalists: Modern British Imperial Identity in the 1903 Delhi Durbar Exhibition of Indian Art," Cultural Identities and the Aesthetics of Britishness. Ed. D. Arnold. Manchester U P, 134-63.
  • Fraser, Lovat (1903). At Delhi (An account of the Delhi Durbar, 1903). Bombay : Times of India Press and Thacker. 
  • Hobbes, John Oliver (1903). Imperial India; letters from the East (Delhi Durbar). London : T.F. Unwin. 
  • Coronation Durbar Delhi 1911: Official Directory with Maps. The Superintendent, Government Printing, Calcutta. 1911. 
  • Supplement to Who's Who in India - Containing lives and photographs of the recipients of honours on 12th December 1911. Newul Kishore Press, Lucknow. 1912. 
  • Raman and Agrawal, Sunil and Rohit (2012). Delhi Durbar 1911: The Complete Story. Delhi: Roli Books. 
  • Codell, Julie, ed. (2012). Power and Resistance: The Delhi Coronation Durbars. Ahmedabad: Mapin.

External links

  • The Coronation Durbar of 1911, film from BFI archives
  • Great Coronation Durbar, DELHI video newsreel film
  • Cornation Durbar films at Internet Movie Database
  • "Delhi Durbar" - 1903 - The Coronation of King Edward VII as Emperor of India - Robert W Paul - Documentary on YouTube

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