The elusive Koh-i-noor diamond continues to charm history buffs
- “Kohinoor cannot be said to be forcibly taken or stolen by the British”
- Taliban says that the Koh-i-noor was taken from the Afghan province by India
The mountain of light (Koh-i-noor’s literal translation) is still shrouded in darkness when it comes to its origins, its journey and its claimants. As we all know, India has claimed that the Koh-i-noor was theirs and it was ‘forcibly’ taken from by the plundering British Raj, whereas, the British list it as a diamond ‘presented’ to Queen Victoria in 1850.
This contestation for the diamond’s ownership was put to rest when Ranjit Kumar, India’s solicitor-general in 2016 said: "Kohinoor cannot be said to be forcibly taken or stolen as it was given by the successors of Maharaja Ranjit Singh to East India Company in 1849 as compensation for helping them in the Sikh wars.”
Dalrymple in his book has suggested that all of this is stuff of “urban legend” and gossip which has slowly been paraded for the truth.
Firstly, the author has disputed its origins and accorded to a report in The Hindustan Times has said, the story of the diamond being mined in the Golconda mines (now Telangana) could be false as then such stones were found along the river beds and to date the diamond would be a difficult task.
Secondly, that the hype surrounding it being the largest Indian diamond mined till date is false as you have the estimated 186-carat gem, the Darya-i-Nur, mined before it. It also has been said to be in possession of Mughals and then made its way to Persia with Nadir Shah. Today, the Darya-i-Nur holds a prominent place among the Iranian Crown Jewels.
Among popular stories on the Koh-i-noor is how it landed in the British hands.
Its origin has been said to be part of Hindu mythology. Some believe it was given by the Sun God to his avatar and that Lord Krishna stole it from that avatar. There is no proof to that. Another story is how it used to be the eye of a Hindu Goddess, in South India, in the 14th century. With the Mughals coming in, there was widespread plunder and looting of temples and from then on it went on from generation to generation, moving to Afghanistan with Nadir Shah and then coming back to india from where it to went to Queen Victoria.
Whose Koh-i-noor is it anyway?
It gained prominence in the 1840s, at the time of the Anglo-Sikh wars when The East India Company, acting for the British Queen, won and had the 10-year-old Maharaja Duleep Singh present the jewel to Queen Victoria under the Treaty of Lahore. That is how it was transferred from India to England.
Pakistan has also claimed ownership of the diamond, arguing that the area of the Punjab from which the jewel was taken lies in present-day Pakistan.
Close neighbour Afghanistan has also staked a claim to it, with the Taliban saying that it was taken from the Afghan province by India. Scholars have claimed that for much of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the diamond was in the possession of the Afghan royal family. After Mughal Emperor Nadir Shah’s assassination in 1747, the gem went to Kabul and was handed down. Apparently, the last Afghan ruler, Shah Shuja al-Mulk gave the gem in 1813 to the man who freed him from prison, Duleep Singh's father, Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
The curse of the Koh-i-noor
Indians believe in a pure diamond without blemish (in local parlance "Thosham") will bring in fortune. Now that the Kohinoor has lost its purity after being cut, the stone will bring bad luck to the owners. The Curse of Kohinoor Diamond dates back to a Hindu text from the time of the first authenticated appearance of the diamond in 1306. The Curse of the Kohinoor Diamond reads: “He who owns this diamond will own the world, but will also know all its misfortunes. Only God, or a woman, can wear it with impunity.”
You have historical records that show the downfall and brutal killings of possessors of the diamond. Some kings lost whole bloodlines, some died childless and more destruction on coming into possession of the stone and so it gained the infamous tag of being a cursed diamond.
The British have been aware of the bloody history of those who have possessed the Koh-i-noor. In fact, the downfall of the British empire was a kind of rude awakening. It is believed that the British took the curse spelled in the Hindu text seriously and have made sure that the diamond is worn or passed on to a female member of the British Royal family. Yet, the family has not been free of mishaps or tragic losses like Princess Diana, some say.
The Koh-i-noor is now the most famous diamond in the Crown Jewels. The 105.6 carat Koh-i-Noor finds itself in the Crown of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (1937). It was recut into an oval stone to adorn the crown. As of the now Britain is where the precious gem will stay, despite claims.