Kohinoor

The Bloody History of Kohinoor Diamond

A diamond that came from India’s alluvial mines thousands of years ago, star-crossed several rulers, and now resides on the crown of England- the history of the Kohinoor diamond is surrounded by mysteries. One of the oldest and most famous diamonds in the world, its history dates to more than 5000 years ago. The name Kohinoor is broken down as Koh-i-Noor in Persian which means “Mountain of Light”. A gem of international renown, its murky history is far more fascinating to whom it belongs now. Waving its way through the Indian court, let’s trace the history of Koh-i-Noor.

Kohinoor- desired, stolen, and cursed

According to Hindu mythology, the diamond was first mentioned more than 5000 years ago in a Sanskrit script where it was revered as Syamantaka. It is widely believed that Kohinoor and Syamantaka was a name given to the same diamond, noting its similarities. According to its curse- “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.”

Kohinoor

The yet not cherished diamond is mentioned in the historical texts that belonged to the Rajas of Malwa around 1303. Owing to its antiquity, the exact origin of Kohinoor is merely based on speculations, it is reported that it belonged to the ruler of an ancient oriental kingdom in 3000 BC. A study by seismologist Harsh K Gupta reveals that it was first mined from Guntur present-day Andhra Pradesh. Then in 1304, the diamond went into the possession of Delhi emperor Allaudin Khilji. It remained in his possession for more than two decades.

Nearly in 1339, the diamond was taken to Samarkand, present-day Afghanistan, where it is believed to stay for around 300 years. When in the 1500s, the Muslim Turco Mongol ruler Babur came to India, Kohinoor came back with him. As mentioned in his Baburnama, when Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodi, Kohinoor returned to its birthplace and its value was equal to the half-day production cost of the whole world. Then it was possessed by Mughal Family as the possession was passed on to Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb, before coming into the possession of his grandson, Sultan Mahamad. In all these years the diamond shifted all over India including the present-day countries Pakistan and Afghanistan making its lineage far long and wide.

In 1628, under the reign of Shah Jahan commissioned a magnificent Kohinoor encrusted throne along with the Taj Mahal in making. It is believed that the throne was inspired by the Hebrew king of Solomon, and it took more than seven years to make it, costing four times more than the Taj Mahal. Out of all the precious gems encrusted in the throne, two of them went on the become world’s most precious and valued stones of all time- Timur Ruby and the Kohinoor diamond. Shah Jahan’s peacock throne became the center of attraction receiving attention from far-off places including the Persian ruler, Nadir Shah.

Up until 1735, before diamond mines in Brazil were discovered India was the only source of diamonds in the world. Most of the gemstones found were alluvial and thus were found near river sands making the kingdoms located nearby the early connoisseurs of diamonds. In 1739, when Nadir Shah invaded Delhi, he brutally shattered the reign of Sultan Mahamad forcing him to surrender before Shah. Nadir Shah left the city looting the entire treasure of Mahamad, he took with him 700 elephants, 4,000 camels, and 12,000 horses that carry tons of gold including the peacock throne, but Shah removed the Timur Ruby and Kohinoor to include an armband. Kohinoor stayed in Afghanistan for another 70 years and it is believed that it was indeed Nadir Shah that gave the diamond its name- Koh-i-Noor meaning Mountain of light.

It was now that the bloody story of Kohinoor began. With the worth of diamond out to the world, every ruler wanted to conquer it for his own. In 1747, Nadir Shah was assassinated by his own general Ahmad Shah Durrani who took away the diamond for himself. Kohinoor passed between several rulers who killed one another in the lust of the gemstone including a father blinding his own son! Countless episodes of bloody massacres and assassinations happened to conquer Kohinoor.

Kohinoor

In 1813, the diamond returned to India when Ahmad Shah’s descendent gave the diamond to Ranjit Singh in exchange for Shah Shuja’s throne of Afghanistan. But later in 1849, when the British empire took control over the empire of Punjab, all their treasures were confiscated including the Kohinoor. They first kept it in Lahore under the control of Raj and later it was transferred to Britain amidst the outbreak of Chlore. The invaluable gem was lost for several days in the chaos, but later Kohinoor was handed to Queen Victoria in July 1850.

When the Kohinoor was exhibited at the Crystal Palace, officials were not at all impressed as the diamond emitted less shine than others. And thus, the Queen ordered it to be shaved to achieve the correct shine. The diamond was taken to Dutch jeweler Mr. Cantor who shaved the original 186-carat diamond (37.2 g) and reduced it to the current 105.6 carats (21.12 g). Owing to its bloody history and keeping in the mind the Hindu Myth, the crown in which the diamond was encrusted was ruled out to be only worn by the female rulers and it has been that way ever since.

India’s legacy and the world’s most precious gemstone today reside in the Tower of London with Britain maintaining its ownership. Despite multiple attempts by India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to demand the diamond back, the fate of the magnificent Kohinoor is unknown. Though Kohinoor isn’t the only thing India lost to the colonial conquest, it remains one of the most integral part of our history not because of its value but also due to its lineage.

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