Couple of months ago, I read a news article about a group of British Indians, who were planning a legal bid to reclaim from the British Crown Jewels and bring back to India, the legendary Kohinoor diamond! The news coincided with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to England in November. The Kohinoor Diamond is the oldest, biggest and the most famous of all diamonds in the history of the world, currently set in the crown of the Queen of England and kept in the Tower Of London.
But what is the story of this fabulous gem worth almost £100 million?
In the Sanskrit scripts, there is a mention of a Syamantaka Mani but we can’t be sure it’s the same precious stone as there is no mention of it for many centuries after that.
And so it made it’s first authenticated appearance in 1306, mined from the Kollur mines of Andhra Pradesh in India, during the reign of the Kakatiya dynasty. In uncut form it was a whopping 793 carats! It was installed by the king in the temple of a Hindu Goddess. Consequently, the Khilji dynasty acquired it when they raided the prosperous South Indian kingdom in the 14th century.
From then on this legendary stone passed many hands, from the Delhi Sultanate to Babur, the Mongol warlord who established the Mughal Empire in 1526.
Shah Jahan, the 5th Mughal Emperor, placed it in his beautifully ornate Peacock Throne. During his son Aurangzeb’s reign, the Venetian Lapidary, Hortenso Borgia, clumsily reduced the biggest diamond in the world by almost 600 carats, to a mere 186 carats!
Two centuries later, in 1739, it was once again looted by the invader from Persia, Nader Shah, who took the Peacock Throne, along with the diamond to Persia. It was he who named it Koh I Noor or the Mountain Of Light. It then passed through the hands of the Emirs of Afghanistan before it was brought back to Punjab in India, by the Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
After the Anglo-Sikh war in 1850, when the British conquered the Sikh Empire of Punjab, Governor General Lord Dalhousie confiscated the coveted stone and presented it to Queen Victoria in England.
In 1952 Prince Albert decided to get the diamond polished by a Dutch diamond artisan to increase its brilliance. After a month of work, it was set in a brooch, which the Queen wore quite often. However in the process it lost 42% and was further reduced to it’s present size of 105 carats!
The British were obviously aware of the strange Curse of the Kohinoor, which says that “only God or a Woman can wear the diamond… or else great misfortune will come…”.
So, in the last two centuries or so, only the Queens of England have worn it. It was set in Queen Alexandra’s crown and has been there ever since.
As we can see, the Kohinoor Diamond has been bitterly fought over by the Hindus, Turkic, Afghan, Sikh and British rulers at various points in history and passed on as a spoil of war, time and time again.
And as last months news update clearly shows, history repeats itself!!