History of Mountain of Light – Koh-i-noor
No other gem in the world has captured the imaginations of the people as the Kohinoor continues to do. Now the matter is with Hon’ble Supreme Court, which is discussing the fate to seek the return of the diamond from Britain, meanwhile Government of India has already clarified that it won’t seek Kohinoor, as the diamond was a “gift” to the East India Company by the then ruler of Punjab. The Kohinoor controversy erupted again after a PIL filed by Delhi-based NGO All India Human Rights and Social Justice Front to bring back the diamond from Britain, has once again bring forth the debate, who the real custodian of Kohinoor?
Amidst all this controversy over the custody of the 105-carat diamond, let’s have a look into the centuries old history of the precious diamond from the available sources.
The Kohinoor is one of the oldest and most famous diamonds in the world. The history of the Kohinoor goes back in history to more than 5000 years ago. The current name of the diamond, Koh-i-noor is a Persian term which means “Mountain of Light”.
It is believed that the diamond was first mentioned more than 5000 years ago in a Sanskrit script, where it was called the Syamantaka.
It is worth mentioning that there is only speculation that the Syamantaka and the Kohinoor are the same diamond. After this first written mention, for over 4,000 years the diamond is not mentioned anywhere.
Up until 1304 the diamond was in the possession of the Rajas of Malwa, but back then, the diamond was still not named Kohinoor. In 1304, it belonged to the Emperor of Delhi, Allaudin Khilji. In 1306 in a Hindi writing, a curse is placed on the men who will wear the diamond: “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.”
In 1339, the diamond was taken back to the city of Samarkand, where it stayed for almost 300 years.
Again in the year 1526 the Mogul ruler Babur mentions the diamond in his book, Baburnama. The Sultan Ibrahim Lodi gifted the diamond to him. He was the one who described the diamond’s value equal to half-day production costs of the world.
One of the descendants of Babur, Aurangzeb, protected the diamond diligently and passed it on to his heirs. Mahamad, the grandson of Aurangzeb.
The Persian general Nadir Shah went to India in 1739. He wanted to conquer the throne, which had been weakened during the reign of Sultan Mahamad. The Sultan lost the decisive battle and had to surrender to Nadir. It was he, who gave the diamond its current name, Koh-i-noor meaning “Mountain of light”.
But Nadir Shah did not live for long, because in 1747 he was assassinated and the diamond got to one of his generals, Ahmad Shah Durrani.
A descendant of Ahmad Shah, Shah Shuja Durrani brought the Koh-i-noor back to India in 1813 and gave it to Ranjit Singh (the founder of the Sikh Empire). In exchange Ranjit Singh helped Shah Shuja get back the throne of Afghanistan.
British East India Company
In 1849, after the conquest of the Punjab by the British forces, the properties of the Sikh Empire were confiscated. The Koh-i-noor was transferred to the treasury of the British East India Company in Lahore.
The properties of the Sikh Empire were taken as war compensations. Even one line of the Treaty of Lahore was dedicated to the fate of the Koh-i-Noor. The diamond was shipped to Britain on a ship and was later handed to Queen Victoria in July 1850.
After the diamond was handed to Queen Victoria, it was exhibited at the Crystal Palace a year later. But the “Mountain of Light” was not shiny as the other cut gemstones of that era and there was a general disappointment regarding it. In 1852 the Queen decided to reshape the diamond and it was taken to a Dutch jeweler, Cantor who cut it to 108.93 carats.
Queen Victoria wore the diamond occasionally afterwards. She left in her will that only a female queen should wear the Koh-i-noor.
If the head of state were a man, his wife would have to carry the diamond. After Queen Victoria’s death, the Kohinoor became part of the Crown Jewels.
If the government’s version is to be believed that “It was gifted to the East India Company by the then rulers of Punjab.” Lets have a look into the history of gifting and snatching of Kohinoor controversy.
According to the available facts Maharaja Ranjit Singh died in 1839, and the diamond was “acquired” by the British almost a decade later. Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who is also known as the Lion of Punjab, was capable of many things, but after him there was none.
The Kohinoor was never a gift, if these facts are to be believed. The British, took it by force, from the little boy Duleep Singh.
The boy King Duleep Singh, youngest son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh was only eight years old at the time he signed the treaty of Bhyroval on December 16, 1846. It lost him his kingdom and his Kohinoor. The small child Duleep Singh was surrounded by grown British men, and told to sign away his future if he valued his present. Later in life he would attempt to take legal action against the British over their conduct, however Duleep Singh, living in exile in England by this time, was thwarted at every turn and eventually died a broken man.
One thing is clear that Kohinoor is the most sought after stone for almost all the rulers of present day Middle East and Asia. The post powerful ruler has in his possession the beautiful diamond. Power, Glory and Wealth remained the companion of the Kohinoor and so far in its 5000 years history most of the time it has made India its home, that’s why probably India was referred to as “Sone ki chidiya”.
This is a brief history available of Kohinoor, so before read about the ongoing controversy and come to any conclusion, lets clear the doubt about Kohinoor.