The Koh-i-Noor “Mountain of Light”; also spelled Kohinoor, Koh-e Noor or Koh-i-Nur) is a 105 carat (21.6 g) diamond that was once the largest known diamond in the world. The Kohinoor originated in the state of Andhra Pradesh in India, belonged to various Indian and Persian rulers who fought bitterly over it at various points in history, and seized as a spoil of war, it became part of the British Crown Jewels when British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli proclaimed Queen Victoria “Empress of India” in 1877.
Like all significant jewels, the Kohinoor has its share of legends. It is reputed to bring misfortune or death to any male who wears or owns it. Conversely, it is reputed to bring good luck to female owners.
INDIA DEMANDING FOR KOHINOOR
This is not the first time Indians are demanding the United Kingdom to return the Kohinoor diamond. The diamond was, by force, presented to Queen Victoria in 1850, by the Marquess of Dalhousie, the British governor-general of Punjab.A lobby of businessmen and actors with Indian origin, which calls itself the “Mountain of Light” is all set to sue Queen Elizabeth II, demanding the return of the 105-carat stone.
David de Souza, co-founder of the Indian leisure group Titus, is helping to fund the new legal action and has instructed British lawyers to begin High Court proceedings, reports HansIndia. “The Kohinoor is one of the many artifacts taken from India under dubious circumstances. Colonization did not only rob our people of wealth, it destroyed the country’s psyche itself,” he said.
THE JOURNEY OF DIAMOND
According to some sources, the Koh-i-noor was originally found more than 5000 years ago, and is mentioned in ancient Sanskrit writings under the name Syamantaka. Hindus believe that Krishna himself obtained the diamond from Jambavantha, whose daughter Jambavati later married Krishna. The legend says that the diamond was stolen from Krishna as he was laid sleeping. Another source claims that the diamond was discovered in a river bed in 3200 BCE.
Historical evidence suggests that the Kohinoor originated in Golconda kingdom, in Hyderabad state of Andhra Pradesh, one of the world’s earliest diamond producing regions. South Indian folklore is definite in claiming a local origin for the stone. It is certain that the stone was mined in India, as until the 19th century, India was the only place in the world where diamonds were known. It is likely that the diamond was mined in the Kollur mines in the present day Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh.
The Khilji dynasty at Delhi ended in 1320 C.E and Ghiyas ud din Tughluq Shah I ascended the Delhi throne. Tughlaq sent his son Ulugh Khan in 1323 C.E to defeat the Kakatiya king Prataparudra. Ulugh Khan’s raid was repulsed but he returned in a month with a larger and determined army. The unprepared army of Warangal was defeated. The loot, plunder and destruction of Warangal continued for months. Loads of gold, diamonds, pearls and ivory were carried away to Delhi on elephants and camels. The Koh-i-noor diamond was part of the bounty. From then onward, the stone passed through the hands of successive rulers of the Delhi sultanate, finally passing to Babur, the first Mughal emperor, in 1526.
The first confirmed note historically mentioning the Kohinoor by an identifiable name dates from 1526. Babur mentions in his memoirs, the Baburnama, that the stone had belonged to an un-named Rajah of Malwa in 1294. Babur held the stone’s value to be such as to feed the whole world for two days. The Baburnama recounts how this Rajah of Malwa was compelled to yield his prized possession to Ala ud din Khilji; it was then owned by a succession of dynasties that ruled the Delhi sultanate, finally coming into the possession of Babur himself in 1526, following his victory over the last ruler of that kingdom. However, the Baburnama was written between 1526-30; Babur’s source for this information is unknown, and he may have been recounting the hearsay of his day. He did not at that time call the stone by its present name, but despite some debate about the identity of ‘Babur’s Diamond’ it seems likely that it was the stone which later became known as Kohinoor.
Tavernier’s illustration of the Koh-I-Noor under different angles
WHAT IS KOHINOOR
IS IT STONE OF EMPERORS OR IS IT MOUNTAIN OF LIGHT?
The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan – famous for building the Taj Mahal – had the stone placed into his ornate Peacock Throne. When Shah Jahan’s son, Aurangazeb, put his ailing father under house arrest at nearby Agra Fort, legend said that he had the Kohinoor stationed against a window so that Shah Jahan could look at the stone and see the Taj reflected in it. There it stayed until the invasion of Nadir Shah in 1739 and the sacking of Agra and Delhi. Along with the Peacock Throne, he also carried off the Koh-i-noor to Persia in 1739. It was allegedly Nadir Shah who exclaimed Koh-i-Noor, when he finally managed to obtain the famous stone, and this is how the stone gained its present name. There is no reference to this name before 1739.
The valuation of the Kohinoor is given in the legend that one of Nadir Shah’s consorts supposedly said, ‘If a strong man should take five stones, and throw one north, one south, one east, and one west, and the last straight up into the air, and the space between filled with gold and gems, that would equal the value of the Koh-i-noor’
After the assassination of Nadir Shah in 1747 it came into the hands of Ahmed Shah Abdali of Afghanistan. In 1830, Shah Shuja, the deposed ruler of Afghanistan, managed to flee with the Kohinoor diamond. He then came to Lahore, the capital of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, where it was given to the Sikh Maharaja (King) of Punjab Ranjit Singh, who after return was able to persuade the East India Company to lend their troops and win back the Afghan throne for Shah Shuja.
THE DIAMOND PASSES OUT OF INDIA
Ranjit Singh crowned himself as the ruler of Punjab and willed the Koh-i-noor to Jagannath Temple in Orissa while on his deathbed in 1839. But there was dispute about this last-minute testament, and in any case it was not executed. On March 29, 1849, the British flag was hoisted on the citadel of Lahore and the Punjab was formally proclaimed to be part of the British Empire in India. One of the terms of the Treaty of Lahore, the legal agreement formalising this occupation, was as follows: The gem called the Koh-i-Noor which was taken from Shah Shuja-ul-Mulk by Maharajah Ranjit Singh shall be surrendered by the Maharajah of Lahore to the Queen of England.
PROMISE BY PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA TO RETURN WITH KOH-I-NOOR
Narendra Modi‘s maiden visit to the United Kingdom as the prime minister of the country, during which he will also attend a dinner at the Buckingham Palace with the Queen, will coincide with this lawsuit demanding the return of Kohinoor to India.
Keith Vaz, the longest serving MP of Asian origin, had called for the diamond to be returned in November when Modi visits the UK. “What a wonderful moment it would be, if when PM Modi finishes his visit, he returns to India with the promise of the diamond’s return,” said Keith as per a report on the International Business Times.
After the Bihar election debacle, BJP-led NDA government at the center and PM Narendra Modi would gain some brownie points if Kohinoor returns to India. However, the British government in 2013 rejected the demands for the return of Koh-i-Noor, and the British PM David Cameron had said “he did not believe in returnism”.
By Akanksha Pattanaik at indiaopines blog