We all know that British possessed the world’s largest diamond, Koh-i-Noor from India without hesitation, but very little know the history of the world’s valuable diamond. Even though many Indians filed petitions to bring the diamond back to India, the British refused to give it back. The diamond weighs 105.6 carats (21.12g) and is now a part of British crown jewels. The diamond passed through various hands of the rulers of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran before it had its foothold by British in the mid-1800s.
Origin and Pre Mughals possession:
Until the discovery of diamond mines in Brazil in 1725, India used to be the only source of diamonds in the world for centuries. The diamond was believed to be mined from the Kollur mine on the south bank of Krishna River in Golconda during the Kakatiya dynasty.
When Alauddin Khilji attacked the Kakatiya kingdom, the diamond was believed to be gained by the Delhi Sultanate. Even though it is impossible to know exactly where the diamond was mined it came into the hands of Mughal emperors who ruled almost all of present-day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and eastern Afghanistan for 300 years.
The Turko-Mongol ruler Zahir-ud-din Babur invaded India from central Asia through Khyber pass by the invitation of Daulat Khan Lodi to overthrow an Indian ruler, Ibrahim Lodi in the battle of panipat. The Mughal rulers are always obsessed with trade and gemstones. In 1628, emperor Shah Jahan commissioned a magnificent gemstone encrusted throne.
Shah Jahan’s throne took seven years to complete, costing four times as much as the Taj Mahal. Through trade Mughals made India one of the richest country and unified India politically. It used to be the wealthiest state in Asia. Delhi, the capital of Mughals, was home to two million people. It was after the expedition of Nader shah that the Mughals lost all of their treasury and prosperity.
Nader shah drained the entire gold and gems of Delhi that it took 700 elephants, 4,000 camels and 12,000 horses to pull it. The treasury also contained the peacock throne built by Shah Jahan, which was lodged with Kohinoor diamond and Taimur ruby. Nader removed both these gems to wear on an armband. He exclaimed the Koh-i-Noor Persian and Hindu-Urdu for “Mountain of light”.
The Koh-i-Noor remained in Afghanistan for several years, passing through various rulers soaked in blood before it was returned to India to the hands of Sikh ruler Ranjit Singh in 1813. It was under him the gem attained the aura of prestige besides beauty and monetary value. The British, which expanded its power to the interior of the subcontinent, laid their eyes on the diamond to show their power and colonial superiority. Ranjit Singh used to wear it as an armlet during festivals like Diwali and Dussehra.
When the British learned about the death of Ranjit Singh and his plan to give the diamond and other jewels to a sect of Hindu priests, the British press exploded in outrage and urged the East India company to do whatever they could to keep track of the Koh-i-Noor, so that it might ultimately be theirs.
The death of Ranjit Singh was succeeded by four rulers in four years for the Punjabi throne. Duleep Singh was the only successor left in the line for the throne after the violent period. The British were forced to wait for a chaotic period of changing rulers. The British imprisoned Duleep Singh’s mother and forced him to sign a document amending the Treaty of Lahore. This treaty forced Duleep to give away the Koh-i-Noor and all claim to sovereignty. The fun fact was Duleep Singh was a 10-year-old young boy when signed the treaty and surrendered the Koh-i-Noor.
Acquisition by Queen Victoria:
From then on the diamond became the special possession of Queen Victoria. When the diamond was displaced at a Great Exposition in London, many people found it as a piece of common glass from its external appearance. Because of its disappointing appearance, Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, re-cut and polished the diamond in 1852, which reduced its size to half and increased the refraction. Even though the place of the diamond changed from brooch to crown, it never changed its place from British royal family.
While Indian rulers and natives remarked the diamond with prestige and its history, the British public judged the diamond with its appearance and stated that it is a piece of glass. This diamond is just one of the many valuable objects looted by British and India is just one of the many colonial countries in the world. Who knows how many valuable articles it has looted from its colonisation.