The Koh-i-noor Diamond
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A courtesan had told Nadir Shah that the priceless diamond hidden in Mohammed Shah's turban. Citing an ancient tradition, the victor demanded an exchange of headgear. At last the diamond was his. Or was it? Hastily he undud the folds… Wonderstruck at the gem's size, brilliance and beauty, he exclaimed, 'Koh-i-noor'! 1739: the gem now had a name. One fabulous diamond whose value could feed the entire world for two-and-a-half days. Four race: Indian, Afghan, Persian and English, whose destinies were inextrcably involved with this gem. A Persian oilman's son who went on to virtually rule Golconda and its vast diamond mines. A Mughal prince, hated by history, who was sinned against as much as sinning. Only an Indian or Persian couild tell this great story with all its nuances.



Publié par
Date de parution 01 juin 2013
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9789351940357
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0500€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


One fabulous diamond whose value could feed the entire world for two-and-a-half days. Four races: Indian, Afghan, Persian and English, whose destinies were inextricably involved with this gem. A Persian oilman’s son who went on to virtually rule Golconda and its vast diamond mines. A Mughal prince, hated by history, who was sinned against as much as sinning. Only an Indian or a Persian could tell this great story with all its nuances.

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Lotus Collection

© Editions Julliard
20, Rue des Grands Augustins, 75006 Paris

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission of the publisher.

First English edition published in 1994
This edition published in 2013

The Lotus Collection
An imprint of
Roli Books Pvt. Ltd
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Layout: Sanjeev Mathpal
Cover design: Bonita Vaz-Shimray
Production: Shaji Sahadevan

ISBN: 978-81-7436-927-7

THE KOH-I-NOOR’S TRAVELS: Who acquired it, when, how?

‘John Lawrence hated the conventionalities of life and had no use for jewels... he stuffed the box containing the Koh-i-noor into his waistcoat pocket and went about his business. About six weeks afterwards, when Lord Dalhousie asked for the diamond to send to Queen Victoria, Lawrence was horrified. He went to his room, his heart pounding wildly, and asked his old Indian bearer if he had found a small box in his waistcoat pocket. “Yes Sahib, I found it and put it in one of your boxes.” “Bring it here.” The bearer did so, and held it out for John Lawrence who heard a huge sigh of relief. The bearer observed with astonishment: “There is nothing here, Sahib, but a bit of glass!”’


Babur’s Diamond

On 29 June 1850, HMS Medea , a warship flying the British flag, docked at a deserted quay in Portsmouth, ending a long journey that had begun in Bombay on 6 April, the previous year. Apart from the crew, there were only two passengers on board: Captain Ramsay, aide-de-camp to the Marquis of Dalhousie, Governor General of India, and Lieutenant Colonel Mackeson, Dalhousie’s liaison officer with the British expeditionary corps in the Punjab.
All the Medea carried was a packet so tiny, it could easily be slipped into a pocket. Only Captain Ramsay and Colonel Mackeson knew what it contained. Several days later the press at last lifted the veil of secrecy: the ship’s ‘cargo’ was none other than the Koh-i-noor, a fabulous diamond due to be presented to Queen Victoria by the directors of the East India Company. The ceremony was to take place at four o’clock on the afternoon of 3 July at Buckingham Palace.
On 29 March 1849, Dalip Singh, the young Maharaja of the Punjab, had ratified the instrument surrendering his state to the British. Article three of this document provided for the Koh-i-noor (‘Mountain of Light’), one of the most famous diamonds in the world, to be handed to Queen Victoria.
Dalhousie wrote to his sovereign: ‘Formerly placed in the throne of the Emperors of Delhi; captured there in his invasion by Nader Shah – thence transferred to the Kings of Kabul and extorted from Shah Shuja by the Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the Koh-i-noor may be regarded as a historical symbol of conquest in India, and the Governor General rejoices that it has found its fitting rest in Your Majesty’s Crown.’
But in fact, the Koh-i-noor has never adorned the crown of a ruling British monarch, perhaps because it was reputed to bring ill luck, though legend has it that only men were affected. After the stone was displayed at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, it was re-cut and set in one of Queen Victoria’s tiaras, the crown of Queen Mary, and finally in 1937, the crown of Elizabeth, the present Queen Mother.
Today the Koh-i-noor is neither the biggest nor the most beautiful diamond known. Several stones – the Cullinan (the ‘Great Star of Africa’ now in the British sceptre), the Regent (on view at the Louvre) and the Orlov (at the Kremlin), to mention only the most famous – are bigger and brighter. But the Koh-i-noor is the most romantic of them all, for each one of its glittering facets reflects a colourful and often violent episode in Indian, Persian, Afghan, and British history and evokes the life of the people who took part in those stirring events.
Ever since the Koh-i-noor found its way to England, countless writers have speculated about its origin. Some said it went back to the beginning of time; others dated it from the appearance of the Mughal dynasty in India, or believed it first emerged at the time of Shah Jahan. Was it the same as the Samantik Mani, the diamond that adorned the bracelet of Karna and Arjuna, legendary heroes of the Mahabharata? Or was it ‘Babur’s diamond’, as most historians and mineralogists seem to think? It might even be the ‘Great Mughal’, the enormous stone that the French traveller and jeweller Jean-Baptiste Tavernier saw in the court of the Emperor Aurangzeb in 1665.
Much still remains unknown. We can speak of the Koh-i-noor’s history with certainty only after it became known by that name in 1739, though there is no doubt that its origins go back much further, to the coming of the Timurid dynasty in India, better known as the Mughal.
To behold the first flash of the Koh-i-noor in recorded history, the reader must accordingly go back to the early sixteenth century, when Zahir-ud-din Mohammed Babur, King of Kabul, was preparing to conquer the fabled land of Hindustan...



The Koh-i-noor never really belonged to Zahir-ud-din Mohammed Babur: a fleeting touch is all he can ever have had of it. But his name will always be linked to this legendary diamond because it is his memoirs that first mention the stone, and long before it was immortalised as the Koh-i-noor, it was already known as Babur’s diamond. Who then was this man?
Babur – derived from ‘babr’, or ‘tiger’ in Persian – was born in Andijan, capital of the small kingdom of Farghana, on 14 February 1483. His father, Umar Sheikh Mirza, the reigning sovereign, was the great-great-grandson of Timur or Tamerlane, who himself belonged to the Barlas clan of Turkish origin from Transoxiana. Babur’s mother, Qutluq Nigar Khanum, the daughter of the Khan of Mongolistan, was of Mongol stock and a descendant of Chagatai, the second son of Chengiz Khan. Of all his ancestors, Babur favoured Timur. Therefore, he would have been furious had he guessed that posterity would regard him as the founder of the Mughal, not the Timurid dynasty.
The kingdom of Farghana occupied a valley within the lofty mountain range of the Tian-Shan, watered by the Syr Darya, (the Jaxartes of antiquity), bordering on Uzbekistan, Kirghizistan and Tajikistan, and linked by a winding road to Samarkand. Farghana was once part of Timur’s empire, which stretched in its heyday from Anatolia to Chinese Turkistan and from the Himalayas to the lower reaches of the Indus. But the empire could not survive the death of its founder on 19 January 1405, and by the time Babur was born all that remained of Timur’s heritage was a mosaic of independent states, plagued by the jealous rivalries of his successors.
To the south-west of Farghana lay Transoxiana, the region situated between the Amu-Darya (Oxus) and the Syr-Darya, with the incomparable city of Samarkand as its capital. Three of Babur’s uncles ruled over Samarkand, Badakshan and Kabul, but it was Sultan Hussain-i-Baikara, the Badshah of Herat and Babur’s third cousin, who was primus inter pares and most powerful of all the Timurid princes. A man of great culture and a talented poet, he made Herat the centre of Timurid renaissance. It was there that men of letters, poets, historians, painters, musicians and architects flocked to seek inspiration and patronage.
In the north-west, to the east of Farghana, lived Babur’s maternal relations, chiefs of Mongol tribes descending from Chengiz Khan through his son Chagatai. One of his uncles, Mahmud Khan, who had given up his nomadic ways, ruled ove

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