The Story of Kohinoor

Book 1 – 2023 Kohinoor – The Story of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond – William Dalrymple and Anita Anand

The ownership controversy erupts every time there is a chance of public sighting of this infamous diamond. And with the coronation of the new King of England, it was appropriate to dive deep into the history of the diamond that was coveted by many.

Kohinoor or the “light of the world” may have been its namesake in its early recorded history of time, but recently not so. It is now regarded more as the symbol of colonialism and greed than anything else. The diamond has seen takeovers which were not necessarily bloody but definitely brutal while it changed many hands over its life.

While there are many theories of its first sightings including from its mythological origins, the first verified mention comes from the time when it found its coveted place on the Peacock throne. But it remained there for a short period of time before it began the treacherous journey through many kingdoms till it finally reached its present resting place at the Tower of London in one of the many crowns of royalty.

East India Company in order to appease the British government probably, gifted the diamond to Queen Victoria, by this time of the history they were definitely in need of their graces. While how Punjab was unlawful annexation by the British forces, the innocent boy king who was forced to surrender and sign a treaty which was highly favourable towards English interest, the history tells us of deceitful ways it was lost by Mughals to Iran, and then acquired by Afghans and finally by Sikhs.

And perhaps because of this bloody saga, the diamond has been relegated to the crown of Queen Consort, and even then, Kohinoor will not be seen during the next month’s coronation ceremony. The only monarch who was seen wearing the Kohinoor diamond was Queen Victoria to whom it was gifted to, and its last sighting in public was in 2002 during the Queen Mother’s funeral.

The demand for repatriation has been around for many decades. The Kohinoor diamond itself has resurrected many owner countries. But the Great Mughal Diamond (presumably, the Orlov Diamond) housed in Russia or the Daria-i-Noor (Sea of Light) currently in the possession of Iran or even the Timur Ruby also with the Royal Family of England, does not invoke similar sentiments as the Kohinoor – the history of its loot and loss of lives has created a halo effect of power around it, pride in its ownership and of envy in others. If British museums have a huge inventory of Indian artefacts especially from the Mughal era, an equal number can probably be found or traced back amongst the coffers of EIC officials including Clive and his family – over the years they may have changed many hands, but the clamour to bring them back is not so vocal as for the Kohinoor.

So, all you history enthusiasts or those who feel that Kohinoor belongs to India, do read this short but insightful book which tries to demystify the glamour and shine behind one of the largest and the most infamous raw diamonds found in the world. And, remind yourself, that India was the source to many of the diamond jewels that adorned Kings and Queens of the world at one point of time.

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