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The Dark History Behind the Kohinoor Diamond

The kohinoor on display

The Koh-i-Noor

The Kohinoor means mountain of light in Persian. It is a large diamond that was found in the 13th Century in Andhra Pradesh, India. According to unofficial sources, the diamond originally weighed at 156 grams (793 carats), like the diamond in the movie Blood Diamond (except the latter was pink). The earliest official attested weight put the diamond at 37 grams (186 carats).

The Kohinoor

The diamond’s history has a bloody backdrop. The diamond has changed ownership several times over the past 8 centuries, most of the time involving fighting and wars among men. The British Royal Family see the diamond as the harbinger of bad luck for men because of its past. According to myth, the owner of the Kohinoor will rule the world, but he will meet death and misfortune. That’s why the crown jewel is worn only by female members of the Royal family.

Currently, the Governments of 4 countries have claimed ownership to the Kohinoor diamond. India, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan have demanded the return of the diamond at various points in recent history. The British Government claim that the diamond was legally obtained under the Treaty of Lahore.

A Brief History

Source: ixigo
  • The diamond is believed to have come from the Bhadrakali temple in Guntur in the 13th Century. The origin, however, is difficult to trace back.
  • In the 14th century, Alauddin Khalji of the Khalji dynasty (Turkic) successfully raided Warangal (1310) and possibly acquired the Kohinoor diamond.
  • In the 16th century, the Mughals invaded India and established the Mughal empire. Babur came to possess the diamond in 1526.
  • In the 17th century, the 5th Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son and heir Aurangzeb in 1658.
  • In the 18th century, Nader, the Shah of Persia was next in line to loot and pillage. An invasion in 1739 saw the diamond go to Persia.
  • In 1747, the Shah was assassinated and the Shah’s general Ahmed Durrani came to possess the diamond. The Kohinoor was passed down to the general’s son Shah Durrani.
  • Shah Durrani had to flee to Lahore (Pakistan) after he was overthrown by his predecessor in 1809. In return for his asylum and hospitality, the founder of the Sikh empire Maharaj Ranjit Singh asked Shah for the diamond and took possession of it.
  • After the British colonized India, the British annexed the diamond as a spoil of war from Maharaj Duleep Singh. Queen Victoria was given the diamond in 1850 by the 13-year-old prince (by force) and is now a part of the crown.

During World War II

In 1990, the Associated Press released an article on how the British had hidden the crown jewels including the Kohinoor in a lake during World War 2. In 1940, the jewels were hidden at a lake near Windsor Castle to prevent them from falling into German hands in anticipation of the German invasion. The jewels remained there until the end of the war and only two people knew the location of the jewels, King George the VI and his librarian, Sir Owen Morshead.

Kohinoor Value

Various cuttings of the Kohinoor

After the diamond was transferred and cut several times, the official weight of the Kohinoor is recorded at 21 grams (105 carats) currently. It is difficult to gauge the exact value of the Kohinoor because it was never sold, just stolen or repossessed. In 2016, the value of the diamond has been estimated between $10 – $12.7 Billion by the British crown.


One thought on “The Dark History Behind the Kohinoor Diamond

  1. “Everything they’ve got in Britain has been taken from somewhere else,” says Sashi Tharoor adding, “Also, one should note that in the case of the Kohinoor, the Indian government has taken a curiously weak position in the court debate. They have taken refuge behind existing laws that say that the country can’t claim back old antiquities.”
    Such a scenario, of course, can only take form within the frames of fiction now. The reality is, as Tharoor points out, that “we were one of the richest countries in the world when the British came in but when they left us, we were one of the poorest.”

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