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The Curse of Koh-i-Noor

The Koh-i-Noor Diamond, for all its glittering beauty and unparalleled value, is supposedly riddled with a mysterious curse that gave birth to tragedies beyond comprehension and reason. Many hands have been blessed enough to experience the fortune of holding the invaluable stone, but the tales of their untimely demises raise the curiosity of the onlookers – is the infamous diamond the harbinger of a natural conspiracy that leads to doom?

Resting in the Queen Mother’s Crown at the Tower of London is the world’s richest and the most coveted gemstone, leaving in its wake a bloody history. Behind the sparkling Koh-i-Noor, there are bitter and gory conflicts that have destroyed kingdoms. Throughout history, the diamond traded hands from one dynasty to another, bringing ill-fate to each one of them.

Credits: The New Indian Express

According to myths and folklore, it is said that the diamond is cursed and will bring prosperity to the one who possesses it, but at a price of destruction. The Hindu description of the diamond states, “He who owns this diamond will own the world, but will also know all its misfortunes. Only God or woman can wear it with impunity.”

The Koh-i-Noor originated from India probably in Golconda (present-day Andhra Pradesh) in the 13th century at the Kollur mine during the Kakatiya dynasty. It was described as an oval-cut white diamond – the shape and size of a small hen’s egg weighing 186 carats. The original name of the diamond was ‘Samantik Mani’ (Prince and leader among diamonds). Later in 1739, when Nadir Shah, the king of Persia, invaded India he referred to the diamond as ‘Koh-i-Noor’ (Mountain of Light), giving the diamond the name it is known by today.

The diamond was excavated from the Kullur mine in the 1300s during the period of the Kakatiya dynasty which was then ruled by Prataparudra. But no sooner had the diamond come into his possession than he was overthrown by Alauddin Khilji, marking the end of the Kakatiya dynasty.

The Kohinoor came into the Khilji dynasty in 1310. However, Alauddin Khilji died just six years later at the age of 50 in 1316. Some people claim that his General, Malik Kafur, poisoned him. The throne was given to Alauddin’s son Shihabuddin Omar. But echoing the same trend of natural misfortunes, he became ill a few months later and died at the tender age of 5 or 6. The throne was then handed to Mubarak Shah, who was assassinated, and then Khusro Khan, who was killed by Ghazi Malik after only 4 months of reign, effectively ending the Khilji dynasty.

The diamond was then handed to Ghazi Malik of the Tughluq dynasty in 1320, but he and his son, Prince Mahmud Khan, died in an accident in February 1325 when the wooden pavilion collapsed during a reception celebration. Many unexplained happenings occurred in the years that followed, and the Tughluq dynasty eventually came to an end as well.

The Kohinoor moved from the Sayyid dynasty to the Lodi dynasty. In 1526, Ibrahim Lodi became the monarch of the Delhi Sultanate, although he was overthrown the same year by the Mughals, inscribing his name in the golden pages of history as the last Delhi Sultan or the last ruler of the Lodi dynasty. All of these are brief periods that end abruptly with war and violence.

In 1526, Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodi in the first battle of Panipat after which the Kohinoor went to the Mughal dynasty. For nearly 200 years, the Mughal Empire dominated. The Kohinoor was passed from one Mughal to the next, accompanied by violence and carnage. Shah Jahan, the fifth Mughal Empire, had the stone embedded into his ornate peacock throne which took seven years to build.

Nadir Shah, the Afsharid Shah of Persia, invaded India in 1739 and carried the Koh-i-Noor, along with millions of rupees, historical gems, and a peacock throne, to Persia. One of his courtiers claimed, “If a strong man were to throw four stones – one north, one south, one east, one west, and a fifth stone up in the air – and if the space between them were filled with gold, all would not equal the value of the Koh-i-Noor.

Credits: The Better India

Nadir Shah was assassinated in 1747. The diamond was handed to his successors, who were all dethroned and ritually blinded until Nadir’s grandson gave it to Ahmad Shah Durrani, the founder of the Afghan Empire, in exchange for his support in 1751. The diamond descended to his grandson Shuja Shah Durrani, who wore it as a bracelet during Mountstuart Elphinstone’s visit to Peshawar in 1808. However, he was overthrown a year later and fled to Lahore, where the diamond came into the possession of Ranjit Singh in 1813.

When Ranjit Singh realized how valuable Koh-i-Noor is, he kept it safe at the Gobindgarh Fort when it wasn’t in use. On his deathbed in June 1839, Ranjit Singh appointed his eldest son, Kharak Singh, as his successor. A day before his death, he had willed the Koh-i-Noor and other gems to the Jagannath Temple in Puri, but his son and ministers refused to deliver the diamond to the temple or to be taken out of Lahore following his death.

The diamond was taken by Dhian Singh’s brother, Gulab Singh – the Raja of Jammu – after the new emperor Kharak Singh was overthrown in a coup carried out by his Prime Minister Dhian Singh on 8 October 1839. Kharak Singh died in prison, while his son and successor Nau Nihal Singh died mysteriously on 5 November 1840.

In January 1841, Gulab Singh handed the diamond to Emperor Sher Singh in an attempt to gain his favor. Later, in a coup headed by Ajit Singh Sandhawalia on September 15, 1843, both Sher Singh and Dhian Singh were killed. The assassins were murdered the next day in a counter-coup organized by Dhian Singh’s son Hira Singh. At the age of 24, Hira Singh succeeded his father as the Prime Minister and crowned five-year-old Duleep Singh as the Emperor. The Koh-i-Noor was now fastened to the arm of the young emperor in Lahore’s court. Following the assassination of Hira Singh on March 24, 1844, and the commencement of the Anglo-Sikh war, Gulab Singh headed the Sikh kingdom as the prime minister. Despite the defeat, he became the first Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir on March 16, 1846, under the Treaty of Amritsar.

The Kingdom of Punjab was formally annexed to the Company rule on March 29, 1849, following the conclusion of the Second Anglo-Singh War. The Last Treaty of Lahore was signed forcefully by Duleep Singh, officially handing the Koh-i-Noor to Queen Victoria and the Maharaja’s other possessions to the Company.

Credits: Yodhas

The Earl of Dalhousie presented the Koh-i-Noor and Duleep Singh as trophies to Queen Victoria. But it wasn’t long after the diamond arrived in England that cholera took hold, killing hundreds on board. Queen Victoria was attacked with a cane shortly after it arrived, and less than a month later, in July 1850, the country’s prime minister, Robert Peel, died after falling from his horse and being trampled underfoot.

The British Empire gradually shrank and is now limited to the United Kingdom. The British royal family was well aware of the curse of the Koh-i-Noor – that’s why it has always gone to the wife of the male heir to the British Throne since Queen Victoria’s reign.

Whether or not the diamond is cursed, nobody can deny that its history is shrouded with violence, murder, mutilations, torture, and betrayal. Whether people believe in the curse or not, the stone’s history is undeniable and the threat of the Koh-i-Noor curse is enough to make people cautious.

Maria Aqdas is a student pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.

Edited by: Anzal Khan

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Written by Maria Aqdas

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