The Kōh-i Nūr (కోహినూరు; कोहिनूर, , Urdu: کوہ نور, Bangla: কহিনূর) "Mountain of Light"; also spelled Kohinoor, Koh-e Noor or Koh-i-Nur) is a 105 carat (21.6 g) diamond that was once the largest known diamond in the world. The Kohinoor originated at Golconda in the state of Andhra Pradesh in India, belonged to various Mughal and Persian rulers who fought bitterly over it at various points in history, and seized as a spoil of war, was finally taken by the British and became part of the British Crown Jewels when British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli proclaimed Queen Victoria Empress of India in 1877.
Like all significant jewels, the Kohinoor has its share of legends. It is reputed to bring misfortune or death to any male who wears or owns it. Conversely, it is reputed to bring good luck to female owners. According to another legend, whoever owns the Koh-i-Noor rules the world.
According to some sources, the Koh-i-noor was originally found more than 5000 years ago, and is mentioned in ancient Sanskrit writings under the name Syamantaka. According to some Hindu mythological accounts, Krishna himself obtained the diamond from Jambavantha, whose daughter Jambavati later married Krishna. The legend says that the diamond was stolen from Krishna as he lay sleeping. Another source claims that the diamond was discovered in a river bed in 3200 B.C.
Historical evidence suggests that the Kohinoor originated in the Golconda kingdom, in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, one of the world's earliest diamond producing regions. This region was the first and only known source for diamonds until 1730 when diamonds were discovered in Brazil. The term "Golconda" diamond has come to define diamonds of the finest white color, clarity and transparency. They are very rare and highly sought after.
South Indian folklore is definite in claiming a local origin for the stone. It is likely that the diamond was mined in the Kollur mines in the present day Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh. The Khilji dynasty at Delhi ended in 1320 A.D. and Ghiyas ud din Tughluq Shah I ascended the Delhi throne. Tughlaq sent his son Ulugh Khan in 1323 to defeat the Kakatiya king Prataparudra. Ulugh Khan’s raid was repulsed but he returned in a month with a larger and determined army. The unprepared army of Warangal was defeated. The loot, plunder and destruction of Warangal continued for months. Loads of gold, diamonds, pearls and ivory were carried away to Delhi on elephants, horses and camels. The Koh-i-noor diamond was part of the bounty. From then onwards, the stone passed through the hands of successive rulers of the Delhi sultanate, finally passing to Babur, the first Mughal emperor, in 1526.
The first confirmed note historically mentioning the Koh-i-noor by an identifiable name dates from 1526. Babur mentions in his memoirs, the Baburnama, that the stone had belonged to an un-named Rajah of Malwa in 1294. Babur held the stone's value to be such as to feed the whole world for two days. The Baburnama recounts how Rajah of Malwa was compelled to yield his prized possession to Ala ud din Khilji; it was then owned by a succession of dynasties that ruled the Delhi sultanate, finally coming into the possession of Babur himself in 1526, following his victory over the last ruler of that kingdom. However, the Baburnama was written c.1526-30; Babur's source for this information is unknown, and he may have been recounting the hearsay of his day. He did not at that time call the stone by its present name, but despite some debate about the identity of 'Babur's Diamond' it seems likely that it was the stone which later became known as Koh-i-noor.
Both Babur and Humayun mention very clearly in their memoirs the origins of 'Babur's Diamond'. This diamond was with the Kachhwaha rulers of Gwalior and then inherited by the Tomara line. The last of Tomaras, Vikramaditya, was defeated by Sikandar Lodi, Sultan of Delhi and became Delhi sultanate pensioner and resided in Delhi. On the defeat of Lodis and replacement by Mughals, his house was looted by the mughals and Prince Humayun interceded and restored his property even allowing him to leave Delhi and take refuge in Mewar at Chittaur. In return for Humayun's kindness, one of the diamonds, most likely the Koh-i-noor, in possession of Prince Vikaramaditya was given to Humayun in gratitude. Humayun had much bad luck throughout his life. Sher Shah Suri, who defeated Humayun, died in the flames of a burst cannon. His son Jalal Khan was murdered by his brother-in-law, who was overthrown by his minister, who in turn lost the empire of India by the unlucky accident of getting hit in the eye at stroke of victory. Humayun's son, Akbar, never kept the diamond with himself and later only Shah Jahan took it out of his treasury. Akbar's grandson, Shah Jahan was overthrown by his son, Aurangazeb, who orchestrated the death and murder of his three brothers.
The valuation of the Kohinoor is given in the legend that one of Nadir Shah's consorts supposedly said, "If a strong man should take five stones, and throw one north, one south, one east, and one west, and the last straight up into the air, and the space between filled with gold and gems, that would equal the value of the Koh-i-noor."
After the assassination of Nadir Shah in 1747, the stone came into the hands of Ahmed Shah Abdali of Afghanistan. In 1830, Shah Shuja, the deposed ruler of Afghanistan, managed to flee with the Kohinoor diamond. He then came to Lahore where it was given to the Sikh Maharaja (King) of Punjab, Ranjit Singh; in return for this Maharaja Ranjit Singh was able to persuade the East India Company to lend their troops and win back the Afghan throne for Shah Shuja
The Governor-General in charge for the ratification of this treaty was Lord Dalhousie. More than anyone, Dalhousie was responsible for the British acquiring the Koh-i-Noor, in which he continued to show great interest for the rest of his life. Dalhousie's work in India was sometimes controversial, and his acquisition of the diamond, amongst many other things, was criticised by some contemporary British commentators. Although some suggested that the diamond should have been presented as a gift to the Queen, it is clear that Dalhousie felt strongly that the stone was a spoil of war, and treated it accordingly. Writing to his friend Sir George Cooper in August of 1849, he stated this:
Dalhousie arranged that the diamond should be presented by Maharaja Ranjit Singh's young successor, Duleep Singh, to Queen Victoria in 1851. Duleep, aged 13, travelled to the United Kingdom to present the jewel. The presentation of the Koh-i-Noor to Queen Victoria was the latest in the long history of transfers of the stone as a spoil of war.
This disappointment in the appearance of the stone was shared by many. In 1852, under the personal supervision of Victoria's consort, Prince Albert, and the technical direction of James Tennant, the diamond was cut from 186 1/16 carats (37.21 g) to its current 105.602 carats (21.61 g), to increase its brilliance. Albert consulted widely, took enormous pains, and spent some £8,000 on the operation, which reduced the weight of the stone by a huge 42% - but nevertheless Albert was still dissatisfied with the result. The stone was mounted in a tiara with more than two thousand other diamonds.
Later the stone was to be used as the centrepiece of the crown of the Queen's consort of the United Kingdom. Queen Alexandra was the first to use the stone, followed by Queen Mary. In 1936, the stone was set into the crown of the new Queen Elizabeth (later known as the Queen Mother), wife of King George VI. In 2002, the crown rested atop her coffin as she lay in state.
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