Everyone who has ever been its owner in its long journey can stake claim to it.

Why Koh-i-Noor need not return to India but if it does it should go to Guntur in AndhraImage: Public domain art via Wikipedia Commons
Blog Blog Friday, April 22, 2016 - 19:49

For a while now, the nation has been abuzz with debates about the Koh-i-Noor. It is easy to understand the passion for possessing something as valuable and beautiful as the Koh-i-Noor. To many, it symbolizes the British plunder of the wealth of India. But the diamond’s long history tells us that it has always been a part of the spoils of various battles and conquests, or exchanged according to treaties or deals, and everyone who has ever been a possessor of the diamond can stake claim to it, including the Queen of England.

While the early history of the Koh-i-Noor is not very clear, the consensus among historians is that the diamond was mined in the 13th century in Kollur near Guntur, to the south east of Golconda. At the time, the Kakatiya dynasty ruled over the region.

There are many interesting theories about how the diamond made its way into the hands of the Mughals. One of them is that the Khilji rulers of the Delhi Sultanate seized it from Warangal, the Kakatiya capital, when they raided the Deccan in the 14th century. It stayed with the Sultanate until its last ruler Ibrahim Lodhi lost to Babur in the Battle of Panipat in the 16th century. The Sultanate was replaced by Mughal rule, and the diamond had new owners. Shah Jahan eventually inherited it and had it embedded in his peacock throne.

Another theory about the diamond’s route to the Mughal throne involves the Qutb Shahi dynasty that ruled Golconda after the Kakatiyas. In the 17th century, the Mir Jumla or Prime Minister of the kingdom was beginning to fall out of favour with the then ruler Sultan Abdullah Qutb Shah. To secure a future in the Mughal government instead, he managed to meet with Emperor Shah Jahan, and gifted him the dazzling diamond.

From thereon, the history of the diamond is well documented. In the 18th century, when Delhi was conquered by Nadir Shah of Persia, he took possession of the peacock throne along with the Koh-i-Noor. In fact, it is he who is believed to have given the diamond its name - when he first set his eyes upon it, he exclaimed that it was a mountain (Koh) of light (Noor)!

Nadir Shah was assassinated less than a decade later, and the diamond was taken by one of his generals, Ahmed Shah Durrani, who went on to set up the Durrani empire in Afghanistan. A family feud forced his descendent Shah Shuja Durrani into exile in India a few decades later, where he was hosted by Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab. The Maharaja helped him reclaim his throne in Afghanistan, and took the Koh-i-Noor in return for his help.

In the middle of the 19th century, the Sikh Empire of Punjab lost to the British in the second Anglo-Sikh war, following which Maharaja Ranjit Singh signed the Lahore Treaty that required him to hand over the Koh-i-Noor to Queen Victoria. It was then embedded in her brooch, and later in the crowns of her successors. And to this day, it remains on display in the Tower of London along with other crown jewels.

Coming back to the raging debate, does anybody really "own" something so precious? The Mona Lisa will always remain Leonardo Da Vinci's work - that it is housed in the Louvre is just incidental. Regardless of whose possession it currently is in, it is indisputably etched in history that the Koh-i-Noor’s origins were in India.

Besides, if it does ever come back to India, think about the clamour that would ensue. Earlier this week, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee demanded that the diamond be returned to the Sikh community, as it was Maharaja Ranjit Singh whom the British took it from. But who is the rightful owner? The Sikh community? Delhi? And why not Golconda where it was mined? Everyone who has ever been its owner in its long journey can stake claim to it.

And finally, on a lighter note - there’s a belief about the Koh-i-Noor that it harms the men who possess it, but makes the woman who wears it rule the world - so, maybe it’s just safest for the Queen of England to keep it for now!

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