HYDERABAD: On a day the Centre told the Supreme Court that Kohinoor diamond was neither “forcibly taken” nor “stolen” by the British rulers but was gifted to the East India Company by the rulers of Punjab, a historian in the city opined that India should not reclaim the diamond as legend says it will bring misfortune to the owner
City-based historian Mohammed Safiullah pointed out the diamond has brought disaster to whoever owned it and history stands testimony to it.
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“All the dynasties who took possession of the diamond have collapsed almost immediately. In the case of the British, they lost all their colonies after they got Kohinoor. From being ‘the empire on which the sun never sets’, the British have never seen the sun rise post Kohinoor,” pointed out Safiullah.
Regarded as the biggest ever found diamond, Kohinoor, meaning ‘Mountain of Light’, is a large, colourless diamond that was found in Kollur mine of Guntur in Andhra Pradesh during the reign of Kakatiya dynasty in the early 14th century. The 108-carat Kohinoor (originally about 793-carat), which landed in British hands during the colonial era, has been subject of a historic ownership dispute among at least four countries including India.
Recalling huge chunks of wealth looted by the British, Safiullah wonders what makes Kohinoor special. “In fact”, he said, “we have our own Jacob diamond in the Reserve Bank of India’s vaults. It is a 185-carat diamond and much bigger than Kohinoor”, he reminded. “India is on the verge of development and it is better we do not take possession of Kohinoor,” added the historian who is also the managing trustee of Deccan Heritage Trust.
From the Kakatiya rulers in the 14th century, the diamond has shifted hands from Alauddin Khilji who invaded most of the Southern India to subsequent Delhi Sultanate kings and to the Mughal dynasty. After invasion of Mughal’s Delhi by the Shah of Persia, Nader Shah in 1739, the diamond found its new home in Persia.
One of the generals of Nader Shah, Ahmad Shah Durrani, after the Shah of Persia’s assassination, became the custodian of the diamond in 1747. He became the Emir of Afganistan and one of his descendants, Shuja Shah Durrani who was overthrown by Mahmud Shah, managed to flee with the diamond despite his defeat. He went to Lahore, where he found help from Maharaja Ranjit Singh of the Sikh Empire. Singh took possession of the diamond in 1813.
Though Maharaja Ranjit Singh willed the diamond to Puri Jagannath temple, the East India Company did not honour his will after his death in 1839. Ten years later, after the conclusion of the second Anglo-Sikh War, the kingdom of Punjab was formally annexed to British India, officially ceding the ownership of Kohinoor along with other assets to Queen Victoria.
“An infant prince Duleep Singh was forced by the British to give away the diamond. It was re-cut and brought to its present 106 carats. The point, however, is why should India want to bring the diamond back?,” asked Safiullah.