Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Timeline of the Koh-i-Nur (Koh-i-Noor) Diamond: Historical Record from 1526 to 1850

Zakhritidin Muhammad Babur
Photo Credit: OrexCA

The Koh-i-Nur diamond’s early history remains somewhat murky, even through the transition from the Delhi Sultanate to the Mughal reign. Fortunately, after Babur took possession of the stone it’s history is more solid. Here is that record. ~AMA

1526 AD
Babur records this statement concerning the stone in his memoirs: “Apparently it weighs eight miskats. Humayun offered it to me as a ‘Peshkash’ when I arrived at Agra (May 10, 1526) and I just gave it back to him as a present.” There is no record of how the Rajas of Gwalior acquired the stone from the Khilji dynasty.

1540 AD
Humayun was defeated at the battle of the Ganges on May 17. He escaped to Persia with the diamond and found refuge with Shah Tehmasp of Iran. It is said that Humayun gave the Koh-i-Nur diamond to the Shah of Iran as a gift.

1547 AD
Shah Tehmasp was the protectorate of several Shia Muslim Sultinates who were harassed by the Sunni Muslim Emperor of Delhi. As a peace offering, Shah Tehmasp sent an ambassador to present gifts to Burham Nizam Shah of Ahmednagar (Deccan). Among these gifts was the Koh-i-Nur diamond.

Humayan (left) and Shah Tehmasp (right)
Photo Credit: Columbia Edu

1611 AD
The diamond passed into the hands of Sultan Abdulla Qutab Shah, emperor of the Qutb Shah dynasty of Golkunda in the Deccan.

1656 AD
Ex-Prime Minister of Sultan Abdulla Qutab Shah, Mir Jumla, presented the diamond to Emperor Shah Jahan of Deccan in in a private display of loyalty. It is during this time that William Jessop, agent of the East India Company, got his first look at the jewel.

1658 AD
Emperor Shah Jahan dies, leaving the throne to his son, Aurangzeb. The gemstone became his rightful possession at this time.

1665 AD
The travelling tradesman, Jean Baptiste Tavernier, visited Emperor Aurangzeb and wrote about the great diamond he saw among the jewels of the empire. The Mughals retained the Koh-i-Nur until their defeat by the Persian ruler, Nadir Shah.

Tavernier's Sketch of Koh-i-Nur
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

1730s AD
It is reported that Muhammad Shah Rangila, the last Mughal emperor, used to wear the Koh-i-Nur wrapped in his turban.

1739 AD
Nadir Shah occupied the fort of Delhi after defeating Muhammad Shah Rangila in the battle of Karnal. Though he grudgingly handed over the treasury of the Mughals to Nadir Shah, he covertly kept the Koh-i-Nur in his turban, hoping to keep it for himself.

1739 AD
Nadir Shah, knowing of the Mughal emperor’s custom of carrying the diamond in his turban, arranged a feast during which he called for the brotherly custom of exchanging turbans. Not wishing to cause an upset, Muhammed had no choice but to make the exchange. Nadir promptly unwrapped the turban and is purported to have exclaimed “Koh-i-Nur” (which means ‘Mountain of Light’) upon seeing the diamond for the first time. Nadir Shah took the diamond back to Persia with him.

1747 AD
Persian army soldiers, Muhammad Quli Khan and Salih Khan, assassinated Nadir Shah, at which time Shah’s Afghan General, Ahmad Shah Abdali (Durrani), removed the emperor’s royal seal and claimed possession of the royal treasury, including the Koh-i-Nur diamond.

1772 AD
Ahmad Shah Abdali (Durrani) died and left the jewel to his son, Timur Shah.

1793 AD
Timur Shah died and passed the jewel on to his son, Zaman Shah, King of Afghanistan. This marked the beginning of a vicious turf war between the brothers. Zaman Shah defeated all his brothers, except Mahmud. He ceded governorship of Herat to Mahmud, dividing the power base between Kabul and Herat.

In the air between Kabul and Herat
Photo Credit: Dawood Khan

1803 AD
Shah Shuja-ul-Mulk defeated Mahmud and took the throne of Afghanistan. Though it does not appear to be recorded, the diamond became the possession of Shah Shuja.

1810 AD
Mahmud defeated Shah Shuja at Kandhar.

1811 AD
Mahmud defeated Shah Shuja again, this time at Akora. Shuja was imprisoned under the watchful guard of the Governor of Kashmir, Ata Muhammad Khan. Prior to his defeat, Shah Shuja sent his family for protection to Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Punjab. It is recorded that Shah Shuja’s wife, Queen Wafa Begum, carried the gemstone with her to Punjab.

1813 AD
Queen Wafa Begum petitioned the Sikh ruler to negotiate for the release of her husband from Kashmir. Their petitions were successful, and Shah Shuja rejoined his wife in Lahore. As a thank offering, Shah Shuja gave the jewel to Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

1839 to 1849 AD
Upon the death of Ranjit Singh, the diamond passed to each of his heirs in short succession. The Sikh rule was fraught with bitter envy among the brothers Singh, and none of the Maharajas held onto their thrones for long. The shortest reign was one month and sixteen days (Maharani Chand Kaur, widow of Kharak Singh), and the longest reign was five years, six months, and fourteen days (Duleep Singh, the boy who was king).

1849 AD
The Treaty of Lahore was signed on March 29. At eleven years old, Maharaja Duleep Singh signed over his crown and his treasure to the East India Company, acting on behalf of the British Crown. The Koh-i-Nur diamond, the Daryanoor diamond, and Timur’s Ruby officially became part of the British Crown Jewels.

1849 AD
On April 6, Dr. John Login was charged with guardianship of Duleep Singh and with the task of removing the jewels from State Toshakhana (the royal treasury). He handed the Koh-i-Nur over to Sir Henry Lawrence, whose younger brother John was given the gemstone in a small box. John placed this small box in his coat pocket. It is said that John laid his coat aside one day and forgot completely about the diamond. It was brought up six weeks later, when the Queen asked for its delivery, at a board meeting by Henry. John said, “Send for it at once,” and Henry replied, “Why? You’ve got it.” John’s memory sparked and though he gave no sign of outward fear, he was horrified that he had so carelessly forgotten about his charge. He immediately went to his servant, who had secreted the small box in a safe place in the house. Phew!


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4. Sikh Institute. Maharaja Duleep Singh: The King in Exile. Appendix: Koh-I-Noor Diamond--Its History. Accessed July 23, 2012.
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13. ReoCities. "The Memoirs of Babur." Accessed July 23, 2012.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

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