|Zakhritidin Muhammad Babur|
Photo Credit: OrexCA
compiled by Angela Magnotti Andrews
Though the Koh-i-Nur diamond’s history remains somewhat murky even through this transition from the Delhi Sultanate to the Mughal reign, after Babur took possession of the stone, it’s history is more solid. Here is that record.
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
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.
Humayun was defeated at the battle of the
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.
Shah Tehmasp was the protectorate of several Shia Muslim Sultinates who were harassed by the Sunni Muslim Emperor of
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
It passed into the hands of Sultan Abdulla Qutab Shah, emperor of the Qutb Shah dynasty of Golkunda in the
Ex-Prime Minister of Sultan Abdulla Qutab Shah, Mir Jumla, presented the diamond to Emperor Shah Jahan of
Deccan in a private
display of loyalty. It is here that William Jessop, agent of the East India
Company, got his first look at the jewel.
Emperor Shah Jahan dies, leaving the throne to his son, Aurangzeb. The gemstone became his rightful possession at this time.
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
It is reported that Muhammad Shah Rangila, the last Mughal emperor, used to wear the Koh-i-Nur wrapped in his turban.
Nadir Shah occupied the fort of
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.
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 not 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
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.
Ahmad Shah Abdali (Durrani) died and left the jewel to his son, Timur Shah.
Timur Shah died and passed the jewel on to his son, Zaman Shah, King of Afghanistan. This began a vicious turf war between the brothers. Zaman Shah defeated all his brothers, except Mahmud. He ceded governorship of
to Mahmud, dividing the power base between Kabul
|In the air between Kabul and Herat|
Photo Credit: Dawood Khan
Shah Shuja-ul-Mulk defeated Mahmud and took the throne of
Afghanistan. Though it does not
appear to be recorded, it becomes clear that the diamond passed to Shah Shuja
at this juncture.
Mahmud defeated Shah Shuja at Kandhar.
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
It is recorded that Shah Shuja’s wife, Queen Wafa Begum, carried the gemstone
with her to Punjab.
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).
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, including the Koh-i-Nur diamond, the Daryanoor diamond, and Timur’s Ruby.
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 diamond over to Sir Henry Lawrence, whose younger brother John was given the gemstone in a small box which he placed 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, unaware of its valuable treasure, in a safe place in the house.
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*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy