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Cursed, Or Victim Of The Violence In Mans History?
Jewelry, gemstones or pearls become famous for various reasons. Some like the Koh-i-noor diamond (The Mountain of light) reach the hall of fame not only because of its size or color, but because it has a bloody and horrible history, and therefore is said to be cursed.
An old Hindu text from 1306 is the first authentic mention of the diamond, and spells the curse – “He who owns this diamond will own the world but will also know all misfortunes. Only God or a woman can wear it with impurity”. And males that have had this diamond in their possession have all had tragedy befall them in violent and bloody ways.
Although warfare and killing or disposal of kings and royalty is not exactly something rare in mans history, Koh-i-noor may have had its share indeed.
The first written mention of Koh-i-noor is, as mentioned above, from 1306. Legends claim that it is much, much older and once belonged to the god Krishna. It was however stolen from him, and ended up with the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, who, by the way, is famous for building the Taj Mahal in memory of his favorite wife. And that is when it comes into the authentic written history for the first time.
History tells that it originated in the state of Andrah Pradesh in India along with its double and less famous Darya-i-noor (the sea of life). For a long, long time it was considered to be the largest diamond know to the world with a weight of 186 carat. It was however not very sparkling, and is said to have had a yellowish color. But men wanted to possess it, and were willing to kill, torture and molest to get it.
The Mogul Emperor Shah Jahan had Koh-i-noor build into his Peacock throne. He did not have a particularly loving and devoted son though, and Aurangazeb (the son) had his father imprisoned in a fort and stole the throne and the diamond. He had the stone placed in his own personal Badshahi Mosque, where it remained until 1739.
In 1739 the resting of the diamond in Aurangazebs mosque came to a halt as the Persians and Nadir Shah invaded the Mogul Empire. The Mogul emperor tried, according to legend, to hide the diamond so it would not be part of the looted treasures taken by the Persians. So he hid it in his turban.
Warfare could sometimes be polite up to a certain point, and the Persian conqueror was no exception. He politely suggested that they should swap turbans (which was a polite thing to do at the time). The Mogul Emperor could of course not decline since that would be very rude, and the turban and the Koh-i-noor fell into the hands of the Persian Nadir Shahs hands. Nadir Shah is said to be the one who gave the diamond its present name – The Mountain of light.
Nadir Shah could only enjoy the beautiful stone for a few years, as he was assassinated in 1747 by the Afghan Ahmed Shah Abdali, who became the new owner of the diamond. So it remained in Afghan possession until 1830 when Shah Shuja-Ul-Mulk, the ruler of Afghanistan at that time, lost his throne. He managed to flee with the diamond to Lahore. He later gave the diamond to the Sikh Maharaja of Punjab – Ranjit Singh as a payment for help to regain his throne in Afghanistan.
When Ranjit Singh lay on this death bed, he willed the diamond to be put in the jagannath Temple in Orissa. Since he was already dying, this was ignored and the stone was surrendered into the hands of the British Empire in 1839. The diamond was at that time valued to almost 1000 000 British pounds which today would be something like 81.6 million pounds.
Since the stone now was in the hands of the British Empire, it would have to be shipped to England to be officially handed over to Queen Victoria. The curse followed the stone across the oceans, and while docking in Mauritius, cholera broke onboard the ship, and it was forced to leave the island. As if this was not enough, they were hit with a severe storm that blew for 12 hrs.
Battered and weak, the ship reached England where Koh-i-noor was handed over to the queen in 1850, and she became the first woman to possess the diamond. She was however not content with how it looked, as it wasn’t very shiny or clear. Prince Albert therefore had Koh-i-noor cut down to 105 carat to increase its brilliance. The stone was reduced with the total of 42%. The cutting took 38 days and cost 8000 British pounds. The queen however had a brilliant looking, crystal clear white diamond returned to her, which was promptly set in a tiara.
In the hands of a woman:
Queen Victoria was the first woman to own the diamond, but also the first person to have actually worn it. In 1911 it was reset in the coronation crown of queen consorts, and was worn by all the later queens. The British royalty seem to have taken the curse of the diamond very serious. It has never been used or been in the possession of a male again. If the monarch is a male, it is passed on to his spouse.
Because of the diamonds eastern origins, several countries like Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, India and even Taliban put claims on the stone to be theirs, and request it returned to them. Great Britain refuse these claims and the diamond is therefore still in British possession. They received the diamond as part of war treasures after the Sikh wars in India, and since most of the countries that claim it back got it in their possession the same way, their right to claim the stone is a bit wobbly.
You can actually see the diamond with your own eyes if you go to England. It is today part of the Royal crown jewels and is on permanent exhibitions in the Tower.
So far the curse is held in check as no males owns it. Whether this will remain for the future has to be seen. The stones long, violent and sad trace is there for a fact. But is it so because it is cursed, or is it simply the way history has a tendency to be; pretty violent, and Koh-i-noor by coincidence happened to be in the middle of it all as a valuable stone, part of the wealth that have belonged to emperors since the dawn of time?
Well, you have to make up your own mind about that.
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