This is the story of the Koh-i-Noor Diamond.
The British colonial rule over India, or as known as the ‘Raj’, took many things from India. Some things are measurable like the amount of money, tons of free cotton, and the number of people as slaves. Many things were also immeasurable like the number of boundaries created by the divide and rule policy, the number of deaths caused by direct or indirect involvement of the British, and the decline in the self-respect of an entire nation. The Koh-I-Noor diamond is nothing but a symbol of everything that was looted by the British East India Company.
The story of the Koh-i-Noor diamond is a thousand years old. It is theorized by historians that it was mined in the present-day state of Andhra Pradesh. The kings of old used to keep such mines a secret and hence these sites are omitted from the records. The very first mention of Koh-i-Noor Diamond was by Babur. Babur mentioned a big diamond present in the Golconda region. Babur was a big reader and had access to one of the biggest libraries of its time.
Fortunately, he kept recording the data he found in these books. According to him, the Diamond was then taken by Alauddin Khilji when he invaded the southern states. Allauddin Khilji left no proper heir to rule after his death. Amidst the confusion, the diamond changed many hands and its location became a mystery.
Babur started a nationwide search for the diamond. But he didn’t have to look for long. The Diamond was presented to him as a tribute. A few generations later, his great-grandson Shah Jahan decided to put the stone on his peacock throne. Lots of precious stones were used to create this throne that resembles the feathers of a peacock.
Shah Jahan was succeeded by his son Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb hated his father and had him house-arrested in his last days. Meanwhile, he also took out every precious stone on the throne. Aurangzeb called for an expert to cut the stone. Hortense Borgia from Venice reached India to cut the stone. But due to his mistake, the weight of the stone was reduced. And Borgia was fined heavily.
After the death of Aurangzeb, the Mughal empire collapsed. Nadir Shah, a Persian king raided Delhi and looted a huge amount of Mughal treasure. And in those loots was this precious stone. It was he who named the diamond ‘Koh-I-Noor’, meaning the mountain of light. From Nadir Shah, it went to his son Ahmed Shah. Ahmed Shah was overthrown by the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. Ahmed Shah along with the diamond flew to Lahore. Lahore was under the leadership of Punjabi King Ranjit Singh. Ranjit Singh received the diamond as a gift for sheltering Ahmed Khan and his family.
On one occasion, Ranjit Singh asked Ahmed Khan about the value of the Koh-i-Noor diamond. Ahmed Khan replied that if a healthy person throws four stones in four directions and the entire area was to be filled with gold, it would still be less valuable than the Diamond.
The Koh-i-Noor diamond remained in the Sikh dynasty until they lost it to the East India Company in the Anglo-Sikh war. After surrendering, the Sikhs were forced to sign a treaty, in which they surrendered the diamond to the British queen. Since then it has been a part of the British Museum.
After gaining Independence from the British, India continuously requested the British to return the Koh-I-Noor diamond back.
With the current GDP of almost three Lakh Crore, why is India so persistent in getting the Koh-I-Noor back? It is definitely not for its financial value. Instead, the real value lies in the gesture of the British government. As the Koh-i-Noor diamond symbolizes the loot done by the British, its return too can symbolize acceptance on their behalf. And acceptance might be the first step for them to officially apologize to India and other colonial countries.