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Tortuous Journeys Of Indian "Stones Of Destiny"

Diamonds have always been considered fateful. Each famous diamond has its own legends and superstitions around it, and unlike the traditional rolling stone the diamond on its journey does not fail to gather the moss of such stories. The Indian mines of Killur. have produced the world's best-known diamonds - the Koh-i-Noor, the Mogul and the Pitt or the Regent. Al though none of these stones is in India today, their early and eventful history is closely knit in the pattern of India's politi cal history. The details of the tortuous journey of these stones from the mine to their present secure habitat make fascinating reading and is also authenticated by his tory, almost at every stage. The Koh-i-Noor It is perhaps the Koh-i-Noor that has left the most blazing trail in its slow but exciting journey from Kollur to the Brit ish Crown. From the prisoner in the mine then, to the prisoner


in the tower now, "the history of the diamond," to quote Pro fessor Maskeleyne, "is one long romance from then till now." This romance spreads over the long period of 5.000 years in volving the fate of kings, king= makers and empires. Literally speaking, the words '"Koh-i-Noor" mean "a moun tain of light." The stone weighed 793 carats. There is a statement corroborating the above fact in the literature of Aurangzab's time (1619-1707). As the Indian lapidary bates cutting a stone, it may be safely assumed that the Koh-i-Noor originally did weigh 793 carats and lay uncut till the Mogul king ordered its cutting. Hortenso Borgia, a Venetian lapidary, who undertook the task, was so clumsy that he re duced the weight of the stone to 186 carats. Weight Reduced It was again cut in 1852 and the weight reduced to 106 or 102 carats. The stupidity of ruining this famous stone is best described in C. W. King's words "The re-cutting of the Koh-i Noor was most ill-advised for it has deprived the stone of all its historical and mineralogical interest." Whereas once Orloff was the only rival of Koh-i Noor, several stones weigh more today. The Koh-i-Noor's great est merit today is its age. It is one of the most ancient gems known. In water and colour it is inferior and has a greyish tinge. Its shape is of the regular brilliant. The first mention of the Koh i-Noor, according to tradition, is in 57 B.C. when it is said to have

By LEELA KOHLI for the Indian Information Services been in the possession of Raja Vikramaditya of Ujjain and Malwa. The stone seems to have been in the Maiwa treasury for some centuries. In 1304, when the Khilji ruler ransacked Mal wa. hlie appears to have brought the stone to his treasury in Agra. When in 1526 (after the battle of Panipat) Babar laid the


foundations of the Mogul king dom, his son discovered the dia mond among the treasures of Agra. In his famous memoirs Iabar describes a stone that is beyond doubt the Koh-i-Noor. After 1526, all movements of the stone are recorded and au thenticated by history. For three centuries it remained in the proud possession of the Moguls. Strangely enough, so far it bore no name. Christening When Nadir Shah plundered Delhi in 1729 and entered the Mogul palace, the defeated ruler Mohammad Shah was wearing this huge unnamed stone in his turban. "A veritable mountain of light," shbuted Nadir; hence the stone's christ ening. In 1730, the Koh-i-Noor left India for Khorasan as part of Nadir's loot. After 80 years, it came back to India in 1810, safe ly hidden in the bosom of the fugitive king. Shah Shujah Dur rani. (The Durranis had over thrown Nadir and Shah Shujah was the last Durrani.) When Shah Shujab sought asylum in North India, Maha raja Ranjit Singh was the ruler of the Punjab. It was the lion of the Punjab who extorted the Koh-i-Noor out of the Durrani's


possession in exchange for pro mised aid to recover the lost Afghan throne for him. When this exchange took place, Ranjit Singh asked the Shah "at what do you estimate its value." "At Luck," said the Shah. When after the Sikh wars the British occupied the Punjab in 1850, Sir John Lawrence took it out of the treasury and used to carry it in his waistcoat pocket till Lord Dalhousie presented it to Queen Victoria and it was set in the British Crown. The Mogul Known to the world, as the largest authentic specimen of diamond, the Mogul is now lost. This also came from the Kollur mine and had a shorter but equally eventful history. According to the great travel ler Tavernier, the stone weighed 7871 carats (only a few carats less than the Koh-i-Noor). It was full of flaws, so Shah Jehan, the great lover of diamonds, wanted it cut. Again, Hortenso Borgia, the best available lapi dary (who had cut the Koh-i Noor also), was given the task of cutting it. He tried giving it a rosette shape with a high crown on it and so ruined it. In the process of cutting it came down to 240 carats. The stone had at this stage a crack but was of very high water. In 1650, Mir Jumla, the Persian Wazir of Golconda, found the Mogul while farming the Gani diamond mines of Kollur. The amazing. dipmond. according to Bernier, the traveller-histoian was only one of the s ckfuj of diamonds Mir Jumla had. When

this fact came to be known, the wily wazir presented the Mogul to Prince Aurangzeb, who was then the governor of the south, on behalf of Shah Jehan, his father. In 1665. when Tavernler visit ed India, he saw the Mogul and refers to it in his "Voyages." It was brought to his presence with great ceremony. Tavernier took it in his hands and then drew a sketch of it. In 1739, when Nadir Shah sacked Delhi, he took the Mogul away as part of his booty. After this, fact and fiction be came mixed up again. The Darya-i-Noor, which studs the Persian crown, is supposed to be the Mogul, though lapi daries dispute the fact. The stone is probably lost. The Koh-i-Noor and the Mogul have often been con fused in the public mind but the accurate account of Tavernier proves that they were two se parate stones. The Pitt or Regent The Pitt was found at Pur tial in 1701, almost lying on the roadside, about 45 miles from Golconda. In this area were also found all other famous stones that have made history and given India her reputation for gems. Originally weighing 419 carats, it is a perfectly cut brilliant. The cutting took about two years' patient work and cost £5,000, reducing its weight to 136 7-8


carats. A stone of the highest water shape and purity, the Pitt is considered to be the world's best diamond. Historically speaking, we first hear of this stone when William Pitt, Governor of Fort St. George, Madras, bought it for £ 12,500 from a Parsee mer chant, named Jam Chand. Hence the name Pitt. Jam Chand is supposed to have stolen* this stone and kept it hidden in a gash which he made in his leg. In 1712, Pitt took it home to England and was so fearful of losing it that he changed his room and plans without notice, spent sleepless nights and soon lost his health. When Uffen bach, a German traveller, went to England in 1717 and begged for a view of this famous Indian stone, Pitt refused, suspecting him to be a thief. In 1717, the French Regent Orleans bought the Pitt for £135,000 and re named it the Regent. In France, the Regent became involved in the historical Garde Mobile rob bery but was later rediscovered in mysterious circumstances. Unlike the Koh-i-Noor, the Pitt brought luck to its owner. Napoleon believed that he won his Empire because he wore the Regent in the pommel of his sword. Once when the French Trea sury was empty, the stone was pledged to a Berlin merchant and later redeemed. It was exhi bited in 1855 in France and is today the proud possession of the French. Such is the fascinating story of these "stones of destiny" that one wonders whether their jour neys are over or will they go on their travels again.