Koh i Noor: The Trail of Misery and Bloodshed Begins

The most precious and coveted diamond of the Indian subcontinent still covers itself in mystery. No one knows its birthplace. But what we know is a series of conjectures trying to map out the story of Koh-i-Noor's origin. Let us dive into the thrilling journey of identifying this stone that opened the gates of wealth and misery for its owners.
Abdali’s coronation and the birth of Afghanistan; Image Source- Stars Unfolded

Abdali’s coronation and the birth of Afghanistan; Image Source- Stars Unfolded

We already know how Nader Shah lost his son to the increasing fear of losing Koh-i-Noor. Shah's scepticism only increased over time, and his apprehensions became real when numerous conspiracies took birth within the walls of his palace. His paranoia led him to pluck the Koh-i-Noor and other precious stones from the Peacock Throne to store them safely within his Harem. After securing these two precious stones, Shah summoned Ahmad Khan Abdali, his most trusted chief.

Abdali held the fort until the last minute but couldn't save the Persian king. As a reward for his service, the first lady of Shah's Harem gifted the Koh-i-Noor to Abdali. He then fled to Kandahar, where the future had precise plans for him. With the collective blessings and agreement of the elders of his tribe, Abdali became the founder of modern-day Afghanistan.

Like his hero, Nader Shah, Abdali also conquered Delhi and adjoining areas, pinning the Durrani empire in history. While the heavens blessed him with a flourishing empire and rich coffers, an unwanted foe knocked on his door. Abdali suffered from a possible tumour in his face, slowly eating it. With every new conquest, the disease managed to eat Abdali's facial features, starting from his nose, which was replaced by a diamond.

Abdali's death came sooner than later, leaving the throne to his son, Timur Shah. Timur was an able leader but faced a bloody end at the hands of his conspirators. He died before nominating a successor, which ensued a prolonged battle for the throne. The crown was finally won by Shah Zaman, who could not sustain it either. His tragic end came with him blinded by hot needles in the confines of dungeons.

Ranjit Singh now started losing patience and agreed to the conditions proposed by Shuja. And that's how Koh-i-Noor came back to its homeland, where it would seal the fate of the Sikh Empire for the next 36 years.

Until now, Koh-i-Noor was the fabled stone with a mysterious origin. All of it changes under Ranjit Singh's rule. Singh openly shows off his most prized gem, wearing it with pride, subtly declaring it a symbol of his sovereignty. This is one of the reasons why the British Raj later would claim the diamond to stamp their imperialist rights on the subcontinent.

All was good until Ranjit Singh suffered a sudden stroke that paralysed his face and right side in 1835. Even though he recovered from the first blow, the second stroke paralysed his right side, leaving him to communicate through signs. With the arrival of the third stroke in 1839, it became clear that the maharaja shall not survive for long.

That left the only able royalty, Zaman's brother Shah Shuja to inherit the Durrani crown. After claiming the throne, the first thing Shuja did was restore the lost Koh-i-Noor, which was misplaced during Shah Zaman's disposal. His happiness was, however, short-lived. Shah Shuja was soon attacked and forced to send his wife, Wa'fa Begum, into safety under Ranjit Singh.

By now, Koh-i-Noor had become the most coveted possession of the subcontinent. It was only natural for the Sikh emperor, Ranjit Singh, to desire the same. He left no stone unturned to coax Shah Shuja. From extending the hand of help to outright coercing, Singh employed every method in the book.

The matter became dire when Shah Shuja and Shah Zaman were held hostage under the Kashmiri general, who initially attacked Shuja in hopes of winning Koh-i-Noor. With no other solution in sight, Wa'fa Begum made a deal with Ranjit Singh. She promised him Koh-i-Noor in return for her husband's life.

Ranjit Singh readily helped and rescued Shah Shuja, only to prison him in his kingdom. Singh repeatedly pressurised Shuja to hand over the diamond, but the latter was stubborn. Despite the numerous torture sessions, Shuja was adamant about signing a deal based on a formal treaty of friendship, 7 lakh rupees and aid to reclaim his throne.

Ranjit Singh's death broke out the vital debate of Koh-i-Noor's possession. The Hindu pandits of Singh's court thought it was best to return the stone to Lord Vishnu in the temple of Jagannath in Odisha. This belief stemmed out of the legend of the Syamantaka Mani and its close relation with Lord Krishna. Others believed that the diamond was not just an heirloom but a symbolic representation of the Sikh sovereignty. Therefore, it should remain in Lahore with the next king.

At this crucial juncture of history, Koh-i-Noor itself became a vital player in the game of power politics, where the faithful subjects of the Sikh Empire try to defeat the eagerly awaiting British claws.

Shah Shuja on the throne; Image Source- Wikimedia Commons

Shah Shuja on the throne; Image Source- Wikimedia Commons

The dispute over Koh-i-Noor’s possession; Image Source- Twitter

The dispute over Koh-i-Noor’s possession; Image Source- Twitter

Ranjit Singh; the lion king of Punjab; Image Source- Wikipedia

Ranjit Singh; the lion king of Punjab; Image Source- Wikipedia

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