Thursday October 19, 2017
Home Indian Diaspora History of Ko...

History of Kohinoor as explained by William Dalrymple

There is no doubt, the Antique rock has a long and complicating history and it is difficult to resolve to which country it belongs to

Kohinoor Diamond Source: Wikimedia commons

By Akanksha Sharma

For the past few days, the precious Kohinoor Diamond has been hitting the news again. The Indian govt. informed the court that, the eminent colorless diamond was ‘gifted’ and not forcefully taken away by the British. This revelation by the govt.  has acted as an incentive towards the ongoing debate, whether the famous stone should be returned to India or not?

The Historian/Author William Dalrymple who is working on his upcoming non-fiction history book Kohinoor said, “While I was working on my previous book on Shah Shujah Durrani’s (ruler of the Durrani empire in present day Afghanistan from 1803-1809) life, I got some Persian manuscripts from Kabul. I came across this chapter between the time Nadir Shah (Shah of Persia) left India and when the diamond came back to India with Maharaja Ranjit Singh. So this was information on the Kohinoor that people did not know about, through Afghan Sources”.


Kohinoor, Koh-i-noor, Kohinoor diamond, William Dalrymple, Kohinoor William Dalrymple, Kohinoor Dalrymple, Kohinoor history, Ranjit Singh, Shah Shujah Durrani, Kohinoor Ranjit Singh, Kohinoor Shah Shujah Durrani, Kohinoor Nader Shah
Shah Shujah Durrani (left) and Maharaja Ranjit Singh (right) Source: Wikimedia Commons

While doing his research on Kohinoor to understand its complex history, he found manuscripts from Afghanistan and further explained “The Indian case rests on the claim that the British took away the diamond by force. I think there is no doubt about that. It is complete nonsense that, it was gifted by Maharaja Ranjit Singh of the Sikhs. Maharaja Ranjit Singh kept it with him his whole life. It was during the regency of his son Duleep Singh, that the diamond was taken away. There is not much to dispute about that. It was part of the peace treaty of the British and was handed over in the process of the defeat of the Sikhs as one of the spoils going to the victor.”

Related articleIndia says British Queen should keep its Koh-i-Noor

“However, what complicates this is that the diamond did not come peacefully to Ranjit Singh either. Indians claim that Shah Shujah gave the diamond to Maharaja Ranjit Singh. But Shah Shujah’s autobiography clearly mentions that his son was tortured by Maharaja Ranjit Singh before he took away the diamond. So if the Indian case rests on the claim that the British took it by force, so did the Indians.”

By the mid-19th century when it reached the hands of British, it has already been possessed by many leaders and kings, all of which were not ‘Indian’. “By the time the diamond passed from the Afghans to Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the diamond had been with the Afghans of the Durrani Empire for two to three generations. It kept getting transferred peaceably through each generation and finally came into the possession of Shah Shujah. Shah Shujah in his autobiography mentions that his son was tortured and that he was starved for days by Ranjit Singh in order to get the diamond,” explained Dalrymple.

According to the Dalrymple’s perspective, besides India there are other countries also who can lay claims on Diamond like Afghanistan and Iran. During the time when it passed through the hands of many rulers, the national boundaries were not well defined thus, it is difficult to decide to which country it belongs to. Pakistan and parts of Afghanistan were parts of India. When Nadir Shah attacked India and took the possession of Kohinoor, Kabul and Kandahar were being ruled from Delhi. Right now, there are three lawsuits in Pakistan, seeking claims on Kohinoor.


Nader Shah during the sacking of Delhi in the aftermath of his victory at the Battle of Karnal, 1739

It is true that the colourless diamond originated in Golconda Mines of India, later Nadir shah passed it to Persians long before British looted Sikhs. “The great looting of the Mughals was not by the British. By the times the British are powerful, the Mughals have already lost everything to the Persians. While the British did loot India, particularly Bengal, the big looting was done by Nadir Shah,” he further said.

“It in only because of the way the British wrote history that people have remembered the Kohinoor while everything else is forgotten. Other objects of loot like the Darya Noor (which is a sister diamond of Kohinoor) and parts of the Peacock throne are in Iran and nobody speaks about it.”

There is no doubt, the Antique rock has a long and complicating history and it is difficult to resolve to which country it belongs to. And Historian Dalrymple explained the reason how it has long lived throughout the history and still remembered.

“It in only because of the way the British wrote history that people have remembered the Kohinoor while everything else is forgotten. Other objects of loot like the Darya Noor (which is a sister diamond of Kohinoor) and parts of the Peacock throne are in Iran and nobody speaks about it.”

Speaking of the claims made by Indians that it should be brought back to India, he further added “It will be a matter of national pride, but it will open up a large number of grievances. Should the Dravidians now put a lawsuit against the Aryans, or should the Shudras start suing the Brahmans? The Kohinoor is a symbol of how complex and intractable history is. History is full of horror stories.”

“My personal view of all this is that history is far too complicated and entangled to think that there is anything to be gained by asking for retribution. Where does one stop? Should Britain seek retribution from Norway and Sweden for the Viking raids? Equally, should the Sri Lankan government send a bill to India for the Chola raids of Anuradhapura? This is not a healthy way of conducting international relations. One should be educated in history in the least biased way possible.” he said.

Akanksha is an intern at NewsGram and pursuing Journalism and Mass Communication in New Delhi. Twitter:@Akanksha4117


  1. William Dalrymple needs to fix his story. Maharaja Ranjit Singh had a VAKIL (attorney) Mr Sohan Lal Suri who used to write daily diary of his Darbar namely Umdat-Ut-tawarikh. The real story as per Umdat-Ut-tawarikh is as follows:

    Shah Shuja-ul-Mulk was imprisoned by Atta Mohammad Khan, Governor of Kashmir under Maharaja’s Kingdom. He was he who tortured Shah and his family. Shah’s wife Wafa Begum contacted Maharajah Ranjit Singh and plead for his release and she promised to offer Koh-i-noor in return. Maharaja after his findings ordered on 6th day of Zil Hajj Sambat 1869 (1812AD) to free Shah and he was brought to Lahore and offered Haveli known as Mubarak and Rs 1000 cash for an entertainment. Shah family lived there with comfort.

    On the day of Holi festival of same year, Deewan Bhawani Dass, Munshi Karam Chand and Bhai Ram Singh met Shah’s agents Habibulla Khan and Haifz-Ruh-Ullah to close the business of Koh-i-noor. After long discussions the price of diamond was set as Rs 3 lakh advance and Jagir (territory) yielding income of Rs 50,000 per annum. Shah had to handover Koh-i-noor in 50 days.

    On 29th Jamadi-ul-Awwal (May 30, 1813)- Fiqir Aziz-ud-din, Bhai Gurbaksh Singh, Jamadar Khushal Singh went to Shah and told him expiry of 50 days. The Shah said, “ let Maharaja come and have it”. Maharaja with certain Chieftains and 1000 foot soldiers entered Mubarek Haveli, located in the Mochi Darwaz. Shah with folded hands offered Diamond and had an agreement written down purporting to non-interference with him and his descendants in future in regards to Jagir. Maharaja was very happy at the sight and presented Shah 20 rolls of Shawls, brocade, Gulabadn and the like. Shah also presented two Doshalas and One turban to Maharaja. The wisest Judges declared the weight of gem to be equal to 42 Mashas.

    The Shah had very cordial relationship with Maharajah. He was deposed by his brother in 1809 and he lived in Punjab till 1837. He regained his Kingdom with the help Sikhs especially Gen Hari Singh Nalwa in 1839. Hari Singh Nalwa was killed in this expedition.

    The koh-i-noor was purchased by Maharajah and it was not snatched, stolen, surrendered or gifted by Shah.

    • In fact, its next to impossible.. Its way difficult to prove that it belongs to India as it has a complicated history


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Next Story

Seven Wonders of the World : Ancient and Modern

The Seven Wonders of the World are a set of monuments which show the artistic and architectural excellence of humanity from history to the present times. Read more to find out about the ancient and the modern seven wonders of the world

FILE - The silhouette of the statue of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado hill stands out against the full moon in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on July 19, 2016. VOA

The Seven Wonders of the World in the ancient times was a list made by the Greeks in order to honor the most magnificent piece of architecture in their known world. Sadly today other than the Pyramid of Giza, none of the other wonders have been able to survive the test of time. Since then a new list has been made in order to acknowledge the modern Seven Wonders of the World.

The Original Seven Wonders of the World as per the Greeks: 

  • The Great Pyramid of Giza – The Great Pyramid of Giza is the only wonder of the ancient wonder which has survived. This pyramid erected in the year 2560 BC, is known to be the tomb of the Pharaoh Khufu. It is the oldest of all ancient wonders.

The Pyramids of Giza – Pixabay

  • The Hanging Garden of Babylon – There is not much to say about this wonder because of the fact that there is very little historical documentation about these gardens. They were built by King Nebuchadnezzar II for his wife in 600 BC because she was missing her hometown in the hills.

A Painting of Hanging Garden of Babylon – Wikimedia Common

  • The Lighthouse of Alexandria – The Lighthouse of Alexandria was 400ft tall in length and had kept its record for being the tallest building in the world for centuries. This was built around 280 BC. This magnificent structure was destroyed by several earthquakes. In 1480, its ruins were used to construct the Citadel of Qaitbay, which till date stands on Pharos Island.
  • The Colossus of Rhodes – The Colossus of Rhodes is a nearly 100 feet tall statue of the Greek sun god Helios. Built in the city of Rhodes in 280 BC, it was destroyed in an earthquake in 226 BC.
  • The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus – The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus was built as the tomb of Mausoleum around 350BC. The structure was demolished by a series of earthquakes which occurred between the 12th and 15th centuries.
  • The Statue of Zeus at Olympia – The statue was made by the Greek sculptor Phidias, it represented Zeus seated on his golden throne. The statue itself is 40ft tall and is adorned with gold and ivory. The cause of the destruction of the statue is not clearly known but it was destroyed sometime in the  5th century.

A Painting of the Statue of Zeus at Olympia – Pixabay

  • The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus – The temple is located in Eastern Turkey. It has been rebuilt several times following its destruction every time. One memorable incident related to the temple is the fact it once burnt down the same night when Alexander the Great was born. The third temple was acknowledged by the Greeks as a wonder. It was finally destroyed for good by the Goths in 268AD.

The Temple of Artemis Ruins – Wikimedia Commons

The List of the Modern Seven Wonders of the World

On July 7, 1997, a new set of seven wonders was developed which was based on the online voting system from all around the world. The new Seven Wonders of the World are:-

  • Chichen Itza, Mexico – The Chichen Itza is the ruins of a complex in the form of a step pyramid from the Mayan civilization.

Chichen Itza – Pixabay

  • Christ, the Redeemer, Brazil – This is a 98 ft statue of Jesus Christ located in Rio de Janeiro. This statue was built by French sculptor, Paul Landowski.

Christ the Redeemer Statue in Brazil – Pixabay

  • The Great Wall of China – The Great Wall of China is a wall that was built along the northern border of China in order to protect the Chinese empire from the nomadic attacks from the Eurasian tribes.

The Great Wall of China – Wikimedia Commons

  • Machu Picchu, Peru – Machu Picchu is an Incan citadel which is located high up on the Andes Mountains. It is famous for its age-old stone block walls. The exact nature of use of this citadel is not exactly known.

Machu Picchu – Pixabay

  • Petra, Jordan – Petra was an ancient desert in Jordan which consists of numerous temples and tombs carved in pink sandstone thus earning its nickname as the “Rose City”.

Petra – Jordan, Wikimedia Commons


  • The Roman Colosseum, Rome – The Colosseum as it is famously known, is a huge amphitheater located in the center of the city of Rome in Italy. It is the largest amphitheater ever built. It was used for gladiator fights, animal matches, and re-enactment of various dramas prevalent in those times.

Colosseum in Rome – Wikimedia Commons

  • The Taj Mahal, Agra – The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum which is built in pure white marble on the orders of Shah Jahan in the memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is situated on the south bank of the Yamuna River and was commissioned to be built in 1632.

The Taj Mahal, India – Wikimedia Commons

The Seven Natural Wonders of the World

CNN announced a list of wonders which were not manmade but were formed naturally over a period of thousand years. This list was given in 1992.

  • Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon – Wikimedia Commons

  • The Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef – Pixabay

  • The Harbor at Rio de Janeiro
  • Mt Everest

Mount Everest – Pixabay

  • Northern Lights

Northern Lights -Pixabay

  • Paricutin Volcano

    The Crater of Paricutin Volcano – Pixabay
  • Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls Africa – Pixabay

No list of Seven Wonders is definite. These lists tell us how much the humanity has progressed and nature has evolved over the years.  These wonders are nothing but the remainder of the accomplishments of mankind from history to the present.

Prepared by Saloni Hindocha (@siatipton)

Next Story

7 Things That We Can Learn From ‘Arjuna’ of Bhagavad Gita

Arjuna is one of the best examples of an ideal student. There are many qualities of Arjuna that we should try imbibing in ourselves. Read on to find what can be learned from Arjuna.

Krishna and Arjuna
Lord Krishna and Arjuna from a scene in the Hindu epic book Mahabharata. Pixabay

Arjuna is one of the characters around whose life story is depicted by the Bhagavad Gita. Arjuna in many ways was an ordinary person just like us. The one thing that makes him more than ordinary was the fact that he had a good heart. But he also had his own good and bad habits. Lord Krishna chose Arjuna to reveal the Gita because he saw that not many men were as sensitive as Arjuna. Usually, not many men hesitate morally in order to fight a war and stand for their rights. We have received the teachings of God because of Arjuna who was the student and Veda Vyasa who recorded it. We have made a list of 7 things about why he was an ideal student and how we can learn things from ‘Arjuna’.

Death of jayadarath
The painting depicts the scene where Arjuna is fighting in the war of Mahabharata. Wikimedia

Here are the 7 things


Arjuna was very humble and sincere. He was willing to accept his flaws and learn from them. To quote the Gita, Arjuna to Krishna, “Overcome by faintheartedness, confused about my duty (Dharma), I ask you: Please tell me that which is truly better for me. I am your student. Please teach me, I have taken refuge in you” Gita 2.7

Willingness to leave his family for learning

When the Pandavas were banished to the forest because of Duryodhana treachery, Arjuna decided to make use of the time he had and learn some new skills and the science and art of using new weaponry. So he separated from his family in order to learn about advanced weapons from Bhagwan Shiva.

Respectful towards his teacher

Arjuna was extremely respectful towards his teacher and always adhered to his instructions. This can be understood in the following instance. Guru Dronacharya had been humiliated by King Drupad. When all the Pandava princes ended their education Guru Dronacharya asked for his ‘gurudakshina’ which was capturing King Drupad alive and bringing the king to him. Arjuna faithfully carried out his teacher’s orders even if has meant risking his own life.

Hindu Epic Mahabharata. Image source: Wikimedia

Not being addicted to sleeping or eating

Arjuna was a sincere student who was ready to give up on his sleep and food if he wanted to master something. The following incident proves Arjuna’s sincerity and dedication. One time while Bheema, his brother was eating his food, the lamp blew out leaving them in darkness. Bheema was still able to complete his food. Inspired from Bheema eating in the dark, he thought that if Bheema could eat in the dark, then he could also aim and hit his target in the dark only by listening to the sounds made by the target. He kept on practicing this skill until he mastered the skill of shooting in the dark. In order to master it, he had to cut down on his sleeping hours. Arjuna has another name ‘Gudakesha’ which meant ‘He who has mastered sleep’.

Attentive and focused

Arjuna was very observant and focused. There is a very famous incident which proves Arjuna’s was very attentive and dedicated. Once Guru Dronacharya asked all the Kauravas and the Pandavas to shoot the eye of a bird that was perched on the tree with a bow and arrow. He called each of them one by one and asked they could see. All of them answered with things like tree, bird, leaves and Guru Drona himself. When Arjuna’s turn came, he answered that he could only see the bird’s eye. Thus he was able to hit the target successfully because his focus was only on the bird’s eye. There is no doubt that Arjuna became an extremely good archer.

Hindu Epic Mahabharata. Wikimedia

Persistent and Hardworking

Arjuna was extremely hard working and spent a lot of effort and time in mastering his skills. Once all the Pandavas and the Kauravas complained that Guru Dronacharya favored Arjuna too much. Dronacharya decided to test them to in order to see how they can perform compared to Arjuna. He sent Arjuna on an errand. Immediately after sending Arjuna, he taught everybody about aiming at a leaf and hitting it successfully. The lesson was completed and everybody left the site before Arjuna returned. On returning he saw a lot split leaves on the ground and understood that he had missed an important lesson. In order to make up for the lesson, he started practicing on leaves in his free time and thus covered up his missed lesson quickly. After coming to know the hard work that Arjuna put in, in order to cover the missed lesson, all the princes understood why he was Guru’s favorite.

Chose God over materialistic riches and power

Before the great war, both Arjuna and Duryodhana approached Krishna to get him to fight for their respective sides. But Krishna told them that he would personally not pick up any weapon and fights and gave both them a choice between him and his mighty army. Duryodhana chose Krishna’s might army while Arjuna just chose Krishna as his charioteer and allowed God to lead him and did not care about the mighty army. Life is full of choices. We often act as Duryodhana and choose the path of power and wealth, compromising on our honesty and justice. But we should always be like Arjuna choosing the path of truth and ‘dharma’ over worldly temptations. This is the reason why Arjuna won the battle even after having a smaller army

Next Story

India Demands Data on UN Staff Misconduct, Use of Immunity

United nations
India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about misconduct by UN staff. Flickr

United Nations, Oct 7: In an attempt to break the wall of silence around the crimes and UN staff misconduct and those on its assignments, India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about such cases and the immunity invoked against prosecutions.

Yedla Umasankar, the legal advisor in India’s UN Mission, touched a raw nerve here by criticising the UN on Friday for not vigorously following up allegations of serious wrongdoing by its employees who enjoy the equivalent of diplomatic immunity, a prized possession of its staff.

“It appears that the UN system itself may be reluctant to waive immunity even for serious misconduct carried out by its personnel while serving on its missions, so that such cases can be prosecuted by the host governments,” he told the General Assembly’s committee on legal affairs.

“Even a few of such instances or allegations of crimes committed by UN personnel is highly damaging for the image and credibility of the United Nations system and its work around the world,” he added.

His statement also touched on the practice of some countries that protect their wrongdoers at the UN.

Umasankar demanded that secretariat disclose how many cases of serious misconduct by UN personnel were registered and the number of cases where the UN refused to waive immunity to allow their prosecution.

He also wanted to know in how many cases the host country wanted the immunity waived so it can prosecute those accused; the number of times the UN asked the host country or the country that sent them to prosecute them; how many times it consulted countries before waiver of the immunity of their personnel and how many of them refused UN’s request to waive their citizens’ immunity.

The information he wanted does not cover the diplomats sent by member countries to represent them at UN bodies and enjoy diplomatic immunity with the nations hosting the UN facilities.

After scores of serious allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers, especially exploitation of children, the UN vowed to uphold a policy of zero tolerance and began publishing data on such cases in peacekeeping operations including how they were dealt with.

Starting with the year 2015, it began identifying the nationalities of those accused.

However, it has not made public a roster detailing all the allegations and proven cases of serious misconduct across the entire UN.

While the focus has been on sexual exploitation and abuse reported on peacekeeping operations, Umasankar said that “at a broader level, the issue of accountability has remained elusive in some cases”.

He attributed it to “the complexities of legal aspects relating to sovereignty and jurisdiction”, the immunity or privileges that may be necessary for UN operations, and the capability or willingness of countries to investigate and prosecute the accused.

He noted that the UN itself cannot make criminal prosecutions.

While Indian laws has provisions for dealing with crimes committed abroad by its citizens, not all countries have them, he said.

Those countries should be encouraged and helped to implement such measures, he added. (IANS)