Kohinoor By William Dalrymple and Anita Anand

Kohinoor by William Dalrymple

Dalrymple tells the earlier history, when the diamond was established as an emblem of power and sovereignty. He does this with his habitual panache, sweeping along the trail from the Mughal court in Delhi to Persia, where the diamond was taken by Nader Shah in 1739, to Afghanistan and then in 1813 to Lahore, where it was worn by the great Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

The origins of the Koh-i-Noor, the “mountain of light”, are unknown, beyond the reach even of this book’s two accomplished authors, but it seems safe to assume that it emerged out of alluvial deposit somewhere in India. It may have been known in antiquity and it may have been referred to in many a romantic tale, but its first verifiable appearance isn’t until the 18th century, where it decorated the Mughal emperor’s Peacock Throne in Delhi and where it stimulated envy and greed in the emperor’s rivals. Over the following 100 years, it brought torment and tragedy to a range of people in Delhi, Kabul and Lahore.

My Review :

Kohinoor “the mountain of light” has been associated with intrigue, enigma and conspiracy. William Dalrymple gives a vivid description of this great diamond associated with power, envy and a tragic history. This great diamond travels from the peacock throne in Delhi to Afghanistan and then to Lahore. William Dalrymple has been unable to trace back the origins of the Kohinoor beyond the Mughal Peacock throne. Its last owner was the Lion of Punjab, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, it was adorned by him on his arm. After the Maharja’s death it became the most coveted jewel of the imperial treasury. The British cunningly made a treaty with the young Mahraja Duleep Singh who was just a child of 10 years. I disagree with William Dalrymple when he says that Queen Victoria had a soft spot for Maharaja Duleep Singh. The British kidnapped him at the age of 10 years . They seperated him from his mother, robbed him off his empire, brainwashed him into accepting Christianity. At the age of 10 years they exiled him to England put him under the foster care of Logins. Time and again Dalrymple mentions that Queen Victoria felt guilty for the manner in which the Kohinoor was taken away by the British ,yet she goes ahead and ceremoniously accepts from the young Maharaja. Did he have any choice? The psychological game played by the British on a young child who happened to be a Maharaja was both evil and unpardonable. Think about your own child kidnapped and taken away to a far of land. William Dalrymple paints a bad picture of Maharaja Ranjit Singh greedy to acquire the Kohinoor from Nader Shah. But forgets that his great queen was not at all sympathetic towards the young Maharaja Duleep Singh, what she did to him is called in today’s world it is called psychological abuse. Whether the ill fated Kohinoor is returned to India or not but an apology is definitely due from the British Monarchy.

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