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Koh-i-Noor old version copy.jpg
Glass replica of the Koh-I-Noor Diamond in its original form. From the Reich der Kristalle museum in Munich.
Weight 105.6 carats (21.6 g)
Color finest white
Country of origin India
Mine of origin Golconda
Original owner see early history
Current owner British Crown Jewels

The Kōh-i Nūr (Hindi: कोहिनूर, Persian/Urdu: کوہ نور, Telugu: కోహినూరు) which means "Mountain of Light" from Persian, also spelled Kohinoor, Koh-e Noor or Koh-i-Nur, is a 105 carat (21.6 g) diamond that was once the largest known diamond in the world. The Kohinoor originated at Kollur, Guntur district in the state of Andhra Pradesh in India. It has belonged to various Hindu, Mughal, Persian, Afghan, Sikh and British rulers who fought bitterly over it at various points in history and seized it as a spoil of war time and again. It was finally seized by the East India Company and became part of the British Crown Jewels when Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India in 1877.


Origins and early history



The origin of the diamond is unclear, although rumors abound. According to some sources, the Koh-i-noor was originally found more than 5000 years ago, and is mentioned in ancient Sanskrit writings under the name Syamantaka. According to some Hindu mythological accounts,[1] Krishna obtained the diamond from Jambavantha, whose daughter Jambavati later married Krishna. The legend says that the diamond was from the Sun God to Satrajith (father of Satyabhama) which produces 1000 kg of gold daily. Krishna got the blame of stealing the diamond from Satrajith's brother who is killed by a lion which in turn was killed by Jambavantha.[2] Satrajith had alleged that "Krishna probably killed my brother, who went to the forest wearing the jewel on his neck." Krishna, to restore his reputation, fought a fierce battle with Jāmbavān and gave the stone back to Satrajith. Now being ashamed with himself Satrajith offered his daughter's hand to Krishna along with the stone. Krishna accepted his daughter Satyabhāmā's hand but refused to take the Syamantaka.[3]


Historical evidence suggests that the Kohinoor originated in the Guntur region of Kakatiya kingdom, in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, one of the world's earliest diamond producing regions. This region was the only known source for diamonds until 1730 when diamonds were discovered in Brazil.[4] The term "Golconda" diamond has come to define diamonds of the finest white color, clarity and transparency. They are very rare and highly sought after.

The diamond was mined in the Kollur mines near the village Paritala in the present day Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh.[5][6] The diamond became the property of Kakatiya kings. The Khilji dynasty at Delhi ended in 1320 A.D. and Ghiyas ud din Tughluq Shah I ascended the Delhi throne. Tughlaq sent his commander Ulugh Khan in 1323 to defeat the Kakatiya king Prataparudra. Ulugh Khan’s raid was repulsed but he returned in a month with a larger and determined army. The unprepared army of Kakatiya was defeated. The loot, plunder and destruction of Orugallu (present day Warangal), the capital of Kakatiya Kingdom, continued for months. Loads of gold, diamonds, pearls and ivory were carried away to Delhi on elephants, horses and camels. The Koh-i-noor diamond was part of the bounty.[7][8] From then onwards, the stone passed through the hands of successive rulers of the Delhi sultanate, finally passing to Babur, the first Mughal emperor, in 1526.

The first confirmed historical mention of the Koh-i-noor by an identifiable name dates from 1526. Babur mentions in his memoirs, the Baburnama, that the stone had belonged to an unnamed Rajah of Malwa in 1294. Babur held the stone's value to be such as to feed the whole world for two days. The Baburnama recounts how Rajah of Malwa was compelled to yield his prized possession to Ala ud din Khilji; it was then owned by a succession of dynasties that ruled the Delhi sultanate, finally coming into the possession of Babur himself in 1526, following his victory over the last ruler of that kingdom. However, the Baburnama was written c.1526-30; Babur's source for this information is unknown, and he may have been recounting the hearsay of his day and mixed up the Emperor of Warangal with the Rajah of Malwa. He did not at that time call the stone by its present name, but despite some debate[1] about the identity of 'Babur's Diamond' it seems likely that it was the stone which later became known as Koh-i-noor.

Both Babur and Humayun mention very clearly in their memoirs the origins of 'Babur's Diamond'. This diamond was with the Kachhwaha rulers of Gwalior and then inherited by the Tomara line. The last of Tomaras, Vikramaditya, was defeated by Sikandar Lodi, Sultan of Delhi and became Delhi sultanate pensioner and resided in Delhi. On the defeat of Lodis and replacement by Mughals, his house was looted by the Mughals and Prince Humayun interceded and restored his property even allowing him to leave Delhi and take refuge in Mewar at Chittaur. In return for Humayun's kindness, one of the diamonds, most likely the Koh-i-noor, in possession of Prince Vikaramaditya was given to Humayun in gratitude. Humayun had much bad luck throughout his life. Sher Shah Suri, who defeated Humayun, died in the flames of a burst cannon. His son Jalal Khan was murdered by his brother-in-law, who was overthrown by his minister, who in turn lost the empire of India by the unlucky accident of getting hit in the eye at the stroke of victory. Humayun's son, Akbar, never kept the diamond with himself and later only Shah Jahan took it out of his treasury. Akbar's grandson, Shah Jahan was overthrown by his son, Aurangazeb, who orchestrated the death and murder of his three brothers.

Tavernier's illustration of the Koh-I-Noor under different angles

Stone of the emperors

The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, famous for building the Taj Mahal, had the stone placed into his ornate Peacock Throne. His son, Aurangazeb, imprisoned his ailing father at nearby Agra Fort. Legend has it that he had the Koh-i-Noor positioned near a window so that Shah Jahan could see the Taj only by looking at its reflection in the stone. Aurangazeb later brought it to his capital Lahore and placed it in his own personal Badshahi Mosque. There it stayed until the invasion of Nader Shah in 1739 and the sacking of Agra and Delhi. Along with the Peacock Throne, he also carried off the Koh-i-Noor to Persia in 1739. It was allegedly Nader Shah who exclaimed Koh-i-Noor! when he finally managed to obtain the famous stone, and this is how the stone gained its present name. There is no reference to this name before 1739.

The valuation of the Koh-i-Noor is given in the legend that one of Nader Shah's consorts supposedly said, "If a strong man should take five stones, and throw one north, one south, one east, and one west, and the last straight up into the air, and the space between filled with gold and gems, that would equal the value of the Koh-i-noor."

After the assassination of Nader Shah in 1747, the stone came into the hands of Ahmed Shah Abdali of Afghanistan. In 1830, Shah Shuja, the deposed ruler of Afghanistan, managed to flee with the Kohinoor diamond. He then came to Lahore where it was given to the Sikh Maharaja (King) of Punjab, Ranjit Singh; in return for this Maharaja Ranjit Singh won back the Afghan throne for Shah Shuja.

Passage from India

Ranjit Singh crowned himself ruler of Punjab and willed the Koh-i-noor to the Jagannath Temple in Orissa from his deathbed in 1839. But there was dispute about this last-minute testament, and it was not executed. On March 29, 1849, the British raised their flag on the citadel of Lahore and the Punjab was formally proclaimed to be part of the British Empire in India. One of the terms of the Treaty of Lahore, the legal agreement formalising this occupation, was as follows:

Lithograph by Emily Eden showing one of the favourite horses of Maharaja Ranjit Singh with the head officer of his stables and his collection of jewels, including the Koh-i-noor.
The gem called the Koh-i-Noor which was taken from Shah Shuja-ul-Mulk by Maharajah Ranjit Singh shall be surrendered by the Maharajah of Lahore to the Queen of England.

The Governor-General in charge of the ratification for this treaty was Lord Dalhousie. More than anyone, Dalhousie was responsible for the British acquiring the Koh-i-Noor, in which he continued to show great interest for the rest of his life. Dalhousie's work in India was sometimes controversial, and his acquisition of the diamond, amongst many other things, was criticised by some contemporary British commentators. Although some suggested that the diamond should have been presented as a gift to the Queen, it is clear that Dalhousie felt strongly that the stone was a spoil of war, and treated it accordingly. Writing to his friend Sir George Cooper in August of 1849, he stated:

The Court [of the East India Company] you say, are ruffled by my having caused the Maharajah to cede to the Queen the Koh-i-noor; while the 'Daily News' and my Lord Ellenborough [Governor-General of India, 1841-44] are indignant because I did not confiscate everything to her Majesty... [My] motive was simply this: that it was more for the honour of the Queen that the Koh-i-noor should be surrendered directly from the hand of the conquered prince into the hands of the sovereign who was his conqueror, than it should be presented to her as a gift -- which is always a favour -- by any joint-stock company among her subjects. So the Court ought to feel.[9]

Dalhousie arranged that the diamond should be presented by Maharajah Ranjit Singh's young successor, Duleep Singh, to Queen Victoria in 1850[10]. Maharajaah Duleep Singh was the youngest son of Maharajah Ranjit Singh and his fifth wife Maharani Jind Kaur. Duleep, aged 13, travelled to the United Kingdom to present the jewel. The presentation of the Koh-i-Noor to Queen Victoria was the latest in the long history of transfers of the stone as a spoil of war. Duleep Singh had been placed in the guardianship of Dr John Spence Login. Login was a surgeon in the British Army who served in West Bengal, East India for some years and was a native of Southend, Stromness, Orkney Islands, Scotland. His family had run Login's Inn in Stromness since the early 1800s. Dr Login, his wife Lena and the young Duleep Singh travelled to England for the purpose of presenting the Koh-i-Noor diamond to Queen Victoria.

In due course the Governor-General received the Koh-i-Noor from Login, who had been appointed Governor of the Citadel, the Royal Fort at Lahore, with the Toshakhana or Royal Treasury, which Login valued at almost £1,000,000 (£81.6 million as of 2010),[11] excluding the Koh-i-Noor, on 6 April 1848, under a receipt dated 7 December 1849, in the presence of the members of the Board of Administration – the local resident H.M. Lawrence, C.C. Mansel, John Lawrence, younger brother of H.M. Lawrence, and of Sir Henry Elliot, Secretary to the Government of India. The jewel was then sent to England in the care of John Lawrence, and C.C. Mansel for presentation to Queen Victoria, sailing from Bombay in H.M.S. Medea under strict security arrangements.

The ship had a difficult voyage – an outbreak of cholera on board when the ship was in Mauritius had the locals demanding its departure and they asked their governor to open fire and destroy the vessel if it did not respond. Shortly thereafter the vessel was hit by a severe gale that blew for some twelve hours. On arrival in Britain the passengers and mail were unloaded in Plymouth, but the Koh-i-noor stayed on board until the ship reached Portsmouth, from where Lawrence and Mansel took the diamond to the East India House in the City of London and passed it into the care of the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the HEIC. The handing over of the Koh-i-Noor diamond to The Queen on 3 July 1850 as part of the terms of the conclusion of the Sikh War also coincided with the 250th anniversary of the HEIC. Dr Login received a knighthood in 1854 from Queen Victoria and was known as Sir John Spencer Login (he had added the 'r' to his middle name to change it from Spence to Spencer). The diamond is now set into the crown worn by the female consort to Monarch of the United Kingdom, and is currently in the Crown of Queen Elizabeth.

In 1854 Duleep Singh, who had converted to Christianity in 1853 but who converted back to Sikhism in 1888, travelled to Britain with Doctor Login and his wife. Leading a life of leisure, pleasure and high living on a substantial allowance from the British Government, he was a regular visitor to Windsor and Osborne with the Royal Family. He was befriended by The Queen and the Royal Princes, and treated as next in precedence after the Royal Family. Prince Albert designed a coat of arms for him although it was never recorded at the College of Arms. He was granted British citizenship in 1861 and at that time he was appointed one of the first Knight Commanders of The Most Exalted Order of the Star of India newly created on 25 June 1861, when the following proclamation was issued by The Queen:

“The Queen, being desirous of affording to the Princes, Chiefs and People of the Indian Empire, a public and signal testimony of Her regard, by the Institution of an Order of Knighthood, whereby Her resolution to take upon Herself the Government of the Territories in India may be commemorated, and by which Her Majesty may be enabled to reward conspicuous merit and loyalty, has been graciously pleased, by Letters Patent under the Great Seal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, to institute, erect, constitute, and create, an Order of Knighthood, to be known by, and have for ever hereafter, the name, style, and designation, of ‘The Most Exalted Order of the Star of India’”

He was created a Knight Grand Commander of the Order in 1866. The prince was the main mourner at the funeral of Sir John Spencer Login who died on 18 April 1863 and was buried at Felixstowe, Suffolk, England.

"Everyone was struck with the young Sikh Sovereign's charm of manner; his geniality and love of truth, and his straightforwardness was very unusual in an Oriental. One could not but have great sympathy for the boy, brought up from babyhood to exact the most obsequious servility ; and it was greatly to his credit that he submitted at all to any direction or discipline, or to the idea that his education was to be enforced by any system of authority. My husband was really fond of him, and the two got on famously together; yet there were occasional contests of will between them, and the first real exercise of discipline on the part of his guardian arose out of a matter so trivial as to give it an exceedingly absurd aspect. Duleep Singh had run out into the garden during heavy rain, and got thoroughly drenched. Finding him in this condition, Login wished him to change his clothes, but, half in play, the boy said he would do so at the usual time, and when urged to change at once, he turned obstinate. Then, in the quality of his governor, my husband gave him half-an-hour to do it, of his own accord, and when he still held out, told him how he grieved to coerce him in any way, but that he advised him, as a friend, not to make it necessary to have to use compulsion. Poor little fellow ! In a few minutes he came sobbing to his guardian's room, and ‘pleaded the Treaty of Lahore, which stipulated that he was to be allowed to do as he liked!" - Lady Login's Recollections, Edith Dalhousie Login.[12]

Legality of the Koh-i-noor being acquired by the British

The Kohinoor diamond was then given by Dalip Sing as Maharaja Ranjit Singh's successor (who owned it) to Queen Victoria, Indian historians argue that Prince Dalip Singh was only a minor then, and could not have given the diamond away without coercion from his British advisors[13]. Record also says that the confiscated diamond was presented to the Queen-mother by Lord Dalhousie in 1850 through the young exiled Prince[10].

The curse of the Koh-i-Noor

It is believed that the Koh-i-Noor carries with it a curse and only when in the possession of a woman will the curse not work. All the men who owned it have either lost their throne or had other misfortunes befall them. The British are wary of this curse and so far, only Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth have adorned the gem as sovereigns. Since Queen Victoria the diamond has always gone to the wife of the male heir to the throne.

The possibility of a curse pertaining to ownership of the diamond dates back to a Hindu text relating to the first authenticated appearance of the diamond in 1306: "He who owns this diamond will own the world, but will also know all its misfortunes. Only God, or a woman, can wear it with impunity."[14]

The Great Exhibition

The British public were given a chance to see the Koh-i-Noor when the Great Exhibition was staged in Hyde Park, London in 1851. The correspondent of The Times reported:

The Koh-i-Noor is at present decidedly the lion of the Exhibition. A mysterious interest appears to be attached to it, and now that so many precautions have been resorted to, and so much difficulty attends its inspection, the crowd is enormously enhanced, and the policemen at either end of the covered entrance have much trouble in restraining the struggling and impatient multitude. For some hours yesterday there were never less than a couple of hundred persons waiting their turn of admission, and yet, after all, the diamond does not satisfy. Either from the imperfect cutting or the difficulty of placing the lights advantageously, or the immovability of the stone itself, which should be made to revolve on its axis, few catch any of the brilliant rays it reflects when viewed at a particular angle.

The Crown Jewels

Copy of the new cut of the Koh-i-Noor

Disappointment in the appearance of the stone was not uncommon. In 1852, in Amsterdam[15] under the personal supervision of Victoria's consort, Prince Albert, and the technical direction of James Tennant, the diamond was cut from 186 1/16 carats (37.21 g) to its current 105.602 carats (21.61 g) to increase its brilliance. Albert consulted widely, took enormous pains, and spent some £8,000 on the operation, which reduced the weight of the stone by a huge 42% -- but nevertheless Albert was dissatisfied with the result. The stone then was mounted in a brooch which Queen Victoria often wore. It was kept at Windsor Castle rather than with the rest of the crown jewels at the Tower of London.[16]

After Queen Victoria's death it was set in Queen Alexandra's brand new diamond crown, with which she was crowned at the coronation of her husband, King Edward VII. Queen Alexandra was the first Queen Consort to use the diamond in her crown, followed by Queen Mary and then Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother. In 2002, the crown rested atop her coffin as she lay in state.

Politics of Koh-i-noor claims

Given the long history of the diamond, many countries claim it. In 1976, Pakistan's prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto asked British prime minister Jim Callaghan for the Koh-i-Noor to be returned to Pakistan. The prime minister replied to Bhutto with a polite "No", and British diplomats in the countries, likely to counter this claim, were asked to lobby to 'kill the story'.[17] Other claims have been made by India.[18] The gem remains in the Tower of London.

Koh-i-Noor in popular media

  • In "Tooth and Claw", an episode of the 2006 series of Doctor Who set in 1879, the Koh-i-Noor diamond was used by the Doctor to save Queen Victoria from a werewolf. In the story, the reason for Prince Albert cutting down the diamond was to try and make it a suitable prism for a light chamber designed to trap the werewolf. The episode was first broadcast in the UK on 22 April 2006.
  • In the Turkish movie "Hacivat Karagöz neden öldürüldü?" (2006) the Koh-i-Noor was to be given as a present to the Mongols, but because of greed, does not reach its intended destination.
  • The Koh-i-Noor features as the object of a heist in Lynda La Plante's "Royal Flush" (2002)
  • In one of the George MacDonald Fraser "Flashman" novels, Flashman and the Mountain of Light (published in 1990), the Koh-i-Noor diamond forms part of the backdrop to the storyline, set during the First Anglo-Sikh War as fought between 1845 and 1846.
  • In Henry David Thoreau's book Walden, the appeal of the Koh-i-Noor diamond is mentioned on page 137 to make a point regarding human's quest for material goods.
  • In Hugh Antoine D'Arcy's 1887 poem, "The Face on the Barroom Floor" , the vagabond describes the woman that led to his ruin with the phrase, "...With eyes that would beat the Koh-i-Noor, and a wealth of chestnut hair..."
  • In James Joyce's "Ulysses", in the section written in dialogue, it is mentioned in his stage directions that "Bloom holds up his right hand on which sparkles the Koh-i-Noor diamond."
  • The plot of Agatha Christie's The Secret of Chimneys revolves around finding the Koh-i-Noor, which, in the novel, was stolen and hidden and replaced by a substitute.
  • In The Jewel in the Crown a television mini-series based upon The Raj Quartet, a four-volume novel written by Paul Scott, the title refers, at one level, to a lithograph which depicts Duleep Singh presenting the Koh-I-Noor to Queen Victoria and, at another, to India (Bharat-Varsh) as the real jewel in the crown that was the British Empire.
  • In the Gurinder Chadha movie, Bride and Prejudice one song called "Marriage into Town" tells about Lalita's (Aishwarya Rai) friend, and the many different store owners attempt to sell their products to her for her marriage. One jewelry store owner sings "Cut, color, clarity! The best you'll ever see!" and Aishwarya Rai, after seeing the impressive ornaments, sings in response, "Only the Koh-i-noor is better!"
  • In the film The Legend of Bhagat Singh, a monolog by Rajguru describes how the Koh-i-noor diamond is stolen by the East India company and now glorifies the Queen's crown.
  • In the film Gaslight (1944), Charles Boyer points out the Koh-i-noor diamond to Ingrid Bergman while the couple are gazing at the Crown Jewels. The scene is an important plot point.
  • There is a book: "Bismi and the Secret if Kohinoor" by Simala Kureishy

See also


  1. ^ a b "Koh-i-noor, a Mountain of Light". Retrieved 2009-08-10. 
  2. ^ Kohinoor legend: The Koh-i-noor Diamond
  3. ^ "Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 10 Chapter 56". Retrieved 2009-08-10. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Large And Famous Diamonds". Retrieved 2009-08-10. 
  6. ^ Deccan Heritage, H. K. Gupta, A. Parasher and D. Balasubramanian, Indian National Science Academy, 2000, p. 144, Orient Blackswan, ISBN 8173712859
  7. ^ Pakistan Before Europe, C.E.B. Asher and C. Talbot, Cambridge University Press, 2006, ISBN 0521809045, p. 40
  8. ^ A History of Pakistan, Hermann Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund, Edition: 3, Routledge, 1998, p. 160; ISBN 0415154820
  9. ^ Balfour, Ian. Famous Diamonds‎. 1987, page 24.
  10. ^ a b The Koh-i-noor Diamond; Created: 6th June 2002; BBC
  11. ^ UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Measuring Worth: UK CPI.
  12. ^ Lady Login's Recollections, by Edith Dalhousie Login-daughter of Sir John Spencer Login and Lady Lena Login. Queen Victoria's Maharajah, Duleep Singh, 1838-93, by Michael Alexander and Sushila Anand. 1980. ISBN 1842122320, ISBN 9781842122327
  13. ^ Indian MPs demand Kohinoor's return; By Satish Jacob in Delhi; 26 April 2000; BBC News
  14. ^ "The Curse of the Kohinoor Diamond". 2007-01-19. Retrieved 2009-08-10. 
  15. ^ Dunton, Larkin (1896). The World and Its People. Silver, Burdett. p. 144. 
  16. ^ Dunton, Larkin (1896). The World and Its People. Silver, Burdett. p. 27. 
  17. ^ Casciani, Dominic (2006-12-29). "PM debated diamond's ownership". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-08-10. 
  18. ^ "Indian MPs demand Kohinoor's return". BBC News. 2000-04-26. Retrieved 2009-08-10. 


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