Friday, 13 November 2015

Diamonds really are a girls best friend...

Okay, please don't hurt me? History is not my area of strength. I love it. But I study law, so be kind please? 

Ever heard of the Kohinoor? Probably not. Neither had I really, until recently. 

Well, it’s a diamond. Not just a diamond, but a big one, worth £100 million. So, some might say it’s a bit of a big deal.

The word “Kohinoor” means “Mountain of Light” which is actually really pretty. But, according to historical documents it might not have been called this forever. Let me tell you the story of the diamond as I understand it:

The diamond is potentially 5000 years old, it was actually called the Syamantaka jewel as written in the Sanskrit scripts. It was said to have been mined in the Kollur mine in India during the 13th century. Apparently, the diamond was put in the eye of the Hindu goddess in the temple during the Kakatiya dynasty. There were invasions, a lot of people were killed and the diamond changed hands to the Khilji dynasty.

This isn’t just simply a diamond, apparently it’s cursed! (This story gets better and better right?) So, in 1306 the diamond was said to be cursed and the curse states that “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.” (Personally, I think they decided it looked better on women, or a woman put the curve on the diamond because she though it would look pretty on women, magpie-syndrome?)

Of course, over time the diamond moved through the Raja’s successors, eventually falling into the hands of Babur who is the man accredited to establishing the Mughal Empire in 1526. Being such a proud man he named it “the Diamond of Babur” (modest, I know). Time went on and Shah Jahan, the man who ordered the construction of the Taj Mahal (because if you're the king, why not?) placed this massive rock on the infamous peacock throne. His son, clearly not his biggest fan, imprisoned him; and later went on to lose the stone and the throne as it was taken to Persia by Persian King Nadir Shah. He was the man who named it the Kahinoor in 1793 (it kinda stuck).

Shah was assassinated (not so surprising really, maybe it really is cursed) and the stone ended up going from the Emir of Afghanistan and into the hands of Ahmad Shah Durrani. He took it to the Maharaja Ranit Singh who took it in exchange to help Durrani claim back the Afghanistan throne. The Maharaja died in 1839. After the First Sikh War, where at the Battle of Sobraon the British defeated the Sikhs and marched to Lahore without further battles; the Treat of Lahore was signed in 1846. The treaty was signed by the 7-year-old Maharaja Duleep Singh, who was later anglicised when he was exiled to England. The Treaty of Lahore, and the subsequent Treaties of Amritsar and Bhyroval, all set out India’s reparations to the English.

So, as part of the terms of the treaty the diamond was given to the British, as well as and and money and the usual reparations (you know how it goes). The stone was given to Queen Victoria in a super elaborate event in Hyde park in 1850. Prince Albert was disappointed by it’s “dull” appearance and sent the 186 carat diamond to be cut. It was cut and ended up as its current size, just under 106 carats (a 49% reduction!). The Kohinoor was actually put into a tiara for the Queen a little later, a tiara with 2000 other diamonds and is from here on considered a crown jewel. It’s currently housed in the Tower of London along with the other crown jewels.

But the story isn’t just that of the diamond. It has to be realised this isn’t the first time the diamond has been requested to be given back to the original owners. In 1947, when India gained independence once again, they asked for the Kohinoor to be returned. This was denied and they followed up with a second request in 1953, the year of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. Again denied, Pakistan later joined in to assert its right to have the diamond back. Again, the British keep denying the diamond being given back to its homeland, for fear of opening floodgates for other requests.

India’s colonisation meant that there was a great gain for both cultures. There was a lot shared. At the same time, it could be said India did not gain as much as it gave. When the British came to India they gained armies, land, money, spices, language and there was a fair amount of fighting done within India. India asking for it back as part of cultural heritage does make sense. The diamond originates from India, and was passed through the hands of Indian rulers throughout so many periods of time. It came into the hands of the British, and as much historical association as it does have with Britain; it has undoubtedly distinct historical significance within India and the story of India’s history.

Much like Germany, with the anger towards the Treaty of Versailles, the Treaty of Lahore does stipulate particularly harsh terms. Also, to be agreed upon with the country’s ruler being so young, it seems a particularly harsh treaty. India allowed the British to come to their country, which had been successfully ruled by Indians, for them to then come and colonise the country. To not only take land, armies and money but to also demand a diamond said to be worth “the value of one day's food for all the people in the world" is a large demand.

I think both sides of the argument as to whether the diamond should be given back is so interesting. What do you think? Who has a right to state a claim? Where would you put it? Who would you give it to?

Oh, the Kohinoor also has a sister diamond called the Daria-i-Noor (which means "Sea of Light") which also came from the peacock throne. It's apparently part of a diamond which was much larger but got split into two. 

The other part of it is called the Noor-ul-Ain (which means "Light of the eye") these two are both part of the Iranian Crown Jewels. 

India had some serious bling back in the day. No wonder they'd like some of it back. 

Remember, respect everyone's views, there is no wrong or right really, and let's be honest we'd all give the diamond to ourselves because hello...£100 million? YES PLEASE....

Until next time....


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