Dalrymple spellbinds audience with mystery tale of ‘infamous diamond’

Curse of ‘Kohinoor’ befell Mughals, Afghans & Sikhs alike

Zubair Qureshi

William Dalrymple, the noted historian and famed researcher and writer on the Mughal, Sikh and British dynasties cast a spell on the audience here Thursday at the National Library auditorium while giving an account of the ‘most infamous’ diamond in the world namely, Kohinoor. He was speaking to bibliophiles at the launching ceremony of the book ‘Kohinoor: The Story of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond’ he has co-authored with Anita Ananad another celebrated writer and broadcaster.
It was Mughal emperor Shah Jehan who first got the magic diamond embedded in his Peacock Throne, told Dalrymple. The curse of the ominous diamond however befell him as he was put in solitary confinement by his own son emperor Aurangzeb.
Later he died languishing in the prison. Mohammad Shah Rangela also adorned his turban with the diamond but Nadir Shah after invading Delhi exchanged turbans with him as mark of brotherhood thus cleverly possessing the diamond. Both of them died terrible death, again a curse of the diamond, as the legend goes. After Nadir Shah, Shinwari tribe took over throne of Kabul but they escaped its bad luck as a Shinwari Mullah unaware of its value used it as paperweight on his desk. From Shinwari, Ahmed Shah Abdali took the diamond in his possession. He too met a similar fate.
According to Anita Anand who took over from Dalrymple when he ended shedding light on Mughal and Afghan dynasties with reference to Kohinoor, after fall of the two potential families of Mughal and Afdghan the diamond came to the possession of Maharaja Ranjit Singh who too was obsessed by it. Later his sons Kharak Singh, Naunehal Singh and Sher Singh were doomed to have the diamond and meet their respective tragedies—accidents, murder and bloodshed. The British took Dilip Singh, the last successor of Ranjit Singh, along with the diamond to England but in England too, the diamond took a number of lives and made its ominous spell on the people.
In short, she said Kohinoor is a tale of greed, conquest, murder, torture, colonialism, and appropriation and they have given all the details in book published by Oxford University Press. Revealing previously unknown moments in the diamond’s history, the story sweeps from the century the Kohinoor embedded in the Mughals’ fabulous Peacock Throne to the torture chamber in an attempt to extract the truth about the gem’s hiding place.
Using previously un-translated Sanskrit, Persian, and Urdu sources, and the discoveries of modern gemologists to reconstruct its original form, the book traces the history and unravels the mystery surrounding the world’s most famous diamond.
Earlier in her welcome address, Ameena Saiyid, Managing Director, OUP Pakistan, introduced the authors and said that the book is the story of a fascinating gem, accused of bringing misfortune to its owners, yet exalted by them and coveted by their rivals. “Its two contemporary authors seem fascinated by the subcontinent’s past, and the gem Kohinoor reflects this convergence of the present and the past as both India and Pakistan, along with Afghanistan, have laid claim to the diamond as their own,” she added.

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