Acclaimed historian and author William Dalrymple’s book on arguably the world’s most coveted gem — the Kohinoor — unearths fascinating new information as it moves from the Mughal court to Persia to Afghanistan, from Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s durbar in Punjab to the Crown of the Queen of England.
At a recent book reading event organised by the Bhartiya Group, Dalrymple presented stories, facts and images inspired from his book, “Kohinoor: The Story of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond” that has been co-authored by journalist Anita Anand.
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Dalrymple feels that there is a gap in the historical understanding of the Kohinoor.
“The stone has passed through the hands of Mughals, Iranians, Afghans and Sikhs, and the origin of the diamond surrounded by airily insubstantial fog of mythology is still mysterious,” he said.
“We do not know anything about it in clear terms till the 1740s, when one of the historians of Nader Shah, Muhammad Kazim Marwi, mentions that he saw it clearly when he was in Herat, attached to the head of one of the peacocks in the Peacock Throne,” he added.
He further elaborated on Nader Shah, saying that other kings inherited power but he was the son of a shepherd who worked his way up. “He was a very puritanical and unpleasant character.”
The book re-catalyses a heated debate whether the rock should finally be brought back to India even as Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and even the Taliban have all claimed ownership of the gemstone.
In a previous interview, Dalrymple said that Kohinoor was not gifted to the British but they took it away by force from India.
The “rock star gem” that has a complex history and has been the subject of intrigue and enigma for centuries.
The most famous diamond, now in the Tower of London, “is a symbol of looting of colonial times”, according to Dalrymple.
The Scottish historian, who has lived in India on and off since 1989, says they “have successfully cleared facts from the fiction” that fogged the history of the “celebrated imperial trophy”.
“There is absolutely no doubt about (how the gem was taken away). It is complete nonsense to say it was gifted by Maharaja Ranjit Singh,” he said.
Dealing with one of the most controversial diamonds in the world, the book is an account of a saga of loot, murder, torture, deceit and colonial greed which has been associated with the diamond and according to Dalrymple, his writing is an attempt to separate history from myth.