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The Koh-i-noor of Golconda

While tales of the Koh-i-Noor have been widely documented, its origins have always been hazy.

In 1518, the kingdom of Golconda built its formidable fortress, Qila Muhammad Nagar (now called Golconda Fort). Golconda was home to 23 of India's 38 diamond mines, garnering it the moniker "Diamond Capital." The diamonds mined here were the purest, clearest, and most valuable. Today, none of the original diamonds discovered in Golconda exist in the vicinity.


It is usually assumed that the Koh-i-Noor was initially discovered by the Rajas of Malwa and was then acquired by Alauddin Khilji, the Sultan of Delhi in 1304. This notion is frequently reinforced by a reference in Babur's autobiography, Baburnama, to a stone weighing 787 and a half carats.


However, it is certain that Koh-i-Noor was mined in Golconda. The travelogues of Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, a traveller, jeweller, and merchant from France, support this account. In the 17th century, Tavernier travelled to Asia six times over the span of forty years and published a number of travelogues. In his Travels in India, he records the presentation to Aurangzeb of a magnificent uncut diamond measuring 900 carats discovered in the Kollur mine. His records include drawings of the original shape of this priceless stone before it was cut.


While Persia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan all have legitimate claims to the jewel, the Koh-i-Noor was undoubtedly discovered in South India — in the Kollur mines of Golconda in what is now Telangana state. It was owned at various periods by Nadir Shah, Ahmed Shah Durrani of Afghanistan, and, of course, Ranjit Singh of Lahore, presently in Pakistan. Most people forget, however, that the diamond was first owned by the Qutb Shah of Golconda.

In attending to the origins of this famous gem, we aim to emphasise the rich history of the Deccan. For centuries, the Deccan has been geographically, linguistically, and culturally distinct from the rest of the Indian subcontinent. As we attempt to understand the ownership of cultural objects in national terms, the secret history of the Koh-i-noor helps us challenge the foundations of our claims.




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