Book Review: Kohinoor - The Story of the World's Most Infamous Diamond

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Title: Kohinoor- The Story of the World's Most Infamous Diamond
Author: William Dalrymple and Anita Anand
Genre: History

Rating: 4.5/5

"Why did it have to end?", was precisely my thought as I finished the last page in the book. I am being unconventional here by giving away my impression of this book right at the start but it just goes to show how much I appreciated it. Kohinoor - The Story of the World's Most Infamous Diamond is authored by William Dalrymple and Anita Anand and, before I even get to the summary I have to say, it is a must read.

The book is not a mere recitation of what conspired with the diamond, but is supported by valid documentation and references to assist the narrative. The book is divided into two major parts. The first one is a tale narrated by William Dalrymple describing the pre-historical journey of the Kohinoor. He begins with the attempt to trace its origin and ends at the time when it reached the hands of the Mughals. In the second part, Anita Anand tells us how the diamond found its way to its present location, England after being taken away from the possession of the Sikhs.

According to the book, the origin of the Kohinoor or The Mountain Of Light, as translated in Persian, is still uncertain but it is believed to have originated from South India where gems and precious stones of such extravagance were said to have been in use to decorate idols in temples. The Kohinoor, among other brilliant stones, made its way to the Mughal treasury and it was considered to be one of the most valuable possessions. And so bedazzled was Shah Jahan by its size and beauty that he got it embedded in his grand peacock throne. India's gems and diamonds, particularly the Kohinoor, were so popular, that the Afghan ruler, Nadir Shah, couldn't keep his hands off and took the throne, along with the diamond, back to his kingdom.

The story continues further and the fate of the glorious diamond was such that it was tucked away for years in a crack of a prison holding cell and also was ignorantly used as a paperweight before reaching the hands of the Sikh ruler, Maharaja Ranjit Singh. After many deaths and the destruction of the Sikh empire that followed, the diamond was finally taken away by the Britishers from the hands of the boy king, Duleep Singh and was sent off to England, to awe Queen Victoria.

The original diamond is said have a strange shape and it was re cut to its current form after the English didn't find it appeasing enough. As a result, the size of the Kohinoor was compromised. Throughout the course of the journey, the diamond is said to have been auspicious for some, cursed for others. The thought of possessing this brilliant stone was so compelling that it caused conflicts and discord wherever it went, to the extent of bringing entire kingdoms down.

The book is absorbing and retold as accurately as possible, with notes and photographs attached wherever applicable. The narrative is extremely engaging and the reader gets carried  away into the mysterious and rich history through India, Persia, Afghanistan and England.  History comes alive and it is indeed an enticing tale of the ill famous diamond that now sits in the Tower of London, giving hope to the people of its return to its original land.

I say it again, it is a must read. Highly recommended.

*** This book was sent to me by Juggernaut in exchange for an honest review. ***


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