119 years of Trust THE TRIBUNE

Sunday, June 27, 1999
Bollywood Bhelpuri


Sugar 'n' Spice
Garden Life
Wide angle

The Kohinoor, Duleep Singh and his
By Gurmukh S. Sandhu

N. B. SEN writes that the Kohinoor, the king of diamonds and the diamond of kings, has a legendary origin in the dawn of history, before the times of the Mahabharat, 5000 years ago. It is the most brilliant and the most dazzling diamond of the world. Its entire history is linked with royalties of various countries. Its journey has been confined to four countries — India, Persia, Afghanistan and England. The story of the Kohinoor starts from the times of Lord Krishna and the great battle of Mahabharat which was fought in 3102 B.C . Historians have different views about its origin. N.B. Sen says that this wonder diamond was found in the ancient mine of Kolar, on the right bank of the Kistna (Krishana) river of Karnataka. However, in the words of other historians, it was discovered about 5000 years back in bed of the lower Godavari river, near Machlipatnam in central India. Some say it was found in Golconda mines in Andhra Pradesh. The original name of this diamond was ‘Samantik Mani’ (Prince and leader among diamonds). Its name was changed in 1739 A.D by Nadir Shah, the King of Persia, who invaded India and reached near Delhi in January, 1739. He defeated Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah Rangila (1719-1748 A.D.) and he occupied the fort of Delhi on March 9, 1739.

Nadir Shah had definite information that the Mughal Emperor used to carry this precious diamond with him in his turban. Before his return journey to his country on May 1, 1739, Nadir Shah exchanged turbans with Muhammad Shah as a sign of friendship and fraternal ties in the Darbar Hall, and took possession of this diamond, which is known in history as the ‘Turban trick’. When Nadir Shah first saw this diamond he was so much dazzled by its size, beauty and brilliance that he exclaimed in wonder" "Koh-i-Noor", which in Persian means " Mountain of Light". Thereafter, ‘Samantik Mani’ was popularly known as Kohinoor. This fabulous diamond was brought to England under the Treaty of Lahore dated March 29, 1849, and handed over to Queen Victoria in a ceremony held on July 3, 1850, at Buckingham Palace by Sir J.W.Logg, Deputy Chairman of the East India Company, in the presence of Sir John Hobhouse.

According to Encyclopaedia Americana, New York, its weight in its Indian cutting was 186-116 of the old carats (191.10 metric carats), but after it had been recut in London in 1852 A.D. the weight was reduced to 108-1/3 metric carats. After re-cut, the Kohinoor now weighed 108.93 carats, having lost 43 per cent of its original weight. This diamond is not known to have ever been brought or sold. It always changed hands and lands from time to time as a result of conquest. Its price was beyond estimate. It is traditionally supposed to bring good luck to a woman who wears it but ill-luck to a man , writes N.B. Sen.

Aradi Amini writes that on the request of Shah Shuja, a former King of Afghanistan, and his Queen Wafa Begum, Maharaja Ranjit Singh visited their residence at Lahore and received the Kohinoor from them on June 1, 1813. According to H.I.O Garrett and C.L. Chopra (Events of the court of Ranjit Singh 1810-1817), the following official communique dated June 8, 1813 was issued from the court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the Royal Fort, Lahore: "Yesterday (7-6-1813), the Noble Sarkar kept showing the Kohinoor which had been very kindly given to him by Hazrat Shah Shuja-ul-Mulk, to the jewellers from whom he asked its price. It was found in weight equal to three hundred and a few more "Surakhs", and in value it was declared priceless as no other similar jewel existed anywhere else."

Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1799-1839 A.D.) had eight sons — Kharak Singh (1801-1840 A.D.), Ishar Singh (1804-1805 A.D.), Sher Singh (1807-1843 A.D.), Tara Singh (1807-1859 A.D.), Kashmira Singh (1819-1844 A.D), Peshaura Singh (1823-1845 A.D), Multana Singh (1819-1846 A.D), Duleep Singh (1838-1893 A.D), whose mother was Jind Kaur, popularly known as Rani Jindan.

After the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh on June 27, 1839, the Kohinoor diamond passed on to his successors. After the demise of Maharaja Kharak Singh on November 5, 1840, his son Maharaja Naunihal Singh on Novermber 6, 1840, and Maharaja Sher Singh on September 15, 1843, the youngest son, Maharaja Duleep Singh, mounted the throne of his father on September 15, 1843, and became the proud possessor of the Kohinoor diamond. He was the last Indian sovereign to own it.

The British won the second Anglo-Sikh War (1848-1849 AD), and the Sikh kingdom of Punjab (also known as Sarkar Khalsa ) was annexed under the Treaty of Lahore on March 29, 1849. The 11-year-old King Duleep Singh held his Darbar (court) for the last time on March 29, 1849, to sign the document of annexation of Punjab, the Treaty of Lahore, which deprived him of his sovereignty, kingdom, fortune and the celebrated Kohinoor diamond. After affixing his signatures on this historical document, Duleep Singh stepped down from his father’s throne —never to sit on it again. The British occupied India from the Mughals and the reins of Punjab from the Sikhs.

The Governor-General of India received the Kohinoor from Dr John Login, in charge of the Toshakhana (Royal Treasury), Royal Fort, Lahore, under a proper receipt dated December 7, 1849, in the presence of the members of the Board of Administration — namely H.M. Lawrence, C. C. Mansel, John Lawrence and of Sir Henry Elliot, Secretary to the Government of India. This jewel was sent to England for presentation to Queen Victoria. The Kohinoor is the brightest jewel in the British Crown and has been worn by all the Queens of England since Queen Victoria (1837-1901 AD). This diamond is now kept with other precious objects of the British Crown in the Tower of London.

The deposed Maharaja Duleep Singh, helpless and forlorn, was taken away from Lahore on December 21, 1849 to Fatehgarh (U.P) and then to England in May, 1854, to live there in exile for the rest of his life. He died in Paris (France) on October 22, 1893, and was buried in the little church at Elveden on October 29, 1893. He left behind three sons and three daughters from his wife Bamba Muller, whom he married at Alexandria in Egypt at the British consulate on June 7, 1864. The maharani died in London on September 18, 1887. The maharaja took Ada Douglas Wetherill as his second wife. He married her in the mayor’s office at Paris (France) on May 21, 1889. The couple had two daughters, Paulina and Ada. His second wife Ada died on 1930 A.D. Maharaja Duleep Singh’s eight children were:

(1) Prince Victor Albert Jay Duleep Singh. He was born on July 10, 1866, and held a commission in the First Royal Dragoons. He married lady Anne Coventry, daughter of Earl of Coventry in, 1892 and died on June 7, 1918 childless. He was the god son of Queen Victoria.

(2) Prince Fredrick Victor Duleep Singh . He was born on January 23, 1868 and educated at Eton, Cambridge. He took a degree in history and also did his M.A. He held a Commission and served in France during the World War I (1914-1918 AD). He lived at Bio-Norton Hall for 20 years until his death on August 15, 1926. He died a bachelor.

(3) Prince Edward Alexander Duleep Singh was the youngest son of the maharaja and was born on August 20, 1879. On his return from his preparatory school at Cobham, Edward fell seriously ill and died at the age of 14 at the end of April, 1893, at Folkestone.

(4) Princess Bamba Sofia Jindan Duleep Singh was born on September 29, 1869. She married Colonel Sutherland, the well-known physician and Principal of King Edward Medical College at Lahore (Pakistan). She passed away at her residence in Lahore on March 10, 1957. She was the last living member of Maharaja Duleep Singh ‘s family. She died issueless.

(5) Princess Catherine Hilda Duleep Singh was born on October 27, 1871. However, nothing is known about her death except that she also died childless.

(6) Princess Sophia Alexandra Duleep Singh was born on August 8, 1876. She lived at Faraday House, Hampton Court, England, and died childless on August 22, 1948.

Maharaja Duleep Singh’s above mentioned six children were born at their residence Elveden, which he purchased in 1863 A.D. and sold it to the first Earl of I Veagh in 1894 A.D.

(7) Princess Alexandra Duleep Singh was Ada Doughlas’s first child and was born , out of wedlock at Moscow on December 26, 1887 (Recognised in the marriage certificate of her parents as their daughter). She married Lieut. J.S.Terry. The couple had no issue.

(8) Princess Ada Irene Helen Benyl Duleep Singh was born on October 25, 1889, and married M.Villement. She committed suicide in October, 1926. She, too, had no children.

Michael Alexander and Sushila Anand (Queen Victoria’s Maharaja Duleep Singh 1838-1893) write that so far as the record shows there are no living direct descendants of Maharaja Duleep Singh. Victor married Lady Anne Coventry in 1892 and died without issue; Fredrick died unmarried; Bamba married Dr. Sutherland, who was at one time in charge of the Lahore Medical School. Bamba died in Lahore, without issue, in 1957. Of Catherine and Sophia, little information can be found, except that neither had children, and Sophia died in 1948. As for the children of the second marriage, Ada married M.Villement and died without issue in 1926. Paulina married Lieut. Terry and was also childless.Back

Home Image Map
| Interview | Bollywood Bhelpuri | Sugar 'n' Spice | Nature | Garden Life | Fitness |
Travel | Your Option | Time off | A Soldier's Diary | Fauji Beat |
Feedback | Laugh lines | Wide Angle | Caption Contest |