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Maharaja Ranjit Singh Curse

When Maharajah Ranjit Singh took possession of the `Koh-i-Noor` diamond on June 1, 1813, a remarkable story, till now little known, was being weaved. A Hindu `pandit` approached the Maharajah and told him that if he kept the `Samantik Mani` diamond of Golconda, nothing but bad luck and ruin would come his way.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Kohinoor

The Curse of the Koh-i-Noor

It is believed that the Koh-i-Noor carries with it a curse and only when in the possession of a woman will the curse not work. All the men who owned it have either lost their throne or had other misfortunes befall them. Queen Victoria is the only reigning monarch to have worn the gem. According to the legend, if the monarch is a male, the stone is passed to his spouse.

The possibility of a curse pertaining to ownership of the diamond dates back to a Hindu text relating to the first authenticated appearance of the diamond in 1306: "He who owns this diamond will own the world, but will also know all its misfortunes. Only God, or a woman, can wear it with impunity." All the owners of the Koh-i-noor have had a tragedy befall them.

The place was the Lahore Fort, and on June 1, 1813, Maharajah Ranjit Singh had visited the exiled Afghan king Shah Shuja and his wife Begum Wafa at their residence Mubarak Haveli near Kucha Chabaksawaran inside Mochi Gate. Sikh officials had threatened Wafa Begum that if she did not yield the diamond to the Maharajah, the entire family would be butchered. But if she presented the diamond to the Maharajah as a gift, he promised to help restore him to the Afghan throne. It was what is known as a `Hobson`s Choice`. So it was that the Maharajah went in a huge procession to visit his `guest` and in a simple ceremony “gifted” him the Koh-e-Noor diamond. Legally, the diamond belongs to the `toshakhana` of the Lahore Fort. That legal claim is another very interesting story.

Queen victoria

But the Hindu `pandit` was not wrong when he claimed that the `Samantik Mani` was lucky only for women. For men it was fatal. This is where the genius of Fakir Azizuddin comes into play. The fakir was known as having a fair idea of the world of the occult. He called on a leading Sikh occult master and the Hindu `pandit` to join them in his house to devise a way to keep bad luck away from the Maharajah. Thus the story of the Hindu `pandit` was first heard. Since then the diamond was kept in the name of a wife of the Maharajah.

The original name of the Koh-i-Noor diamond was `Samantik Mani` – the prince and leader of all diamonds – and its first mention comes as belonging to Lord Krishna and the great battle of Mahabharata which was fought in 3102 BC. Its origins are disputed. One view, forwarded by the historian N.B. Sen, claims that this diamond was found in the ancient mine of Kolar, on the right bank of the Kistna – Krishna – river of Karnataka. Another view is that it was discovered over 5,000 years ago in the bed of the lower Godavari River, near Machlipatnam in Central India. Lastly, and the most popular version is that it was found in Golconda mines in Andhra Pradesh.

I have no idea, or preference, as to which claim is the strongest. What I do know is that the diamond`s name was changed in 1739 AD by the Iranian invader Nadir Shah, who invaded India and defeated Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah Rangila (1719-1748) and occupied the fort of Delhi on March 9, 1739. Nadir Shah had definite intelligence that the Mughal Emperor always carried this precious diamond with him in his turban. Before returning to Kabul 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. This event is known among historians as the `Turban trick`.

Maharaja Ranjit singh and Kohinoor

When Nadir Shah first saw the `Samantik Mani` diamond, he was dazzled by its size, beauty and brilliance, and he named it “Koh-i-Noor”, which in Persian means “Mountain of Light”. What Nadir Shah did not know was that Emperor Muhammad Shah had actually gifted it to his wife, and kept it as an `amanat` – safe possession – of his wife. He believed, or so history told him, it brought nothing but bad luck to men.

The loot that the Iranians took from India was so huge, that Nadir Shah eliminated all taxes in Iran for three years. But in a mysterious happening, his health took a turn for the worst. Also he became more despotic and very soon his family began to disintegrate. In anger he imposed penal taxes on his own people. His daughter-in-law committed suicide. In June 1747 he was assassinated by his own bodyguards. The prediction that when a man steals the diamond, in 2,929 days his end is violent came true.

After him any king who possessed the diamond met a fatal end. For this reason when Shah Shuja came to Lahore, the diamond was gifted to his wife Wafa Begum. It so happened that Wafa insisted that she keep the diamond that belonged to her, and so the rumour goes that she kept it near her chest all the time, even when sleeping.

Maharajah Ranjit Singh tried his best to find out where the famous diamond was, but could not find any clue. He then decided to ask a handsome Muslim soldier on guard duty to try to win over Wafa Begum`s favourite maid. For six long months the guard tried, finally promising her a `jagir` near Lahore. Finally she succumbed to the inducement and within a week the diamond was located. My research tells me that her family still live on those lands near Chung.

We now learn from the `toshakhana` records that the diamond was gifted to his wives, and after performing an intricate Hindu ceremony he left a will that the diamond be returned to the Krishna Temple of Golconda. Even at his death bed, he wished that this be done so that his ancestors are protected. This the greedy ancestors ignored and set off on a bloody path of self-destruction.

In the book by Garrett and Chopra: “Events of the Court of Ranjit Singh 1810-1817”, the following is reproduced: `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 Shujaul 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. We all know that the entire family died fighting among themselves, and within nine years they all died violent deaths. In 1849 the East India Company took over Lahore and the diamond was removed from the `toshakhana` of the Lahore Fort.

After the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh on June 27, 1839, legally the Koh-e-Noor passed on to his successors. The Governor-General of India, however, took possession of the Koh-e-Noor from Dr John Login, in-charge of the `toshakhana`, Royal Fort, Lahore, under a receipt dated Dec 7, 1849, in the presence of the members of the Board of Administration, namely H.M. Lawrence, C. C. Mansel, John Lawrence and Sir Henry Elliot, Secretary to the Government of India. The ruling maharajah did not sign the receipt.

The diamond was brought to England under the Treaty of Lahore of 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. At that time the weight of the diamond was 186-116 of the old carats (191.10 metric carats). Queen Victoria thought the diamond was too big for her to handle and she ordered it cut by Garrett`s, London, in 1852. The weight was reduced to 108.93 carats. Even today its price is beyond estimate.

The deposed Maharaja Duleep Singh was removed from Lahore on Dec 21, 1849 and then to England in May, 1854, to live there in exile for the rest of his life. He died in Paris, France, on Oct 22, 1893, and was buried in the little church at Elveden on Oct 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 Sept 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.

Maharaja Duleep Singh`s eight children were Prince Victor Albert Jay Duleep Singh (1866-1918), Prince Fredrick Victor Duleep Singh (1868-1926), Prince Edward Alexander Duleep Singh (1879-1893), Princess Bamba Sofia Jindan Duleep Singh (1869-1957), Princess Catherine Hilda Duleep Singh (1871-unknown), Princess Sophia Alexandra Duleep Singh (1876-1948), Princess Alexandra Duleep Singh (1887-unknown), and Princess Ada Irene Helen Benyl Duleep Singh (1889-1926). Not a single grandchild of Maharajah Ranjit Singh had any children. Many ascribe this as the curse of the `Koh-i-Noor`.

The very last ancestor of Maharajah Ranjit Singh was princess Bamba, who lived in Lahore after 1947. She claimed she was the Rani of Punjab, and often was seen quarrelling with the bus conductors of the Model Town Bus Service who wanted her to pay her bus fare. “How dare you ask the Rani of Punjab for bus fare”? Ultimately, the old residents of Model Town prevailed on the MTS administrators not to ask her for her bus fare. She died in 1957 and was buried in the Christian Graveyard on Jail Road. Her grave can still be seen, for a secret admirer still leaves roses on her grave every day. Who is that person? We will dwell on that in another piece.