A campaign for the Royal Family to return the world’s most expensive cut diamond to its rightful home in India has been reignited since Queen Elizabeth II‘s death.
Kohinoor, or Syamantaka (स्यमन्तक), is the name for the 105-carat diamond, estimated to be worth $591 million. It is currently mounted on a crown that sits on display with the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London.
The crown was worn by Queen Elizabeth and will be passed down to Camilla Queen Consort. But like most “British” treasures, it was stolen during colonisation.
The earliest record of the jewel dates back to the 12th century when it was likely found in the Golconda mines in southern India. It originally sat in the Hindu Bhadrakali Temple in what’s now the state of Andhra Pradesh and is said to belong to the Goddess Bhadrakali of Warangal.
The diamond was stolen several times in history and by 1800 was in the hands of the 11-year-old Sikh Maharajah of Lahore Duleep Singh in an area that now covers northern India and Pakistan. The region was the last to hold off colonisation but eventually fell in 1849 after a devastating British invasion.
The Kohinoor is the most expensive diamond in the world. The diamond originally belonged to a Hindu temple.
An object of British loot, It was forcibly seized from an 11 year old child Duleep Singh in a treaty after defeating him in war
The diamond adorns the English crown today pic.twitter.com/PP2iU00U3X
— Mr.B (@BharadwajAgain) September 11, 2022
The jewel was surrendered to the Crown as part of a peace treaty after thousands of Indians and Pakistanis were killed. Of course, India and Pakistan are new nations whose borders were drawn by the British following their capture, dividing communities along that border that lived together for millennia.
“The gem called the Kohinoor … shall be surrendered by the Maharajah of Lahore to the Queen of England,” the peace treaty said.
Indian parliamentarians signed a letter to Britain in 2000 calling for its return but were unsuccessful.
“It is a stark reminder of what colonialism truly was: shameless subjugation, coercion, and misappropriation,” Indian MP at the time Shashi Tharoor wrote in the letter.
When former UK Prime Minister David Cameron visited India in 2013 the public outcry grew louder. But he said if he were to give one thing back he’d have to give everything the British stole from India back and …yeah?
“If you say yes to one [request], you suddenly find the British Museum would be empty. I am afraid to say, it is going to have to stay put,” he said
Yes, the British Museum would indeed be empty. Nothing on display belongs there. All of it is loot from colonised nations, many of which are poverty-stricken.
After Elizabeth, her consort inherits Kohinoor. Was originally stolen from Bhadrakali Amman temple in Warangal by Delhi Sultanate, later acquired by British.
They are never giving it up, as if they start returning stolen colonial artefacts, entire British museum would be empty. pic.twitter.com/mUFNyn5HR8
— Cogito (@cogitoiam) September 10, 2022
British rule of India lasted 200 years until 1947. After 75 years of Indian independence and one dead British monarch, many are saying it is finally time for the Crown to give up the diamond and countless other treasures it stole. But unsurprisingly, we’ve seen no indications of capitulation.
The Queen Consort is due to wear the crown at King Charles III’s coronation, following the Queen’s funeral.
Where my south asians at? Somebody run and grab the kohinoor, it’s right there!
— Joy.mainah (@Jumainah_Nasir) September 14, 2022
The Horniman Museum in London returned artifacts stolen from Nigeria in August after a public campaign. It wasn’t the first nor will it be the last. The King’s going to have to address these calls sooner or later.