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Koh-i-Noor Passes to Abdali

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Koh-i-Noor Passes to Abdali

By this time Ahmad Shah Abdali had established himself in Afghanistan and had no difficulty in overthrowing the forces of Shah Rukh Mirza, the grandson of Nadir Shah, who presented the Koh-i-Noor to Ahmad Shah Abdali.

Events were moving fast in Afghanistan. Abdali died and his son Jamna, an unworthy successor to the great fighter, ascended the throne. He clung to the Koh-i-Noor with great tenacity till his death in May, 1793. After changing hands among Jamna’s sons, Koh-i-Noor fell into the hands of Zaman Shah when he was fleeing for his life. He hid the jewel in a crevice in one of the walls of his prison cell. His younger brother Shuja Mirza entered Kabul victoriously and proclaimed himself king as Shah Shuja. He released the blinded Zaman Shah from his prison cell in recognition of which the later presented to him all his jewels including the Koh-i-Noor. Shah Shuja had little respite and made strenuous efforts to retain the throne but failed and was made a prisoner by the Governor of Attack. But before being captured he managed to send his family to the Punjab where they surrendered themselves to Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji.

On hearing the dreadful news of his capture, Wafa Begun, wife of Shah Shuja, sent reliable messengers to Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji to convey to the Maharaja that if by his benevolent efforts, Shah Shuja, was released and brought to Lahore and openly welcomed in the city, a priceless diamond would be presented to him for the favours. The Shah was released from Kashmir through the help of Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji and he decided to walk into his parlour. In March 1813, he reached Lahore and was received on behalf of the Maharaja by his son Kharak Singh with great honour and distinction.

Shah Shuja Presents Gem to Ranjit Singh Ji

The Maharaja lost no time in demanding the promised Koh-i-Noor. The Shah tried to evade the demand and put several conflicting excuses. The Shah said that he had lost it along with jewels and again he said that he mortgaged it for rupees six Kror at Kandhar. All stratagems, promises, persuasions, arguments and threats were used. It cast to save himself from the indignities which were offered to him and he produced a large Topaz (Pukhraj) and gave it to messengers for handing the same to Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji. Ranjit Singh at once sent for the jewellers who stated that it was not the Koh-i-Noor. The Shah was put under arrest. Ranjit Singh Ji was very angry with the Shah for withholding the Koh-i-Noor which he thought he was fully entitled to in view of the promise made by the Begum. Shah Shuja was told that Ranjit Singh was prepared even to buy it and an advance of Rs. 50,000/ was sent. Shah Shuja fell into the trap and gave an indication to sell the diamond. This confirmed the fact that Koh-i-Noor was with him. The Afghan King was offered a cashprice of Rs. 3,000,000/ and the grant of Jagir of Rs. 50,000/ per anum. Shah Shuja agreed and said that the Maharaja should personally take delivery of it. The exalted Maharaja on hearing this came out of the fort riding a horse and was received by Shah Shuja with great respect and honour, who bended his knees to him out of courtesy, while all the other dignitaries remained standing with folded hands. After a pause of an hour Ranjit Singh Jir’s patience was exhausted and he whispered into the ears of one of the attendants as to what the purpose of the meeting was. Shah Shuja made a signal to one of his servants who after a while brought in a small roll which he placed on the carpet at an equal distance between the two. When the Koh-i-Noor was presented to the Maharaja he asked for its price and was told that is price was the sword. As soon as he got the diamond he put it into his pocket and returned forthwith to gloat over his new possession. He held a grand Durbar in honour of this unique event and the city was ‘magnificently decorated and illuminated’. It was kept in safe custody and was worn only on state occasions for a short while. The Maharaja first used it as an armlet and then on his turban.

Mr. Osborne says: “The diamond is about an inch and a half in length and upwards of an inch width, is in the shape of an egg, is valued at about three million sterling, is very brilliant and without a flaw of any kind”.

The diamond remained with Ranjit Singh Ji till his death in 1839. During the last days of his illness prayers were offered and offerings were sent to the different shrines for his recovery and His Highness bestowed in charity money, jewels and other property worth fifty lakhs. The ailing Maharaja directed that the well -known Koh-i-Noor be sent to the temple of Jagannath. Muttering at the same time the great truth that ‘no one carried with him his worldly wealth’, and that such a bequest would perpetuate his name. But Misar Meli Ram, in charge of Toshakhana, objected to its being ‘State Property’.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji was fond of great pomp and show. His Durbars were imposing and he loved his valuable possessions, especially the Koh-i-Noor of which he was both fond and proud. The history of this diamond would have been different but for the faithful and loyal officer Dewan Beli Ram who saved it for the royal successors of Ranjit Singh Ji. Maharaja Kharak Singh Ji, who succeeded his father, was imprisoned and died while in custody and Naunihal Singh, his son, was killed by the collapse of a door of the Hazari Bagh while returning from the cremation of his father in 1840.

In January, 1841, Sher Singh, the second son of Maharaja Ranit Singh Ji, became king. He was a man of high ideals but ease-loving. One fine morning when Maharaja Sher Singh Ji was enjoying the sight of fountains emitting rosewater, Sanhawalia Sardars rushed into the fort, killed the Prime Minister Raja Dhayan Singh Ji and after that with one stroke of the sword they cut the head of the unsuspecting king. Raja Hira Singh, son of Raja Dhayan Singh, inflicted a crushing defeat to Sandhawalias. The fearless Sardars were beheaded and Maharaja Dalip Singh Ji, the infant son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji, was installed on the throne with Raja Hira Singh Ji as his Prime Minister.

Koh-i-Noor was presented to Maharaja Sher Singh Ji at the time of his coronation and after his assassination it came into the possession of the infant Maharaja Dalip Singh Ji.

In the British Hands

With a young and inexperienced king at the head of state, the Sikh nobles and Sardars, instead of rallying round their monarch and coming to the rescue of their tottering kingdom which Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji had built up with his might and wisdom, began to grind their own axes. Everyone of them was anxious for power and endeavoured by hook or crook to establish his own over-lordship. The result was that the mighty Sikh Empire which had struck terror into the hearts of Afghan warriors across the Indus came down with a crash. Jealousies within the ranks of Sikh nobility and treacherous British diplomacy led to the two Anglo-Sikh wars, the last of which resulted in the annexation of Punjab to the British Indian Empire.

The treaty with which the second Anglo-Sikh war ended was that the gem Koh-i-Noor should be surrendered by the Maharaja of Lahore to the Queen of England.

John Lawrence Loses Gem

Koh-i-Noor was brought out from the Toshakhana by Dr. Login who was placed in charge of the minor Maharaja. It was later handed over formally to the Punjab government in the custody of John Lawrence. John Lawrence was very careless. He wrapped it up in numerous folds of cloth, put it in an insignificant little box and thrust it into his waistcoat pocket. He went working as hard as usual and thought no more of the precious jewel. He put his waistcoat aside, quite forgetful of the box and its fabulous content.

About six weeks afterwards a message came from Lord Dalhousie saying that the Queen had ordered that the jewel be transmitted to her. Lawrence was deeply distressed and he profoundly regretted his carelessness. He soon found an opportunity to slip away to his private room and asked his bearer if he knew anything about the small box which was lying in his waistcoat. The bearer went to a broken tin box and produced the little box from it. ‘Open it’, said John Lawrence, ‘and see what is inside’. The bearer unfolded it but seemed unconscious of the treasure which he had in his keeping. ‘There is nothing here Sahib’, he said, ‘but a bit of glass’. Never before, whether flashing in the diadem of Turk and Mughal or in the uplifted sword of a Persian, Afghan or the Sikh conqueror, did the gem run a greater risk of being lost forever, than when it lay forgotten in the waistcoat pocket of John Lawrence or in the broken tin box of his aged bearer. Its journey from Lahore to Bombay was full of perils and is described by Col. Etherton in an article ‘Diamond that Dazzled the World’. In those days the road from Lahore to Bombay swarmed with robbers, dacoits and thugs. The thugs were the gangsters of their day and their instrument of destruction was a silk handkerchief with which, by a dexterous movement, they strangled their victims. Strangling was a religious cult with them and considered to be an honourable profession.

From Lahore to Bombay

Anyway, a trustworthy officer was chosen who carried the gem and his ride became a legend. The thugs had got the scent of the mission and the officer who was disguised as a Muslim merchant, had to contend with the most formidable confederation of thieves and murderers. The carrier was a brave man and he rode on Koh-i-Noor safe in his pocket. Every stranger was suspected, for, death had many disguises. But he trusted no one and slept as little as his strength would permit until at last he pulled into Bombay.

Koh-i-Noor Sails to London

When the diamond reached Bombay it was handed over to Lt.Col. Mackenson and Capt. Ramsay for taking it most carefully to London. The two officers sailed with their precious trust forthwith. On the 3rd, July, 1850, this unique jewel was personally presented to Her Majesty Queen Victoria. In 1851 it was exhibited in the great Hyde Park Exhibition. The exhibitors prepared a glass imitation of the historical Koh-i-Noor which is still preserved in the archives of the Lahore Museum. The year following, i.e. 1852, the diamond was subjected to an unfortunate cutting operation which cost 8,000 pounds.

Hitherto, since the arrival of the Maharaja Daleep Singh Ji in England, no one had talked to him about Koh-i-Noor. They knew that to him Koh-i-Noor meant something beyond a jewel of fabulous value. One day when Lady Login was riding with him in Rickmand Park she put the question in a casual manner, 'would you like to see the Koh-i-Noor again?' ‘Yes’, was his answer. ‘I would give a great deal to hold it again in my hand.’ ‘I was only a child when I surrendered it to Her Majesty by the Treaty, but now I am old enough to understand.’ This feeling was repeated to Her Majesty by Lady Login the next day.

Unknown to the Maharaja, who was engaged with the painter at the further end of the room, Her Majesty at once gave orders for the Koh-i-Noor to be sent for from the Tower. After a short interval there was a slight bustle near the door: the arrival of the jewel and its escort was announced and it was brought in and presented to Queen Victoria.

Daleep Singh Overwhelmed by Emotion

Taking the diamond in her hand, Her Majesty then advanced to the dais, on which the Maharaja was posed for this portrait and before the astounded young man realized what was passing, he found himself once more with the Koh-i-Noor in his hand, while the Queen was asking him if 'he thought it had improved', and whether he would have 'recognized it again'. At first sight, indeed, he would hardly have done so, the cutting and European setting had so altered its character, yet in spirit of these it remained still the 'Mountain of Light' and it was with some emotion and eagerness that he walked to the window and minutely examined it, making remarks on its diminished size and greater brilliancy, whilst the spectators could not but keep watching his movements with some anxiety. It was a nervous quarter of an hour for Lady Login. But when at length he had finished his inspection, Daleep Singh Ji walked across the room and, with a low obeisance, present the Koh-i-Noor to this sovereign, expressing in a few graceful words the pleasure it afforded him to have this opportunity of himself placing it in her hands. Whereupon he quietly resumed his place on the dais and the artist continued his work.

One cannot say whether the description given above of Daleep Singh Ji's self-possession and resignation must be wonderful.

After the recutting, the Koh-i-Noor was placed in the Royal Crown worn by the Queen of England. Why should the Koh-i-Noor adorn the crown of Queens and not the ruling monarchs or is it so by purpose? Since it had brought misfortune to so many rulers, it was perhaps thought safer to fix it in the crown of King’s consort, rather than in that of the King himself. And so now this historical diamond embellishes the Royal Crown of Queen Elizabeth.

The whole history of this ill-omened diamond is full of contradictory versions and of efforts to possess it. Kings were blinded, murdered and overthrown. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that Koh-i-Noor played a very important part in three countries, India, Persia and Afghanistan before it reached the shores of England to adorn the Crown of the Crown of the Queen of England.

Chapter Sixty-One


A Life Affirming System

Excerpts from articles by Dr. J. S. Mann, Santa Ana, California

and Dr. S.S. Sodhi, Halifax, Canada

Sikhism, which evolved into Khalsacentric living, an assertive way of life, attempted to decrease the dichotomy between spiritual life and empirical life. It challenged the initial structure through ‘structural inversion’ and ‘negation of the negations’. In Khalsacentric living, Sikhs reject the unreality of life, withdrawal from life, indulgence in asceticism or sanyas, rejection of varnas, caste systems, ritualism and avtarhood.

The Sikh Gurus developed a life affirming system and advised Sikhs to model after life as a venture of love, honesty and assertive living.

Khalsacentrism believes in Universal Consciousness and deep mystical saintliness. Sikhs' concept of God is ‘The Sole One’, The Creator, self-existent, without fear, without enmity, timeless, un-incarnated, gracious enlightener, benevolent, ocean of virtue and inexpressible. “And if you want to play the game of love with Him,” says the Guru, “come to me with your head on your palm.” (‘Head on palm’ in Punjabi means ‘toying with the death’ or ‘to be ready for a sacrifice’). Sikhs internalize these attributes daily by repeating them in prayers.

In Khalsacentric living, family life is a must. There is no room for recluses, ascetics, hermits. Rejection of celibacy in Sikhism has made the status of woman equal to the man. Guru Nanak pleads, “Why call a woman inferior when without woman, there would be none, and when it is she who gives birth to kings among men?”

Khalsacentrism believes in the importance of work and production. Work should not be divided through castes. A Sikh strives to break free from the convoluted cycle of caste versus non-caste. Sikhism recommends working and sharing incomes. Sikhism deprecates the amassing of wealth. According to the Sikh Scripture, “riches cannot be gathered without sin and do not keep company after death. God’s bounty belongs to all, but men grab it for themselves.” According to the Gurus, wealthy men have a responsibility of voluntarily sharing their assets.

Khalsacentrism fully accepts the concept of social responsibility. A tyrant, who dehumanizes and hinders in the honest and righteous discharge of a family life, has to be tackled. A Khalsa automatically takes up the role of the protector of people victimized by a tyrant, whether he is a helpless Brahmin from Kashmir or a powerless woman kidnapped by Ghazni for slave trade.

A Khalsa undergoes what modern psychologists call ‘positive disintegration’ or ‘cognitive dissonance’, because of his truthful living and reshaping his reality through internalization of the daily prayers. He evolves into a mystic by losing his ego. He starts seeing things clearly because his doors of perception are cleansed.

Guru Arjun, Guru Tegh Bahadur, Guru Gobind Singh, his four children and many followers up to the present time, followed this path of social responsibility and kissing martyrdom with a smile. This is Khalsacentrism in action, as modelled by the Gurus, who challenged the status quo and stayed defiant to the tyrants. Sikhism teaches politeness to friends and defiance to oppressors.

Through social partnership and resistance against falsity, the Khalsa becomes 'an instrument of God’s attributive will’ and wants to bring ‘Halemi Raj’ or the ‘Kingdom of God on Earth’.

By reciting and repeating ‘Naam’, the Khalsa stops seeing ‘lines’ in his reality. He becomes cosmocentric and the whole pain of the universe becomes his own pain. Egotism, the neurosis of the soul, dies through ‘Naam’.

Remembering God in the company of ‘sadh-sangat’ (congregation) is his vehicle of evolution. It is not the end of evolution as seen in other Eastern religions. ‘Naam’ is a method of cosmocentric reassuring and removing ‘I-am’ness’, the greatest malady of human beings. ‘Naam’ awakens the Will of God in human beings through love, contentment, truth, humbleness, other-orientedness, self-control and discipline.

‘Naam’ removes anger, lust, greed, envy, attachment and pride. After going through the stages of 'Naam Sinran' (recitation of God), a pure person is formed called ‘Khalsa’, to defend the claims of conscience against oppression, and to side with the good against the evil. He becomes the vanguard of righteousness by defining himself in the image of the Guru. Khalsa belongs to the egalitarian society and joins the cosmocentric universal culture where only the pure will be allowed to rule. Through the Khalsa, Guru Gobind Singh took Sikhism to the ‘Phoenix Principle of Khalsacentric’ - A Life Affirming System.

Khalsacentrism And Sikh Research, Dr. S. S. Sodhi, Halifax, Canada

It is a known fact that Darwin’s origin of species (1859) gave freedom to the imperialists, colonizers and ‘fitters’ to create the culture of the fitters. Using their linear and colonized mind, Eurocentric historians tried to fit Sikhism into a ‘social science, no-nonsense paradigm’. They also operated on the assumption that the researcher is separate from the object of study and in fact seeks to gain as much distance as possible from the object of study.

Dr. E. Trumpp came to India in 1869 to write a book about Sikhs for the benefit of the colonizers. Dr. Trumpp’s colonial mentality and occidental (westerly) reality were later picked up consciously or subconsciously by numerous historicism, rapidly trained in social science methodology with European traditions. They saw the Sikh Gurus as ‘political personalities’ and caused a great deal of hurt and stress to the Sikh community.

Many Eurocentric researchers are driven by greed or other individualistic motives. For instance, McLeod, who has written a lot about Sikhism since 1968, indicated through his articles in The Sikh Review, January and April 1994, that his own contradictions about Christianity and his repression affected his research of Sikhism. Numerous other researchers such as Pashaura Singh, Gurinder Mann and Oberoi have apparently sold their souls for landing university positions.

Khalsacentric research on the other hand believes in the essence, wholism, introspection and retrospection. It rejects the hypothetical, statistical, interventionist model of research and the use of European social science methods. A Khalsacentric researcher does not approach the subject of study with a prestored paradigm in his or her psyche.

Through retrospection, a Khalsacentric researcher questions to ascertain if the interpretations of his findings are causing psychic or spiritual discomfort to the people who belong to the culture under study.

A Khalsacentric researcher looks for the wholistic reality rather than a detached reality. He looks for the essence of the culture rooted in a particularistic view of reality. False propositions of one culture are not applied to study other cultures to produce a distorted and hurtful knowledge.

A Khalsacentric researcher seeks total immersion in the culture before rushing to study it. A researcher cannot stay separate from the object of the study. The distance distorts the view. A Khalsacentric researcher cleanses the doors of his perception through introspection of any pre-existing paradigms.

A Khalscentric researcher uses retrospection to see if the interpretation is not intentionally made convergent to

provide a 'good fit' to the existing paradigm of knowledge.

A Khalsacentric researcher does not use ‘freedom of expression’ as a crutch. His personality is very important and his knowledge of ethno-methodology of research is very crucial for the research outcome.

It must be pointed out that a Khalsacentric scholar assumes the right and responsibility of describing Sikh realities from the subjective faith point of view of the Khalsa values and ideals. He centres himself and the Sikh community in his research activity.

A Khalsacentric researcher recognizes the pivotal role of history and uses ideological, humanistic and emancipatory anti-racist awareness to formulate his hypotheses. Colonial, Calvinistic, elitist and arrogantly elect behaviour is not accepted in Khalsacentrism. Part of a mandate of Khalsacentric research is to screen out oppressive assumptions.

A Khalsacentric researcher stresses the importance of centring Sikh ideas, codes and symbols in Punjab as a place and the struggle that was put up to oppose the oppressive assumptions.

A Khalsacentric researcher self-consciously obliterates the subject/object duality and enthrones Khalsa wholism in his research.

The perceptive which a Khalsacentric researcher brings to the research exercise, depends upon his experiences, both within and outside the Sikh culture. When centring Khalsa values, the researcher must centre his own ideals. It is, therefore, important that Khalsacentric scholars declare who they are and what has motivated them to study Sikhism.

Even though Sikhism has become a living, assertive way of life, a Khalsacentric researcher can extract the specific values described in the first part of this article and apply them to 'discover himself'. These values are easily traceable in the Sikh scripture and ethos.

A Khalsacentric researcher rejects subject-object separation, encourages collectivism rather than individualism, grounds himself in complimentarily, leaves false consciousness of Eurocentric thinking, looks at struggles as a way of transferring human consciousness, makes research centred in its base community (Punjab), and gets himself embedded in Punjab experience of the last 500 years, familiarizing himself with language, philosophy and myths of the Sikhs through cultural immersion.

A Khalsacentric researcher must examine himself or herself in the process of examining the subject. The introspection and retrospection are two integral parts of Khalsacentric research. Introspection means that the researcher questions himself in regards to the subject under study. In retrospection, the researcher questions himself after the project is completed, to ascertain if any personal biases have entered or are hindering the fair interpretation of the results. He attempts to know how the community being studied will feel about the research findings.

The first question that a Khalsacentric researcher asks is, “Who am I?” In defining himself, he defines his place and the perspective he brings to the research exercise. The data collected must include the personal knowledge of the subjective faith of the researcher, his personality, functioning, experiences, motivation (repression, projection, spiritual, mystical) in order to provide some source of validation for the result of his inquiry.

The instrumental, non-believing Eurocentric researchers who take sadistic pleasure in trampling over the subjective faith of a minority community, have to be challenged and exposed. May God forgive them for the hurt they have caused. Perhaps they do no know what they are doing, because of the acute academic neurosis has made them linear, non-intuitive, convergent and myopically pathological.

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