02 January, 2019

KOH - I - NOOR by William Dalrymple and Anita Anand - [Book Review]

Book Details:

Title: Koh-i-noor - The story of the world's most infamous diamond

Authors: William Dalrymple and Anita Anand

Genre : History

Length of the book : 352 pages

Source : A free review copy from Juggernaut


From the internationally acclaimed and bestselling historians William Dalrymple and Anita Anand, the first comprehensive and authoritative history of the Koh-i-Noor diamond, arguably the most celebrated jewel in the world.

On March 29, 1849, the ten-year-old leader of the Sikh kingdom of Punjab was ushered into the magnificent Mirrored Hall at the center of the British fort in Lahore, India. There, in a formal Act of Submission, the frightened but dignified child handed over to the British East India Company swathes of the richest land in India and the single most valuable object in the subcontinent: the celebrated Koh-i-Noor diamond, otherwise known as the Mountain of Light. To celebrate the acquisition, the British East India Company commissioned a history of the diamond woven together from the gossip of the Delhi Bazaars. From that moment forward, the Koh-i-Noor became the most famous and mythological diamond in history, with thousands of people coming to see it at the 1851 Great Exhibition and still more thousands repeating the largely fictitious account of its passage through history.

Using original eyewitness accounts and chronicles never before translated into English, Dalrymple and Anand trace the true history of the diamond and disperse the myths and fantastic tales that have long surrounded this awe-inspiring jewel. The resulting history of south and central Asia tells a true tale of greed, conquest, murder, torture, colonialism, and appropriation that shaped a continent and the Koh-i-Noor itself.

My Review:

This is the story of the most infamous diamond 'Kohinoor' which crossed the continents, which was the cause of wars and robberies, which has moved from one king to another and at last entered the British crown.

I was reading about Kohinoor from childhood and so, this topic is interesting to me even though I am not a history buff. 

The initial pages of the book are boring as there is no clear evidence of where the Kohinoor was found/ seen before it entered the Mughal kingdom. But, the authors have written on multiple instances of its reference in Vijayanagara kingdom, Nizam's rule etc., The book covers the detailed history of Mughal kingdom's decline after Muhammad Shah(Rangila), Nader shah's cruelty, his conquests in India, the diamond moving to Persia and then to Afghanistan and returning back to Ranjit Singh, King of Punjab from Shah Shuja. 

It is indeed frightening to read how much violence is caused because of this kind of precious stones. The way the British (especially Lord Dalhousie) dealt with the young king of Punjab Duleep Singh by forcing him to give the Kohinoor to Queen Victoria, separating him from his mom and Rani Jindan is manipulative and cunning. 

It is interesting to know the circumstances that made the Kohinoor a curse to the owners. I felt bad to read about the cut done on the diamond in London which made it lose its major mass. It is disappointing that British is still strong on not returning the diamond back to the country it belongs.

The book also covers the recent incidents of politicians asking for the return of Kohinoor to India including the PM Modi's visit to London where he didn't bring up this topic with the royal family. 

A small, but invaluable diamond seems to bring mixed fortunes wherever it went and created its own place in the world's history. 

What I liked about the book?
The narration is interesting with facts. Even though I don't like history, it is written well and thus gripping till the end. The highlight of the book is that it covered even the recent events about Kohinoor. The authors have done thorough research and are knowledgeable on the topic which is plus point of the book.

My Rating: 4.5/5

I recommend this to all history lovers and fiction lovers alike who love to know about this infamous diamond.

PS: I have received a complimentary copy of the book from juggernaut for review and this is my honest opinion on the book.

About the Authors:

William Dalrymple is an acclaimed historian and a bestselling and award-winning author whose books include City of Djinns, White Mughals, The Last Mughal, Nine Lives and Return of a King. 

Anita Anand has been a radio and television journalist in Britain for over twenty years, presenting major programmes on BBC. Her first book, Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary, is a highly acclaimed biography of the daughter of Maharaja Duleep Singh, the last ruler of Punjab, who was forced to hand over the Koh-i-Noor to the British after they annexed his kingdom in 1849.

Until next time,

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