Podcast: Is the Koh-i-Noor Diamond Really Cursed?

The diamond is said to have travelled from the mines of the Deccan to the British crown jewels, wreaking havoc along the way.

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Sitting pretty in the Tower of London is the Koh-i-Noor diamond. And any man who wears the diamond will be cursed, goes the legend.

The origin of the Koh-i-Noor, a 105-carat stone, is shrouded by the mists of time. It was probably mined in the Deccan during the Vijayanagar Empire, likely sometime before the 13th century. From the start, the diamond had an imperfection, a scar, that ran through its centre. Cutting and polishing did not remove it entirely.

We first hear of the Koh-i-Noor in historical records in the 17th century (TK), when the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned his Peacock Throne, which was studded with precious jewels. On the canopy of the throne, in the eye of a peacock, was an enormous diamond. When the Persian Emperor Nader Shah, who conquered Delhi in 1739 and looted centuries of accumulated Mughal wealth, saw the diamond, he is said to have exclaimed “En Koh-i-Noore” – “This is a Mountain of Light!” in Persian. That is one origin story for the diamond’s name.

From then on, the diamond is mentioned in various historical accounts. It crossed from India to Persia with Nader Shah, and later crossed back into Afghanistan and India. It was bitterly fought over by kings who thought the jewel symbolised royal power. And it finally became part of the vast booty that the British extracted out of India over more than a century of occupation.

Many men who owned the Koh-i-Noor suffered a terrible fate. The last dynasty who owned it, the Sikhs ruled by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, had four heirs to the throne, one queen and many nobles murdered brutally as the kingdom changed hands. But does this mean the diamond is cursed?

In this episode of the Scrolls & Leaves podcast, we answer this question and it may surprise you. This episode is set in various places, from the Lahore Fort to Buckingham Palace, so please wear your headphones to experience the immersive sound design and travel into the past with us.