The Mountain of Light

The curse of the Koh-i-Noor diamond has traveled with its owners from India to Afghanistan to Great Britain. Stories date its age at 5000 years, the prize jewel of the great Hindu god, Krishna. It made its journey into the world of men through duplicity, stolen by a slave while the god lay sleeping. Supposedly any male bearer will be met with the fate of the diamond's ancient curse, and indeed the historical records of the diamond are filled with stories of treachery, war and malice. Several legends and rumors surround the famous jewel.

How the Koh-i-Noor Received its Name

Legend has it that Nadir Shah searched all over Delhi when he conquered India attempting to recover the famed diamond. Unable to find it, he was tipped off by a member of the Emperor Mohammed Shah's personal harem that the jewel lay in the Emperor's turban. Nadir invited the Emperor to a victory celebration, and capitalizing on a well-known Oriental custom he suggested that the two leaders exchange turbans as a sign of good faith. The Emperor could not refuse without gravely insulting the conquerer. Later that night Nadir unfolded the turban and found the diamond, at which point he exclaimed, "Koh-i-Noor!," which means 'Mountain of Light.' He brought the jewel back with him when he returned to Persia.


Varying claims are made as to the rightful owner of the cursed jewel. In 2000 the Taliban regime in Afghanistan claimed that they were the rightful owners and that the Indian Moguls had originally stolen the jewel from Afghan rulers. However, the Sikhs of India and Britain both claim the jewel as their own. Under these conflicting claims and an inability to firmly establish ownership, the jewel is likely to stay with the British.

  • 1304 First reliable record of the diamond in the memoirs of Babur, who established the Mogul dynasty. It is mentioned as part of the treasure recovered by Ala-ud-deen (Aladdin) at the conquest of Malwah.
  • 1526 Comes into the possesion of the Mogul emperor, Rajah of Malwa.
  • While in the possession of Emperor Aurungzebe, the diamond is reputedly cut from 793 to 186 carats due to the incompetence of the royal lapidary, Borgio.
  • 1739 Nadir Shah of Persia conquers India and lays siege to Delhi. Gains the Koh-i-Noor by means of a trick.
  • After the death of Nadir, the diamond is gained through treachery and rebellion by his former captain of horse and lord of the royal treasury, Ahmed Shah. He later becomes King of Afghanistan.
  • 1849 After the Sikh rebellion, the East India Company secure the Punjabi state of Lahore and take the Koh-I-Noor as a concession of surrender. It was presented as a gift to Queen Victoria who decided to have it recut as a brilliant.
  • 20th century It was transferred to the crown of Queen Mary in 1911 and then Queen Elizabeth for her coronation in 1937. It is now on display with the British Crown Jewels in the Tower of London.

Also see kohinoor for a brief Webster 1913 definition. My research sees the name usually spelled with hyphens.   first published by W.S. Ward in the July 1872 edition of Appleton's Journal of Science, Literature and Art