Kohinoor: The History of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond: An Excerpt

On 16 May, after fifty-seven catastrophic days in Delhi, Nader Shah finally left the city, carrying with him the accumulated wealth of eight generations of imperial Mughal conquest. The greatest of all his winnings was the Peacock Throne, in which was still embedded both the Koh-i-Noor and the Timur Ruby. The loot was loaded on to ‘700 elephants, 4,000 camels and 12,000 horses carrying wagons all laden with gold, silver and precious stones’.

There was a haemorrhage of booty during the first weeks of the retreat, ‘jettisoned by the wayside or carried off by the bare-bottomed peasants of the area’, according to Nader Shah’s court historian Astarabadi.

As the army passed over the bridge across the Chenab, every soldier was searched and, in order to avoid confiscation, many buried their treasures or tipped the gold and gems into the river, hoping to come back and retrieve their loot later. One camel loaded with jewels took fright and plunged into the river. Other pack animals carrying priceless loads of jewels and solid gold were lost fording the monsoon floodwaters, or fell down steep cliffs as the army wound its way through the Hindu Kush. But most of the extraordinary loot Nader Shah took from Delhi made it back to Khorasan, and was lost to South Asia for ever.

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Kohinoor: The History of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond, William Dalrymple, Anita Anand