Season 1, Episode 2

Jewels of the Maharajas

In the 18th century, Delhi was among the richest capitals and ruled by the Mughals, who were known for their riches and an enormous treasury containing invaluable emeralds, rubies and diamonds extracted from the bed of the “Diamond River” Krishna in South India. 

Many of these jewels turn up routinely on global auction markets today, but their histories and significance to South Asia are often lost.

The jewels of the Maharajas symbolized power and connection with the divine. They hinted at the perfection of Nature. Anyone who wanted to be a greater ruler wanted the jewels to prove that they should indeed be on the throne. 

When a humble shepherd’s son in Persia became King, he wanted the jewels of the Mughals in Hindustan. The wealth would help maintain his large and expensive army.

In 1739, Nader Shah descended the Khyber Pass, like Tamerlane did 300 years before him. He looted the Mughal treasury and carried away centuries of accumulated wealth from Hindustan. Among them was the legendary Koh-i-Noor diamond, studded into one of the peacocks on the legendary Peacock Throne, crafted by the Emperor Shah Jahan in the 17th century.

In this episode, we’ll tell you the epic story of Nader Shah, who’s one of the great military commanders of history. His life intersected tragically with the Kohinoor diamond and India — hearkening the end of his dynasty.

Time Markers (mins: sec)

  • 00:10 – Prologue – An encounter in Afghanistan
  • 03:20 – Intro – What the episode is about
  • 07:06 – Chapter 1 – A blemished diamond is bad luck
  • 09:06 – Chapter 2 – An upstart shepherd’s boy with royal ambitions
  • 16:22: The sack of Delhi
  • 20:42 – Chapter 3 – Nader Shah goes mad
  • 25:09 – Chapter 4 – New owners
  • 27:00 – Credits
Jewels of the maharajas

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Reading List

Amini, I. The Koh-i-noor diamond. (Roli, 2004).

Axworthy, M. Sword of Persia: Nader Shah, from Tribal Warrior to Conquering Tyrant.

The Crown Jewels. Historic Royal Palaces

Dalrymple, W. & Anand, A. Kohinoor: the story of the world’s most infamous diamond. (Juggernaut Books, 2016).

Durrani, N [@NafeesRehmanDr]. (2018, Oct 12). Yes, you’re correct with the reference and the story (attached with the tweet) here. [Tweet]. Twitter.

The European Magazine and London Review. Vol. 57 (1810) – 

Khorasan | Region, Location, & History. Encyclopedia Britannica

Koh-i-Noor: Six myths about a priceless diamond. BBC News (2016).

Kulkarni, U [@MulaMutha]. (2018, Oct 13). From #SolsticeAtPanipat ..The graphic description ‘maggots’ etc was edited out when I wrote in 2011. Dr. Ganda Singh’s book is of course very well researched [Tweet]. Twitter.

Koh-i-Noor and Nadir Shah’s Delhi loot. Times of India Travel

Kurultai. Wikipedia (2021).

Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence.

Malecka, Anna (2017). “Daryāye Nur: History and Myth of a Crown Jewel of Iran“. Iranian Studies. 51 (1): 69–96.

Malecka, A. The Great Mughal and the Orlov: One and the Same Diamond? Journ of Gemm 35, 56–63 (2016).

Malecka, A. Naming of the Koh-i-Noor and the Origin of Mughal-Cut Diamonds. Journ of Gemm 35, 738–750 (2017).

Sucher, S. D. & Carriere, D. P. The Use of Laser and X-ray Scanning to Create a Model of the Historic Koh-i-Noor Diamond. Gems & Gemology 44, 124–141 (2008).

Sultan Husayn. Wikipedia (2021).

Timur. Wikipedia (2021).