India's iconic lost diamonds

Stones found in the vast mines of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana now adorn crowns and museums worldwide.

Hyderabad: It’s not just the Kohinoor, around 20 world famous diamonds were mined from Kollur-Paritala of Guntur, Krishna districts in Andhra Pradesh (popularly called Golconda diamonds). These gems are now in museums worldwide or are part of various crown jewels — far away from home.

Archaeologists and historians from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are now demanding that both the Centre and the state government should push ahead for the return of the diamonds.

Besides the Kohinoor, which is on the crown of the British monarch, the Pitt or Regent Diamond from Pritala is housed in the Louvre in Paris and the Orloff (Eye of Brahma) is in Moscow. Then there are the Hope diamond (recently auctioned), the Darya-i-Nur, the Taj-e-Mah diamond and the Great Table diamond in the Iranian crown jewels in Tehran, the Dresden Green diamond in the Green Vaults in Poland and others in Vienna.

Read: Sparkling Andhra Prades, Telangana still remain untapped

According to the Geological Survey of India: “Along the banks of Krishna River, aptly termed as the Diamond River, for the length of 300 km between Sangam, the confluence of the Krishna and Tungabhadra rivers, and Vijayawada in AP, particularly Kolluru-Paritala belt, was the scene of intense mining activity, producing a galaxy of stunning diamonds such as Kohinoor, The Great Mogul, The Pitt or Regent, The Orloff, The Nizam and the Hope… Historical accounts though differ on the authenticity of the period of their recovery, and their weights, but all point to the Krishna Valley as the source.”

GSI says the famous conglomerate mines were at Ramallkota, Banganapalle, Vajragiri and Munimadugu in Kurnool district and Kolluru in the vast Guntur district.

Large diamonds were not only recovered from the Krishna gravels but also from the mines of Wajrakarur area known for Kimberlite bodies under the Vijaynagar kingdom.

Researcher Ms Sangam Pushpa Sambi Reddy of Guntur, who has written the book, Telugunata Vajrala Ganulu, says: “Andhra, Rayalaseema were the sources of precious and rare diamonds and those were delivered not only to the state and country but to the world.

“Monarchs around the world, from France, German, Portugal, Russia, Britain and Iran placed on their crowns diamonds that originated from Andhra and Rayalaseema. Around 38 diamond mines existed in Andhra and Rayalaseema during the 16th to 18th centuries,” she adds.

Read: The Hope diamond and its many ‘curses’

Kollur has been referred to as Gani or Coulour during the Moghul period and Ralconda near Kurnool of Rayalaseema has been mapped as diamond mines in the 1600s.

According to Ms Pushpa there are records that show the Ramallkota diamond mine in Kurnool region had about 30,000 labourers working each day.
Paritala, which now falls in Kanchikacharla mandal of Krishna district, was part of Jujjur Khanan during Nizam’s rule till 1946.

Archaeologist Mr E. Sivanagi Reddy says, “The diamonds mined from Andhra are the property of India. The state government should take up this issue with the Centre and work to get them back.”

Dr Krishnasagarapu Upendra, a researcher from the Dravidian University and author of 1947 Nati Paritala Republic Palana, says that Nizam Hisamul Mulk Khan had handed over Jujjur Khanan and other regions of coastal district to the British on May 14, 1759 while retaining Paritala and six other villages which had diamond mines.

“The Regent diamond that originated from Paritala was found by a slave who was later murdered. A suicide followed and then the Regent was sold to Governor Thomas Pitt of Fort George in Madras. It was purchased by the Regent of France, owned by French kings and then by Napoleon Bonaparte. Finally, after France became a republic, it was kept in the museum.”

Read: Why Andhra Pradesh gems got the ‘Golconda’

In the book Diamond Pitt, Ann Wardlaw writes: “From an obscure mine in Golconda, India, the Regents diamond had travelled a memorable distance, surviving revolution, native insurrections and unspeakable violence to now rest in a filthy shaking hand spattered with blood — a 426-carat evidence of man’s madness and greed… once transformed, it would reclaim its place of honour and its beauty and perfection would… be admired by thousands at the Louvre Museum, who would never know or believe the magical and tragic history that surround Thomas Pitt and his precious stone.”

Most of these mines were active till 1830 and slowly, yield fell... only to be abandoned later. But even to this day, during the wettest months, people still search the mud for diamonds, in both Kollur and Paritala.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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