In January, 1850, Lord Dalhousie, the Governor-General of India, travels down the Indus River to Karachi,
a precious package looped around his belt. Dalhousie has just left the newly annexed Punjab Empire and its heir,
the eleven-year-old Maharajah Dalip Singh—on departing, he takes with him one item from the empire’s enormous treasury.
Arriving at Bombay, Lord Dalhousie deposits this in the treasury at Fort George.
There the parcel tarries until April, when it is carried on a Royal Navy ship to England in the charge of two men,
who are the only ones on board who know of its contents.
A few days later, the Queen of England, Victoria, opens the seals on the package and holds in her hand a mammoth 186 carat diamond set
in a gold armlet, flanked by two smaller diamonds.
The Kohinoor diamond has safely arrived in England, in the greatest of secrecy, and only then is the news blazoned forth.
The Kohinoor—translated from Persian as 'a mountain of light'—is one of the world’s most magnificent diamonds, originating in
India, owned over centuries, by various rulers in India, Persia and Afghanistan.
The Mountain of Light begins in 1817, with the ruler of Afghanistan promising, and giving, the diamond to Dalip’s father,
Maharajah Ranjit Singh. A prior Governor-General and his sisters travel to Ranjit Singh’s court, to ask for his help in a war,
and to admire his diamond. When Ranjit dies, two Anglo-Sikh wars intervene, leading to the Punjab Empire being dissolved and
added to British lands in India.
The young heir to the empire, Dalip Singh, is escorted out of his lands, put under the guardianship of British officials, brought up to
become an English gentleman. He follows the Kohinoor to England, meets the queen, is feted and petted there for a long while…until
he realizes—as he grows into manhood—that nothing can replace the loss of his empire, his treasury, and his Kohinoor.
Indu Sundaresan’s sixth work of fiction, The Mountain of Light, is a brilliant tale of love, adventure, loss and betrayal,
wrapped around the glowing heart of one of the world’s most famous diamonds.