down memory lane History & Culture

A Mughal stone for your zodiac

Agra Fort illuminated   | Photo Credit: Sandeep Saxena

Where has all the treasure of the Mughals gone? There is no trace of it. But if you believe an old man, that vast collection of gold, silver, and precious stones was not looted, nor usurped by the British. It was pawned to the bullion dealers of Agra, Delhi, Lahore, and Jaipur. At least a substantial part of it was, by the pauper Mughal kings and princes, who were nevertheless great believers in the power bestowed by precious stones.

The old man sits on the pavement in Nabi Karim, Delhi, with a glass case in which are rings, pendants, brooches, necklaces, and ‘precious stones’. He hardly seems to get any customers, and the few that come out of curiosity go away with the proverbial flea in the ear. You tell him your zodiac sign and he will recommend the stone that will suit you best.

If your sign is Aries it’s a ruby for you, for Taurus it’s turquoise, for Gemini a Topaz, for Cancer a pearl, for Leo a diamond, for Virgo an agate, for Libra a sapphire, for Scorpio a bloodstone, for Sagittarius an amethyst, for Capricorn a garnet, for Aquarius an opal, and for Pisces an emerald.

The diamond is a coloured or tinted brilliant stone of pure carbon; the colour of the ruby varies from deep crimson or purple to pale rose; the turquoise is opaque, skyblue or greenish blue, and so on.

What happens if a Capricornian wears an amethyst? The old man shakes his forefinger: ‘He will lose his sense of judgement. An Aquarian may meet with an accident if he wears a bloodstone, a Sagittarian will fall from grace if he wears an emerald, just as a Libran will become restless if he spurns the sapphire.

One wonders at the words of the old man and his strong belief. You may believe his words or not and instead of buying a ruby or an agate just acquire a plain ring or a brooch. The old man only bargains for the stones and that too when he is satisfied that they will suit your sign. To support his belief he quotes the Mughals.

Some of the jewellers in Dariba, Chandni Chowk, have been in business since the time of Shah Alam during whose grandsire’s reign Nadir Shah invaded Delhi and took away enormous booty. The throne upon which the Mughal emperors sat — the famous Peacock Throne — was estimated to have cost six million sterling, and the palace was worthy of the throne.

Joannes de Laet, the Flemish geographer, philologist and naturalist, was a director of the Dutch East India Company. A contribution considered important to history is made by de Laet in his book on the Mughal empire. He states: “On the death of Akbar, grandfather of the prince now reigning (Shah Jahan), his treasurers were carefully counted and were found to amount in all, including gold, silver and copper wrought and unwrought, together with jewels and all manner of household commodities to ₹34 crores, ₹82 lakhs and ₹26,386.”

The treasure in Agra Fort was estimated at 20 million pounds. The six sub-treasures are in the fortresses of Gwalior, Narwar, Ranthambhor, Asirgarh, Rohtas and Lahore (the biggest of the six) was also pegged at 20 million. Jahangir’s famous chain of justice, which was about 27 metres long, and had 60 bells on it, was said to be made of pure gold and weighed six maunds.

The Mughal treasures increased considerably during the reigns of Jahangir and Shah Jahan. The latter, according to Mandelslo, had a store of ₹3,000 million while King Henry VII, who died in 1509, left about 18,00,000 in bullion and was considered rich at the time.

Although the fabulous wealth has gone its way, the bullion merchants are still rich. Not so the old man of Nabi Karim who sells imitations stones and dreams of real ones which belonged to the Mughals.

The author is a veteran chronicler of Delhi

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 11:25:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/where-has-all-the-treasure-of-the-mughals-gone/article27183658.ece

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