Where is The Mountain of Light? The diamond cutters have taken away too much- this is not a mountain anymore, but a hill, a hillock, a mere bump in the horizon. – Prince Dalip Singh
One of the oldest jewels of our world, which was India’s crowning glory, The Kohinoor Diamond. A diamond which saw everything, empires rising and falling, betrayal, love, adventure and conquest. The Mountain of Light by Indu Sundaresan is a historical fiction about The Kohinoor Diamond. Legends say that Lord Krishna gave Kohinoor Diamond as a reward to one of his devotees for his meditation. But the first recorded mention is in the memoirs of Emperor Babur, who received it from a Hindu Raja he had defeated.
The Mountain Light starts with an author’s note on journey of The Kohinoor diamond from India to England. The information is pretty helpful during the story but the note isn’t any less dramatic than the story. The book has been written in five events in Chronological order. In the first part, Shah Shuja, the exiled ruler of Afghanistan has taken shelter in Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s Shalimar Garden. And his wife, Wafa Begum is the owner of Kohinoor diamond, Ranjit Singh has put in the condition of Shuja’s freedom by handing over the diamond to him. Both Shuja and his wife fight till their last, but ultimately, Ranjit Singh gets his hands on the diamond. The second part describes Ranjit Singh and his wife Jindan Kaur, who has recently given him a son and heir to the throne, Dalip Singh. Ranjit and Jindan have been seen trying to make Britishers comfortable in their territory.
The third part takes us to the time when Britishers have a hold on India, and Dalip Singh is only six years old. But even at such a small age, he commands respect from Britishers, just like his father had. He meets Henry, a soldier in the British Infantry who has the responsibility of managing Maharaja’s Toshkhana where all his empires Jewels are kept, including The Mountain of Light, The Kohinoor. Both Henry and Prince forge a friendship, which at one point was not acceptable by the British empire. The fourth part tells the tale when Col Mackasen and Ramsay were given the responsibility to take The Kohinoor to England on a ship. At one point during their journey, they almost lost the diamond to some one very close. But they were able to retrieve it on time.
The fifth and the final part describes Prince Dalip Singh’s journey to England with his Guardians appointed by the British Empire. There, he converts to Christianity and starts adapting towards his new life, slowly and gradually. But then a day comes when he realizes that he has lot the title that once his father had, and he has lost the diamond as well. The Mountain of Light was now just a piece of stone, perfect to fit into Queen of England’s throne. The story ends with Dalip Singh and his daughter staying in Paris, sharing stories from his diary and remembering the golden days of India, a time when Prince Dalip Singh was the rightful owner of The Kohinoor, The Mountain of Light.
Overall, the story turned out to be an amazing read for us. The beauty of Indu Sundaresan’s writing is that you let it seep into you slowly. You cannot rush with her books, you need to understand each character and each twist and turn which contributes to the beauty of the book. There are many supporting characters also in The Mountain of Light, like General Avitable, Henry, Emily and Fanny etc. Each has played their character beautifully and have contributed a lot to the making of the story. We loved the sudden twists and turns in the book. At one time, an individual thinks that The Kohinoor will be their’s forever. But as soon as you turn the page, it has already slipped out of his hands. The Mountain Of Light is written in such a way that it will always keep you engaged.
All in all, The Mountain of Light is an insightful and enlightening look into the history of the World’s greatest diamond, The Kohinoor. Writing of Indu Sundaresan is lush yet focused with a vivid description of India’s crowning jewels and beautiful landscapes and traditions. As a historical fiction piece, I recommend this book to everyone who love to read this genre. For others, make sure to read it slowly and don’t rush with it.
It’s not just The Kohinoor’s story, It’s a journey to relish.