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huma_xceptionIT IS WHILE HUNTING at Persepolis that Humayun inadvertently demonstrates some signs of his ordained greatness or luck. Picture a deer bounding at you from an impossible direction, going first left and then right as frantic deers are wont to be. Picture everyone in the Persian team including Tahmasp looking on slyly, rooting for the failure of the Indian sovereign at this symbolic test. When Humayun’s arrow succeeds in catching the deer behind its ear, it has the effect of proving more than his marksmanship.

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The Persian camp are in awe. Image: From 18th C painting, Humayun hunting near Kabul

The reaction in the Persian ranks is akin to what you would expect from a gang of cultured school bullies, who after taunting a newcomer, hears him give it back fluently and with authority. In truth, Humayun is himself taken aback by the accuracy of his aim. He’s never really honed his skills, never understood the point in hunting down doe-eyed, wonderstruck creatures of the wild.  He picks up astonished comments. ‘a fortunate prince’, ‘the mark of a sovereign’, doing the rounds of the hunting party. Tahmasp, a tad overshadowed, quickly looks away and points at something in another direction.

While Humayun may be dissolute and inconsistent, this incident reminds us once again that his luck is exceptional. The astrologist at Umerkot confirmed his destiny by reading a glowing future for Humayun – likening his greatness to that of Harsha Vardhan of Thanesar, the Last Victorious Circuit of the four quarters of the Earth.  

Back at the present hunting party meanwhile, Humayun figures this to be as good a time as any to tackle Tahmasp’s tone of expectation with a gift. That very day he reluctantly places the Kohinoor, the largest diamond in his possession into a box lined with mother of pearl, and dispatches a tray with this and a scattering of precious stones to Shah Tahmasp. Accompanying this gift is a message that these jewels have been carried from Hindustan expressly for the Persian monarch.

Tahmasp is stunned. The sight of the Syamantaka mani (believed to be the jewel of Surya, the Sun God; only later does it come to be referred to as the Kohinoor) is enough, but he sends the tray of treasures for evaluation anyway and he is told that the stones are simply priceless.  It may be fair to say that the King of Persia has been signally overwhelmed and overshadowed. That he questioned the worth of a sovereign so powerful. That Humayun could so casually hand him a diamond that purchased Persia several times over.

Tahmasp is ashamed. But parting with the Syamantaka was not easy for Humayun.

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