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CHASING THE MOUNTAIN OF LIGHT: Across India on the Trail of the Koh-i-Noor Diamond.

CHASING THE MOUNTAIN OF LIGHT: Across India on the Trail of the Koh-i-Noor Diamond by Kevin Rushby (Constable, 18.99 [pounds sterling], hb)

Inspired by a meeting with a diamond smuggler in Ethiopia Kevin Rushby sets out to trace the bloodied path of the mysterious and much fabled Koh-i-Noor diamond through history -- a diamond surrounded by superstition which some called cursed -- much loved by the Indian royalty for centuries before being claimed for Queen Victoria and remaining to this day in Britain's much disputed possession.

The path Rushby traces is the same route that all the diamond traders in India had taken. Having found the diamond mines of Golconda in the South, Rushby is keen to find out more about the rulers and their stones. He heads west to Mughal country and then North to Delhi. Delhi, in particular, he brings alive, describing in depth its historical and colonial past whilst suggesting that much of it's history is disappearing under the tidal wave of modern economic development.

The trail, which becomes increasingly dangerous as he progresses, shows him all sides of life in the diamond trade. De Beers is elegant and characterless whilst Bombay is home to grimy offices with betel-stained stairways. He comes across dealers, smugglers and petty thieves and learns how, in the past, diamonds gave the illiterate underclass a chance to succeed with democracy ensuring that the stone beloved of kings became the stone of everyman.

Whilst travelling, Rushby cuts a swathe through India's rich history from the eleventh century. He explores the ironies behind the quest for the diamond, telling a story about a precious stone which in itself had a perfect beauty coupled with a great spiritual power. Yet it generated unmitigated greed, intrigue and mad obsessions.

Chasing The Mountain of Light is no ordinary traveller's tale. Rushby's journey pursues unusual avenues and he does not waver from his quest into an unceasing social or political commentary. With modern India and the India of history consistently interwoven at times it is a complex read, but it is also well worth the challenge.

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Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Ransom, Sophie
Publication:Geographical
Article Type:Book Review
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jun 1, 1999
Words:347
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