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DIAMOND IN INDIA

5. The Panna Group in Bundelkhand.

This, the most northerly group of Indian diamond mines, is situated between the Khan and Son rivers in latitude 25º N., and lies on the northern margin of the Bundelkhand plateau where this borders the plain of the Ganges and Jumna. Some of the mines lie in the immediate neighborhood of Panna (Punnah), to the south-west of Allahabad on the Ganges, others are further away to the west, south and east of this town; all are classed together as the Panna mines. Large stones are not known to occur in this district nor do any appear to have been found in former times, though the number of smaller diamonds of good quality found now as well as formerly is considerable. The form of the crystals is that of the octahedron or of the rhombic dodecahedron. They occur in the special diamantiferous stratum and in the loose surface material derived from the weathering of the same, and have also been transported with river-gravels. The diamond stratum here belongs, as previously remarked, not to the Lower, but to the Upper Vindhyan formation.

In the neighborhood of Panna, especially to the north and northeast, there are numerous mines; the most important lie close to the town and occupy altogether an area of less than twenty acres. The diamond-bearing stratum is sometimes not more than a span in thickness, and it lies deeper here than at other places where such a stratum is worked, being overlain by a bed of clay of considerable thickness containing pebbles and rock-fragments; these consist usually of sandstone, but at the base of the bed there are numerous fragments of ferruginous laterite. The absence of solid rock above the diamond-bearing stratum makes it impracticable to work the latter for any considerable distance underground; in order to reach this it is therefore necessary to excavate wide and deep pits, measuring about 20 yards across and 10 to 15 yards in depth, a proceeding which involves much labor and time. The diamantiferous stratum consists of a ferruginous clay which contains besides diamonds, fragments of sandstone, quartz, hornstone, red jasper, &c., and deserving of special mention, a green quartz (prase), the abundant occurrence of which is considered a good sign by the diamond seekers. The interior of a diamond mine in this district is illustrated. The soldiers of the native ruler watch the miners at work in the wide pit. On the left of the drawing are seen the baskets in which the excavated material is hauled up to the surface for subsequent treatment; towards the right is represented a series of earthen bowls, arranged as a chain-pump, for removing water from the pit. In the mines of Kainariga, north-east of Panna, the diamond-bearing stratum consists of loose, ferruginous earth; it is overlain by a bed 20 feet thick of the firm and coherent Rewah sandstone interbedded with bands of shale. The solidity of the superimposed rock allows the diamond-bearing stratum to be worked underground from the bottom of the pits for some distance, so that the work is here much lighter than at Panna. There are also several mines at Babalpur, all of which are now abandoned.

At Birjpur, to the east of Kamariga and near to Babalpur, there are mines standing on the right bank of the upper course of the river Baghin. The diamond-bearing stratum differs from that at Kamariga, being firm conglomeratic sandstone, which- crops out at the surface and overlies other sandstones; the mining of diamonds is here, therefore, comparatively easy. At all the mines mentioned above the diamond-bearing stratum it is worked; the workings in the remaining mines of this group are, however, in the various sands and gravels derived from this stratum.

At Majgoha (Maigama), southwest of Panna and the most westerly point of the district occupied by this group of mines, the mode' of occurrence of the diamonds is peculiar. They lie in a green mud, which is penetrated by veins of calcite and is covered by a thick deposit of calcareous travertine or tufa. This mud is found in a conical depression in the sandstone, about two-thirds of which it fills. This depression is 100 feet deep and 100 yards wide and being cone-shaped diminishes in diameter as its depth below the surface increases; it may possibly be an old diamond mine filled up by the green mud. The miners work to a depth of 50 feet and assert that the mud increases in richness as greater depths are reached. The mine is now apparently abandoned; it is not, however, considered to be exhausted but is reserved for future working.

The mines at Udesna and Sakeriya are of some importance; at the latter place, the diamantiferous gravel is overlain by yellow clay and in part also by laterite. These mines have been worked until recent times, and possibly may not be altogether abandoned even now. At Saya Lachmanpur, fourteen miles from Panna, diamonds are found on the top of Bindachul hill. Finally, we must notice the l6ng stretch of sands iii the valley of the Baghin River below Birjpur. The principal mines are at the lower end of the upper part of the valley, where the pebbly diamantiferous stratum is overlain by about 12 feet of dark brown clayey sand.-At the upper end of the valley are two waterfalls, each with a fall of 100 feet, and at the foot of each diamonds are collected at levels which are respectively 700 and 900 feet below that at which the diamond-bearing stratum occurs in situ.

The Panna mines are at present the most productive diamond mines in India. The profits of the workers are, however, greatly diminished by the heavy tribute exacted by the native princes, to whom the land on which the mines are situated (with the exception of Saya Lachmanpur) belongs. All stones exceeding 6 ratis in weight are appropriated, together with one-fourth of the value of all other stones found. In spite of this exaction, more than three-fourths of the inhabitants of Panna and the surrounding villages obtain their livelihood by searching for diamonds. Owing to the oppressive taxation, dishonesty is rife among the workers, stones being concealed whenever opportunity occurs.

Another place at which diamonds -are said to have been found is Simla, on the lower ranges of the Himalayas and to the north of Delhi, this locality being thus quite removed -from the districts described above~. Here, about 1870, a few diamonds are reported to have been found after a great storm; this occurrence is by no means an established fact, but it agrees with an old Indian tradition that diamonds have been found in the Himalayas.

From the mines of these various diamantiferous districts have been derived the enormous number of diamonds, often of large size and great beauty, which, in the course of centuries, have slowly accumulated in the treasuries of Indian princes or have been used in the gorgeous adornments of idols, sacred shrines, and temples. Up to the tenth century almost all the diamonds discovered remained in the country, and it was not till the invasion and plunder of India by other nations that any portion of these treasures was carried away, first into other eastern countries and subsequently into Europe. The first of these occasions was the invasion by the Persians under Mahmud of Ghazni, at the end of the tenth and the beginning of the eleventh century. The magnificence and number of the diamonds amassed in India at that time is related by Ferishtah, the Persian historian of the rise of the Mohammedan power in India. We learn from his account, which was published in 1609, that Mohammed the first, of the Ghuridem dynasty in Persia, who in 1186 founded the Mohammedan rule in India, left at his death 500 muns (=400 lbs.) of diamonds; all this enormous treasure he had amassed during the thirty-two years of his Indian sway. Europeans became acquainted with the riches of India mainly through the writings of the Italian traveler Marco Polo, who at the end of the thirteenth century spent many years in Central Asia, China, etc. According to C. W. King, the Portuguese writer Garcias ab Horto was the first to publish, in 1565, any authentic account of Indian diamonds. Towards the end of the seventeenth century the French traveler Tavernier made himself intimately acquainted with the occurrence and mining of diamonds in India, and succeeded in actually viewing the wealth of precious stones amassed by the Great Mogul, Aurungzebe. Tavernier, who in the capacity of a merchant in precious stones spent the years between 1665 and 1669 in India, wrote a detailed description of his journeying about the country, which is at the present time of the greatest value.

As commercial relations between Europe and the Orient gradually arose and developed, an increasing number of Indian stones found their way into Europe. The principal Indian market for diamonds, and indeed for all precious stones, was, and still is, Madras. At the time of the annexation of India by Britain, a considerable number of Indian stones found their way into English hands; this was the fate of the most famous and beautiful of Indian diamonds, the "Koh-i-noor" Originally the property of the ruler of Lahore, this diamond passed on the dethronement of this prince into the possession of the East India Company, by whom if was presented in 1850 to Queen Victoria.

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This document is in the public domain.

March, 2011