Diamond, a gem amongst gems the crystallized carbon and the hardest mineral known is a rare gift from mother earth to humanity. With admantine luster and twinkling habit it fascinated men and women from time immemorial. To win diamonds temples have been profaned, palaces looted, thrones torn to fragments, princes tortured, women strangled, guests poisoned and slaves disemboweled. No strain of fancy in an Arabian Tale has outstripped the marvels of fact in the diamond’s history. So wrote Garner Williams, the General Manager of the renowned Diamond Company De Beers,.
Indians were the first to discover and produce diamonds since India happens to be the homeland of all historical diamonds. It was the only country known for diamonds to the entire world till another source was found in Borneo in 1728 and subsequently in Brazil and South Africa. Ancient Indian scriptures and other books like Artha Sastra, Brihat Samhita and travel accounts of Marco Polo and Tavernier have projected a glorious picture of the ancient Indian diamond Industry. India was a dreamland for merchants, sailors and kings. In popular belief India remained as the "Country of Diamonds" and was subjected to invasion, wars and plunder.
Dr. Valentine Ball in his "Manual of Geology of India" divided all Indian diamond occurrences into three groups. Of these the "Southern Group" in South India drained by the Pennar, Krishna and lower part of Godavari rivers. The "Eastern Group" lies in the valley of the Mahanadi river and its tributaries, the Mand and the Ebe with outliers in Chotanagpur (Jharkhand) and in the Chanda district of Central Provinces, the principal localities being Sambalpur, Hirakud, Sonpur, Sumelpur (Jharkhand), and Wairagarh. Lastly, the "Central Group" lies in the Bundhelkhand of the Central Provinces stretching from Panna Eastwards to Rewa and NorthEastwards towards Allahabad.
Diamonds in Jharkhand:
Diamonds were found in Kokkomaj, a region which probably included Chotanagpur (Jharkhand), and the reference in Mohammedan writings and the possession of diamonds by the local chiefs go to substantiate the tradition that the Sankh river( Sankh River originates from Rajadera village of Gumla District. It is one of the three main rivers flowing through the district. After traversing through Gumla, it enters Simdega District and flows towards Orissa. The river joins with the Brahmani River at Vedvyas near Rourkela did yield a number of more or less valuable gems. The Muhammadans were attracted to this region by its reputation for diamond and occasionally raided the area, and carried off plunder and a small tribute in the shape of a few diamonds, which were found at that time in the river Sankh.
In fact due to the greater contact which the Mughals had developed with Kokrah (old name of today's Chotanagpur) since 1585 A.D., Jahangir had become more informed about the availability of diamonds in that area. According to him, diamonds were found in the bed of a river which flowed through Kokrah. The reference is to the river Sankh which flows through the western parts of the present Ranchi district.
Later Kokrah or Chotanagpur was placed under the Mughal officers and the diamonds which were extracted from the 'stream' (sankh) were sent to the Imperial Court. Immediately after the annexation of Kokrah, a diamond was found there the value of which was estimated at 50,000 rupees. Jahangir expected that if the search was continued more excellent diamonds could be added "in the repository of the crown jewls". His optimism was not unfounded and in the twelfth year of his reign, nine diamonds which Ibrahim Khan Fath-Jang, the Governor of Bihar, had sent through Muhammad Beg from the mines and from the collections of the Zamindars of the Chotanagpur, were laid before him.
Jahangir evinced keen personal interest in the extraction of diamonds from the bed of the river Sankh, and acquired a fairly good knowledge of the methods employed by the natives for that purpose. Describing the process through which the natives mined diamonds from the bed of the river Sankh, Jhangir writes in his Memoirs thus: "At the season when there is little water, there are pools and water-holes and it has become known by experiences to those are employed in this work that above every water-hole in which there are diamonds, there are crowd of flying animals (insects) which in the language of India they call Jhingur."
Captain Hawkins in-charge of the Ramgarh Battalion at Chatra district of Jharkhand had been commissioned to give a report on Chutia Nagpur. His report submitted in 1777 refers to the rivers carrying gold dust and the Raja of Chotanagpur dredging the river for diamonds.
In Jharkhand, diamonds were reported in Chotanagpur area (ancient name Kokrah) in the Brahmani, Sankh and Koel river basins as mentioned in old records. Records show that near Simah in Palamau district in the Sankh River, near Rajadera (Rajadera is a saucer shaped village, is situated 19 km from Chainpur and about 26 km south of Netarhat) and in Sadni falls originating point of Sankh River, active diamond mines existed. These mines are stated to have yielded in the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries many large and fine stones especially from Sankh River. Diamonds were washed from the sands and gravels of river Gouel. The river is probably North koel, a tributary of Son. On the banks of this river an ancient township Semah/Semelpur existed. According to the old reports about 8000 people are stated to have worked in these mines.
Ball in 1925 illustrated the occurrence with a location map of the area. Rivers Damuda (now Damodar), Subanrikha (Suvarnarekha) and Brahmani with its tributaries, the Sankh and the Southern Koel have been mentioned. Now efforts have to be made to locate old workings of diamond in this region.
According to reports some villagers around Sadni fall in Gumla district still practice precious stone hunting in the area.
The source rock for diamonds has not been traced. Some of the Lamprophyres or Lamproite bodies found within the Gondwana Super Group may probably be the host rocks for these diamonds. A rethinking in our out look and reexamination of the local geology and Lamprophyres and Lamproites is called for.
Diamond in Chattisgarh:
Historical records speak of ancient mining activity for diamonds in Chattisgarh. Panna was the centre of the mining and new diamond-bearing fields have recently come to light near Payalikhand in Raipur district of Chattisgarh as a result of exploration by the Geological survey of India. Raigarh in the upper reaches of Mahanadi river, west of Hirakud, Orissa, is also known to have been active in diamond mining since ancient times. Local tribals carry out small scale panning and recover diamonds from alluvial and colluvial placers. At present Panna is the only active diamond producing centre in the entire country. Around Panna a number of areas have been identified for diamond prospecting they are Angore, Bariarpur, Dongraha, Biharpur, Harsa and Bandha.
Recent discovery of five more kimberlite pipes (Diamond bearing rocks) in Raipur district has opened up another possible centre for diamond in Central India. Systematic detailed investigation in the area by Geological Survey of India led to identification of primary source rock. Mahanadi and Ib river basins are considered as potential for the occurrence of diamonds. Recently diamond bearing kimberlites have been discovered near Payalikhand in Raipur district of Chattisgarh. The diamondiferous area is located about 150 km SE of Raipur town.
From Payalikhand area the largest diamond said to have been recovered is 202 carats. Based on the diamonds recovered by locals it is estimated that the gem variety constitutes 1/3rd to half of the total diamonds present. The gem diamonds of this area vary from perfect transparent clear crystals to light yellow to grey or intensly brown roughs. Transparent clear macro diamonds dominate over the frosted surface crystals. Some of the diamonds contain graphite as inclusions.
Along with the specks and grains of gold in Mahanadi and Ib river basins, occurrence of diamonds is known since historical times. Alluvial placer mining and recovery of diamonds are active even today in Raigarh district of Chattisgarh in different parts of Maini, Ib and Mand, west of Hirakud.
Recently, three kimberlite bodies were discovered in Bastar area located in between Godavari and Mahanadi basin. These findings have opened up another potential area for diamond exploration in India.
Recently there have been reports of recovery of diamonds from Indravati river gravels. The Indravati basin appears to be similar to the Khariar basin (SE of Raipur) in which kimberlites are found.
India has now lost all its former fame as a country rich in diamonds; the most productive mines have long ago been exhausted, and only the poorer deposits still remain. During the devastating wars and native struggles for supremacy, many only partially exhausted mines were abandoned and their very sites forgotten, while from the same cause the demand for diamonds fell off. Moreover, the oppressive and unreasonable tribute demanded by native rulers in former times, so crippled the industry that many diamond seekers forsook the mines for more lucrative employments, to return perhaps under more favorable conditions.
The chief blow, however, to the diamond mining industry of India was the discovery of the precious stone in Brazil, a country from which diamonds have been sent to the market since 1728. There could be no competition between these new rich deposits and the Indian mines, whose age can be counted in centuries or even tens of centuries. More recently; the rich yields of the South African diamond-fields have made a profitable mining of the Indian deposits still more impossible. Since in India no new and rich deposits have been discovered to take the place of the old, worked out mines, as has been the case in Brazil, the time cannot be far distant when India must be excluded from the list of diamond-producing countries.
Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi