Origin of name
The “Chhatrapati Manik Ruby” which according to legend is one of the oldest rubies in the world dating back to 380-415 AD, the period of rule of the powerful emperor of northern India, Candragupta II, also known as Vikramaditya (son of valour), gets its name from the title “Chhatrapati” (supreme king), which Candragupta II assumed, immediately upon his ascension to the throne. The Sanskrit word “Manik” means gemstone or precious stone. Thus “Chhatrapati Manik” translates as the “Supreme King’s Gemstone.”
As the story goes Candragupta II on his ascension to the throne in 380 AD, commissioned the royal jewelers to design and construct a new crown in keeping with his status as the “Supreme King” of the northern Indian kingdom, with his capital based in Ayodhya. The royal astrologers were consulted who advised the king that the new crown should incorporate the “Navaratne Jewels,” the nine principal gems, representing the nine planets according to Hindu beliefs which included the sun and the moon, in which the sun occupies a predominant position, lording over all other planets. Accordingly, the astrologers advised that the gemstone ruby which represents the sun, should be given pride of place in the new crown, and made its centerpiece. The royal treasury was searched for the finest of gemstones representing the nine planets, and suitable gems for eight planets were selected. These included the following : pearl (Moon), coral (Mars), emerald (Mercury), yellow sapphire (Jupiter), diamond (Venus), blue sapphire (Saturn), garnet (Rahu), cat’s eye (Ketu). However, an appropriate ruby to represent the lord of the planets, the Sun, could not be found. The great king sent out his agents to look for an appropriate ruby in his domain, that would suit the purpose. Finally, his agents were able to identify one in the collection of a banker, which the king duly purchased, and was incorporated in the new crown.
Characteristics of the gemstone
The 4Cs of the ruby
The “Chhatrapati Manik” is an oval cabochon-cut ruby with dimensions of 25.4mm x 31.75mm, with an original weight of 25 ratis, equivalent to 21.5 carats, but subsequently re-polished to 24 ratis, equivalent to 20.7 carats. Some authorities have listed the weight of the “Chhatrapati Manik” as 40 carats. The exact color and clarity of the stone are not known but going by the glowing descriptions of the stone, which refer to its color as a good deep color, the ruby undoubtedly must be of exceptional quality, possibly a “ko-twe” which in the Burmese language means “pigeon’s blood,” which is in fact a rich crimson color, equivalent to the color of a red traffic signal. The clarity of the stone would also have been of “eye clean clarity” the best clarity one can get in natural rubies, which normally contain many inclusions, a hallmark of their natural origin.
Why Burma rubies are the finest in the world ?
The source of the “Chhatrapati Manik” is unknown, but the stone is believed to be of Burmese origin, whose international fame as the finest rubies in the world is due to a combination of several factors such as body color, fluorescence, and the presence of silk. Fine Burma rubies have a slightly bluish-red body color of high intensity, and a strong crimson fluorescence, which covers the dark areas of the stone caused by “extinction,” i.e. light escaping from the sides of the gemstone, instead of returning through the table facet, due to a deep pavilion. The presence of tiny rutile fibers called silk, spreads the color across a greater part of the gems face, that also covers “extinction.” Rubies from Sri Lanka lack the intense red color of Burma rubies, but have strong orange-red fluorescence and silk. The Thai and Cambodian rubies have a dark red color, but lack fluorescence and silk, and are therefore dull in appearance. Thus only Burma rubies combine the three important factors of intense red color, strong fluorescence, and silk, and has become the benchmark of rubies in the world.
History of the “Chhatrapati Manik Ruby”
Source of the “Chhatrapati Manik”
The “Chhatrapati Manik” is believed to be of Burmese origin. The stone first appeared at the end of the 4th century AD. The earliest evidence of mining for rubies in Burma comes from the mining implements of stone-age man discovered in the Mogok mines, situated on the Shan Plateau. There is evidence of mining activity in the Shan Plateau, the traditional homeland of the Shan people, who live in northwestern Burma and the Yunnan province of China, in the 6th century AD, in a region known as Momeit ruled by one of the seven sons of Kung-Lung the founder of the Shan dynasty. Ruby mines were known to have existed near Momeit, and an yearly tribute of rubies mined from the area was sent to the dominant kingdom of Burma. It is quite probable that mining activity by the Shan in the Shan Plateau goes back even further than the 6th century AD, although evidence for such activity is not available. The “Chhatrapati Manik” a gemstone of the 4th century AD might have originated from a ruby mine in the Shan Plateau, and later found its way to one of the cities of the Gupta Empire, after moving across the Burmese-Indian border, where it was purchased by a dealer in gemstones.
Is it possible that the “Chhatrpati Manik” originated in India itself ? Ancient Sanskrit texts mention Sri Lanka as the main source of rubies in ancient times. But, later texts also mention two regions in India that were famous for the production of rubies and sapphires. These regions are Kalinga in northeast India and Kalpur in central India. It is quite possible that the “Chhatrapati Manik” might have originated in these regions, but we are not sure whether the period of production of rubies in these regions correspond with the period of the stones first appearance, viz. 4th century AD. Moreover, it must have been the deep red color of the stone and its strong red fluorescence, features characteristic of Burma rubies, that might have led to the conclusion that the gemstone most probably originated in Burma.
Emperor Candra Gupta II – Vikramaditya – “Son of Valour”
The “Chhatrapati Manik Ruby” was incorporated as the centerpiece of a new crown made for Emperor Candragupta II, when he ascended the throne of the western and central Indian Gupta Empire, in the year 380 AD. Candragupta II assumed the title “Chhatrapati” which means the “Supreme King”. He inherited a vast empire from his father Samudra Gupta which extended from Allahabad to the borders of Bengal. He followed in the footsteps of his father, and expanded his empire by subjugating Gujarat, Saurastra, and Malwa. He set up his capital at Ayodhya, but also developed the city of Pataliputra (Present day Patna in Bihar). He was a benevolent ruler who gave peace and prosperity to his subjects. His reign marked the climax of cultural development of ancient India, and art, architecture, and sculpture flourished during this period. He extended patronage to learning, and among the learned scholars in his court were the astronomer Varahamihira and Sanskrit poet and dramatist Kalidasa.
History of Chhatrapati Manik after Vikramaditya
The crown containing the “Chhatrapati Manik” passed down the descendants of Vikramaditya and then through the hands of different merchants and rulers. One such ruler was Sultan Abdul Hussein Qutb Shah, the last king of Golconda (1672-87) from the Qutb Shahi dynasty, who was also known as Tana Shah. After the crown came into his possession, Tana Shah, unmounted the gems in the crown. It is said that Tana Shah loved the ruby so much that he got his name engraved on it, and got his scholars to write a book of poetry, extolling the virtue of the ruby. In the year 1687, the great Mughal emperor Aurangzeb sent an army headed by his son, to attack and capture the kingdom of Golconda. Tana Shah was defeated in battle and taken prisoner. The ruby and the book of verses were taken over by Aurangzeb’s son who carried them to his father. Aurangzeb was so impressed by the beauty of the ruby, that he ordered the erasure of Tana Shah’s name from the stone, and that his own name be engraved in its place.
During the period of rule of Aurangzeb, there lived at Murshidabad in Bengal, a renowned family of bankers, who had dealings with the mighty Mughal emperors. This family often lavished valuable gifts to the royal family, and during one such occasion, Aurangzeb the mighty Mughal emperor decided to present the “Chhatrapati Manik” to the bankers family, together with the book of verses, as a gesture of reciprocation. Later a resident of Lucknow Lala Kalkadas acquired the ruby and the book by trading a number of gems. Lala Kalkadas decided to remove the seal of Aurangzeb from the stone not realizing the historical significance of the seal. Later the gemstone was inherited by his son Lala Budreedas, who moved to Calcutta, where he got the historical ruby remounted as the centerpiece of a new tiara, in keeping with its former glory as the stone that adorned the crown of Vikramaditya.
In the year 1934, the “Chhatrapati Manik” re-appeared in London, as the centerpiece of a diamond tiara. The ruby was mounted as the centerpiece of an aigrette in front of the diamond tiara. The current location of the “Chhatrapati Manik” is not known.
1) Ruby & Sapphire – Richard Hughes
2) Corundum Gem Notes – Department of Geological Sciences, University of Texas.