A few months ago, when Bollywood celebrities Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan became parents to a baby boy and named him Taimur, social media erupted in a frenzy. Why? Because many, instead of linking the name Taimur to its meaning —“iron” — linked it to “a supposed historical villain”. Taimur or Tamerlane — so called because he was lame — was a 14th Century Turko-Mongol military leader who conquered most of the Muslim world, central Asia, and founded the Timurid Empire in Central Asia and Persia.
He also invaded parts of India and was believed to have killed thousands of Indians. Several articles focusing on his brutal conquests appeared amidst the raging yet quite inane and puerile “why name the baby Taimur’s controversy. However, they missed out on “the curse of Tamerlane”, probably because it was not pertinent to their line of reasoning or argument.
On June 19, 1941, Soviet anthropologists and archaeologists Mikhail M. Gerasimov, Lev V. Oshanin and V. Ia. Zezenkova arrived at the burial tomb of Tamerlane in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Their mission: to exhume Tamerlane’s body. When they opened the doors, they found his tomb and casket inscribed respectively with the chilling words, “When I rise from the dead, the world shall tremble” and “Whomsoever opens my tomb shall unleash an invader more terrible than I”.
Strangely, within three days of the excavation of Tamerlane’s tomb by the Soviet team, Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in an unexpected attack during World War II. When he was told about the curse, Joseph Stalin ordered the reburial of Tamerlane’s exhumed body with full Islamic rites. Within days, the city of Stalingrad was liberated and Soviet forces claimed a historic victory against the German forces. These happenings gave currency to the belief that anyone who disturbs the grave will face the curse of Tamerlane.
The more than 5,000 years old, famous 105-carat Koh-i-Noor diamond that has been in the news recently yet again in India is also believed to be cursed. The curse reads: “He who owns this diamond will own the world, but will also know all its misfortunes. Only God, or a woman, can wear it with impunity.” It is believed that the curse led to the down fall of Indian rulers who had the diamond in their possession.
Those affected by the curse are said to have included Emperor Humayun, the son of Mughal Emperor Babur, who was exiled from his kingdom, Shah Jahan, who was imprisoned by his son, and Nadir Shah, who was assassinated. When the Koh-i-noor was being shipped to England, it is said there was a cholera outbreak aboard the ship carrying it. On reaching England, the diamond became the property of the British royal family, was put on display at the Tower of London and has passed to female members of the British royal family.
The curse of the Hope diamond is believed to be deadlier than that of the Koh-i-noor. Dating from the 17th century the 45.52 carat Hope diamond had a succession of owners. Curiously, an article in the January 29, 1911 edition of The New York Times noted that many of them suffered an untimely demise. “The owners included Prince Ivan Kanitovski, who was killed by Russian revolutionaries; Simon Mencharides, who died with his wife and child in a car accident; and French diamond merchant Jean Baptiste Tavernier, who was torn to pieces by wild dogs in Constantinople,” according to the article. The Hope diamond was donated to the Smithsonian Institution in the late 1950s.
Though there is no connection between the two crimes the recent tragic and senseless killing of an Indian engineer, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, in Kansas in the United States brings to mind a paranormal link to Kansas from long ago. In 1959 a farmer, Herbert Clutter, his wife and two of their children were murdered in their 14-room home in Holcomb, Kansas. In 1964 the house where the murders took place was bought by cattle rancher Bob Byrd. According to The Lawrence Journal-World of Kansas, Bob Byrd later committed suicide.
In 1990 Donna Mader moved into the house with her husband. After his death, she put up the house for sale in 2006 but never found a buyer. According to CNBC “her daughter, real estate agent Sue Wieland, said in an interview that this had nothing to do with the house’s past and everything to do with potential buyers’ being too stingy to pay the asking price. When asked if the house had ever been the site of any paranormal activity, Wieland chuckled and said “No. Never.” If it is haunted by anything, she said, it’s the steady parade of tourists who drive by to gawk”. However, people think otherwise.
Hauntings, curses and other strange happenings are not limited to tombs, treasures and houses. James Dean, the legendary actor was killed on September 30, 1955, when the Porsche 550 Spyder he was driving crashed into another car. In his 1974 book «Cars of the Stars,» custom auto designer George Barris wrote about the Porsche 550 Spyder describing a series of accidents it was involved in after Dean’s death. Barris said that parts from the wrecked Spyder were put into two other cars, both of which were involved in racing accidents, one of them fatal. His book also claimed that the car somehow disappeared from the back of a sealed truck hauling it from Florida to California, never to be seen again. According to James Dean at Speed author Lee Raskin, Barris’ book fueled speculation that Dean’s Spyder was cursed.
On the CNBC website is a significant observation: “Some treasures are rumored to be cursed or haunted. Even though they reside in the limbo of superstition, they have track records that are hard to ignore.” Quite apart from and in addition to the curse of the Koh-i-noor diamond, India too has its share of fascinating stories linked to ancient tombs, treasures, vehicles and precious stones. Is there a rational explanation behind the deaths and misfortunes of so many who tried to delve into the past? There are “toxic” theories and other theories but do they really hold? Or can they be dismissed as mere coincidence? As such, given the circumstances and numbers involved, they would border on the paranormal in any case. Were curses really placed upon tombs, treasures and exceptional precious stones? Or did the spirit of conquerors like Tamerlane or the Egyptian pharaohs and others live on to protect their last resting places? Will such mysteries ever be unraveled? Will such questions ever be answered?