PROLOGUE: THE STORMING OF SERINGAPATAM (1799)
2. CHAPTER II
One of the wildest of these stories related to a Yellow Diamond--
a famous gem in the native annals of India.
The earliest known traditions describe the stone as having been set
in the forehead of the four-handed Indian god who typifies the Moon.
Partly from its peculiar colour, partly from a superstition which
represented it as feeling the influence of the deity whom it adorned,
and growing and lessening in lustre with the waxing and waning
of the moon, it first gained the name by which it continues
to be known in India to this day--the name of THE MOONSTONE.
A similar superstition was once prevalent, as I have heard,
in ancient Greece and Rome; not applying, however (as in India),
to a diamond devoted to the service of a god, but to a semi-transparent
stone of the inferior order of gems, supposed to be affected
by the lunar influences--the moon, in this latter case also,
giving the name by which the stone is still known to collectors in our
The adventures of the Yellow Diamond begin with the eleventh
century of the Christian era.
At that date, the Mohammedan conqueror, Mahmoud of Ghizni, crossed India;
seized on the holy city of Somnauth; and stripped of its treasures the
famous temple, which had stood for centuries--the shrine of Hindoo pilgrimage,
and the wonder of the Eastern world.
Of all the deities worshipped in the temple, the moon-god alone escaped
the rapacity of the conquering Mohammedans. Preserved by three Brahmins,
the inviolate deity, bearing the Yellow Diamond in its forehead, was removed
by night, and was transported to the second of the sacred cities of India--
the city of Benares.
Here, in a new shrine--in a hall inlaid with precious stones,
under a roof supported by pillars of gold--the moon-god was set up
and worshipped. Here, on the night when the shrine was completed,
Vishnu the Preserver appeared to the three Brahmins in a dream.