The Heritage Society Presents... Back to Heritage F.I.E.L.D


His Royal Highness Prince Aga Khan III, Guide Philosopher & Friend to the World of Islam

by Qayyum A. Malick.

Sixty years on his benevolent rule as spiritual father gave his grateful community a chance to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of his leadership by weighing him against diamonds. The ceremony was performed at two places, Bombay and Dar-es-Salaam.

The sum value of the diamonds amounting to over 640,000 pounds at each place, was again, an absolute gift to His Royal Highness from his jubilant followers, but this vast sum was again invested by him in a trust meant to enrich the life of the community in educational and commercial spheres.

The weighing ceremony in Bombay took place on the afternoon of Sunday March 10th, 1946 at the Brabourne Stadium. Over 100,000 people from various parts of the world had come to see this magnificent spectacle, unusual even for Bombay which had witnessed many a scene of pomp and glory.

Prince Aga Khan arrived dressed in a long, white silk robe spangled with silver. Accompanying him were his two sons Prince Aly Khan and Prince Sadruddin, and the Begum who wore a white sari studded with one thousand, two hundred diamonds, worth 45,000 pounds.

The huge multitude present at the ceremony included fourteen ruling princes, among them the Maharajahs of Kashmir and Baroda and the Jam Sahib of Nawanagar. Those in front seats had contributed as much as a thousand pounds for their places, while the masses paid only a rupee.

There were messages of goodwill from King Farouk of Egypt, the King of Afghanistan, the Shah of Persia and other world personalities including Mr. Gandhi.

The diamonds, on loan from the London Diamond Syndicate, made a five thousand mile journey from England, in the H.M.S Derbyshire. But the last lap of the journey was done in a flying boat in order to arrive on schedule.

Escorted by a special armed guard the precious diamonds, contained in plastic bullet-proof boxes, arrived at the venue of the celebrations. As slowly as the boxes piled up to balance the weight, a Khoja lady in a rich sari took a handful of diamonds from her purse and made an extra on-the-spot present.

The scale needle pointed at 17 stones 5 1/2 lb. An advance of over a stone and a half since His Royal Highness had been weighed against gold. In terms of money, the diamonds represented 640,000 pounds.

Prince Aga Khan thanked his spiritual children and blessed the whole multitude before driving back through the bedecked illuminated streets to his flood-lit palace. The boxes of diamonds were flown back to London and the sum value subscribed by his followers was handed over by His Royal Highness for a special trust fund to be devoted to the economic and educational welfare of the Ismailia community.

At Dar-es-Salaam the Diamond Jubilee was celebrated in August 1946. Thousands of people from India, the Middle East and even Europe came to witness the great event. Hundreds of his followers made the journey by air. Thousands traveled from such out-of-the-way places as Abyssinia, Belgium-Congo and other far-flung parts of Africa.

Wearing a robe of white and silver brocade studded with five-pointed stars and a headwear woven of gold thread, His Royal Highness was welcomed at the Sports ground of the Aga Khan Club by seventy thousand people including the Governors of Kenya, Tanganyika and Uganda. This time the value of the diamonds was 684,000 pounds.

In his speech at the weighing ceremony His Royal Highness said: "As every one is well aware, the value of these diamonds has been unconditionally presented to me on this occasion. I do not wish to take this amount for myself but to use it for any object that I think is best for My spiritual children. After long reflection, I have come to the conclusion that the very best use that I can make of it is, that after the expenses of these celebrations have been paid for, the whole of the residue must be given as an absolute gift to the Diamond Jubilee Investment Trust. This is not an ordinary investment trust such as you find in the City of London. While a considerable part of its capital must be used for investment in the ordinary sense of this term, a greater part goes to the building up of a totally new financial outlook among the Ismailis. Co-operative societies, corporations and building societies, will draw from the Investment Trust sums equal to their capital but at a level rate of three percent, and they are not allowed to charge more than six percent under any condition from their borrowers."

The celebrations lasted ten days during which period the tropic blue sky and towering coconut palms lit up with the gay fire-work displayed at night. During the day the crowds thronged to visit the exhibition which provided a colourful presentation of the work and activities of the community and reflected its cultural pursuits. There were exhibits of fine needle work, paintings, woodwork and other craftsmanship. There were talks and lectures on health, hygiene, child welfare and domestic science. There were also Scout and Girl Guide displays.

In a message book to the Diamond Jubilee Souvenir Year Book, His Royal Highness Prince Aga Khan said: "The Ismailia history has passed through several stages of development. My Diamond Jubilee marks such a stage in the present times. With it a phase of consolidation and co-operation has been achieved among my spiritual children in various countries and now lies ahead a period of good will and expansion."

"With the Diamond Jubilee dawns a new era full of hopes and opportunities for economic, educational, social and religious upliftment of My beloved spiritual children all over the world. It is a time to go ahead and leave a mark on the world history, like the glorious Ismailis of the past. Let the Diamond Jubilee message for My spiritual children be that of doing their best and devoting their best in the best cause of their beloved faith."

The Diamond Jubilee Souvenir Yearbook also received messages from the Governors of the different territories of East Africa. The message from H.E. Mr. P.C. Mitchell Governor of Kenya said, "It is with much pleasure that I send you this message on the occasion of the celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan. These celebrations must be doubly joyful because they fall in the first year of peace. I hope that they will mark the opening of a new era of progress and prosperity for the Ismailia community and for all East Africa."

The Governor of Tanganyika wrote, "It gives me great pleasure to send this message on the occasion of the commemoration of His Highness the Aga Khan's sixtieth anniversary as leader of the Ismailia community. I wish His Highness on behalf of the people of this territory many years of health and happiness. The celebration of his Diamond Jubilee marks the conclusion of a long period of devoted service by His Highness. I hope that these celebrations will be an inspiration to his followers to emulate that example of service."

The Governor of Uganda said, "On behalf of the Government and people of Uganda I tender most cordial congratulations to His Highness the Aga Khan and to all the Ismailia community on this historic occasion of His Highness’ Diamond Jubilee. Throughout the sixty years of his Imamate, His Highness has not only been an unfailing source of spiritual inspiration and guidance to his followers but in temporal matters also he has shown a consistency of wisdom and enlightenment which few great leaders could aspire. Looking back over those sixty years the Ismaili community and indeed the British Empire as a whole have every reason to acclaim one who is both a great Imam and a great statesman."

The Editor of the only African newspaper in Tanganyika expressed his gratitude to His Royal Highness in the followings words on the occasion the Diamond Jubilee, "I wish to express that His Highness the Aga Khan's leadership is not only limited to the Indian community but is also for the African community. Whenever His Highness comes to East Africa he never goes away without giving monetary help to the poor Africans. I do not want to enumerate the many donations he has made but will quote a recent example. Last year when His Highness visited Dar-es-Salaam he gave 10,000 shillings for the welfare of poor people of the African community of Tanganyika."

Now that this great spiritual leader of the Ismailis is completing seventy years of his Imamate, brisk preparations are afoot at Ismaili centres everywhere to weigh him against platinum, the costliest of all metals and to make a present of its price to Him as a loving tribute.