This famous stone is said to have been to have been captured in an expedition to India by Sultan Mahmoud Ghaznavi (997-1037 C.E.), the patron of Firdusi. However it is difficult to trace its provenance.
Following Sultan Mahmoud's expedition of 1013 C.E., in which he sacked the Hindu religious city of Tanasser, about 70 miles N. of Delhi, he is reported to have brought home a large stone, said to be the idol Jugsoom. The stone or stones appear to have formed part of the Pagoda of Sumnat in Gujarat. Edward Gibbon recounts the story in Chapter 57 of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire:
The pagoda of Sumnat was situate on the promontory of Guzarat, in the neighborhood of Diu, one of the last remaining possessions of the Portuguese. It was endowed with the revenue of two thousand villages; two thousand Brahmins were consecrated to the service of the Deity, whom they washed each morning and evening in water from the distant Ganges: the subordinate ministers consisted of three hundred musicians, three hundred barbers, and five hundred dancing girls, conspicuous for their birth or beauty. Three sides of the temple were protected by the ocean, the narrow isthmus was fortified by a natural or artificial precipice; and the city and adjacent country were peopled by a nation of fanatics. They confessed the sins and the punishment of Kinnoge and Delhi; but if the impious stranger should presume to approach their holy precincts, he would surely be overwhelmed by a blast of the divine vengeance. By this challenge, the faith of Mahmud was animated to a personal trial of the strength of this Indian deity. Fifty thousand of his worshippers were pierced by the spear of the Moslems; the walls were scaled; the sanctuary was profaned; and the conqueror aimed a blow of his iron mace at the head of the idol. The trembling Brahmins are said to have offered ten millions sterling for his ransom; and it was urged by the wisest counsellors, that the destruction of a stone image would not change the hearts of the Gentoos; and that such a sum might be dedicated to the relief of the true believers. "Your reasons," replied the sultan, "are specious and strong; but never in the eyes of posterity shall Mahmud appear as a merchant of idols." He repeated his blows, and a treasure of pearls and rubies, concealed in the belly of the statue, explained in some degree the devout prodigality of the Brahmins. The fragments of the idol were distributed to Gazna, Mecca, and Medina.
Those that went to Gazna were used as steps for one of the theological colleges he had established there.
The inscription on the stone is dated 563 A.H. (= 1167 C.E.). It is believed that at this time the Seljuk chieftain, Mahmud bin-Malek Shah, sent part of this stone to Isfahan, possibly as part of his campaign to demonstrate his sovereignty over Western Iran, as opposed to the Seljuk chieftain Eldigüz, and it is this that forms the lintel of the window of Imamzadeh Ahmad's shrine today.
The stone was originally black and the white paint has only been recently been applied (i.e. since 1995 C.E.)
Last Updated: November 02, 1998