Archive for January, 2009|Monthly archive page

Gunpowder and Firearms: Warfare in Medieval India.

Guns, Influence, and Power

Reviewed by: Timothy May, Department of History, North Georgia College and State University.
Published by: H-War (August, 2006)

There is no question that the advent of gunpowder weapons permanently changed the course of warfare, but exactly how this happened varies from region to region. Often in the public’s mind, the impact of firearms is relegated to Europe and its origins in China; somehow everything in between is overlooked. Thus, Iqtidar Alam Khan’s volume, Gunpowder and Firearms: Warfare in Medieval India will hopefully begin to fill that void.

Khan’s work is important for two reasons. First, it traces the origins and influence of gunpowder weapons in India as a regional history rather than as an ancillary to a larger work. The author critically examines when firearms appeared in India, and then what other influences–whether local or foreign–played in the development of the weapons. Moreover, he discusses their impact, not only on the medieval state, but on society as a whole. Second, Khan’s work serves as a model for other regional studies on firearms as well as the distribution of other forms of technology or goods.

Chapter 1 of Gunpowder and Firearms discusses the diffusion of firearms into the subcontinent by focusing on the role of the Mongols as agents of transmission. Although the author notes that the Chinese had been using gunpowder weapons before the Mongols arrived on the scene, it is not until the end of the thirteenth century that firearms of any sort, particularly rockets, appear in the Sultanate of Delhi or in regional literary references. While he places the greatest emphasis on the Mongols as the agents of technological transmission, Khan does not rule out other sources such as a Himalayan or sea route. Regardless of their origin, knowledge and use of these weapons quickly spread.

Chapters 2 through 4 focus on the use of artillery from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century. Although cannons became somewhat common throughout India, the Mughals used them the most effectively, thus giving rise to one of the popularly called Gunpowder Empires (along with the Ottomans and Safavids). Yet, these three chapters emphasize one key point. As in late medieval Europe, the expense of cannons meant that few among the nobility besides the ruler possessed the resources to purchase them. Fortress walls gave little shelter against cannons and the nobility quickly learned to acquiesce to the authority of the ruler.

Although similar situations appeared among some of the regional Indian states, the rise of the Mughals brings this phenomenon into better focus. Chapter 3 continues to deal with centralization of power, but in the context of the arrival of not only the Mughals, but also the Portuguese with their European metallurgical and artillery advances. From the Portuguese, the Mughals and others learned how to make cannons from wrought iron, thus reducing the cost of the weapon, while at the same time improving it. The Mughals, who learned from Ottoman advisors, quickly grasped the importance of light artillery as it became less expensive and more easily manufactured. While magnificent in siege warfare, the lack of maneuverability of heavy cannon left it virtually useless on the battlefield.

Chapter 4 discusses the dominance of the Mughals. By the time of Akbar, heavy mortars and cannons were rarely used in the Mughal military. Light cannons that could be used on the battlefield were the mainstay of the Mughal artillery corps, including the shaturnal, similar to swivel guns, but carried on the backs of camels and even in the howdahs of elephants. As this chapter ties into the arrival of the British East India Company, Khan continues to discuss technological developments, or the lack thereof.

In addition to artillery, handheld firearms also became ubiquitous throughout the Mughal Empire. Chapter 5 examines the nature and development of handguns in the Mughal Empire. In addition to local factors, Khan includes a good discussion of Western influences, which in this instance includes the Ottoman Empire. Western influences included new technologies in firearms manufacture. However, not all of these became widespread. As a result, stagnation occurred particularly in terms of standard weapons. The preferred weapon became the matchlock, even after other technologies surpassed it. Why the matchlock remained the weapon of choice ties into chapter 6, which discusses the role of the matchlock musket in the centralization of Mughal authority.

Mughals also used musketeers to maintain their authority. Babur began his career with a scant musket bearing force of just over a hundred men, but by the time of Akbar, over 35,000 musketeers existed in the Mughal military. One reason for this was that, despite the cost of their weapon, the musketeers were actually less expensive than garrisoning cavalry forces. The expense of feeding the man and his horse grossly exceeded that of a musketeer. Thus, a small but trained force of musket wielding troops allowed the Mughals to assert their authority in even the most remote provinces. This was also possible as, for several decades, the nobility were forbidden to recruit their own forces of musketeers. At the same time, this mass force of troops with firearms undermined the Mughals. As the matchlock became ubiquitous, its cost dropped, but it also was deemed very reliable by those using it. Thus, even when other technologies came into the region, like flintlock muskets, the Mughals failed to adopt them due to economic reasons as well as the matchlock’s popularity.

While firearms aided the process of centralization, it also played a role in undermining the Mughal’s authority. Because of the affordability of matchlocks and the relative simplicity in gaining expertise with them, one did not have to train for years to be a warrior. Ultimately this let to the diffusion of firearms into the general populace and resistance to central authority. Beginning in the late-sixteenth century, not only political rebels, but even peasants opposed to tax collection acquired firearms. As domestic tensions grew, the widespread use and manufacture of matchlock muskets played a role in the breakdown of central authority, and the Mughals, despite several innovative attempts, failed to halt the eventual Balkanization of their empire. Khan’s work is impressive and is the result of twenty years of research that ranged over four hundred years of history. Utilizing Persian, Turkish, Urdu, Hindi, Bengali, and English primary sources and supplemented by a wide array of secondary works, Iqtidar Khan has produced an excellent work. The four appendices are useful supplements dealing with the use of firearms by the Mongols, the analysis of terminology in a couple primary sources, and the origins of the Purbias, who were gunners for a few Indian states in the 1500s. The volume also contains almost thirty illustrations of firearms and their use. These dramatically illustrate Khan’s points as well as show the reader the variances between the weapons.

Yet, the book is not without faults. While Gunpowder and Firearms is an insightful and well-argued work, the author exaggerates the Mongols’ use of gunpowder. While it is true that the Mongols never met a weapon they did not find a use for, there is no concrete evidence that the Mongols used gunpowder weapons on a regular basis outside of China. Indeed, the author recognizes this and notes that his claims are based on Persian terms which could be interpreted as firearms. Unfortunately, while many of these terms such as manjaniq are used to refer to cannons, during the medieval period manjaniq meant a mangonel. It is plausible that in later periods, the Mongols did make more extensive use of gunpowder weapons, but in period of the conquests (1206-60), there is inadequate evidence to support Khan’s assertion.

One other minor criticism is the exclusion of Kenneth Chase’s Firearms: A Global History to 1700 (2003). I suspect that, given their publication dates, Chase’s and Khan’s books crossed paths. Although Chase takes a global perspective, the authors reach similar conclusions. Nonetheless, Gunpowder and Firearms will appeal not only to historians of India, but also anyone interested in the development of weapons and military systems or the creation of states. In summary, not only is Iqtidar Alam Khan’s work an impressive study on the diffusion of firearms in India, it will also serve as a model for others pursuing similar research on the spread of technology or goods on a regional basis.

Battle of Moodkee

Source: british battles


HM 31st Foot attacking the Sikh line during the Battle of Moodkee.

General Gough’s hard won victory over the Sikh army
of Lal Singh; the opening battle of the First Sikh War.

War: First Sikh War.
Date: 18th December 1845.
Place: On the south bank of the Sutlej River in the Punjab in North West India.
Combatants: British troops and Indian troops of the Bengal Presidency against Sikhs of the Khalsa, the army of the Punjab.
Generals: Major General Sir Hugh Gough and General Sir Henry Hardinge, the Governor General of Bengal, against Lal Singh.
Size of the armies: A British and Bengal army of 12,000 troops and 42 guns against a Sikh army of 10,000 cavalry, 4,000 infantry and 22 guns.


The image is titled “Sikh Guns at Windsor Castle, England.”
The print is a half-page illustration from an 1854 issue of the weekly illustrated Boston newspaper “Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion.”
Source: ebay


British captured sikh guns


Battle of Moodkee

Source: british battles


HM 31st Foot attacking the Sikh line during the Battle of Moodkee.

General Gough’s hard won victory over the Sikh army
of Lal Singh; the opening battle of the First Sikh War.

War: First Sikh War.

Date: 18th December 1845.

Place: On the south bank of the Sutlej River in the Punjab in North West India.

Combatants: British troops and Indian troops of the Bengal Presidency against Sikhs of the Khalsa, the army of the Punjab.

Generals: Major General Sir Hugh Gough and General Sir Henry Hardinge, the Governor General of Bengal, against Lal Singh.

Size of the armies: A British and Bengal army of 12,000 troops and 42 guns against a Sikh army of 10,000 cavalry, 4,000 infantry and 22 guns.

The image is titled “Sikh Guns at Windsor Castle, England.”

The print is a half-page illustration from an 1854 issue of the weekly illustrated Boston newspaper “Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion.”

Source: ebay


British captured sikh guns


Sikh wars

Battle: Chillianwallah.
War: Second Sikh War.
Date: 13th January 1849.
Place: In the Punjab in the North West of India.
Combatants: British troops and Indian troops of the Bengal Presidency against Sikhs of the Khalsa, the army of the Punjab.
Generals: General Sir Hugh Gough against the Sikh general, Shere Singh.
Size of the armies: 12,000 British and Bengalis with 66 guns against 35,000 Sikhs with 65 guns.
Source: Sikhlionz and British Battles

Bengal Native Infantry

The second sikh war

Sikh guns captured by the Anglo-Indian army at the Battle of Chillianwallah


The second sikh war


The Battle of Chillianwallah seen from behind the British line.
The foothills of the Himalayan Mountains are in the background.

The battle notorious in early Victorian Britain and India
for the conduct of Brigadier Pope’s brigade of light cavalry.

Sikh wars

Battle: Chillianwallah.

War: Second Sikh War.

Date: 13th January 1849.

Place: In the Punjab in the North West of India.

Combatants: British troops and Indian troops of the Bengal Presidency against Sikhs of the Khalsa, the army of the Punjab.

Generals: General Sir Hugh Gough against the Sikh general, Shere Singh.

Size of the armies: 12,000 British and Bengalis with 66 guns against 35,000 Sikhs with 65 guns.

Source: Sikhlionz and British Battles

Bengal Native Infantry

The second sikh war

Sikh guns captured by the Anglo-Indian army at the Battle of Chillianwallah


The second sikh war


The Battle of Chillianwallah seen from behind the British line.
The foothills of the Himalayan Mountains are in the background.

The battle notorious in early Victorian Britain and India
for the conduct of Brigadier Pope’s brigade of light cavalry.

Well armed

ManaviDeopura

Source: expressindia
Posted: Mar 24, 2008 at 2322 hrs IST

No legacy is as rich as history. It is who we are that is responsible for what we are in the final analysis. Trying nobly to preserve and enrich his history and that of his fellow compatriots, Rakesh Dhawade, director of Institute of Research and Development in Oriental Studies –Arms and Armour (IRDOS), believes his amassment of arms and armour speaks volumes about the past.

“People look at weapons and they associate them with violence. We look at them and we see human craftsmanship, the marvel of metallurgy, artistic application of science and even a narrative of the psycho-sociology as well as economics of an era. My institute wants to wash this negative notion and provide people that second perspective on weapons. They are not just for destruction but instruction too, in that they are an account of the progression of various spheres of the life of mankind in a certain period of history,” asserts Dhawade.

His entire collection of arms and armour has been trickling through generations in his family like a hallowed family heirloom. “My story of arms collection goes back in time, literally”, says Dhawade. “My surname, Dhawade, means a person who took iron ore out of the furnace and moulded it. All these weapons have been bequeathed to me by my forefathers who were in this profession, and to them by theirs”.

And when he speaks of forefathers, it is a lineage seven generations from which he has inherited an association with the defense of the land, from the Battle of Panipat right up to the Kargil war. So arms collection was more hereditary than a hobby. “In our collection we have every possible variety of Indian weapons ever used, be it daggers, battleaxes, spearheads, swords, weapons used in cavalry and even weapons like rifles from recent history. The ones that we do not possess, like horse armour, we have tried to replicate them by doing a lot of research”.

The sphere of activity of IRDOS, executed by Rakesh and wife Varsha, includes collection, exhibition, protection and conservation of the arms and armour. “What people fail to realise is that the preservation of the conglomeration of these arms is just as crucial as its collection. We need to safeguard this rich heritage of ours for the future,” he says. Living up to the motto of his institute – preserving past for the future – IRDOS has a functional laboratory and conservation cell devoted to the care and cure for the extensive and diverse artifacts under its patronage.

As far as showcasing these weapons is concerned, Rakesh did his first exhibition in his fifth standard. IRDOS has drafted a list of several occasions on which they hold exhibitions of the weaponry in collaboration with other organizations and trusts. These occasions include the birthdays, coronation days and death anniversaries of national luminaries like Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and others. “Our last exhibition was held on Shiv Jayanti and we plan one this month and two in the month of June. My undying reverence for the sacrifice of these great men fuels this initiative”, Dhawade reveals.

Dhawade has written 11 research papers, three of which have been published in the UK. But a problem that he faces is the space required to lodge or display his arms collection. “We do not have the adequate funds required to buy the land to erect a museum, though I am trying to get some land,” he says. Dhawade does not believe in donations. His entire enterprise is self-funded. Currently all his weaponry is housed in warehouses and stores across the city.

He feels strongly about the preservation of his consanguineous collection. He avers, “Actually, it used to be a passion. Now it is my life. I felt there was a lacuna in this subject and I have been trying to bridge that by my research for some 25 years now. I cannot think of doing anything other than dedicating my life to the cause of restitution and promotion of this collection. We cannot forget the legends that made history, or the priceless, timeless specimens of antiquity that went in its making”.

Historical weapons impress Nashikites

Source: NASIK TIMES

Enlarge
Weapons used by women and children

Replicas of historical weapons displayed at an exhibition in Bhonsala Military School spoke volumes about the wars during different periods

Sumita Sarkar Mahatmanagar
The replica of historical arms and armours captured the imagination of children, youngsters and elders alike, who felt transported to different periods of history merely by seeing, feeling and handling the weapons. The venue was the auditorium of the Bhonsala Military School, where the replicas were put up for display on Friday and Saturday.

Where museums failed, Institute of Research and Development in Oriental Studies – Arms and Armour (IRDOS) Pune, seems to have scored a point. The two-day arms and armoury exhibition by IRDOS is a case in point. “Unlike in museums where weapons are only put up for exhibition, here a thorough research was conducted and the weapons were displayed with eight different themes on eight different boards,” informed Rakesh Dhawade, a research fellow at IRDOS. At the entrance was the Replica Stall where all historical arms and armours were displayed. “The intention behind having this stall was that little children’s curiosity would be satisfied by touching and feeling these replicas,” said Dhawade adding that this would in turn instil love and interest for history in them. “They will find answers to their queries about historical wars. They also learn to value freedom. In Europe, such kinds of facilities are available. In whole of Asia, only IRDO has it,” he informed. Replicas of different types of guns, gun powder flasks, variety of bayonets, variety of swords (Indian and European), various types of armours and counter weapons, shields, spears, were on display. Touching and handling these weapons gave a fair idea of how difficult fighting in wars were earlier.

Lamellar armour, leather armour, chest plate armour, different types head gears fascinated people as they tried to lift and wear these with the help of the volunteers. A very rare weapon, ’gurj’ (mace), which is nearly 400-450 years old was also on display. Brown base India pattern long barrel musket, which was used in India’s first war of Independence in 1857, assumed an important place in the exhibition. “This weapon gave us a deep feeling of patriotism,” expressed a visitor and a college student, Mohit Shah. Replica of another rare weapon, Matchlock Gun, was also handled by the excited students.

After this stall, were the boards with themes. The first board displayed the weapons of the Marathas, like Tiger Claws, Bichwa, Maadu, Bhidchir, Dandpatta etc. The second board had a variety of battle-axes and spearheads, some sacrificial battle-axes known as Gandarmuhali in Andhra Pradesh, the famous Safejung from Punjab and spears etc. “The institute had differentiated between hunting and fishing spears,” informed Dhawade. Cavalry arms like deep-curved swords, broad belt battle saddle axes, Naiza-type of spear etc adorned the third board. On the fourth, daggers were on display, like Afghan dagger – Peshkabj, Tirreghati sura, Kukri etc.

Ceremonial (Darbari) weapons used by kings, knights and Generals occupied the fifth board. Fully inlaid with gold, silver and ivory, the weapons, indicated the rank of the person wearing it, his socio-economic status and socio- economic stability of that period. The hilt of one of the dagger was made of jade!

The sixth board was the most unique one as it displayed weapons of women and children throughout India, who had a huge contribution in the history of the country. “For the first time we are seeing such kinds of weapons!” exclaimed Shreeja Nair a school student. The seventh board had a variety of armours and counter weapons. “It is very important to show both, or else it would be incomplete information. When we say that one could protect oneself with armours, we also need to inform that counter weapons for breaking these armours also existed,” explained Dhawade. The last board depicted the development of firearms. Various types of pistols and cartridge instruments, historical guns etc were on display. Matchlock, Flintlock and Percussion Cape were the specialties of the board. The guns (replicas) were used by Indians in the 1857 war and two of these were also used by actor Aamir Khan for his period film, ’Mangal Pandey’, informed Dhawade.

The idea of displaying replicas of ancestral weapons was unique for Nashikites and a good way of familiarising people, especially children, with the weapons of the by-gone era. It was like periods being re-lived.

sumitasarkar@indiatimes.com

Antique arms collector held by ATS

Courtesy:TOI
4 Nov 2008, 0325 hrs IST, TNN

PUNE: Pune-based Rakesh Dhawade, arrested on Sunday by the state ATS investigating the Malegaon blast, is an arms and armour expert who has been
collecting, studying, documenting and conserving historical Indian weapons.

His collection of historical arms and armour includes nearly 2,000 items.

Some of the rare articles forming part of Dhawade’s collection are a sword, approximately 300 years old, with the Devi Kavach ‘stotra’ inscribed on its hilt; a 700-year-old Nepali sword belonging to a royal family; a matchlock gun, over 300 years old; and spears and armour for women.

Dhawade’s ancestors were primarily engaged in the manufacture of weapons during the age of Chhatrapati Shivaji. The Dhawade clan also finds mention in the Shivcharitra, considered the most authentic document on the great Maratha king, as well as in the Peshwa archives. Fond of fashioning weapons from copper wires since childhood, Dhawade’s talent for making imitations of Indian weapons received support from his school teachers in Pune.

In an interview to TOI in 2005 about his collection of arms and armour, Dhawade had declared, “I was born to promote and propagate the richness of Indian historical arms to GenNext.”

According to him, he is the only Indian member of the Arms and Armour Society, London. He was also a consultant for the Aamir Khan-starrer ‘The Rising’, centred on the 1857 Uprising hero Mangal Pandey, where he had provided guidance on the weapons used in Pandey’s era.

“No other country has as much variety of weapons as India has had. Although these weapons are outdated today, they spell out the metallurgy, sociology, economy and even the psychology of their respective eras,” he had state.

Pursuing his passion, Dhawade has traversed India twice and visited the UK, Russia and Tajikistan in search of weapons.

On his way back to Pune after participating in an exhibition in Allahabad a few years back, when dacoits struck the Prayag Express, Dhawade fought the thugs to defend his hard-earned assets, quite like a Hindi film protagonist.

Dhawade had said that he wanted to set up an exclusive museum for arms and armour. “We have also scientifically made replicas of the weapons for research,” Dhawade had said. Dhawade has also made a mark internationally – he challenged and proved the apt usage of one of the swords kept in the Reserve Collection of the renowned Victoria and Albert Museum (the V&A), London. He proved that the sword, which was wrongly identified as a sacrificial sword, was indeed a fighting one.

For his work, the Nehru Trust for Indian Collections at the V&A had bestowed on him the UK Travel Award 2000-2001.