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INA: Azad hind fouz: weapons history India

Gun Powder origins to India

By the mid- to late-eleventh century, the Song government had become concerned about gunpowder technology spreading to other countries. The sale of saltpeter to foreigners was banned in 1076. Nonetheless, knowledge of the miraculous substance was carried along the Silk Road to India, the Middle East, and Europe. In 1267, a European writer made reference to gunpowder, and by 1280 the first recipes for the explosive mixture were published in the west. China’s secret was out.

According to Sir A. M. Eliot and Heinrich Brunnhofer (a German Indologist) and Gustav Oppert, all of whom have stated that ancient Hindus knew the use of gunpowder. Eliot tells us that the Arabs learnt the manufacture of gunpowder from India, and that before their Indian connection they had used arrows of naphtha. It is also argued that though Persia possessed saltpetre in abundance, the original home of gunpowder was India. In the light of the above remarks we can trace the evolution of fire-arms in the ancient India. (source: German Indologists: Biographies of Scholars in Indian Studies writing in German – by Valentine Stache-Rosen. p.92).

The first known autocannon in a primitive form was invented in the 16th century by Fathullah Shirazi, a Persian-Indian polymath and mechanical engineer, who worked for Akbar the Great in the Mughal Empire.

It was written in the Tarikh-i Firishta (1606-1607) that the envoy of the Mongol ruler Hulegu Khan was presented with a dazzling pyrotechnics display upon his arrival in Delhi in 1258 AD.

South India Guns

A 17th century forge-welded iron cannon, at Thanjavur’s eastern entrance (India).

Indian Historical sources n gun powder

Source: History science technology

Michael Scot (1180?-1236?) was translating from Arabic in Toledo in 1217, and after 1227 was court astrologer and philosopher to Frederick II at Palermo. In the Cambridge manuscript of De Alkimia, attributed to Scot, three kinds of nitrum are given. “Sal nitrum de puncta is said to come from India, and Alexandria. It is tested by putting it on burning coals, and if it does not decrepitate or make a noise it is good. There is also a foliated Sal nitrum somewhat long and thick with a taste something like vinegar when touched with the tongue and not salty, and it makes a flame over a fire. It is mentioned in some books that it is the best for making mercury malleable, and changes copper into the best gold. It is found in Spain and is exported from Aleppo. A third kind is nitrum depilatum, from Hungary and Barbary. It cleans dried pork.”

The Karshuni manuscript classifies natrun under the salts also. It says that “Salt consists of seven varieties, namely, 1) salt for food, 2) salt of goldsmiths , 3) Andarani salt, 4) naphtha and natrun salt, 5) Khurasani salt, 6) Indian salt, and 7) natrun which is the nitra salt.

Jaivana, world’s largest cannon

The Jaivana cannon is the largest wheeled cannon ever constructed. It is located at the Jaigarh Fort, Jaipur. It was cast in 1720, during the reign of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II of Jaipur. The formidable strength of its builder, the scientifically inclined warrior Sawai Jai Singh II, lay in the large number of artillery and copious supply of munitions which he maintained. Jaivan rests on a high 4 wheeled carriage. The front wheels are 2.74 m in diameter and the rear wheels are 1.37 m in diameter.

The length of the barrel of the cannon is 20 feet 2 inches and it weighs 50 tons.

Blast from the Past

Author: Rohit Parihar
Publication: India Today
Date: July 12, 2004

Introduction: Efforts are on to give a facelift to a foundry producing weapons of massive dimensions in Jaipur

Legend has it that when Jaivana, the world’s largest cannon on wheels at the Jaigarh Fort in Amer, Rajasthan, was fired, expectant mothers living nearby suffered miscarriages. But the foundry that made and assembled this massive weapon in 1720-it was then one of the world’s oldest cannon factories-is falling apart and efforts to restore it to its former glory are on.

Its sheer size gives some idea of what a monumental task Jaivana’s manufacture might have been. The 50 tonne cannon rests on six massive wheels, each 9 ft in circumference. The cannon is 31 ft long with a 20 ft barrel that can be raised or lowered by an 8 ft tall elevating screw. Four elephants were used to rotate it. The cannon is believed to have been fired only once- towards Chakshu, 22 km away. About 100 kg of explosives launched a 50 kg iron ball which created a huge depression when it landed. It is a pond now.

Jaigarh Fort was built in the 11th century and developed under Raja Man Singh, a trusted general of Emperor Akbar. Man Singh learned about casting cannons while serving in Afghanistan. He set up the gun foundry complex in 1584. Now, Kunwar Narendra Singh, son-in-law of Jaipur’s erstwhile Maharaja Bhawani Singh, is restoring the factory that produced thousands of cannons for close to three centuries before shutting down owing to lack of demand.

The most prominent features of the cannon complex are the giant wheels with teeth measuring 9 inches for rotating cutters to drill holes in mammoth barrels. Each cutter is 9 ft long. Four pairs of bulls rotated the gear system made from thick wooden crossbars fixed to a central beam. It is these wooden parts that have eroded and need repair. Narendra Singh has hired a master carpenter to work on the missing parts. Delhi’s National Museum too has been approached for help. Since the erstwhile kings used to supervise the making of cannons themselves, the royal pavilion where they were seated is also being renovated. In addition, a support system is being fabricated to ease the burden on the wheels of Jaivana that are wearing out under the cannon’s weight.

With government assistance Narendra Singh believes the factory will once again produce cannons-mini replicas of the original. With its ancient heritage restored, it could also mean a tourist boom for Jaigarh.


Source: Wikipedia
An illustration from the Akbarnama written by Abu’l-Fazl ibn Mubarak (1551-1602) depicts a gun in Akbar’s court (bottom center).


Source: Gutenberg
SEEMA PUBLICATIONS C-3/19, R. P. Bagh, Delhi-110007.
First Indian Edition 1974

North Wazíristán Militia and Border Post.

Khaibar Rifles.

Lieut. Pattinson recaptures the gun: Maratha wars

Source: Heritage History
Lieut. Pattinson recaptures the gun
Second Maratha War : 1802-1803

Other related wars

First Maratha War : 1775-1783
Third Maratha War, a.k.a. Pindaras War : 1817-1818
Gwalior Campaign : 1843