Archive for the ‘fire arms’ Category

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.

Guns for pleasure, anyone? Aabhas Sharma

February 24, 2007
Source: Rediff.com

On a recent visit to Munger, a small town in Bihar, my cabbie, speaking in a thick Bihari accent, decided to play guide, “Munger has one of the biggest gun factories in India, and guns are easily available here,” he pointed out matter-of-factly.

But forget Munger, what about the rest of the country? If one has to buy a licensed firearm, what are the choices and what are the prices? While a majority of arms dealers are tightlipped about the subject, there are a few who are more willing to divulge information.

Shyam Sodhi, owner of Delhi Arms and Armoury, feels, “It is a floundering business which has suffered a lot in the last 10 years or so.”

Sixty-year-old Sodhi, who has been running his shop since 1966, admits that there are months when he doesn’t sell a single weapon and other times when he sells four-five of them. “The most popular weapons these days are revolvers and shotguns.”

But since import of weapons was stopped almost two decades back, the guns in his shops keep doing the rounds. “We have old guns and sometimes people even leave weapons with us, after the owner has died, for safe custody,” he says.

Sodhi’s shop houses everything from the weapon world including revolvers like Beretta, Walther and Smith, Browning (these are imported), to rifles and shot guns. The business, however, faces a massive lull.

Shabbir Bandookwala, proprietor of India Arms in Mumbai’s Crawford Market, feels that most people who buy guns these days, buy them for reasons of security.

He bemoans the strict rules and regulations that govern the procurement of weapons. “There was a time when we used to have frequent visitors looking for hunting rifles, but these days we only manage to sell shotguns and revolvers.” The import of guns, he informs, was prohibited by the Indian government almost two decades back, in 1986.

But still, these imported weapons cost quite a bit so although people are left with a choice of only old weapons, the supply is scarce. An imported Beretta .32 revolver, for instance, will cost around Rs 300,000 and a Browning .32 would be Rs 280,000.

On the other hand, the ones available from the Indian Ordinance Factory will come for Rs 70,000 or so.

Similarly, a pump action shot gun would cost Rs 30,000 from the IOF and if you want an imported one, then it would cost Rs 200,000. A .315 rifle from the IOF will cost around Rs 40,000 while an imported one can be yours to shoot at around Rs 250,000.

Among imported revolvers and pistols, Smith and Wesson, Walthers and Brownings are still the preferred choice for most. Apart from revolvers, there are pistols available too, but most people don’t usually opt for them. A .22 Beretta pistol, which Sodhi terms a “ladies’ weapon”, costs around Rs 150,000.

It is not only in big cities like Delhi or Mumbai where dealers are finding it tough to sustain business. Smaller cities like Bhopal, which was once considered a hunting ground for licenced firearms, has seen business dwindle steadily over the years.

“The nawabs and those from royal families who required guns for hunting purposes would purchase their guns here. But now we don’t manage to sell guns for months together,” says a licensed arms dealer in Bhopal.

For the record, it’s the same story in towns like Kanpur and Meerut, once considered favourite spots for buying arms and ammunition.

The only way gun shop dealers can now deal in imported weapons is to wait for professional shooters to sell their guns. That makes sense because renowned shooters are still permitted to import guns and ammunition from abroad. Sodhi says that one of the biggest global markets in this sphere is Italy.

It is not guns alone, because getting ammo is as difficult a task. The cartridges are available at IOF but that, say experts, can prove an arduous task. A bullet for a pump action shot gun costs around Rs 40.

But where is the market for arms and ammunition, given that hunting is banned?

Experts say that guns, rifles and shotguns are usually procured by banks and security agencies for their professional duties.

And even as Indian guns of reasonable quality are being manufactured in places like Munger, Jammu, Kanrut district in Assam, Kolkata, Kanpur, and Jabalpur, it is imported firearms that people still desire. So who says a gun can’t be for keeps?

Getting a licence

Getting a gun licence is a big task. In Delhi, an application for a license has to be submitted to the DCP/Licencing with the required forms, photographs, other relevant documents and the approval of the local SHO.

The SHO or the local police station has to give the person a clean chit after checking (in negative) for any criminal history.

After that there is a verification process and if one gets through that then a licence can be issued to the person.

Firearms identifiers: Inventions n discoveries

Source: Authorstream
presentation on Men BEhind the Firearms

India: The Home of Gunpowder and Firearms

Source: Hindu Wisdom

India: The Home of Gunpowder and Firearms – By G R Josyer
(source: Diamonds ; Mechanisms ; Weapons of war ; Yoga sutras – By G.R. Josyer).

In every inquiry which is conducted with the object of proving that a certain invention has been made in any particular country, it is of the utmost importance to show that so far as the necessary constituents of the object invented are concerned, all these could be found in the country credited with such invention.

The ordinary components of gunpowder are saltpeter, sulphur, and charcoal.
1. It is now generally admitted that the nitrum which occurs in the writings of the ancients was not saltpeter, but natron, i.e. sodium carbonate; the latter word is nowhere extant in Greek or Roman literature, though the words nitrum and natron are no doubt in their origin identical.
The word neter occurs twice in the Bible. It is described as an alkali, which was used as soap:

“For though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much sope, yet
thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord God.” (Jerem. Ii. 22); and
“As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre,
so is he that singeth songs to an heavy heart.” (Proverb xv. 22).

Herodotus mentions nitrium as litron in his description of the embalming of dead bodies as practiced in Egypt. Pliny repeatedly speaks of nitrum, and Galen records that it was burnt to strengthen its qualities. This would have had no effect if applied to saltpeter. There is no doubt that, had the ancients known saltpeter, its oxidizing properties would soon have been discovered by them, which is the most important step towards the invention of gunpowder.
The word natron was introduced into Europe from the East by some European scholars who had been traveling there about the middle of the sixteenth century, and who had thus become acquainted with this salt; and though the word natron was originally used there for denoting saltpeter, its other form nitrum has been since assigned it; however, as we have seen, the nitrum of the ancients is quite different from our nitre, which is saltpeter (potassium nitrate).
Native saltpeter, i.e. saltpeter produced by entirely natural processes is very scarce, so much so that the inventor of nickel, Freiherr Axel friedrich von Cronstedt (1722-65) was unacquainted with it. It is found especially in India, Egypt, and in some parts of America. Since the introduction of gunpowder in European warfare saltpeter has been manufactured wherever native saltpeter could not be obtained from the difference on walls (sal murale) and other sources; this exudation, together with all the other artificial modes of producing saltpeter, became a perquisite of the sovereign, and this saltpeter regale grew in time into as obnoxious a burden to the people as the hunting regale. The saltpeter regale is first mentioned as having been exercised in 1419 by Gunther, Archbishop of Magdeburg.

The little knowledge possessed by the ancients of chemical science, their utter ignorance of chemical analysis, accounts for their not improving, or rather for their not being able to improve the materials at their disposal and discovering the natural qualities of the different alkalis in their possession.

Throughout India saltpeter is found, and the Hindus are well acquainted with all its properties; it is even commonly prescribed as medicine. India was famous for the exportation of saltpeter, and is still so. The Dutch, when in India, traded especially in this article.

In Bengal, it is gathered in large masses wherever it efforeces on the soil, more particularly after the rainy season. In the “Sukraniti” saltpeter is called suvarcilavana, well shinning salt.

1. The Dhanvanatri – nighantu describes saltpeter as a tonic, as a sonchal salt; it is also called tilakam (black), krsnalavanam and kalalavanam. It is light, shiny, very hot in digestion, and acid. It is good for indigestion, acute stomach ache, and constipation. It is a common medical prescription.

2. Sulpher, the second ingredient of gunpowder, is also found in India, especially in Scind; it is, and was, largely imported into India from the East. It is well known and received its name from its smell, being called gandha or gandhaka smell, or in this case as it has not a good smell, rather from its stench. Its quality differs with its color, according as it is white, red, yellow, or bluish. Though sulphur is a very important part of gunpowder, gunpowder is in some parts in India even prepared without it. Sulphur was always in great demand in India, and in medicine it is often made use of.

3. Charcoal is the third component of gunpowder. Its constitution varies necessarily with the plants which in the different countries are used in its manufacture. In Prussia the coal of the alder, limetree, poplar, elder, willow, hemp, and hazel is used for powder. The charcoal of willow trees is especially esteemed on account of its excellent qualities. In the Sukraniti the arka (Calatropis gigantean), the snuhi, snuhi or snuh (Euphorbia neriifolia), and the Rasona (Allium saticum) are given as the plants whose charcoal is best fitted for gunpowder.

(a) The arka, gigantic swallow wort, is a common bush growing in great
quantities all over the country. It has a very good fiber, and is regarded by
the natives as possessing most powerful and useful qualities. If the arka is
used with discretion when iron is being forged, it contributes greatly to the
excellence of the Indian steel. It is applied against epilepsy, paralysis,
dropsy, etc. Its milky juice is smeared on wounds. It is a common sight in India
to see suffering people applying it. The root is also used against syphilis. Its
charcoal is very light and much used for pyrotechnical preparations, and its
qualities in this respect are so well known that every school boy is acquainted
with them and prepares his own powder and mixture from this plant. Its name in
Tamil is erukku, in Malayalam eruka, in Telugu jilledu, in Bengali akund, and
Hindustani mudar or ark.
(b) The snuhi, snuh, (triangular spurge, kalli in
Malayalm pasan kalli in Tamil, bontajammudu in Telugu, narashy, seyard in Hindi
and narsy in Bengali) grows like the arka in waste places all over the Indian
Peninsula. The qualities of this plant for pyrotechnic displays are as well
known as those of the Calatropis gigantean. Dried sticks of this plant are
scarce. It is widely used as a medicinal plant, externally against rheutmatism,
and internally as a purgative; it is given to children against worms.
© The rasona is a kind of garlic; the Marathi equivalent is lasuan. Its botanical name
is Allium sativum.

The prescription for making gunpowder is, according to the Sukraniti, as follows:
Mix 5 parts of saltpeter with 1 part of sulphur and 1 part of charcoal. The charcoal is to be prepared from the arka snuhi, and other similar plants in such a manner that during the process the plants are so covered that the smoke cannot escape. The charcoal thus obtained must be cleaned, reduced to powder, and the powder of the different charcoals is then to be mixed. After this has been done, the juice of the arka, snuhi, and rasona must be poured over the powder which is to be thoroughly mixed with this juice. This mixture is to be exposed and dried in the sun. It is then finally ground like sugar, and the whole mixture thus obtained is gunpowder!
The proportion of saltpeter varies, as some take 4 or 6 parts instead of 5, but the quantities of sulphur and charcoal remain unaltered. These two are the usual recipes. Nevertheless the mixture is often changed when the gunpowder is to be of a particular color or if it has to serve a special purpose. The three principal ingredients are mixed in different proportion, and realgar, orpiment, graphite, vermilion, the powder of magnetic iron oxide, camphor, lac, indigo, and pinegum, are added to the compound according as they are required.

It seems peculiar that gun-powder should not be mentioned in some Sanskrit works, but it is most probable that the very common occurrence of gunpowder interfered with its being regarded as something extraordinary and worth mentioning. The actual mode of preparing the different sorts of gunpowder may, on the other hand, have been kept a secret in certain classes. Explosive powder either used for rejoicings as fireworks for discharging projectiles was known in India from the earliest period, and its preparation was never forgotten.

In an extract taken from the Mujmalut Tawarikh – which was translated in 1126 from the Arabic, into which language it had been translated a century previously from a Sanskrit original – we read:

“that the Brahmins counseled Hal to have an elephant made of clay and to place
it in the van of his army, and that when the army of the king of Kashmir drew
nigh, the elephant exploded, and the flames destroyed a great portion of the
invading force. Here we have not only the simple act of explosion, but something
very much like a fuse, to enable the explosion to occur at a particular time.”

Vaisampanyana mentions among the things to be used against enemies smoke-balls, which contained most likely gunpowder, and which are according to the explanation proposed by his commentator made of gunpowder.

The following stanza, which is taken from the Rajalakshminarayana-hrdaya, a part of the Atharvanarahasya, is no doubt a clear proof of the fact that the Hindus were familiar with gun powder at a very remote period:

“As the fire prepared by the combination of charcoal, sulphur, and other
material depends upon the skill of its maker so also may thou, O! representative
of knowledge (Lakshmi), by the application of my faith manifest thyself quickly
according to my wishes.”

The Sanskrit word for gunpowder is agnichurna, firepowder, which is occasionally shortened to churna. The Dravidian languages have all and the same word for medicine and gunpowder; in Tamil marundu, in Telugu mandu, in Kanarese maddu, and in Malayalam, maruna. Occasionally the word gun (tupaki) is prefixed to remove any doubt as to what powder is meant. In Malayalam, the word vedi, which means explosion, is prefixed. The Chinese crackers are called by the Tamilians Sini vedi – Chinese crackers – to distinguish them from the Indian crackers. The word marunda is most probably derived from the Sanskrit past participle mardita, pounded, in the sense of different ingredients being pounded together, as a medicine powder. The meaning of gunpowder is then in a special sense derived from the general expression. The Dravidian equivalent of churna is Sunnambu in Tamil, Sunnamu in Telugu, chalk.

Two kinds of firearms are described in the Sukraniti, one is of small size and the other is of large size. The former is five spans long, has at the breech a perpendicular and horizontal hole, and sights at the breech and muzzle end of the tube. Powder is placed in the vent, near which is a stone, which ignites the powder by being struck. Many dispense with this flint. The breach is ell wooded and a ramrod compresses the powder and ball before the discharge. This small musket is carried by foot-soldier.

A big gun has no wood at its breech; moves on a wedge in order to be directed towards the object to be shot at, and it is drawn on cars.

The distance which the shot travels depends upon the strength of the material from which the gun is made, upon the circumference of the hole, and the gun’s compactness and size. The ball is either of iron or lead or of any other material. Some big balls have smaller ones inside. The gun itself is generally of iron, occasionally also, as we have seen in the Nitiprakasika, of stone. The gun is to be kept clean and must be always covered.

The term used for gun nalika (nalika) is derived from the word nala a reed, a hollow tube, which is another form for its synonyms nada, nadi, or nadi; in the same way nalilka corresponds to nadika. Considering that the guns were in ancient times made out of bamboo, and that some bamboo guns are still used in Burma, the name appears both appropriate and original. That the idea of bamboo being the original material for guns was still in the mind of the author of the Sukraniti seems to be indicated by his calling the outside of the stock of a gun bark (tvak).
In all European Sanskrit dictionaries the word nalika has been rendered as stalk, tube; arrow, dart, etc, but the third significance is not given; though it is one which is known to every learned Pundit. At the outset every body can easily see that the meaning of arrow and of gun can be rightly applied to a reed; the arrow is a reed which is discharged as a missile, and a gun is a reed out of which missiles are shot.

In the sholkas 21 and 24 of our extract of the Sukraniti we read that a king should keep on a big war chariot two large guns, and in sholkas 31, we are further informed that his beautiful iron chariot should be furnished with a couch, a swing, and among other things also with sundry arms and projectile weapons.

This tallies with an account concerning the fortifications of Manipura, as described in J. Talboys Wheeler’s History of India: “On the outside of the city were a number of wagons bound together with chains, and in them were placed fireworks and fire weapons, and men were always stationed there to keep guard.” The above mentioned statement appears to rest on good authority, as the Sukraniti declares, that the wall of a fortress “is always guarded by sentinels, is provided with guns and other projectile weapons, and has many strong bastions with proper loop-holes and ditches.”

In the second stavaka of the Bharatacampu composed by Anantabhatta, some three hundred years ago, we find the following simile: “The fierce warrior who killed his enemy with heaps of leaden balls, which emerge quickly from the gun lighted by a wick, is like the rainy season which killed the summer with hailstones which descend quickly from the gun lighted by a wick, is like the rainy season which killed the summer with hailstones which descend quickly from the rows of black clouds lighted by lightning.”

While the verse just quoted from the Bharatacampu reveals an intimate knowledge of firearms, yet its apparent recentness may be alleged as an objection against its being produced as an authority for the existence of firearms in India at an early period. To obviate such further objections as sloka will now be given from an undoubted early poem, the Naisadha which describes the adventures of Nala and is generally ascribed to one Sriharsa, a Brahman, who must not be confounded with Sriharsa, the King of Karmira. It s date goes back to the twelfth century. i.e., before the introduction of firearms into Europe. The verses in question run as follows: “The two boys of Rati and Manmatha (Cupid) are certainly like her (Damayanti’s) two elevated nostrils.” To leave no doubt that guns are meant here, the learned commentator Mallinaatha explains nalika as the Dronicaapa, the projectile weapon from which the Dronicapaastra, a dart or a ball is discharged, an expression, we have already noticed in Vaisampayana’s Nitiprakaasika.

On the other hand it is doubtful whether the asani missile, which was given by Indra to Arjuna and which made when discharged a noise like a thunder-cloud, alludes to firearms, as Von Bohlen explains it.

In the first book of the Sukraniti we find it stated that the royal watchmen, who are on duty about the palace, carry firearms. The Kamandakiya, acknowledged as one of the earliest works on Nitisastra, says that “confidential agents keepingnear the king should rouse him by stratagems, gunfiring and other means, when he is indulging in drinking bouts, among women, or in gambling. It seems from this statement that the practice of firing guns as signals was in vogue among the ancient Hindus, if we can trust the evidence of one of the older Sanskrit writings.
In the preface to a Code of Gentoo Laws or Ordinations of the Pundits: From a Persian translation, made from the original, written in the Shanscrit language, occurs the following passage: “It will no doubt strike the reader with wonder to find a prohibition of firearms in records of such unfathomable antiquity; and he will probably from hence renew the suspicion which has long been deemed absurd, that Alexander the Great did absolutely meet with some weapons of that kind in India as a passage in Quintus Curtius seems to ascertain. Gunpowder has been known in China, as well as in Hindustan, far beyond all periods of investigation.
The word firearms is literally Sanskrit Agnee-aster, a weapon of fire; they describe the first species of it to have been a kind of dart or arrow tip with fire and discharged upon the enemy from a bamboo. Among several extraordinary properties of this weapon, one was, that after it had taken its flight, it divided into several separate darts or streams of flame, each of which took effect, and which, when once kindled, could not be extinguished; but this kind of agnee-aster is now lost. Canon in the Sanskrit idiom is called Shata-ghnee, or the weapon that kills a hundred men at once, from (Shata) a hundred, and (ghnee) to kill; and the Purana Shastras, or Histories, ascribe the invention of these destructive engines to Vishwakarma, the architect who is related to have forged all the weapons for the war which was maintained in the Suttva yuga between Devta and Asur for the space of one hundred years.”

And again we read in page 53 of the same works: “The Magistrate shall not make war with any deceitful machine, or with poisoned weapons, or with cannon and guns, or any other kind of firearms; nor shall he slay in war a person born an enunch, or any person who putting his hands together supplicates for quarter, nor any person who has no means of escape, nor any man who is sitting down, nor any person who says. “ I am become of your party,” nor any man who is asleep, nor any man who is naked, nor any person who is not employed in war, nor any person who is come to see the battle, nor any person who is fighting with another, nor any person whose weapons are broken, nor any person who is wounded, nor any person who is fearful of the fight, nor any person who runs away from the battle.”

As these passages are so often quoted without their origin being stated, it may at once be remarked that the prescription about the use of arms and the treatment of persons is a free translation from the seventh book of the Institutes of Manu, vv. 90-93.

The meaning of arrow (sara, baaba) is much wider than is generally supposed. It was, and became more so in time, the usual term for any missile, whether it had the shape of an arrow or not; in the same way as the word Dhanu signified, in course of time every missile or weapon, so that the Dhanurveda, the knowledge of the bow comprised the knowledge of all other arms.
For instance, the shot out of a gun is called a sara, as we have seen when describing the nalika, but it may be a ball and not an arrow. A rocket is generally styled a baana (compared the Hindi term bana rocket); and banapattrai in Tamil, or banapatra in Telugu denotes a gunpowder or firework factory.

A comparison of the context of the Manavadharmasastra with those of the Sukraniti and the Nitiprakasika make it clear that Manu alludes to firearms. The Sukraniti runs in our extract as follows:

A king, bearing in mind the six principles of policy and the designs of his
enemy and his own, should always kill his enemy by fair and unfair
fighting.
When the king gladdens his soldiers on the march with a quarter
extra pay, protects his body in the battle with a shield and armor;
Has induced his soldiers to drink up to a state of intoxication, the strengthener of
bravery, the soldier kills his enemy with a gun, sword, and other weapons.
A charioteer should be assailed by a lance, a person on a carriage or elephant by
an arrow, an elephant by an elephant, a horse by a horse.

***
G R Josyer is also the author of Vymaanika Shaastra Aeronautics of Maharshi Bharadwaaja – By G. R. Josyer International Academy of Sanskrit Research 1973). For more refer to chapter on Vimanas
(source: Diamonds ; Mechanisms ; Weapons of war ; Yoga sutras – By G.R. Josyer).

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

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.

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.

History of fire arms in India


Gunpowder flask(Mughal,Late 18th century AD) Source: National Museum

Fire Arms : The invention of gun powder in the early 14th century A.D. opened a new chapter in the history of Indian arms. During the period, both inflamable and explosive powers were used in warfare. These were fire-weapons and not fire arms. In 1526, Babur, the founder of Mughal dynasty in India had used cannons of considerable size. These were drawn by bullocks, horses and camels. During the course of time, shoulder fire arms were developed which could be used by the individuals and so were produced matchlocks, flint-locks, and percussioncap muzzle loading guns. Such fire arms including pistols, revolvers and multi-barrelled short arms are a few noteworthy specimens of this gallery. The gun powder flasks enhance the beauty of the show cases. The Indian weapons, by and large, are inscribed, damascened, enamelled and embellished in many forms, and quite a few of them may be treated as excellent works of art.

Source: National Museum

History of gun, gun powder

  • 1232: The Chinese who invented gunpowder (black powder) first used it in a weapon – gunpowder filled tubes aka rockets.
  • 1364: First recorded use of a firearm – shooter lit wicks by hand that ingnited gunpowder that was loaded into the gun barrel.
  • 1400s: Matchlock guns – first mechanically firing of guns. Wicks were now attached to a clamp that sprang into gunpowder that was placed in a “flash pan”.
  • 1509: Wheel lock guns – wicks were replaced the wheel lock that generated a spark for igniting the gunpowder.
  • 1630: Flintlock guns – the flintlock did two things mechanically, it opened the lid of the flash pan and provided an igniting spark.
  • 1825: Percussion-cap guns invented by Reverend John Forsyth – firing mechanism no longer uses flash pan, a tube lead straight into the gun barrel, the tupe had an exposive cap on it that exploded when struck
  • 1830: Back action lock
  • 1835: Colt revolver – first mass-produced, multi-shot, revolving firearms
  • 1840: Pin-fire cartridges
  • 1850: Shotguns
  • 1859: Full rim-fire cartridge
  • 1860: Spencer repeating carbine patented
  • 1861: Breech loaded guns
  • 1862: Gatling Gun
  • 1869: Center-fire cartridge
  • 1871: Cartridge revolver
  • 1873: Winchester rifle
  • 1877: Double-action revolver
  • 1879: Lee box magazine patented
  • 1892: Automatic handguns invented by Joseph Laumann
  • 1893: Borchardt pistol – automatic handgun with a separate magazine in the grip
  • 1903: First automatic rifle a Winchester.