Archive for the ‘marathas’ Tag

History Of The Gun In India

Source: Allsands

This is a history the gun in India. It refers to the armors of the Indian Kings and of the British reign including those of the East India Company.

The legend that the ancient Hindus invented gunpowder can be traced back to the writings of Englishman Nathaniel Halhed in 1776 and a Scotsman Quintin Craufurd in 1790, both of who served in India and became fascinated by the history and religions of this country. Gustav Oppert, a professor of Sanskrit Language at Chennai (previously known as Madras), who translated two ‘ancient Sanskrit manuscripts’, in 1880 to prove to his own satisfaction that “gunpowder and firearms were known in India in the most ancient times.” As many of the statements in his book are palpably absurd like the size of the ‘Aksauhini’ army corps is given as 2,187,000,000 men, and no proper attempts have been made to date his sources. So, Oppert’s theory cannot be accepted. Manuscripts or printed books, which purport to be copies of earlier works, have been particularly tempting to Chinese historians.

In India, King Babar wreaked havoc on the battlefield by using the Muskets in the war for the first time. The most common Muskets found in India are Flintlocks, Brown Bess Muskets and the Percussion Cap. In India, the few flintlocks made by the native gun makers were also close copies of the European type. One often finds a typical Indian stock and barrel equipped with a good quality London-made lock. In the island of Sri Lanka, however, a most unusual fitted to the left-hand side of the stock. The unique scroll-shaped Ceylon form of butt carries the most profuse kind of ornament. The flintlock gun believed to have been made for the last great warrior King of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Raja Sinha, who died in 1687. Both the barrel and wooden stock are overlaid with sheet silver, parcel gilt and embossed with filigree work, and inlaid with rubies. The lock of this gun, however, probably of later date than of the stock, is either of European manufacture or a close copy of one. In East of India the flintlock is rarely found. These at first sight appear to be a three-barreled matchlock revolver. But the jaws of the cock have been turned horizontally to take a flint, and the priming pans, although fitted with the usual side-swinging double pan-cover, are also equipped with pivoted steels with ribbed faces. Joseph Belton, one of the developer of the muskets, pistols and carbines didn’t succeeded in interesting British Ordnance, but some muskets, pistols and carbines made by him were purchased by East India Company.

A gadget not found on European guns is the small pricker for cleaning the touchhole, which is chained to a container, fastened to the stock just below the pan. The Indian methods of making gun barrels are recounted in full by the Lord Egerton of Tatton in his work ‘A Description of Indian and Oriental Armour’. A part from his interesting description of the damascening and graining of the surface of the metal, he reveals that some of the longer barrels consist of four pieces of cylindrical iron joined together.

The shape of the stock of the Indian matchlock gun, or ‘toradar’, as it was called, varies according to the geographical location of its manufacture. In the North and particularly in the state of Sind, the butt has a very pronounced curve and opens out into a large fishtail shape. This is known as the Afghan stock, as it is modeled after the guns of the neighboring hill tribes of Afghanistan. But where as the Afghan gun is usually of crude manufacture the Indian model is often distinguished by a heavy damascened barrel with a muzzle fashioned as a monster’s head and a stock ornamented enameled plaques rivaling the best productions of Persia.

In the central regions the curve of the Butt is less pronounced, but a distinct notch is cut in the top of the Butt just behind the breach. The true Indian stock favored by the Rajputs and the Marathas has a very slim, straight stock of pentagonal section capable of supporting only a light barrel. Iron, brass or silver plates nailed to each side of the lock housing strengthen it. Although its design is severe in line, the decoration can be magnificent. Even on the plainest of guns, the metal sidepieces are of watered steel with restrained chiseling. If silver or brass is used the engraving and embossing can be profuse. The craftsmen used their fine arts to decorate them.

From the beginning, the European settlers and merchants had coveted the luxurious pelts the Indian collected in his native habitat. Among other things, the Indian, in his turn, coveted European firearms and, the laws of economics begin what they are; the two soon began to change hands. And active trade in guns had developed during the seventeenth century, but it was not until the early 1700’s that a special trade gun was devised for barter.

The Indian knew what he wanted in a gun and the trading companies strove to produce it a price that would permit a pleasingly exorbitant profit. Long, heavy guns were completely unacceptable to the aborigines. There were unimportant details the Indians insisted upon because they were used to them: a serpent-shaped side plate opposite the lock, a deep-trigger guard, and even British proof marks. Straight guns made in America or in Belgium frequently had to bear imitations of these marks before the Indians would accept them.

For almost two hundred years it was the preferred gun of the Indian, and it was made for that whole period without significant alteration. The flintlock suited the Indian perfectly and he preferred on even better arms, which used percussion caps or metallic cartridges. He could make his own flint if he wanted to. A flintlock could be loaded more easily. But with a large touchhole, slapping the butt and jarring some of the charge out of the barrel and into the pan could prime a flintlock. It was customary to hunt buffalo, sheep, and deer in most part of India, for instance, by riding alongside the great beasts and firing at close range, loading rapidly and firing again.

The trade guns were cheap, but they were sturdy. They had to withstand the treatment they received. An Indian seldom cleaned his gun or oiled it as a European would. If the stock broke, he wrapped it with rawhide. Usually he removed the butt plate and made a hide scrapper out of it. Frequently he cut the barrel down to carbine length and made a tent peg or another scrapper from the cut-off portion. He studded the stock with brass-headed tacks, decked it with rawhide, copper wire and scalps. Still, many of these sturdy flintlocks gave dependable service for years.

Brown Bess was the affectionate nickname given to this musket by the British soldier. No one knows how the name originated. Some have tried to link it with Queen Elizabeth, but there were more than a hundred years between the death of the one and birth of the other, so that such an association would have been remote indeed. More likely, the ‘Bess’ was simply a pet name such as men have often applied to gun and the ‘Brown’ stemmed from artificial browning of the barrel and the colour of the walnut stock, which was no longer painted black as it frequently had been in the past.


Source: Orissa govt
R. K. Mishra
The story of weapons is intimately connected with the story of mankind. Born armed but not weaponed man is obliged to arm himself with weapons both for the purpose of offence and defence. The arming of man all over the world began in the remote past when the primitive man fashioned crude weapons from pebbles and stones not only to protect himself from the ferocious beasts but also to augment his food supply by hunting. With the passage of time he brought about sophistication in them and used these weapons for all his domestic and external needs. With the gradual development and discovery of mater like copper and bronze (C.2500 B.C. in India), he hammered or cast his metalic weapons which he used to greater effect when iron came to be known in India around 1000 B.C. it brought about a revolution in the art of weaponry. Several kingdoms were razed to the ground and vast empire built on their ruins with the power
of the weapons.

This study of Arms and Weapons absorbs interest to a large and ever increasing number of people inasmuch as it appeals in a marked degree to a student of history, the antiquarian and to those who worked in the art of military science.

Weapons form the basis for a certain aspect of history and pre-requisite for changing the face of the world through various wars. This study constitutes a subject in writing the history of a nation.

Orissa State Museum has acquired a good number of traditional weapons of war like swords, guns, cannons, daggers, spears, bows, battle axes, shields, etc. These weapons are under display in a separate Armoury Gallery.

Representing several varieties, the Museum has choicest species of swords and talwars which are generally carved towards the end and has cutting edge. The Khadga variety of swords normally straight with blunt end and having double cutting edges. It is usually very heavy. Patta forms another type with a long handle and can pierce through the body of the enemy. There are two inscribed swords collected from Narasinghpur and Baramba Palace which deserves special mention. The first one belongs to Muslim Period having curved with hilt, oval grip and straight quillion. The back edge bears a persian inscription having an inscribed name of ‘Saha Alam Badshah’.

The second one belongs to Gajapati Period. The hilt has a brass grip with gold coated inscription beginning with “Om Ganesayah Namah” in proto Oriya character and presumably a verse from Vishnu Sahasranama. The use of jewels like gold coating in arms is peculiar in India. These are studded to enhance the beauty, elegancy and richness of the swords. The hilts of the swords are fashioned with costly metal with engraving of floral devises and animal figures. The blades have decorated designs and inscribed letters. The greatest amount of ornamentation is lavished upon armours and personal weapons of kings and emperors. Some metalic weapons are engraved, enamelled, perforated and embelished in many forms. Some of the hilts are made of ivory, steel , horn, fish teeth, etc.

The gallery is enriched with display of varieties of matchlocks, flint guns, muzzle load and rifles. The Marahattas used matchlocks, pistols and rifles. These guns are generally large and heavy. The long barrel of the matchlock is usually attached with the stock by leather stripe and strengthened with side plates of steels. These are traditional types used by the soldiers of the royal armies during these days. Gun powder is generally pressed inside their long barrels and then fired. The prize collection in the gallery is the personal gun of Utkal Gaurav Madhusudan Das, the maker of Modern Orissa. There are about 30 numbers of small and big cannons displayed in the gallery.

These fire arms are generally of Mughal and Marahatta Period. It may be mentioned here that the development of fire arms made Mughals very effective. Guns and cannons mounted each on a wheel carriage were later introduced from Europe and convenient devices were added in the Mughal Army by Akbar. Eight big cannons were recovered from Barabati Fort area of Cuttack district and brought to the Museum. Two big cannons were brought from Lalbag Palace, Cuttack at the instance of Shri A. N. Khosla the then Governor of Orissa during 1969. Lalbag originally a seat of Mughal Governors was subsequently converted to Governor House of Orissa.

Ten number of daggers have been displayed in the gallery. Some of the daggers are assorted variety with hilts of ivory bones, agate and metal. Some daggers are curved and straight. Jamdhar, a popular variety of daggers have a beautiful handle and broad straight blade. The blade is thick with two cutting edges having a breadth of three inches at the hilt. The handle bars are very often enamelled and display decorative designs. Spears and javelines are coveted weapons for riders and cavaliers and fixed to the saddle through iron chains. Ballam which were another popular variety consisted of several varieties. They are constituted of metal and are very slender and could easily be thrown. The blade is round in two sides, three sides and even more. The blade is in the shape of vertical narrow leaf. The blade of those weapons are attached to long bamboo and hurled on the foe when they are used for attack. The State Museum preserves a good number of these weapons datable to Mughal and Marahatta Period. Some of them have been provided with a leather strap to facilitate their hanging from shoulder of the armed personnel. The shafts of many of these weapons are decorated with gold and silver workmanship.

Among the defensive weapons in the collection there are circular shields of different varieties made of hide and metals to protect the body from close range when attacked by the enemy.The shields are made of the skin of Rhinoceros, buffalo, tortoise, tigers and are elaborately decorated and damascened with gold, cresents and murals. At subsequent periods metal seems to have been used in the fabrication of shields with both iron and copper. The shape of the shields are ordinarily circular. The diametre ranges from 18th to 20 inches. At time they are fitted with four or six steel brussed on thin surface.

The gallery is enriched with good collection of battle axes. Axes are dreadful weapons which could create havoc when used in the war but in later period they were outdated. The battle axe consisted of a short wooden shaft with a shouldered blade attached to it on the side near the top. The battle axes were very much prevelent among soldiers of Mughal and Marahatta army.

A large number of old weapons have still been stored in the old palaces, private collections, local zamindars and feudatory chiefs and ex-State rulers which can be collected and preserved in the armoury gallery in a thematic order.

References :
1. Military History of India–J. N. Sircar
2. Studies in Indian Warfare and Weapons–G. N. Pant
3. National Museum Bulletin–No. IV, V and VI.
4. Glimpses of Orissan Art & Culture (Golden Jubilee Issue)–O.H.R.J. Vol. XXX No. 2, 3 & 4.
5. Military History of Orissa–Dr. R. P. Mohapatra.
6. Indian Arms and Armour–Vol. I & II–G. N. Pant.
7. Military History of India–B. C. Kar.
Orissa State Museum