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Times of india
November 30, 2022 at 12:00:00 AM
Mughal artillery: How the empire used gunpowder firearms and revolutionised mode of warfare in India

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Mughal artillery: How the empire used gunpowder firearms and revolutionised mode of warfare in India

The Mughal Army, which played a crucial role in the expansion, had its origins in the cavalry-based armies of central Asia, but its essential form and structure were established by the empire's third emperor, Akbar.

New Delhi: The Mughal Empire, among many other things in the Indian subcontinent, revolutionised the way war was fought in this land. It was one of the three Islamic gunpowder empires, along with the Ottoman Empire and Safavid Persia. Babur was one of those early rulers of India who realised the potential of gunpowder firearms and used them to build the foundations of his empire. The Mughal Army, which played a crucial role in the expansion, had its origins in the cavalry-based armies of central Asia, but its essential form and structure was established by the empire's third emperor, Akbar.


The use of firepower

By the time Babur was invited by the Lodi governor of Lahore, Daulat Khan, to support his rebellion against Lodi Sultan Ibrahim Khan, the founder of the Mughal Empire was well acquainted with gunpowder firearms and field artillery, and a method for deploying them. He employed Ottoman expert Ustad Ali Quli, who showed him the standard Ottoman formation, artillery and firearm-equipped infantry protected by wagons in the centre and the mounted archers on both wings. He used this formation at the First Battle of Panipat in 1526, where the Afghan and Rajput forces loyal to the Delhi Sultanate, though superior in numbers but without the gunpowder weapons, were defeated. It was one of the reasons why opponents rarely met Mughal forces in pitched battles over the course of the empire's history. Fathullah Shirazi, a Persian polymath and mechanical engineer who worked for Akbar, developed an early multigun shot. As opposed to the polybolos and repeating crossbows used earlier in ancient Greece and China, respectively, Shirazi's rapid-firing gun had multiple gun barrels that fired hand cannons loaded with gunpowder. It may be considered a version of a volley gun.

The usage of rockets


Akbar, in the 16th century, was the first to initiate and use metal cylinder rockets known as bans, particularly against war elephants, during the Battle of Sanbal. In 1657, the Mughal army used rockets during the Siege of Bidar. The forces of Aurangzeb, who was still a prince at that time, discharged rockets and grenades while scaling the walls. Sidi Marjan was mortally wounded when a rocket struck his large gunpowder depot, and after 27 days of hard fighting, Bidar was captured by the Mughals.

The artillery of the Mughal Empire Mughal artillery included a variety of cannons, rockets, and mines employed by the Mughal Empire. This gunpowder technology played an important role in the formation and expansion of the empire. Artillery remained an important part of the Mughal military, in both field deployment and incorporation into defensive forts. However, transportation of extremely heavy guns remained problematic, even as weapon technology improved during the reign of Akbar. Later emperors paid less attention to the technical aspects of artillery, allowing the Mughal Empire to gradually fall behind in weapon technology, although the degree to which this decline affected military operations is debated. By the 18th century, the bronze guns of the declining empire were unable to compete with the standardised production of European cast-iron weapons and performed poorly against colonial forces, such as Jean Law de Lauriston's French troops.


The army of the Mughal Empire


The army had no regimental structure and the soldiers were not directly recruited by the emperor. Instead, individuals, such as nobles or local leaders, would recruit their own troops, referred to as mansab, and contribute them to the army. The Mughal emperors maintained small standing armies. The emperor's own household troops were called Ahadis. They were directly recruited by the Mughal emperor himself, mainly from the emperor's own blood relatives and tribesmen. The Walashahis or royal bodyguards were regarded as the most trusted and faithful part of the troops, being directly in the pay of the Emperor. They were chiefly, if not entirely, men who had been attached to the Emperor from his youth and had served him while he was only a prince and were thus marked out in a special manner as his personal attendants and household troops. There were four branches of the Mughal army: The cavalry (Aswaran), the infantry (Paidgan), the artillery (Topkhana) and the navy. These were not divisions with their own commanders, instead, they were branches or classes that were distributed individually amongst the Mansabdars, each of whom had some of each of these divisions. The exception to this rule was the artillery, which was a specialized corps with its own designated commander, and was not part of the mansabdari troops.


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