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Early Use of Cannon and Musket in India: A.D.

1442-1526
Author(s): Iqtidar Alam Khan
Source: Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Vol. 24, No. 2 (May,
1981), pp. 146-164
Published by: Brill
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3631993
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Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Vol. XXIV, Part II

EARLY USE OF CANNON AND MUSKET


IN INDIA:

A.D. I442-1526
BY

IQTIDAR ALAM KHAN


(Aligarh)

The surviving evidence on the development of gunpowder technology in India prior to A.D. 15 z6 comprises stray statements in
the sources which can be subjected to divergent, sometimes even
contradictory, interpretations. A major part of this evidence, contained

in Tirikh-i Firishta (completed in A.D. 1607) and a few other later


sources like Tabaqdt-i AkbarJ (completed in A.D. I594), Burhdn-i
Ma'dsir (completed in A.D. I 594) and Mir'dt-i Sikandari (completed
in A.D. i6 I or I613), is problematic in nature. It can be relied upon
only to the extent that it is corroborated by contemporary records.

On the basis of a critical study of this evidence, it is, however,


possible to make out a plausible case that gunpowder was introduced
in the Delhi Sultanate through contact with the Mongols during the
13th century. The Mongols in turn had, apparently, learned the use of
gunpowder from the Chinese. Gunpowder was definitely being used
for display of pyrotechny at Delhi during Firiz Shah Tughlaq's reign
(A.D. 135 1-8 8), and for military purposes in the form of tir-i bawd'i or
bdn in Milwa during the I 5th century. But the history of the introduc-

tion into India of firearms proper, viz., cannon and musket, before

these were employed by Bdbur (A.D. 1526-30), is yet to be worked


out properly 1).
P. K. Gode has tried to establish that in the second half of the 1 5th

century, cannons and muskets were being already used in Gujarat,

Mdlwa and Kashmir. But since much of the evidence about the use
I) Cf. my article, 'Origin and Development of Gunpowder Technology in India:

A.D. I2z0-I 15oo', The Indian Historical Review, Vol. IV, No. I, July 1977.
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EARLY USE OF CANNON AND MUSKET IN INDIA I47

of cannons and muskets in this period is confined to Persian chr

it could not have been directly accessible to Gode, who was n


ficient in the Persian language. In his study, he had to dep
English translations or on the information reproduced in sec
works. Moreover, he has taken into account mainly the inform

furnished by later histories like Tabaqdt-i Akbar7 and Tdrikh-i F


This made it difficult for him to sift and critically examine the

evidence in its totality. He was thus neither able to work o


chronology of the introduction of cannon and musket in dif

regions nor able to identify the stages through which the tacti
of firearms was evolved in India down to A.D. 15 26 2).

In addition to Gode, the problem of the introduction and


cannon and musket before A.D. 1526 has also been studied
Akram Makhdoomee and Abai Zafar Nadvi. Both these authors have

tried to prove that artillery was present in the Delhi Sultanate from

the very beginning. By implication they suggest its introduction i


North India by the Turks. These two have sought to substantiate
this view by citing evidence derived from contemporary as well a
later Persian texts. M. Akram Makhdoomee has also used two of the

Persian dictionaries compiled in India during the 15th century. However, the interpretations of both these authors often suffer from o

basic flaw. To some of the terms used for missile-throwing instrumen

in the 13th and i4th century texts, they have attributed meaning
which were attached to them in the I 5th century. In other word

while interpreting the evidence derived from I3th and I4th century

sources, they have often tended to ignore the process of gradu

transfer of many of the terms denoting missile-throwing instrumen

like the crossbow (tufak or tufang) and the mangonel (maghribi)


different kinds of firearms that came to be used in India during th
15th century. This serious weakness in the methodology of M. Akra
2) P. K. Gode, "Use of Guns and Gunpowder in India from A.D. 1400 Onwards",

"The Manufacture and Use of Firearms in India Between A.D. 145o and I85o

and "History of Fireworks in India Between A.D. I400 and I900oo, Studies in Indian
Cultural History, Vol. II, Poona, I960.

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148 IQTIDAR ALAM KHAN

Makhdoomee and Abfi Z.afar Nadavi has render


misleading 3).

In this paper an attempt is made to re-examin

in order to work out a more plausible chronolo

of cannon and musket in different regions of t

In this context, the interpretations given by M

and Abfi Zafar Nadavi to some of the terms

wa'sh-Shujd'at,
Khazd'in
and
Tdrikh-i
Firuz parts.
Shdhi In
are examined
with
particular care.
This ul-Futk.h
discussion is
arranged
in three
the first two parts the notions that artillery was already known in the
Delhi Sultanate at the beginning of i3th century and that it came to be

used on a regular basis in the Bahmani kingdom in A.D. 1368-69


are examined in depth. The third part comprises a discussion of evidence suggesting the introduction of cannon and musket in India
some time during the I 5th century.
II

M. Akram Makhdoomee has identified kashkdanjir, a weapon mentioned in Addb ul-Harb wa'sh Shuja'at (compiled by Fakhr-i Mudabbir

during Iltutmish's reign, A.D. I210-36), as 'nothing but the modern


cannon'. On this basis, he has asserted that the cannon was known
and used as early as Iltutmish's reign. According to him, at that early
stage cannon was generally not employed in warfare, 'because it still
required much improvement to be used with greater effect than the

mechanical engines'. In identifying kashkanjir as cannon, M. Akram

Makhdoomee has relied upon two pieces of evidence: (a) One of


the 15th century dictionaries, Sharafndma-i A.hmad Amunairt, describes
kashkdrjir as 'a stone ball projected by the extensive force of combus-

tible substances (ddrfihd-i dtishin)'; and (b) Bahar-i 'cjam (compiled


3) M. Akram Makhdoomee, "Gunpowder Artillery in the Reign of Sultan
Eltumish of Delhi", Journal of Indian History, Vol. XV, Part 2, August 1936, and
"The Art of War in Medieval India", Islamic Culture, Vol. XI, No. 4, October 1937;
Abe Zafar Nadvi, "The Use of Cannon in Muslim India", Islamic Culture, Vol. XII,
No. 4. October 1938.

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EARLY USE OF CANNON AND MUSKET IN INDIA 149

by Munshi Tek Chand Bahdr in A.D. 1739-40) explains the same te


as denoting 'an instrument of war worked with gunpowder'.

This view, however, does not appear very convincing for a num

of reasons. Firstly, as already pointed out, in attributing to the t

kashkdnjir mentioned in Addb ul-HIarb wa'sh-Shujd'at (compiled du

A.D. I210-36) a meaning given to it in the 15th and I8th cent


dictionaries, Makhdoomee has adopted a questionable method

which may lead to serious error. It can be shown by citing examp

of a number of terms relating to mangonel, crossbow and n


devices that, in India as well as elsewhere, many such terms

transferred with the introduction of gunpowder to the processes

weapons associated with the new technique. For example the mean

of the term naft itself underwent a significant change with the in

duction of gunpowder. In Arabic as well as Persian, at least for so

time during the i4th and I5th centuries, it came to denote both na

and gunpowder. The term bdrid / bdrfit, denoting gunpowd

distinct from naphta, came into vogue only during the 16th cent

For example in Addt ul-Fuziald' (compiled by Qzi Khdn Badr Muha

mad DharwMl at Jaunpur in A.D. 1419-20) and Sharafndma-i A

Munairi (compiled by Ibrahim-i Qawdm Faruiqi in Bengal dur

the period A.D. 1457-64), the meanings of the term shfira (saltpe
are explained as follows:

(a) Addt ul-Fuzald' 4):

"Salt derived from earth which is at times used for throw

naft. (naft. anddiz)."

(b) Sharafndma-i Ahmad Munair7 5):

"Saline earth from which salt is separated. Fire-workers (naffdtdn)

are known to use it and it is also used in pyrotechny (dtishbdzi)."


4) Maulna Azad Library, A.M.U, MS, Univ. Farhang-Lughit, No. 5.
5) Sharafndma-i Ahmad Munairi preserved in Mauland Azdd Library, A.M.U.,
under the title Farhang-i Ibrahimi, manuscript transcribed presumably during the
i7th century, Habibganj Collection 53/22. I have also consulted the critical edition
of this farhang up to letter '"" prepared by Syed Mohammad Tdriq HIasan, Sharaf-

nama-i Aemad-i Munyari And Its Author Ibrdhim-i Qawam Fdrzqi, Ph.D. Thesis,

Department of Persian, Aligarh Muslim University (unpublished).

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15O IQTIDAR ALAM KHAN

It is obvious that in these statements the terms


do not denote "throwing of naphta" and "napht

ly. They in fact allude to throwing of fire (o


the help of gunpowder and to fire-workers dea
of which saltpetre was an essential ingredient.
that, as late as A.D. 1457-64, gunpowder, alth

had not yet come to be termed bdrfdd/ bdrft. T

is altogether absent from these two dictionar


the period these dictionaries were compiled, gu
to in Indian Persian by the term naft, origin
of combustible material. The statement in Add
scope for a guess that, as was the case with Ara
down to the i6th century 6), the term naft in

applied to cannon. This example makes it m

interpreting the term naft or any of its deriva

take care to ascertain the meaning that attached

compiling of the text in which it occurs. A sim

necessary for a correct understanding of th

as used in Delhi Sultanate during the first quart

Unfortunately, Makhdoomee has not taken this


renders his thesis regarding the nature of this
rather suspect.

Moreover, it should also be noted that, in Add

kashka-nfir (which is incorrectly spelt kabkdtTi


dnchi badin sang firistand ("That with which t

Although in this statement, the description of k


throwing weapon is clearly implied, but at the

of any reference to the use of any kind of "


for generating propelling energy is significa

A.D. 1419-20, the term kashkdnjfir had not yet


with any weapon worked with gunpowder. But
association came to be established some time

6) Cf. G. S. Colin, Encyclopedia of Islam, new edition, Vo

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EARLY USE OF CANNON AND MUSKET IN INDIA I I

seemingly induced the author of Sharafndma-i Ahmad Munairi (c

piled during the period A.D. I457-64) to give, in addition to the o

meaning given in Addt ul-Fuzald', the following explanation:


stone which they propel with the energy (created) by combu

substances, (and is) known in India as gola. It is also written as kash

(.r.S-). It functionally denotes a perforator."


From the above analysis of the evidence relating to the term k

kdnjfr, one may conclude that the weapon mentioned in Adddb ul


wa'sh-Shuid'at (A.D. 1210-36) cannot possibly be identified as a fire

At that point of time the term kashkdnjir, apparently, denoted


kind of mechanical device for throwing missiles.

The presence of artillery in the Delhi Sultanate towards the


of the I3th century is sought to be established by Abfi Zafar Nad

He identifies as a cannon a missile-throwing device used by the Rd

garrison of Ranthambhor in A.D. 1299-1300 7). Ziya'u'd-Din Ba

has referred to this device as maghribi 8), while in Tdrikh-i Firisht

term used for it is manjaniq which should identify the weapo


mangonel 9). Rejecting Firishta's identification, Nadvi argues t

it was really a manjaniq, with which Barani was quite familiar, he w

not have used for it a different and an altogether new term. Acco

to Nadvi, cannon "was already introduced in the 6th century

and by the end of the 7th and beginning of 8th centuries A.H. it

widely used in Spain, Africa, Egypt and Arabia." As it was borrow


he further contends, in other countries including India from
and North Africa, known in Arabia as Maghrib, the weapon ca
be called maghribi10). This view is further sought to be bolstered

citing of
a passage
from .Z.afar
zl-Wdlih
Bi MuZaffar
wa
history
Gujarat compiled
by 'Abdu'llah
Muhlammad
bin 'Umar

Alih, an Arabic

Makki around A.D. I6o0-6. It deals with 'Ala'u'd-Din's expedition


7) Abfi Zafar Nadvi, "The Uses of Cannon in Muslim India", Islamic Culture,
Vol. XII, October 1938, pp. 405-6.
8) Cf. Ziyd 'u'd-Din Barani, TJrik-i FirZi Shhbi, edited by Shaikh 'Abdu'r-Rashid,
Vol. II, Aligarh, pp. 41, 107.

9) Tjrikh-i Firishta, Vol. I, Nawal Kishore, A.H. 1321, p. io6.


i o) Islamic Culture, Vol. XII, October 1938, p. 405.

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I 2 IQTIDAR ALAM KHAN

against Ranthambhor. Muhammad b

weapon used by the besiegers as midfa

was yet another term for cannon ").


his note on birifd in The Encyclopedia of

Amir Khusrai's mention of maghribis


forces in the Deccan. He does not agr

maghribi as a gun, but, according to him


stone balls were discharged by the for

A closer scrutiny of the underlying ass


arguments rest and of the evidence cited

Khan shows that the views of these two a


maghribi are quite untenable. For examp

artillery had become common in the Ma

centuries A.H. (i.e. A.D. I203-1397)."

it is only in the context of the siege of Moc

that an unambiguous description of th


of Maghrib occurs 12). Moreover, as re
Muhammad
bin 'Umar
Makki,Zafar
it can beul-Wdlih
relied upon Bi
for Mu.affar
the evidence Wa
17th century
source
relating to the end of I3th century only if it is established that, like

Alih by 'Abdu'lldh

Firishta's testimony about the use of gunpowder by Timfir in A.D.


1398, it is based on contemporary sources. But this discussion can
be cut short by citing two passages from Khazd'inu'l Futz'h wherein
(a) the terms maghribi and manjaniq are used interchangeably 13), and
(b) a mention is made "of warriors placing heavy stones in the arm
(palla) of a maghribi" 14). These passages clearly show that the maghribis

used by 'Ali'u'd-Din's forces in the Deccan were mechanical devices,


some kind of mangonel rather than cannon. Such an impression is
confirmed by the use of the terms manjaniq and maghribi interchangeably

in Ma'dsir-i Ma.hmid Shdhi (completed in A.D. 1467-68). While giving


I1) Op. cit., p. 406.

1 z) G. S. Colin, Encyclopedia of Islam, new edition, Vol. I, p. io 57, under birfd.

13)Cf.Cf.
Kha.zi'inul
Fuutfh,
edited
by Amir
SyedKhusraz7's
MoinulKhazainul
.Haq Aligarh,
14)
TheThe
Campaigns
of 'Ald'u'd-Din
Khili Being
IIagrat
Futfi, translated with notes by Muhammad Habib, Madras, 1936, p. 48.

1927, pp. 76, 97.

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EARLY USE OF CANNON AND MUSKET IN INDIA 153

an account of the siege of Mandalgarh by Mahmfid Khaliji in A.H.


861/A.D. 1456, Shihab IHakim records: "A firmdn was issued to the

effect that they should resort to the use of royal manjaniq and raze the

rampart to the ground. In pursuance of the firmdn, the engineers got


busy in setting up eight maghribis on all the eight sides." Incidentally,

Shihdb Hakim's evidence also indicates that the term maghribi continued

to be used for some kind of mangonel down to the second half of the
15 th century 15).
III

Again, the widely shared view about the "authentic information

of the use of artillery in the 14th century A.D." also lacks substance.
As a matter of fact, most of the evidence relied upon by Ab-o Zafar

Nadvi, Ydr Muhammad Khhn, and G. N. Pant, who subscribe t

this view, is of a very doubtful nature 16). In this connection Yd

Muhammad Khdn's ascription to Barani of the description of Zaimbirak

as "a small fieldgun of the size of the double musket" is absolutel


misleading. This description actually occurs in Archibald Constable

translation of Bernier's Travels in the MuZthal Empire, A.D. i6 6-i668

and applies, therefore, only to the situation obtaining in the 17th


century 17). It does not at all represent Ziyv'u'd-Din Barani's under

standing of the term and cannot, moreover, be relied upon for ascertain

ing the nature of the weapon to which it applied during the 14t

century. Possibly, Ydr Muhammad Khdn has been misled into ascribing
this statement to Barani on account of some confusion in his notes.

The meaning of the term zaTmbifrak given in Sharafndma-i A.mad


87. 15)

Ma'dsir-i Mahmfd Shabi, edited by Niru'l .Hasan Ansari, Delhi, 1968, pp. 38,

16) Compare, Islamic Culture, Vol. XII, No. 4, October 1938; Encyclopedia of

Islam, new edition, Vol. I, p. io69; G. N. Pant, Studies in Indian Weapons and Warfare,

I970, p. 5.

17) Cf. William Irvine, The Army of the Indian Mughals, reprint, New Delhi, p. 136.
This statement is cited by Irvine from Archibald Constable's translation of Bernier's
Travels published in A.D. 1891. See also second edition revised and edited by Vincent
Smith, published in A.D. 1916, p. 47 wherein the term Zatmbzrak has been eliminated
from the main body of the text but is mentioned in a footnote.

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154 IQTIDAR ALAM KHAN

Munairl (compiled during A.D. i457-6


weapon'. The compiler of this diction
Iqbdl-ndma (the same as Nizdmi's Isk
200zoo-20) which hints at the additi

particular kind of arrowhead"--given in

in A.D. 1653-54) and Farhang-i Anand

But the references in Farhang-i Rashidi an

ing the zavmbfrak's association with a


totally absent from Sharafndma-i Ahma
infer that till the middle of the I 5th

was compiled, the term Paynmbfrak ha


any kind of firearm.

The testimony of the Chinese tra

manufacture of guns in Bengal in large

their export to other regions as one of t

piece of evidence that deserves specia


discussion. Ma Huan's testimony, if ac

naturally lead one to imagine that towar

guns must have already become fairly


Bdbur's description of missiles fired by
Ghaghra (A.D. 1529) it seems that bin
possessed by them. As has been suggest

where, the use of the word "guns" in th


travels is either a slip of translation or

traveller's inability to find a suitable te


it can be safely asserted that Ma Huan's

as conclusive evidence proving the prese

any part of the Indian subcontinent durin

However, the most significant piece

dicating the presence of artillery in I

is a passage in Tdrikh-i Firishta, where

I8) Cf. "Origin and Development of Gunpo


I250-I5oo", The Indian Historical Review, Vol

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EARLY USE OF CANNON AND MUSKET IN INDIA 155

of an earlier history that in A.D. 1368-69 "kdrkhina-i dtishbdzi,

before this was not known among Muslims in Deccan, was m

the backbone (of the army)". The authority to which Firishta ref
as his source in this context is Mullh D'Nid Bedari who wrote his

book Tu.hfatu's-Saldtin during A.D. 1397-1422 19). This book wo

naturally be regarded as a contemporary source for the early histor

of the Bahmani kingdom. Any information furnished by this sourc

about the developments taking place in the Bahmani kingdom


A.D. 1368-69 should be treated as of decisive significance.

Unfortunately, Tu.hfatu's-Sala~in is not extant and it is not possi

to check the veracity of the statements attributed by Firishta to Mu

Dd'uid Bedari. Nevertheless, if Firishta's frequent references to exta

sources are any guide, one may safely assume that his paraphras
of information from other books generally remains faithful to
original version in its broad outlines as well as specific details. Ther
is discernible a tendency on his part to occasionally meddle with th
original version only in two respects. Firstly, sometimes he replace
old technical, military and administrative terms by those curre

during his own time. Secondly, he at times adds his own interpretati

of the information furnished by an earlier source. While examining

the passage mentioned above one should keep in mind these peculiarit
of Firishta's treatment of information borrowed from other works.

Only then would it be possible to fully appreciate the real import


of the information reproduced by him from Mulli Di'id Bedari's
account 20).

The information relating to the procurement of some kind of


gunpowder devices by Sultan Muhammad Shah Bahmani in A.D. 136869, which Firishta claims to have borrowed from Mullh Diid Bedari's

account, comprises five distinct statements. These statementes are


arranged below in the sequence that they occur in the text:
19) Tdrikh-i Firishta, Vol. I, Nawal Kishore, pp. 290-91, 308.
20o) For a scrutiny of information borrowed by Firishta from earlier sources on
the mining of the forts of Bhatnair and Meerut by Timir cf. The Indian Historical
Review, Vol. IV, No. i, July 1977, pp. 21, 26.

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I 56 IQTIDAR ALAM KHAN

(a) After defeating an invading army of the V


the Sultan captured three thousand ardba-i
(b) While subsequently mobilising his forces for
Vijayanagar territory, the Sultan "sent firm
(located) in the imperial territories requisit

and zarbuzans (bisydr top wa .arbuzan talb kard)."

(c) "The kdrkhdna-i dtishbdzi, which before this was not known
(shd'i na bid) among Muslims in Deccan, was made the backbone

of the army (mu.hul-i i'timdd sdkhta)."

(d) Muqarrab Khan was put in charge of the kdrkhdna-i dtishbdi.


(e) Many Firingis and Raimis who were in the service of the state
were put under Muqarrab Khdn's command.
(f) "A large arsenal came into existence (topkhdna-i buzurg tartib
yafta)."

In this break-up, the statement 'c' is of crucial importance and its


meaning can be fully comprehended only if one is able to correctly

interpret the expression 'kdrkhdna-i dtishbdzi'. The question that

needs to be answered is as to how far the rendering of this expression


by Nadvi as "a factory of firearms" is acceptable? In this connection,
it is worth remembering that in the I6th century administrative parlance

the term kdrkhdna had a multidimensional connotation. It applied


to a workshop, "a departmental establishment such as a commissariate

or the artillery park in the fields", a store, or even a stable 21). To


render this term "a factory", though linguistically permissible, would

mean importing into this expression a modern connotation lacking


the subtlety of the original meaning. Moreover, the translation of the
term dtishbdzi as "firearms" is patently wrong. The word "firearm"

applies mainly to a weapon from which "a shot is discharged by


21) For the use of the term Karkhbna to denote administrative establishment in
a 15 th century chronicle, see Ma 'dsir-i Mahmfid ShJhi, p. 50o. Shihdb Hakim mentions
'ahdawardn-i karkhina-i daulat ("the officials of the royal establishment") making

arrangements, in A.D. 1472-73, for festivities on the occasion of the marriage of

one of Sultan Mahmfld Khalji's sons. See also Henry Yule and A. C. Burnell, HobsonJobson, new edition by William Crooke, reprint, Delhi, 1968, pp. 163, 475.

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EARLY USE OF CANNON AND MUSKET IN INDIA I 7

gunpowder" and is commonly used only for small arms. On the ot

hand, the term dtishb.zi exclusively denotes pyrotechny. In all pr


bility, it came into vogue in India after the introduction of gunpow
during the 14th century.

In the light of this discussion, it may be suggested that a m

accurate rendering of the expression kirkhdna-i dtishbdJzi should


"departmental establishment of pyrotechny" meaning apparently

wing of the army that specialised in the use of some kind of gunpo

devices. The statement "c" above could thus be interpreted to conv


that before A.D. 1368-69 gunpowder was not used by the Bahm
for military purposes. It was only during the years A.D. 1368
that a separate establishment specialising in the manufacture and

of gunpowder devices for military purposes, was created in the Bah

kingdom. One might also guess that one of the gunpowder dev

acquired by the Bahmanis at this time could have been the tir-i ha

or bdn, a weapon developed and used in India at a very early d


This statement also tends to imply that the new military techn
acquired by the Bahmanis in A.D. 1368-69 was already known
Muslims in North India (i.e. the Delhi Sultanate) as well as to n
Muslims in the Deccan (i.e. the Vijayanagar empire). The prese
of gunpowder and its use for making a pyrotechnic device, ha
(which on being fired emitted sparks in picturesque patterns), in

Delhi Sultanate during A.D. 1357-88 is confirmed by contempo


evidence 22). It is a possibility that this device came to the Bahm
kingdom from the Delhi Sultanate.

The above interpretation of the statement 'c' suggests the us

term topkhdna in statement "f" above in a more general sense of ar

rather than a park of artillery. This term, which came into vogue o

in the I6th century, seems to be Firishta's substitute for some arc


expression of Mulla Dd'3id Bedari.

The expression top-wa Zarbutan which figures twice in the passa


under discussion poses a problem. The use of this expression in sta

22) 'Afif, Tarikh-i Firfzi Shabhi, edited by Maulavi Vilyat, Husain, Calcu
A.D. 1890, pp. 365-7.
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158 IQTIDAR ALAM KHAN

ment "b" suggests the presence of a large numbe

forts controlled by Muhammad Shdh Bahmani ev

69. Such an interpretation, however, cannot be re

would render this statement totally inconsistent w

by the statement "c". If the Bahmanis lacked the

gunpowder for military purposes down to A.D

could it have been possible for Sultan Muhlmmad


tion in the same year a large number of artillery

controlled by him? It might be suggested that in

cussion the original terms used by Mulla DiP'id


kinds of missile-throwing engines have been
with those in vogue during his own time for sim
with gunpowder. Conversely, it is also possible

and Zarbuzan were there in the original text but

that were attached to them prior to the intro


But in the absence of contemporary evidence,

of these terms being used, during the I4th centu


weapons of war. Zfzfdn-i Gfzyd (compiled during

15th century) is perhaps the earliest Persian di


India that notices the word top but it gives on
dida (Steingass: an eye; any thing like the eye;

nificantly enough, Zz7fdn-i Gzyd does not hint at


top as firearm. It might be taken as an indication

of the 1 th century this word did not denote a canno

From the above discussion it clearly emerge


evidence does not support the presence of arti

the 14th century. Firishta's evidence about the cr

dtishbdzi in the Bahmani kingdom in A.D. 1368-6

as suggesting the introduction of cannon. It is, appar


the acquiring of bdns and other pyrotechnic devices
IV

There are frequent references to the use of firearms (top -wa tufang)

and also to the presence of artillerymen (piydda topchi-wa-tir-andtdin)


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EARLY USE OF CANNON AND MUSKET IN INDIA I 59


in different parts of the Indian subcontinent during the I5 th century in

Tabaqdt-i Akbari (completed in A.D. I594), Burhdn-i Ma'asir (completed in A.D. I594), Tdrikh-i Firisbta (completed in A.D. 1607) and
Mir'dt-i Sikandarz (completed in A.D. I6Ii or 1613). For the first
half of the I 5th century such references are confined to Tdrikh-i Firishta

and Mir'dt-i Sikandari. Mir'adt-i Sikandari's reference to the presence


of firearms during the first half of the I5th century dates back to A.D.

1411-12 and it pertains to Gujardt 23). The references in Tdrikh-i


Firishta for this early period date from A.D. 1423 and A.D. 1429-30
and relate to the Bahmani kingdom and the Delhi Sultanate respectively 24). For the second half of the 15th century such references are

found in all the four chronicles and relate to the Deccan, Gujardt,
Mdlwa and Kashmir and, what is of greater significance, they occasionally corroborate each other.

This evidence, although furnished by later chronicles, cannot be


ignored altogether, especially in view of contemporary evidence
which testifies to the existence and use, mainly as siege weapons, of
firearms in the Deccan and Gujardt during the twenty years preceding
Bdbur's invasions 25). In this connection, it is also worth noting that, in

the L6di empire, cannon was familiar enough to have been depicted in a

painting prepared during Sikandar L6di's reign (A.D. 1489-1517) by


an artist living in the vicinity of Agra 26). The last mentioned evidence
23) Mir')t-i Sikandari, Bombay, A.H. 1308, p. 28.
24) Tdrikh-i Firishla, Vol. I, Nawal Kishore, pp. I66, 320-21.
25) Ludovico Di Varthema, who visited Gujardt in A.D. 15o6, testifies to the

presence of much artillery at Diu. (The Travels of Ludovico Di Varthema, p. 92). The

Portuguese chronicler, Fariay Souza maintains that several kings of the Deccan,

had "much better stored artillery than we that attacked them in A.D. 15o6". (Cited

from R. C. Majumdar's note, "The Use of Guns in Medieval India" in The Delhi
Sultanate, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay, A.D. i960, p. 461). The impression

given by the above two sources is confirmed by Durat Barbosa, who visited western

coast of India in A.D. 1515. (The Book of Duarte Barbosa, The Hakluyt Society,
Vol. 44, PP. 131-32).
26) Cf. Karl Khandalavala and Moti Chandra, An Illustrated Aranyaka Parvan
in the Asiatic Society of Bombay, Bombay, 1976, pp. 36, 49 and Figure o0: The Siege
of Dvdraka "The fort is represented by a simple rectangular structure with a wide
battlemented arch which probably represents the main bastion; on either side of
the arch a cannon is mounted." (I am grateful to my friend Mr Simon Digby, who
drew my attention to this valuable source.)
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16o IQTIDAR ALAM KHAN

particularly points to the presence of cannon in N

an early date during the 15th century. But the qu


was introduced here as also in the other regions of

tinent can only be answered after the evidence


sources mentioned above has been sifted and an
Of the three references in the later chronicles to the use of firearms

in India during the first half of the 15th century, it is possible to cross
check with a contemporary source only in the case of one that pertains

to an expedition sent against the rebellious commandant of Tabarhind

(modern Bhatinda) by the Saiyid ruler of Delhi in A.D. 1429-30.


Yahya writing during A.D. 1428-34, vaguely confirms the availability
of siege appliances (asbdb-i hisargiri), but there is no suggestion anywhere in the text of their identification with firearms 27). As regards

the other two references too, in the absence of any corroborative


evidence, it is difficult to judge whether they are genuine references
to firearms or merely substitute words used by Firishta and Sikandar

bin M. Manjhi for terms used in earlier sources to denote different


kinds of missile-throwing appliances. Thus, in view of vague and
uncertain nature of the available evidence, it is not possible to confidently assume the existence of cannon, or for that matter any other
kind of firearms, during the first half of the I 5 th century.

M. Akram Makhdoomee is, however, inclined to believe that the


musket was already in use in India during the first quarter of the 15th

century. He has based his argument on a notice in Adit ul Fuzald'


(completed in A.D. 1419-20) on "tufung". He has rendered this notice
into English in the following words:
"a tube (nl) from which the bullets (ghalila) are discharged"

This description of tufung as some kind of 'barrel' used for discharging


a ball or pellet (the translation of ghalila as 'bullet' is rather tendentious)

might superficially suggest that it was a firearm, a kind of musket.


A closer scrutiny of the same manuscript of Addt ul-Fuzald', to which
27) Yahyd ibn-i Ahmad, Tdrikh-i Mubdrak Shabi, edited by Hiddyat JIusain,
Calcutta, A.D. 1931, p. z x 5.
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EARLY USE OF CANNON AND MUSKET IN INDIA IGI

this statement is attributed by M. Akram Makhdoomee, however,


shows that his reading of the text is deficient in several respects
Firstly, the word under which the above notice occurs is spelled

tufak and not tufung. Secondly, it is revealed that the tube or barrel

used in a tufak consisted of a hollow trunk of a tree or a culm of som

kind of reed. This in turn indicates that it is most probably not

description of a firearm. But one can justify such an understandin

of the real import of Adt zul-Fuzald's notice on tufak only if it is read

with the notice in the same lughat on the word ghdyfik (Steingass: a
play-ball; a cannon ball). The texts of these two notices are as follows
tufak
"nay-i tir / nay-i narra khdl1

karda ki biddn ghalila andd7and,


mdnind-i tfr rawand."

"They empty the tube of a tree trunk (or a culm of a reed?) and with that
(device) throw ball. It proceeds like an arrow".
Ghaidyfk

"Gumdn karda ay ghaldla-i gilin


mdsikin ki ghalia-andd.zdn ba kamdn-i
nay-i narra anddZand."
"They regard it a hard ball made of mud which the shooters of ball throw with
a bow consisting of a tube of tree trunk (or of a culm of reed?)."

In the reading of Adit ul FzuZald's notice on tufak suggested above,


the crucial expression, which goes to show that the tube used in this
weapon consisted of a hollow trunk of a tree or culm of reed, is,
nay-i narra khdli karda (of J . )j J). In the manuscript, it is written as
nay-i tir khdl karda ("they empty the tube of an arrow") which sounds

odd. The alternative and ostensibly more accurate reading of this


expression as nay-i narra khd1i karda is indicated by the reference to
kamdn-i nay narra (bow consisting of a tube of tree trunk or of a culm
of reed), in the notice on ghdyvik, which appears to be the same weapon
as is called elsewhere in the same text tufak.

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I62 IQTIDAR ALAM KHAN

As already pointed out, the evidence furnished b

later sources on the existence of firearms in Ind

half of the 5th century appears more significa

to the first half. For this period, specific instances m

of the use or acquiring of firearm are corrobo

sources. The earliest reference of Firishta to fire

kind of corroboration pertains to the siege of M

Mahmaid Khalji in A.D. 1456. Nizamu'd-Din


account of the use of cannon by the Mdlwa forces

inside the fort. Similarly, Nizamu'd Din also co


testimony about the introduction of firearms in

reign of Sultan Zainu'l 'Abidin (A.D. 1422-72). B


a certain JHabib Atishbdz for introducing tufang

Din furnishes the additional information regardin

relating to pyrotechny) compiled by Zainu'l '

assistance. Absence of this information from Fir


indicate that the source relied upon by him for

not the same as that of Nizamu'd-Din 28). Oth

corroboration of information relate to (a) Sultan

expedition, in A.D. 1472-73, against pirates in


(b) Sultan Muhammad Shdh Bahmani's military
1472-73, against the ruler of Vijayanagar and t
him, including the chief of Belgam; and (c) th
by Sultan Mahmaid Baighdra in A.D. 1484-85. O
of firearms during Sultan Mahm-id Baighara
pirates in the Gulf of Cambay is corroborated

namely Niz.mu'd-Din
Ahmad,
Sikandar
bin Manjhti.
Regarding
Sultan Muhammad
Shah Firishta
Bahmani'sand
campaign
in A.D.
1472-73, Firishta's evidence is confirmed by Burhdn-i Ma'asir (A.D.
1594), which is one of the earliest histories of the Muslim rule in the
Deccan.

The above array of significant testimonies of the later chron

28)and
Cf.Tdrikh-i
Niz.amu'd-Din
339-40
Firishta, Vol.Ahmad,
II, p. 25 I.

Tabaqdt-i Akbari, edited by B. De, Vol. III, pp.

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EARLY USE OF CANNON AND MUSKET IN INDIA 163


pointing to the presence of firearms in India during the second half
of the 15 th century is indirectly supported by contemporary evidence.

At one place in Ma'dsir-i Mahmid Shabhi (completed in A.D. I467-68),


the use of missile-throwing devices at Mandalgarh is described in the
following words 29):
"By the impact of the balls of the ra 'd (gola-i rcad) and stones of the manjaniq
(sang-i manjaniq), the rampart of the fort was demolished"

The use of the term gola for the projectile thrown by the appliance
identified as ra'd, in order to distinguish it from sang (stone) used in a
manjaniq, is very significant. It tends to suggest that, towards the middle
of I 5th century, the term ra 'dapplied to a weapon qualitatively different

from an ordinary mangonel. The impression that the ra'd would be


only used for throwing a gola goes to indicate that it was an appliance
in which the projectile had to pass through a barrel, a description
that fits well with that of a cannon. Such an impression is further
strengthened by the manner in which Mahmiid Gdwan a contemporary
writer, refers to the effective use of the ra'd by the Bahmanis during

the siege of Machal in A.D. 1470. Mahmaid Gdwdn, who was present
in that expedition, records 30):
"The flood of the blood-shedding arrowheads and the lustre (ejb) of the sword
and roaring ra' d, having the effect of a thunderbolt, were showered (on the fort)
in such a manner that the battlements, niches, windows and porticos of that
lofty fort were razed to the ground"

In any case, if the ra'd's identification with cannon, which seems so


plausible, is accepted, then it would not be wrong to assume that
cannon was already in use in India as early as A.D. 1442-43. According
to Shhdb Hakim, in A.D. 1442-43 the Sisodias used kamdn-i ra'd at

Chitor against the invading army of Mdlwa31). The references in


29) Ma 'sir-i Mahmz7d Shdhi, p. 87.
30) Malhmid Gdwdn, Riyd.Zu'l-Insha', edited by Shaikh Chand, Hyderabad, 1948,

p. 72.

cAll31)
Yazdi's
testimony
to the presence
of the Delhi
Ma'.sir-i
Mahmfd
Shahi, ofp. ra'ad-andjaan
56. Here itinistheofarmy
interest
to note

Sharfu'd-Din

Sultanate in A.D. 1398 (.Zafar-ndma, compiled in A.H. 828/A.D. 1424-25, edited


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I64 IQTIDAR ALAM KHAN

Riydzu'l-Inshad' to the use of this weapon in Su

Bahmani's campaigns in A.D. 1470 further su

seventies it was available to the Bahmani rulers 3


V

The foregoing discussion suggests the following stages of development.

(a) There does not seem to be much substance in Makhdo


view that firearms were present in the Delhi Sultanate
back as Iltutmish's reign.

(b) Neither is it possible to prove the use of cannon by


Din Khalji's forces on any occasion.

(c) Apparently hawd'i or bdn was the earliest kind of gun


device used in India for military purposes.

(d) In all probability, the much debated passage in Tdrikh-i F

mentioning the establishment of kdrkhdna-i dtishbbt


Bahmani kingdom in A.D. 1368-69 actually refers to
quisition by them, for military purposes, of pyrotechnic
like the bdn.

(e) The presence of cannon and musket in different part

Indian subcontinent during the second half of the 15th c


cannot be seriously doubted.

(f) It is likely that the missile-throwing weapon known

the second half of the I5th century as ra'd or kamdn-i ra


actually a cannon.

by Maulavi Muhlammad Ilihdad, Calcutta, 1887, p. ioo). There is, how

way of ascertaining whether in A.D. 1398 the term ra'd had the same conn
that it appears to have acquired seventy years later.
3 2) RiyJzu'l-Insha, pp. 72-74.

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