Canons has helped many an army to win a war in the olden times. They were the secret sauce that enabled armies to have a high ground against their enemies and have helped them to trounce them . Their effectiveness meant that artillery made all the difference in the medieval times
In 1526 , Babur used the canons against the Lodhi dynasty and won the war in the first battle of Panipat. We would have learned that in our history books but I don’t know how many of you will remember that . Again in 1528 , in the battle of Kanwa , between Babur and Rana Sanga , the canons ensured the victor for Babur who established the mughal empire in India.
It is believed that if not for the canons Rana would have won the war and the history of India would have been entirely different.
Now lets come back to the subject of canons.
Canons came in three types . With Stone Balls , Iron Balls and Shot and explosive shells
Stone balls were the first to be introduced in the 14th century in Western Europe, following a logic of increasing performance through size. They eventually evolved from small handguns to big cast iron or bronze bombards within a few decades.
Iron balls and shot came into the picture in the 16th century as a switch from stone balls to smaller but more effective iron projectiles with full swing.
The explosive shells came in obviously during the Industrial Revolution when the need to revolutionize the artillery was felt and there huge leap in the technology .
As the time went the canons also underwent changes and great advancements. The canisters came in which would explode upon impact and throw up shrapnels which would kill or severely wound the enemies.
But how many of you know that 5 of the most advanced medieval time canons were from India?. Its news to you right . Read on
Malik-e-Maidan literally means “The ruler or King of the Arena”. And it was indeed the king of the battlefield. This was a 700 mm calibre canon which belonged to the state of Bijapur and was made in 1549. it was made by Muhamed Bin Hussain Rumi for defending the city. A fine example of bombardment type cannon, it was in the armoury of Ibrahim Adil Shah II. Weighing 55 tonnes, the gun was named after the Battle of Talikota of 1565 in which the Vijaynagara empire was routed.
The inscription on the gun reads that the cannon was cast at Ahmadnagar in 1549 from bell metal. It also reads that the weight of the gun discouraged the British to take it as a trophy to England.
Now this means “Torturer of people or enemies”. What a name to give for a canon ?. This belonged to the Bishnupur Kingdom and had a 286mm caliber. it was made in 1565 by Jagannath Karmakar and was commissioned by Maharaja Bir Hambir to protect the Malla kingdom .
This was produced by Vikad Naikwade in 1620. This is an excellent example for bombarding canon.t belonged to the King of Thanjavur and was used in 1650 during the Nayak period to protect Thanjavur from the enemies who entered from the eastern gate of the city. This cannon was cast at Kollamendu near Thanjavur and joined the armoury in 1620.
Made by Janardhan Karmakar, this 286 mm iron ball canon joined the Murshidabad , West bengal in 1637. Jahan Koshna means ” Destroyer of the World” . This enormous canon weighs seven awesome Tonnes. One of the main paculiarities of this canon is that it is made of eight metals like silver, gold, lead, copper, zinc, tin, iron and mercury.
This 280 mm, iron ball cannon belonged to the State of Jaipur. Jaivana was cast in 1720 by Jai Singh II and it seems it took four elephants to make it swirl around its axis!!. The cannon is large enough to fire a 50 kgs stone ball using hundred kgs of gun powder.
These enormous canons were the best of their times and have helped many a kingdom to save their or to expand. These were the precursors to many advanced guns that human kind have today. We Indians were the masters of these technologies too till the medieval times. Then British happened and we went back centuries in terms of technology and wealth. But we have to remember that we have rich history and need to take motivation from the fact that we were the torch bearers of both culture and technology of the old world order. And we can do it again .