Early Gunpowder Warfare in India, c.1460-1520

civfanatic

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
3,311
Des Moines, Iowa
#1
In the Indian subcontinent, evidence of gunpowder weapons being used in warfare first appears in the mid-15th century, in the Deccan plateau region of south-central India. The context for their usage was the struggle for supremacy between the Karnataka Empire of Vijayanagara and the Bahmani Sultanate. In 1461-63, the fortress of Kalyana in what is now northern Karnataka was built with walls that contained gun ports, enabling firearms to be used by the defenders of the fort; this represents the earliest physical evidence for the usage of gunpowder weapons in India. Soon afterwards (1468-70), similar gun ports appear at the fortress of Raichur, which was located in the region most hotly-contested by the Vijayanagara and Bahmani states, and also at Bidar, which is located near Kalyana.




A wrought iron cannon from Bidar fort:



In addition to this archaeological evidence, the 15th century also sees the earliest verifiable literary evidence for gunpowder weapons being used in India. The Deccan historian Ferishta, for example, refers to the usage of cannons (top and zarbuzan) during the Bahmani siege of Belgaum (a city allied with Vijayanagara) in 1472. Similarly, accounts left behind by foreign travelers like Afanasiy Nikitin (a Russian merchant who visited the Bahmani Sultanate between 1469 and 1471) also indicate that gunpowder weapons were used, and this is further confirmed by the Italian traveler Ludovico di Varthema as well as the Portuguese captain Afonso de Albuquerque (who acquired 100 bombards and hundreds of smaller guns when he captured Goa in 1510, with the assistance of a local pirate-warlord named Thimmayya).

Afonso de Albuquerue also tells us something very interesting: the quality of the local guns produced in the Deccan, according to him, were easily comparable, if not superior, to the contemporary guns produced by the Bohemians and the Germans. Giving that these latter peoples were regarded by the Portuguese to be among the best manufactures of guns in Europe at the time, this speaks very highly of the skills of gunsmiths in the Deccan. The local guns so impressed the Portuguese, in fact, that samples were sent back home to Portugal, where they were likely reverse-engineered. We know that the Portuguese continued to rely on local gunsmiths for their arsenal at Goa, and during the 16th century, the matchlocks produced here were exported as far as Japan.



 
Dec 2014
1,492
autobahn
#3
Battle of Raichur, Sri Krishna Deva raya had a mercenary unit of gunners snipers, which he used to pick the guard of the fort. Even the battle after it the enemy had a gunner unit, which of course was defeated by the Vijayanagar King.
 

Haakbus

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
3,710
United States
#4
So considering the Indians were using the hoop-and-stave construction, wouldn't this imply this method was Islamic rather than European in origin?
 

civfanatic

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
3,311
Des Moines, Iowa
#5
So considering the Indians were using the hoop-and-stave construction, wouldn't this imply this method was Islamic rather than European in origin?
Yes. It seems that the Ottomans or Mamluks were the source of this method, which spread to South India.
 

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