Cannons have changed the course of history, especially Indian history. But where can one find cannons of the medieval era?
The cannons at the Daulatabad Fort are perfect to study cannons and their relevance in the subcontinent, particularly in the Deccan.
The conical-shaped hill fort of Daulatabad, earlier known as Devagiri or Deogiri, is located in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra.
"There are 288 cannons in Daulatabad Fort," according to Dr Tejas Garge, Director, Directorate of Archaeology & Museums, Government of Maharashtra.In the sixth century, Daulatabad was part of caravan routes. Like Deogiri, the 'Hill of Gods' changed its name to Daulatabad, the 'Abode of Wealth', the fort also changed hands multiple times.
At a webinar, 'History of Gunnery in India', hosted by the Sadhana Education Society's L S Raheja College of Arts & Commerce, Santacruz, Dr Garge said that the Deccan was ruled by many dynasties that shaped Indian history. These include Mauryans, Satvahanas, Vakatakas, Chalukyas, Pallavas, Rashtrakutas, Cholas, Kakatiyas, Vijayanagara, Khiljis, Tuglaqs, Bahmanis, Nizamshahis, Mughals and Marathas.
Impregnable by military standards and an example of strategic planning, the fort falls between Aurangabad city and Ellora Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, featuring Buddhist, Jain and Hindu monuments.
"The cannons here are unique. They have various types, sizes and shapes," said Dr Garge.
One of the most famous cannons is the Mendha tope. "The Qila Shikan or Breaker of Forts or Mendha tope was made by Muhammed Hussain Arab. Aurangazeb’s name is engraved as ‘Abul Zafar Muhiuddin Muhammad Aurangzeb Bahadur Alamgir Badshah Gazi’. It’s a composite cannon. This too was one of the most effective cannons. The cascabel is in form of a ram and hence the name Mendha tope," he said, adding that it has a barrel of wrought iron and casing of bronze. "In fact, Emperor Aurangazeb had used such cannons," he pointed out.
Another cannon bears three inscriptions in Persian, one being the title 'Dara Shukoh Shah-I-Baland-Iqbal'. "This was Emperor Shah Jahan' son and Aurangzeb's brother Darah Shukoh. The name of manufacturer Muhhmad Hussain be can also seen," he said.