Thanjavur cannon, TN and Mendha Tope (cannon) of Daulatabad fort, Aurangabad (MH) - a brief comparison.

Centuries ago the advent of artillery weapons particularly, cannons of different shapes and sizes and their growth and  production of the needed gun powder in India had added not only a new dimension to warring kingdoms  but  also changed the landscape of the regions in the subcontinent.  Because of its destructive power more and more kingdoms opted for the introduction of better artillery troops in the military. Artillery are ranged weapons that launch munitions far beyond the range and power of infantry firearm In the early period artillery weapons had limitations  and were used to breach defensive walls and fortifications during sieges, and led to heavy, fairly immobile sieges.  The production of cannon was on the increase  in the later half of the 15th century  along with it came different casting techniques,  design and construction of forge-welded iron cannons,  bronze cannons, etc.

14th CE Mendha tope (Cannon) Daulatabad, MH./

bronze Mendha tope at Daulatabad, Aurangabad,MH

14th CE Mendha tope (Cannon) Daulatabad, MH.

Rajagopala or Tanjore cannon, Thanjavur, TN

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Prior to the  15th century  the Daulatabad  Fort (also known as Devagiri), a 14th-century structure on a hill  in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra  had as many as  288  heavy cannons, each with different size, fire power and  and various projectile range. The cannon  can be moved round on a metal pivot and target the object.

Two types of cannons were widely used across India  cast-bronze cannon and the other one is wrought-iron cannon composed of iron bars hooped together by iron rings.  Gunpowder artillery was common also in South India in the 14th century. With the arrival of Portuguese in 1498 and later the introduction of more artillery weapons by Akbar 1in the 1500s had changed the military strategy of many kingdoms. However, the arrival of  Ottoman technology and numerous  specialists had a far reaching impact on the production of Indian cannons and guns with better mechanism. It was a turning point in the history of Cannon and the Mogul dynasty had relied on it on their war expeditions. 

Part of the Deccan region was under the control of 4 sultanates - Golconda, Bidar,  Belapur, Ahmednagar and to meet their threats, Sri Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagara also developed equally effective and well trained  artillery  regiments as part of his huge army.  Unfortunately Vijayaragara empire led by Ramaraya  was  defeated by the allied army of Decani sultanates in The battle of Talikota (January, 1565)

In the wake of the fall of Vijayanagara kingdom, the Madurai Nayak  and Thanjavur  Nayak dynasties  (of Tamil Nadu),  once the vassals of Vijayanagara became independent rulers of respective regions. With threats from enemies around, they  began to strengthen their artillery regiment and the weapons of different kinds 

Thanjavur Nayaks had employed trained artisans specialized in Cannon making, etc., for offensive and defensive purposes. They had good knowledge of  fabrication of cannon  making  with well designed chamber, barrel and muzzle and of  metallurgy and mechanism. This post just compares the capability of Mendha tope cannon made by Aurangzeb and the Rajagopala cannon (Beerangi) of Thanjavur, TN, made by king Ragunatha Nayak in 1620.

Among cannons of the Daulatabad  Fort,  the Mendha Tope gets the attention of the research scholars and metallurgical engineers. who have studied the chemical composition of the alloys, medieval cannon production techniques and  their mechanism of transport, etc., to higher grounds, etc.

The Mendha tope  (Ram  Cannon)  originally  known  as  Qila  Shikan (Breaker  of  Forts) as the  cascabel (rear end)  is  in the  form  of a ram. (ithe Marathi language'' Mendha'' means  ram and ''Tope'' means cannon).

Cast in bronze, the 14 ton cannon measures 5.30 m in length. The caliber of the cannon is 20 cm, which can easily hurl a heavy shot< Firing range is about 9 km. Then 2nd largest gun in the world. 

Once fixed on the platform  rotation in any desired direction is possible because pivot is provided at the center of the platform

This  cannon  belongs  to Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb (1658 - 1707 A.D.) as revealed by the  inscription. From the other inscription we understand  that  Muhammad  Hussain  Arab  was the one who made it. It is said it was cast in Afghanistan. .

 The cannon is cast with a mechanism (could be double walled?), because it has the capability to withstand shocks after firing. The  shock-absorbing mechanism   indicates growing research  in advanced cannon technology to meet future challenges. 

The rear part of the gun is firmly closed  and strengthened to contain gunpowder explosion. Both the barrel and the chamber are  made of special alloy of metals with sufficient  ring assembles to add extra strength to bear lateral stress caused by  exhaust gases upon firing.         

Unlike Mendha Tope specially made for Mogul the ruler, its weight is 14 ton and could be transported from one place to another while on war campaigns. The Rajagopal Cannon is  a very heavy one and was used only to defend the fort, etc. It could not be taken to the battle fields because of its weight 

The Mendha tope is made of an alloy of 5 metals (Panchadatu) and the proportion of copper is much higher than others . This bronze cannon is fit for all weather conditions when  invading enemies in other regions. But the Nayak cannon is made of forge-welded iron metal with minor amount of other metals with numerous ring assemblies.

 Aurangabad city MH

Tanjore cannon

The Thanjavur Nayak cannon at  Rajagopala Beerangi Medu  placed atop  a remnant of the Nayak fort on the East Rampart was meant for defensive purpose.  The Nayaks also had many cannons of different caliber for offensive and defensive moves. 

Tanjore cannon or Rajagopala Cannon, Thanjavur.

Tanjore cannon  is a big and heavy one weighing 22- 26 ton (biggest in south India) measuring roughly 25ft. (outer diameter 37 inches; inner diameter 25 inches). Supposedly one of the heaviest cannons (ranked 5th) in the world then and capable of firing 100 kg cannon ball.            

1620 CE Tanjore or Rajagopala cannon, TN

Rajagopala (tanjore) canon,

The powerful Rajagopala cannon was made locally either cast at Kollumedu near Thanjavur or in the Manojipatti, village near  Thanjavur, famous for iron working. t accordingly    

The Rajagopal Cannon  does not have shock absorbing mechanism as Mendha Tope does.   Like Mendha tope cannon it can be rotated sideways on an iron pivot fixed on the platform.

Tanjore cannon differs from Mendha Tope in its metal composition consisting mostly of forge- welded iron. Fabrication of the cannon was done  forging together of rings assemblies of welded iron) to join the different layers of  ring.

 So in Tanjore cannon both the barrel and the chamber are  well secured against heavy explosion and lateral stress caused by heavy gas exhausts after firing.  The rear end is also safeguarded against the impact of explosion after firing   

Both cannons of Tanjore and that of Aurangzeb  have well-strengthened muzzle (opening at the other end) to withstand the fire and fast flying projectile.          

In the case of Nayak cannons, Research workers mention that advance technique was employed to fabricate the cannon with a special alloy of metals, 

Both cannons at Thanjavur and Daulatabad fort are rust proof, despite their age,  This shows  the Indian subcontinent had a better knowledge of artillery weapons manufacturing techniques far before the arrival of Europeans.                 ..