May 14, 2016

Largest Cannons of Karnataka

The builders of great forts also equipped them with great guns, powerful enough terrorize enemy armies. Here we are with the three largest cannons in Karnataka. Two are at Bidar fort and one from Bjiapur. Also there are few more cannons from Raichur and Gulbarga fort.. these cannons are long 20 feet or more.

Lets start with the largest piece. This at Bidar, the capital of Bahamani kingdom. Positioned strategically on a massive turret to defend the fort's western and southern walls. Here are my estimates of its physical dimensions-
Overall length - 18 feet
Bore length - 15 feet
Bore diameter - 15 inches

The cannon was originally mounted on a swivel mechanism which allowed the gunners to adjust its direction and trajectory. The massive turret on which its positioned has lock walls which prevent the cannon to be turned towards the fort itself.

The next largest piece is at Bidar fort again, on the north-eastern perimeter along the border of the plateau. This cannon is similar in outer & bore diameters except that it might be 2 or 3 feet shorter in length. The rings seen here weigh approximately 30 kilograms each while these cannons' approximate weight is the range of 28 to 33 tonnes. These two cannons are made of forged steel which would be magnetic.

Now lets imagine the size of cannon balls.. a 15 inches steel ball  approximately weighs 300 kilograms. These cannons were designed to propel its 300 kg ball some 4 kilometres. These cannons must have wrecked havoc on enemy armies. The steel ball wouldn't explode on hitting its target, but the amount of energy dissipated would be tremendous.. a massive cloud of dust would have caused confusion in the enemy ranks..

Now coming to the third largest piece. This alloy cast cannon is at Bijapur, the capital of Adil Shahi kingdom. This gun is locally known as Malik-e-Maidan Tope. The caretaker said the speciality of this metal is it never heats up even in the worst of summers. Its made of five metals.. Copper being one of the main elements. This gun is approximately 3 feet in diameter and 12 feet long. Its bore is approximately 15 inches. This gun's range could be slightly lesser than its cousins' at Bidar. The caretaker also mentioned two such cannons were manufactured some place in Madhya Pradesh. While transporting them across a river, one of them fell into a river.. probably Narmada or Godavari and never recovered.

Malik-e-Maidan Tope, Bijapur
The gun was operated by trained crew, may a dozen or more.. crew to handle ammunition.. gunpowder and cannon balls, fix the wick.. pounders to fill in gunpowder and ball.. experts to position the gun to its target and finally the fireman. Once the cannon is ready to fire, the crew would clear off the turret only the fireman would remain. The fireman would light the wick and lower himself into a water tank and remain submerged several seconds after the firing. Reason to remain submerged in water is to escape heat, noise and shock waves generated during firing. Tough job!

Now coming to the longest guns of Raichur and Gulbarga forts. Both are 20 feet long with 1 foot to 1.5 feet diameter barrels. These are again forged steel. If I'm not mistaken these cannons are an assembly of shorter barrels. The bore diameter could be 5 to 6 inches. These cannons could be firing 20 kilogram balls, range could be 5 to 6 kilometers.

Summit of Raichur fort
This piece at Gubarga fort on the square based turret; its still intact with its swivel. In fact on the Balahisar are three cannons and this is the largest one.
Atop Balahisar, Gulbarga fort
Other larger forts also have their guns but none as large as these. The noteworthy ones are at:


.........

No comments: