NATIONAL SCIENCE CENTER, DELHI, INDIA.

Medieval weapons: The Mughal multibarrel cannon.

Invented during the reign of Mughal emperor Akbar (1556-1605) by the Iranian inventor Fathullah of Shiraz – a talented personality who lived the last seven years of his life at the Mughal court as an imperial minister of finance dabbling in inventions and contraptions of all kinds in his spare time – the multi barreled cannon is one among the earliest forms of the volley gun known to man.

Introduced into the Mughal system of warfare undoubtedly as a part of Akbar’s endeavour to bolster the army’s artillery division, the unique weapon is thought by modern day historians to have been actively used during major military engagements.

Light in weight and small in size, it could be easily transported over hilly tracks and inhospitable terrains to be deployed on the front as compared to heavier cannons. Its use was probably against enemy infantry and cavalry units as its thin tubes would have spat out smaller size cannonballs ineffective against strongly built fortifications but advantageous in breaking up formations.

On the ground, possibly several of its type would have been lined-up to shower a constant volley. A didactic panel next to the exhibit within National Science Center suggests the weapon could also be fired from a single elephant drawn cart.

The invention may have been inspired by another version of the volley gun known as the Ribauldequin (used in Persia during the same time frame) knowledge of which would have been available to Fathullah, born, raised and educated in city of Shiraz, Persia before arriving in India.

A common characteristic of the inventor’s mechanical contraptions was that they eliminate the use of excessive manpower. Like the Yarghu (see Farbound.Net story: Mughal age cannon cleaner), the multi barreled cannon could be fired with a single wick and probably required no more than a two or three man team.

  • File Fact, Fatthulla’s Inventions

    Among Fathulla’s other inventions is a portable cannon that could be dismantled and transported – also on display at the National Science Center.

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