Activism History

Gunpowder invented in India-2

Ancient Indians used Saltpetre (Agnichurna), the major constituent of gunpowder, to make firecrackers (ulkah) on Diwali. “Gunpowder originated in Ancient India”- Indologist Dr. Gustav Oppert.

Gunpowder originated in India
Gunpowder originated in India (Source: TrueIndology tweet)

The use of Gunpowder in matchlocks proliferated in the middle ages. Ancient Indians used Saltpetre (Agnichurna) in mining and warfare. It was already mentioned by Kautilya in Arthashastra as a weapon of war (4th century BC). 

Chinese text gunpowder in India.These are noted in “Military Transition in Early Modern Asia”, 1400-1750: Cavalry, Guns, Government and Ships’ by Kaushik Roy.

Even Arabs mention that they got gunpowder from India.

Arabs got gunpowder from India
Arabs got gunpowder from India

Chemical warfare in Ancient India by Vaman R. Kokatnur J. Chem. Educ., 1948, 25 (5), p 268

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/ed025p268

When Timur, the ancestor Abbu of Mughals invaded India in 1398 CE, Indian troops shot his army with rockets and fireworks. It shocked his troops and they were beaten in the initial engagement. 

Timur encountered use of gunpowder in India

Even in 13th century, a Mongol foreign ambassador to India was greeted with 3000 celebratory firecars which are much reminiscent of Indian firework celebrations during Dipavali and Kartika Purnima.

Mongol ambassador witnessed use gun powder in India

Vaisampayana, the narrator of Mahabharata, describes the manufacture of smoke balls by ancient Indians using Gunpowder. Atharvanarahasya mentions the use of charcoal, sulphur and saltpetre to make fireworks, which are the same ingredients used even today to manufacture Gunpowder.

Mahabharata mentions user of gunpowder in India

Remarkable sculptures from Hoysaleswara Temple (Halebidu, Karnataka. built c.12th century) show warriors using rockets (fire arrows). Arrows were tipped with Gunpowder / flammable combustibles. They were known as Agnibanas and used together on a launching pad in wars.

Rockets in ancient India

A sculpture from Halebidu (12th century) depicting rocket warfare in Ancient India. Notice the launching pad that is holding the missiles/combustible arrows.

Halebidu sculpture rocket warfare in Ancient India

While ancient Indians did use Gunpowder, what they did not have was a projecting weapon like a matchlock which could be integrated with the fire. They simply used to tip their arrows with Gunpowder and shoot at the enemy.

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