Military Wiki
Mughal Army
"A Mogul Trooper" (James S. Virtue Co., London, 1858).jpg
"A Mogul Trooper " by James S. Virtue Co., London, 1858
Founded Late 16th Century
Disbanded 1805
Commander-in-Chief Mughal emperor

The Mughal Army was the army of the Mughal Empire.



Shah Jahan watches the assault on Daulatabad Fort in 1633.

The soldiers of the Mughal Army were not commonly recruited by the emperor himself but rather by chiefs and other leaders, who were known as Mansabdars. The Mansabdars were ranked based on the number of men that they had raised and the ranking system became known as mansab. However, the ranking system, which was first introduced by Akbar,[1] did not apply only to the chiefs: every man employed for state service who was above the rank of common soldier or messenger had a mansab and in return they provided certain services when called upon.

The highest mansab was in command of 7000 men, although in rare situation some were promoted to command 8000 or even 9000. Princes were an exception and their mansab ranged from 7000 to 50,000 and beyond. The Ain-I-Akbari gives 66 grades, ranging from commanders of 10 men to 10,000, although in practice 27 grades existed, starting at 7000 and ending with 20,000. The officer raising the troops was responsible for the behaviour of his men. He therefore favoured men of his own family or such as he could depend on.

In time, it became customary for Mansabdars to raise a number of extra horsemen. To distinguish the two types of recruitment, the original mansab rank was called the zat, while the additional element attracted the rank of suwar. It was the zat rank that governed the payments given to each Mansabdar. The grant of suwar status in addition to that of zat was an honour and the horsemen associated with that status had to be paid using the funds due by reason of the zat rank held.

Classification of Mansabdars[]

Mughal amir horseback

Based on the distribution of rank into zat and suwar, the Mansabdars commanding 5000 men or less were further designated at one of three classes in which the scale of zat pay was reduced proportionately. Officers above 5000 zat were exempted from this classification, being deemed to be all of one class.

  • First class: when an officer held a zat rank that was equal to his suwar rank
  • Second class: when the suwar was less than the officer's zat rank but half or more of it
  • Third class: when the suwar was less than half of the zat, or there were no suwar at all[2]


Copper dam coin of Akbar, 1000 A. H., Zafar Qarin mint

Payment was made in a currency called a dam.The forty dams went to a rupee.[3] The following table shows all the mansabs with pay according to their class, in Rupees. This table shows the sanctioned allowances for a year of twelve months. But Only few of the officers received the whole twelve-months' pay. The number of month's pay sanctioned per annum ranging from four to twelve. Officers were also keep up an establishment of elephants and draught cattle. Apparently they were also liable to pay a fixed quota of their own allowances towards the expenses of the Emperor's elephants and cattle.

Table of Mansab-i-Zat with Yearly pay in Rupees

S. No. Rank (Mansab-i-Zat) First Class Second Class Third Class
1 7000 350,000 - -
2 6000 300,000 - -
3 5000 250,000 242,500 232,500
4 4500 225,000 214,500 210,000
5 4000 200,000 192,500 185,000
6 3500 175,000 167,500 160,000
7 3000 150,000 142,500 135,000
8 2500 125,000 117,500 110,000
9 2000 100,000 92,500 85,000
10 1500 75,000 67,500 60,000
11 1000 50,000 47,500 45,000
12 900 37,500 36,250 35,000
13 800 31,250 30,000 28,750
14 700 27,500 26,250 25,000
15 600 23,750 22,500 21,250
16 500 20,000 18,750 17,500
17 400 12,500 12,000 11,500
18 300 10,000 9,500 9,000
19 200 7500 7000 6500
20 150 6250 5750 5250
21 100 5000 4500 4000
22 80 3500 3250 3000
23 60 2500 2375 2150
24 50 2125 2000 1875
25 40 1750 1625 1500
26 30 1375 1250 1125
27 20 1000 875 750

The officers of the rank from 20 to 400 they were called as Mansabdar. From 500 to 2500 they were Amir (Nobles). From 3000 to 7000 they were Amir-i-Azam (Great Nobles).

The table of pay was exclusively for the zat rank. From this money the officer had to maintain his transport, his household, and some horsemen.For the suwar rank there was a separate table, pay for these horsemen being disbursed under the name of the Tabina.

Man in Armor (preparatory sketch for Entering the Mosque)

Tabinan(Table of Suwar Rank)

For each horseman, Mughals paid Rs. 200 a year. By using this money, the man provided his own horse and armour, and paid for his own and his horse's keep. According to the rule of dah-bist, the total number of horses was double that of the number of men.

The pay of the men with the extra horses was higher, but not in proportion. Thus, a one-horsed man received Rs. 200 a year, while the two- or three-horsed man got Rs. 275 a year.The pay of the Tabinan was drawn by the mansabdar, who was entitled to retain 5 per cent, of their pay for himself. Pay was not always allowed for a whole year. Often only for six, five, or four months.

Rules connected with Pay and Allowances[]

There is not enough material to yield complete information. It was better to deal with the greater part of them, as the native Indian authors do, in their relation to the calculation of pay.

Rates of Pay[]

The rates of pay for officers and men of the cavalry, forming numerically far the most important part of the army. The rates for Infantry and Artillery was less than the cavalry soldiers because they have no importance in Mughal Military.

Date from which pay drawn[]

  • For first appointment-On an officer being first appointed, if by his rank he was exempt from having his horses branded, his pay began from the date of confirmation. If such branding were necessary, pay began from the date of branding, and as soon as this condition had been complied with, a disbursement was made of one month's pay on account.
  • For promotion-In the case of promotion, if it were unconditional, the rules were the same as above. if conditional the pay began from the date of entering on office.

Conditional and Unconditional Pay[]

Rank and pay were granted absolutely, or they might be conditional on the holding of some particular office.The temporary or mashrut ba khidmat rank was granted as an addition to the permanent called as bila-shart rank. On ceasing to hold the office, such as that of governor or military magistrate, the mashrut rank and pay were taken away.

Mode of Payment[]

Pay always in Arrears[]

In later Mughal period the pay made as arrears either from imperial treasury to the mansabdars or mansabdars to the private soldiers. More men were entertained than could be easily paid. Indian Mahomedans are very bad financiers. The habit of the East is to stave off payment by any expedient. To owe money to somebody seems in that country the normal condition of mankind. Another reason for keeping the men in arrears may have been the feeling that they were thereby prevented from transferring their services to some other chief quite as readily as they might have done if there were nothing owing. Disturbances raised by troops clamouring for their pay were among the unfailing sequels to the disgrace or sudden death of a commander. It is the custom of the country never to pay the army a fourth part of what they promise them. It is only in times of distress that the army can get paid at all, and that is the reason why their troops always behave so badly.

Pay in Naqd and in Jagir[]

Pay might be either Naqd i.e. given in cash, or Jagir i.e. an assignment of the land revenue of a certain number of villages or of a subdivision (parganah). A certain number of officers and soldiers, chiefly those of the infantry and artillery were paid in cash. Because they were on the pay list of the emperor himself. The favourite mode of payment was by an assignment of the government revenue from land. The State was a very centralized organization, fairly strong at the centre, but weak at the extremities. It was glad to be relieved of the duty of collecting and bringing in the revenue from distant places.This task was left to holder of the jagir, and unless such a mansbdar were a great noble or high in imperial favour, the assignment was made on the most distant and most imperfectly subdued provinces. On the other hand, a chance of dealing with land and handling the income from it, has had enormous attractions in all parts of the world, and in none more than in India. Nobles and officers by obtaining an assignment of revenue hoped to make certain of some income, instead of depending helplessly for payment on the good pleasure of the Court. It was not introduced into the Mogol Empire during its decline. Jagirs existed in that empire's most flourishing days, having been granted as early as Akbar. While under Shahjahan they existed on a most extensive scale.

If the jagir were a large one, the officer managed it through his own agents, who exercised on his behalf most of the functions of government. Such jagirs were practically outside the control of the local governor or faujdar, and formed a sort of imperium in imperio. The disastrous effects of the system, in this aspect, need not be further dwelt on here. On the other hand, a small jagir was more frequently left by the assignee in the hands of the faujdar, through whom the revenue demand was realized. Gradually, as the bonds of authority were relaxed from the centre, the faujdars and subahdars ignored more and more the claims of these assignees, and finally ceased to remit or make over to them any of the collections.

If anyone wanted own a new jagir. He could apply to Diwan-i-tan, a great officer at the head of one of the two revenue departments.He made a statement named Haqiqat. This haqiqat was passed on by the Diwan-i-tan to the Diwan-i-ala (or wazir). The latter placed it before the Emperor.

Loans, Advances, and Gifts[]

The emperor grants some money to his Mansabdars as Loans or Advance.The technical name for a loan or advance of pay was musaadat. Some times Emperor gifted some money to the Commanders.It is called as Inam.They were in the nature of payments to be repeated periodically.The recovery of loans and advances came under a head in the accounts called mutalibah.mustaufis, or auditors recover the items put under objection in the revenue accounts. At one time the recovery of an advance was made from a man's pay in four installments. But towards the end of Aurangzeb's reign, it was taken in eight installments.


They are mainly five Types.

  1. Fraction of the two dams - This item was a discount of five per cent i.e. of two dams in every forty, and therefore styled 'do-dami.Emperors deducted this money from the Ahadi troopers on account of horses and other expenses.The rate of deduction was different as four dams in the 100, if the officer drew seven or eight months' pay, and two dams in the 100, if he drew less than that number of months.
  2. Expenses of minting - Expenses of minting was also deducted in the reigning emperor reign on former emperors coinage. Under the rules then in force, the former emperors coins, not being those of the reigning emperor, were uncurrent, and therefore subject to a discount. Why a deduction was made on the coins of the reigning emperor, is harder to explain.
  3. Days of the moon's rise - This was a deduction of one day's pay in every month except Ramazan. Mansabdars, Ahadis, and barqandaz (matchlock men) were all subject to it. But, towards the end of Alamgir's reign, it was remitted until the Narbada was crossed i.e. so long as a man served in the Dakhin. The reason for making this deduction is difficult to fathom.
  4. Share in kind- Sometimes the part of a man's pay delivered to him in kind or goods. This was not applied to the cavalry. In the case of the matchlockmen, artillerymen, and artificers, the deduction was 1/24th if the man were mounted, and 1/12th if he were not. This represented the value of the rations supplied to him.
  5. Feed of four-footed animals- —It was a deduction from a mansahdars pay on account of a certain number of horses and elephants belonging to the emperor, with whose maintenance such officer was saddled. Akbar would seem to have paid the expenses. But in process of time the charge was transferred to the officer's shoulders entirely, and in the end he had to submit to the deduction without even the use of the animals being given to him. At any rate, the burden became a subject of great complaint. In the case of officers below a certain rank, the deduction was not made. The rule says that where the pay (tankfiwah) did not come up to 1.5 millions of dams, the deduction was not made. But apparently no lower rank than that of 400 zat, 200 suear, was liable. A distinction in rates was made between Mahomedans and Hindus, the former paying more. also between officers holding jagirs in Hindustan and those holding them in the Dakhin and Ahmadabad, the former paying slightly less than the latter.


They are many types. such as

  • For deficiency in horse - The horses were classified based on their breed and size.In each rank or mansab a certain number of each class of horse had to be maintained, and if at Verification it was found that this regulation had not been complied with, the result was a fine.
  • For deficiency in equipment - This was a fine for not producing at inspection arms and armour according to the required scale.
  • For deficiency in troopers - This was a fine imposed on an officer for non-production of the number of men stipulated for by the suwar rank. The deductions apply to mansabdars as well as to Ahadis, and that they were made from the monthly pay for each man deficient. In the case of the Ahsham or troops belonging to the infantry and artillery, we have a little more definite information under this head.
  • For non-verification-If the periods fixed were allowed to elapse without the verification having been made, a man was reported for delay. Then a mansabdar was cut the whole, and an ahadi the half, of his pay
  • For casualties or rejection of Horses - This was applied to animals for casualties or rejection. If the man was duaspah (paid for two horses), one horse died or was cast the man was paid at the yakaspah rate.If both horses died or were turned out, the man obtained his personal pay for one month, and if after one month he had still no horse, his personal pay was also stopped. If he was yahaspah (paid for one horse) there were no horse, personal pay was disbursed for one month.But after one month nothing was given.If an ahadis horse died while he was at headquarters, the clerk of the casualties, after having inspected thehide, wrote out his certificate, and pay was disbursed according to it. If the man were on detached duty when his horse died, the brand, and the tail were sent in to headquarters.

Other incidents of military service considered as affecting pay[]

Many incidents affecting pay of Military service. They are

  1. Absence without leave - If a man were absent from three consecutive turns of guard, his pay was cut. But if he did not attend the fourth time, the penalty was dismissal, and all pay due was confiscated. Absence from night guard or at roll-call involved the loss of a day's pay. If absent at the time of the emperor's public or private audience, or on a day of festival half a day's pay was taken.
  2. Illness - Absence on the ground of illness was overlooked for three turns of guard. But after that period all pay was stopped, and a medical certificate from a physician was demanded.
  3. Leave and furlough - Men who went on leave for their own business received no pay while doing no duty. In some times for one month a man received half-pay. If he overstayed his leave it was reduced to one-fifth or one-tenth. After three month's absence he was classed as an absconder. Leave on account of family rejoicings or mournings was allowed for one turn of duty. If the man were absent longer his pay was cut.
  4. Desertion - If, among the Ahadis, an absconder who had been some time in the service, left after drawing his pay in full, the amount was shown on the margin of the pay-bill as recoverable, and one month's pay was realized from the man's surety. If a recruit absconded after drawing money on account, the whole advance was recovered, but a present of one month's pay was allowed. If a matchlockman deserted the service of one leader to enter that of another, he was cut half a month's pay.But the officer had to pay the fine himself. Pay of absconders was reckoned up to the date of the last verification, and three month's time was allowed. They were allowed that time to reappear, if they chose. If they were again entertained, their rations only were passed.
  5. Discharge or resignation - If the discharged mansabdar produced a clear verification roll, he received half of the pay of his zat rank, and the full pay of his horsemen. Matchlockmen received their pay in full up to the date of discharge
  6. Pension - There was no pension list. No retiring allowances could be claimed as of right. When a man retired from active service, granted a daily or yearly allowance. But the ordinary method of providing for an old servant was to leave him till his death in undisturbed possession of his rank and jagir.
  7. Death - It applied according to whether the death was a natural one or the man lost his life on active service. In the one case half-pay and in the other full-pay was disbursed to the heirs on the production of a certificate of heirship attested by the Qazi.

Rewards and distinctions[]

The promise of honorary distinctions has been in all ages and in all countries one of the most potent agencies employed to incite men to exertion. The Moghul sovereigns were even more ingenious in converting things mostly worthless in themselves into objects to be ardently striven for and dearly prized. Among these were

  1. Titles - The system of entitlature was most elaborate and based on strict rule. This subject belongs to the general scheme of government. A man would begin by becoming a Khan or Lord (added to his own name). After that, he might receive some name supposed to be appropriate to his qualities, coupled with the word Khan, such as Ikhlas Khan - Lord Sincerity; an artillery officer might be dubbed Rad-andaz Khan-Lord Thunder-thrower, or a skilful horseman as Yakah-Taz Khan - Lord Single Combat, and so on.

Jahangir investing a courtier with a robe of honour watched by Sir Thomas Roe, English ambassador to the court of Jahangir at Agra from 1615-18, and others

  1. Robes of Honour - The khildat or was not Robes of Honour peculiar to the military department. These robes of honour were given to everyone presented at court. Distinction was, however, made according to the position of the receiver. There were five degrees of Robes of Honour those of three, five, six, or seven pieces; or they might as a special mark of favour consist of clothes that the emperor had actually worn. A three-piece given from the general wardrobe, consisted of a turban, a long coat with very full skirts, and a scarf for the waist . A five-piece robe came from storehouse for presents, the extra pieces being a turban ornament called a sarpeck and a band for tying across the turban. For the next grade a tight-fitting jacket with short sleeves, called a Half-sleeve (nimah-aslin), was added.
  2. Gifts of Money and other articles - These were naturally of considerable variety. They were Jewelled ornaments, weapons, principally swords and daggers with jewelled hilts, palkis with fringes of gold lace and pearls, horses with gold-mounted and jewelled trappings, and elephants.
  3. Kettledrums - As one of the attributes of sovereignty, kettledrums were beaten at the head of the army when the emperor was on the march; and in quarters they were beaten every three hours at the gate of his camp. As a mark of favour, kettledrums and the right to play them might be granted to a subject. But he must be a man of the rank of 2000 suwar or upwards. The drums when granted were placed on the recipient's back, and, thus accoutred, he did homage for them in the public audience hall.
  4. Standards and Ensigns - The flags and ensigns displayed, along with a supply of spare weapons, at the door of the audience hall and at the entrance to the emperor's encampment, or carried before him on elephants, were called collectively the Qur and their charge was committed to a responsible officer called the Qur-begi. There are eight ensigns of royalty, of which the first four were reserved exclusively for the sovereign. The use of the others might, we must assume, be granted to subjects. The eight ensigns are —
    1. Aurang,the throne
    2. Ghatr, the State umbrella
    3. Saiban or Aftabgir, a sunshade
    4. Kaukabah
    5. Alam, or flag
    6. Chatr-tok, or yak-tails
    7. Tuman-toh, another shape of yak-tails
    8. Jhanda, or Indian flag.
    9. Madhi-o-maratib, or the fish and dignities.

six figures from the Mughal emperor's ceremonial procession on the occasion of the Id

covered sedan chair
A two-tiered carriage
Two elephants carrying the fish and sun insignia of Mughal sovereignty
a green standard with a gold sun
A camel with its rider playing kettle drums.
An elephant with a red saddle-cloth and a mahout.

Apart from titles or money rewards, or ordinary gifts, a man might be awarded any of the following honorary distinctions, of a more permanent character

  1. The right to carry a flag or simple standard
  2. The rightto display a yak-tail standard
  3. The right to use kettledrums and beat the naubat
  4. the right to display the fish and its accompanying emblems
  5. The right to use alitter adorned with gold fringes and strings of pearls


Mirza Najaf Khan was commander in chief of the Mughal Army from 1772 till his death in April 1782.[citation needed]

Procedure for entering Service[]

Single men who seeks employment in the army, were obliged first to seek a patron. A man generally attached himself to a chief from his own country or of his own race. According to a man's reputation or connections, or the number of his followers, would be the rank (mansab) assigned to him. As a rule, his followers brought their own horses and other equipment. But sometimes a man with a little money would buy extra horses and mount relations or dependents upon them. When this was the case, the man riding his own horse was called, in later parlance, a silahdar (literally, equipment-holder), and one riding somebody else's horse was a bargir (burdentaker). The horses and equipment were as often as not procured by borrowed money ; and not unfrequently the chief himself made the advances, which were afterwards recovered from the man's pay. The candidate for employment, having found a patron, next obtained through this man's influence an introduction to Mir Bakhshi, in whose hands lay the presentation of new men to the emperor, and on his verdict a great deal depended as to the rank (mansab) which might be accorded.

The Bakhshi[]

This officer was Adjutant-General. He command the army in the absence either emperor, vicegerent (wakil-i-mutlaq), or chief minister (Vazier). But the only true Commander-in-Chief was the emperor himself.. It was duty to bring into the presence of the emperor anyone seeking for employment or promotion, and there to state the facts connected with that man's case.

Mir Bhakshi[]

Abdul Hadi (died1647), mir bakhshi to Shah Jahan

These are the duties of Mir Bakhshi

  • The recruitment of the army maintaining a list of mansabdars with their postings.
  • Keeping a roster of the Palace guards.
  • Preparing the rules as to grants of pay keeping up a list of officers paid in cash, and an abstract of the total paybills.
  • The superintendence of the mustering for branding and verifying the troopers' horses and the orders subsidiary thereto.
  • The preparation of the register of absentees, with or without leave, of deaths, and dismissals, of cash advances, of demands due from officers (mutalibah), of sureties produced by officers, and the issue of written orders (dastak) to officers sent on duty into the provinces.
  • One special duty belonging to the Bakhshl was, in preparation for a great battle, to assign posts to the several commanders in the van, centre, wings, or rearguard.
  • The Bakhshi was also expected on the morning of a battle to lay before the emperor a present state or muster roll, giving the exact number of men under each commander in each division of the fighting line.

The other Bakshis[]

Besides the First Bakshi, ordinarily holding the title of Mir Bakshi, there were three other Bakshi at headquarters.The Second Bakhsi was called as Bakhshi-i-tan.On the whole, the duties of the First, Second, and Third Bakhshis seem to have covered much the same ground. The main distinction was that the Second Bakhshi dealt more with the recruiting and promotion of the smaller men, while only those above a certain rank were brought forward by the Mir Bakhshi. The Second Bakhshi was solely responsible for the bonds taken from officers, a practice common to all branches and ranks of the imperial service. His office would seem also to have been used to some extent as a checking office on that of the First Bakhshi, many documents requiring his seal in addition to that of the Mir Bakhshi, and copies of many others being filed with him. The same remarks apply generally to the Third Bakhshi, the greatest difference being that he took up only such recruiting work as was specially entrusted to him, and that whatever he did required to be counter-sealed by the First and Second Bakhis. His duties were on altogether a smaller scale than those of the other two.

The Second Bakhshis duties were connected with the Ahadis, or gentlemen troopers serving singly in the emperor's own service. The third Bakhshi deals with Wala shahis, that is of the household troops, men raised and paid by the emperor out of his privy purse.

Provincial and other Bakhshis[]

In addition to the Bakhshis at headquarters there were officers with similar functions attached to the governor of every province. With the office of provincial Bakhshl was usually combined that of Waqi ah-nigar, or Writer of the Official Diary. And in imitation of the imperial establishments, each great noble had his own Bakhshi, who performed for him the same functions as those executed for the emperor by the imperial Bakhshis.

First Appointment of an Officer[]

On one of the appointed days, the Bakhshi laid before His Majesty a written statement, prepared in the office beforehand and called a Haqiqat . The man's services having been accepted, the emperor's order was written across this paper directing the man to appear, and a few days afterwards the candidate presented himself in the audience-hall and made his obeisance. When his turn came the candidate was brought forward, and the final order was passed.

The next step was the issue of a Tasdiq, or Certificate, from the Bakhslns office, on which the Bakhshi wrote his order.

On the arrival of the Certificate in the office of the Waqiahnigar, or Diary Writer, he made an appropriate entry in his record and furnished an extract therefrom,which bore the name of a Yaddasht, or Memorandum.

This was checked by Wazir.After comparing it with the Diary, let it be sent to the Office of Revision CArzi-Mukarrar). After that the taliqah was made. This paper was formed at that time the executive order issued to the officer concerned .

Branding and Verification of Horses[]

Mughal cavalry from the Padshahnama.

It was common for nobles to falsify the size of the forces under their command by, for example, borrowing men from another noble in order to make up their quota. The ability of the overseers to detect and control such practices declined with time and by the middle of Muhammad Shah's reign (1719—1748), all such precautions had fallen into abeyance, amid the general confusion and deepening corruption.

Akbar attempted to get a grip on the problem, reviving and enforcing more strictly than before a system of recording details of all men and horses, the latter being branded with a hot iron before they were passed for service. This branding, with the consequent periodical musters for the purpose of comparison and verification, formed a separate department under the Bakhshi with its own superintendent (daroghali), and this was known as the dargh-O-tashah or verification. At first many difficulties were made and evasions were attempted, but at length the system was made effective. The great nobles, holding the rank of 5000 and upwards, were exempt from the operation of these rules; but when ordered, they were expected to parade their horsemen for inspection . The technical name for these parades was mahallah . The germ of the dagh system may perhaps be found in the practice in Transoxiana of annually branding the colts. This was done so far back as the twelfth century.

Every man brings his own horse and offers himself to be enlisted. The horse is carefully examined. According to the size and value of the beast, the master receives his pay. A good horse will bring thirty or forty rupees a month. Sometimes an officer contracts for a whole troop. A horse inHindostan is of four times greater value than in Europe. If the horse is killed the man is ruined, a regulation that makes it the interest of the soldier to fight as little as possible.Along with his horse the man brought his own arms and armour, the production of certain items of which was obligatory. In actual practice, however, the leaders often provided the recruits with their horses and equipment. When this was the case the leader drew the pay and paid the man whatever he thought fit.

  • Descriptive Rolls - When an officer entered the service a Chihrah or descriptive roll of the new mansbdar was first of all drawn up, showing his name, his father's name, his tribe or caste, his place of origin, followed by details of his personal appearance. In the imperial service the chihrahs were written on red paper sprinkled with gold leaf.
  • Roll for Troopers - The troopers were also described, but not quite so elaborately. This is called as (Chihrah -i-Tabinan). In this the trooper personal appearance and details of horse were written.
  • Descriptive Roll of Horses (Chihrah-i-aspan) - The next thing done was to make out an elaboratedescription of the horse or horses. There were twenty principal divisions according to colour, and eight of these were again subdivided, so that there were altogether fifty-eight divisions. Then there were fifty-two headings for the marks which might occur on the horse's body.
  • The Imperial Brand - The hot iron was applied on the horse's thigh The signs used in Akbar's reign. But in the end he adopted a system of numerals. In Alamgirs reign and about that time there were twenty different brands (tamghah).
  • The Noble's Brand - In addition to the imperial brand, a second mark was required by each noble for the recognition of the horses ridden by his own men. Towards the end of the period the great nobles often had the first or last letter of their name as their special brand.
  • Classification of Horses - There were seven classes of horses founded on their breed —

Painting. White horse with saddle and bridle; head and loins coffee coloured, tip of tail dyed crimson. Horse stands on green ground with very finely painted herbage; thigh bears inscription. Ink, opaque watercolour and gold on paper.

  1. Arabi
  2. Persian
  3. Mujannas, resembling Persian, and mostly Turk or Persian geldings
  4. Turhi
  5. Yabu
  6. Tazi
  7. Janglah.

The Arab horses were still in use at the time of Mughals. The Tazi and Janglah were Indian horses. The former beingheld of superior quality to the latter. The Yabu waS the Kabuli, stout-built, slow,and of somewhat sluggish temperament. The Turki was an animal from Bukhara or the Oxus country. the Iraqi came from Mesopotamia.

In 'Alamgir's reign the proportion in which officers of the different ranks were called on to present horses of thesedifferent breeds at the time of branding was as follows :

Rank of Officer Class of Horse - Iraqi Class of Horse - Mujannas Class of Horse - Turki Class of Horse - Yabu Total
400 3 1 1 0 5
300 - 350 2 1 1 0 4
100 - 150 0 0 3 0 3
80 - 90 0 0 2 0 2
50 - 70 0 0 1 1 2
40 0 0 1 0 1

According as the standard was exceeded or not come up to, the branding officer made an allowance or deduction by a fixed table. This calculation was styled tafawat-i-aspan (discrepancy of horses).

  • Subordinate Establishment - An Establishment of farriers, blacksmith's forge and Surgeons was made by each Mansabdar according to following scale -
Rank of Officer Farriers Blacksmiths Forge Leeches or Surgeons
4000 8 2 2
3500 7 2 2
3000 6 2 2
2500 5 1 0
2000 4 1 2
1500 3 0 1
1000 2 0 1

Thirty men on foot were required to be entertained for every thousand rank of Mansabdar. These includes water carriers, farriers, pioneers, matchlock men and bowmen.

  • Verification (Tashiah) - The intervals after which verification was imperative varied according to the nature of the man's pay. If he were paid in jagir, he had to muster his men for verification once a year, and, in addition, a period of six months' grace was allowed. If the officer were paid in naqd (cash), the time allowed depended upon whether he was — (1) presentat Court or (2) on duty elsewhere. In the first case he had to procure his certificate at sixmonth intervals, or within eight months at the outside. In the second case he was allowed fifteen days after he had reported himself at Court. An Ahadi seems to have been allowed, in a similar case, no more than seven days. Where an officer drew his pay partly in jagir (assignment) and partly in naqd (cash), if the former made more than half the total pay, the rule for jagirdars was followed; if the jaglr were less than half, the naqb rule was followed..

When the interval and the period of grace had elapsed, the man was reported for tawaqquf-i-tashihah (delay in verification). A mansabdar lost the whole of his pay for the period since the last verification. If he were important enough to have been presented to the emperor he might succeed in obtaining his personal pay. An Ahadi lost half his pay, and it was only by an order on a special report that he could be excused the penalty. The proportion of horsemen that a mansabdar must produce differed when he was at Court and when he was on duty in the provinces. In the first case he was bound to muster one-fourth, and in the second one-third. In the reign of Shahjahan it was decided that if an officer held a jagir within the suhah to which he was attached, he should produce one third of his tabinan for Branding. Thus if he were 3000 zat, 3000 suwar, he would produce 1000 horsemen. If sent to another subah of Hindustan, then one fourth had to appear. During the campaign in Balkh and Badakhshan, owing to the great distance, one fifth was held to be sufficient. There were three seasons appointed for verification, from the 26th Shawwal to the 15th Zul Qa'dah (twenty days), the 19th Safar to the I5tli Rabf I (twenty-five days), and the 16th Jamadi II to the 15th Rajab (twenty-nine days).

Officials and their duties[]

At head quarters officers entitled Amin, daroghah, and mushrif were appointed by the emperor to the Verification department, which was under the supervision of the chief bakhshis. The Bakhshis made the appointments for the provinces. In addition to his personal rank (mansab), the Amin received a mansab of 10 horse while in office.The daroghah should compare the marks and points of the horses with the descriptive roll, and inspect the horses to see whether they were fit for the service or not. If fit for branding, he should cause the brand to be imposed, signing the descriptive roll, adding the day, month and year. If it were a two-horse man, he should certify for two horses and send the original descriptive roll to the office of the Bakhshi, retaining a copy sealed by the Bakhshi among his own records. Two months having passed, he should in the third month inspect and verify according to the copy of the roll, looking to see if the marks correspond.They also inspects the Man and arms of matchlock- man or an archer. For carpet-layers and servants belonging to the court establishment he wrote on the back of the roll. When the paper was full, another sheet was attached. The peshkar (head clerk) of the daroghah drew up according to rule a present state, giving details of those present and absent and the receipts. He then brought it up for orders. The daroghah attached his seal to the report and sent it on to the Bakhshi's office. In accordance therewith an order (barat) on the Treasury was prepared for each man. The daroghah ought to see that the horsemen and infantry are present on the march and on guard. He should enjoin on the guard-clerk to make an inspection at midnight of the men posted on guard, and write down the names of those present. The officials after the mustering and verification made out certificates (dastak) bearing the seals of the daroghah, amin, and mushrif, which were delivered to the mansabdar concerned.

Different Branches of the Service[]

A Mughal Infantryman

The army was mainly divided into mansahdars (with their tahinan), ahadis, and ahsham. It is quite true that the Moghul army consisted of cavalry, infantry, and artillery. But the second and third branches held a very subordinate position towards the first. The army was essentially an army of horsemen. The Moghuls from beyond the Oxus were accustomed to fight on horseback only. The foot-soldier they despised. I artillery they never became very proficient. Until the middle of the eighteenth century, when the French and English had demonstrated the vast superiority of disciplined infantry, the Indian foot-soldier was little more than a night-watchman, and guardian over baggage, either in camp or on the line of march. Under the Moghuls the strain of all war rested upon the numbers and goodness of the horse which were found in an army. Their preference for hand to hand fighting and cavalry charges

There was no division into regiments. Single troopers enlisted under the banner of some man a little richer or better known than themselves. These inferior leaders again joined greater commanders. Thus by successive aggregations of groups, a great noble's division was gathered together. But from the highest to the lowest rank, the officer or soldier looked first to his immediate leader and followed his fortunes, studying his interests rather than those of the army as a whole. It was not till quite the end of the period that, under the influence of European example, and also partly in imitation of the Persian invaders, it became usual for the great nobles to raise and equip at their own expense whole regiments without the intervention of petty chiefs.

No.of Men in Mughal Army at a time[]

A large Mughal encampment

Mughal infantry and Mahut's in action.

When Akbar first introduced the mansab system, which ranked his officers according to the number of men supposed to be under the command of each, these figures had possibly some connection with the number of men present under those officers' orders, and actually serving in the army . But it is tolerably certain that this connection between the two things did not endure very long. From the grant of rank it does not follow that the soldiers implied by such rank were really added to the army. The system required that a man's rank should be stated in terms of so many soldiers. But there is abundant testimony in the later historians that mansab and the number of men in the ranks of the army had ceased to have any close correspondence.

Thus it seems to me a hopeless task to attempt giving the personal (zat) rank of the officers (mansabdars). Number of men kept up by any officer was incessantly varying. On a campaign, or on active employment in one of the provinces, either as its governor or in a subordinate position, an officer kept up a large force, generally as many as, if not more than, he could find pay for. On the other hand, while attached to the Court at DEhli, his chief or only duty might be to attend the emperor's public audience twice a day (a duty which was very sharply enforced), and take his turn in mounting guard at the palace. For duties of this sort a much smaller number of men would suffice. In spite of musterings and brandings very few mansabdars kept up at full strength even the quota of horsemen (tabinan) for which they received separate pay. In these matters the difference between one noble and another was very great. While one man maintained his troops at their full number, all efficiently mounted and equipped, another would evade the duty altogether.

There existed no rules which were not broken in practice. A man of high rank would, no doubt, be selected for the command of a division. But it was quite an accident whether that division had more or fewer men in it than the number in his nominal rank. The strength of a division depended upon the total number of men available, and the extent of the contingents brought into the field by such subordinate leaders as might be put under the orders of its commander. It was altogether a matter of accident whether the number of men present corresponded or not to the rank of the commanders. At any time fauj (army) was including no more than one-third or one-fourth that number of fighting men.

Estimated Number of Mughal Army

Period Cavalry Matchlock men and Infantry Artillery men
Akbar 12,000 12,000 1000
Do. 384,758 3,877,557 -
Shajahan 200,000 40,000 -
Aurangazeb 240,000 15,000 -
Do. 300,000 600,000 -
Mohammad Shah 200,000 800,000 -


Defensive Armour[]

The generic name for arms and armour was silah, plural adah. Weapons and armour of all kinds were much prized in India, much taste and ingenuity being expended on their adornment. Every great man possessed a choice collection.

Mughals made fines for not producing at inspection a man's own armour and that of his elephant (pakhar).Armour was worn by all horsemen who could afford it. Officers of a certain rank were required to produce it at the time of inspection, subject to a fine if it were not forthcoming. Its use was never discontinued. It was even worn by men of European descent when they entered the native service.

The armour was worn by Soldiers[]

Full Mughal Armour

Depending from the cuirass was generally a skirt, which was at times of velvet embroidered with gold. Underneath the body armour was worn a qabchal or jacket quilted and slightly ornamented. Silken trousers and a pair of kashmri shawls round the waist completed the costume of a nobleman of high rank. Common soldiers wore an ample upper garment, quilted thick with cotton, coming down as far as the knee. These coats would deaden the stroke of a sabre, stop the point of an arrow, and above all kept the body cool by intercepting the rays of the sun.The irregular cavalry throughout India are mostly dressed in quilted cotton jackets. Though the best of these habiliments are not stuffed with cotton, but are a number of cotton cloths quilted together. This serves as a defensive armour, and when their heads are swathed round, and under the chin, with linen to the thickness of several folds, it is almost hopeless with the sword to make an impression upon them. They also at times stuff their jackets with the refuse silk of the cocoons, which they say will even turn a ball.

Almost every soldier in the service of a native power has his head secured by many folds of cotton cloth, which not only pass round but likewise over it and under the chin. A protection for the back of the neck is provided of similar materials. The jacket is composed of cotton thickly quilted between cloths, and so substantial as almost to retain the shape of the body like stiff armour. To penetrate this covering with the edge of the sword was to be done only by the practice of cutting

Description of each part of Body Armour

Armour name Description Protecting Body Part Material
Khud, Dabalghah, or Top. This was a steel headpiece with a vizor or nose-guard. Khud is the more usual name. But dabalghah is form of helmet with chaghatae origin. Top is helmet mainly used by Marathas Face Steel
Khoghi This is something worn on the head. This may have been folds of cloth adjusted on the head to protect it from a sword blow. Head Cloth. May be Silk or Cotton.
Mighfar This is a mail or a network of steel worn under the cap or hat, or worn in battle as a protection for the face, also a helmet. This long piece of mail hanging down from the helmet over the neck and back neck and back Steel
Baktar or Bagtar This is the name for body armour in general, whether it were of the cuirass or chain-mail. Baktar was the name for fish-scale armour. Chest Steel
Chahar-ainah It consisted of four pieces, a breast plate and a back plate, with two smaller pieces for the sides. All four were connected together with leather straps. Chest and Back Steel and Leather
Zirih This was a coat of mail with mail sleeves, composed of steel links. The coat reached to the knees. bagtar (fish scales) or the chahar ainah (cuirass) was worn over the zirih Body up to knees
Jaibah It was a general name for armour. It may be a coat of mail, a cuirass, any kind of iron armour. Apparently it was covered with small studs or knobs . Example Iron
Joshan It was steel breastplate extending to the region of the stomach and bowels. Breast, stomach and bowels Steel
Jihlam It is a form of vizor of helmet Face
Angarkhah It is a tight-fitting coat. This coat was wadded so as to turn a sword-cut. It was a long, loose, wide coat worn over the armour
Daglah or Dagla It was a coat of quilted cloth. cloth
Jamah-i-fatahi It is a robe which on the day of battle is put on beneath the coat of mail. It was a fine silken robe. Body Silk
Chihilqad It was a doublet worn over the armour. It has forty-folds Body
Sadiqi It was a coat of mail something like the joshan in shape, but with epaulettes.
Kothi It was a long coat of mail worn under the breastplate and opening down the front. Chest Silk or Cotton
Bhanja It is a sleeveless jacket.
Kamal This was cuirass or wadded coat, possibly made of blanketing on the outside. There were wadded coats of quilted cotton, as well as of wool, which would stand the stroke of a sabre. Some stuffed with silk refuse were considered capable of withstanding a bullet. This sort of protection was very common. They were mainly used Kamal-posh Cotton or Wool
Ghughwah This was a long coat and cowl of mail, all in one piece. Steel or Iron
Kantha-sobha It was a neck-piece or gorget. These are both worn by the man and not the horse, Some times it also ) was attached to the horses neck. Neck
Dastwanah This was a gauntlet, or mailed glove, with steel arm-piece. Hands, Arms Steel and other material
Ranak This thing itself is an iron leg-piece or greave. It is connection, a formation like dastak or fit to be (as it were) carried in the hand. Leg
Mozah-i-ahani This iron-stocking is a smaller form of the ranak. Leg Iron
Patkah These are mainly worn by both Sayyads and horse-breakers (chabuk-suwaran). It appearsto refer to some part of military equipment

Animal Armour[]

This was mainly applied to Horse.

Name of Armour Animal Body Part Material
Ahwal-ul-Khawaqin Armour worn by elephants
Bargustuwan Horse armour worn in battle
Kajim It was a piece of armour for the hind-quarters of a horse, and was put on over a quilted cloth called artak-i-kajim. Hind-quarters of a horse
Qashqah It was a sect-mark or tilak, applied on the centre of the forehead. Forehead
Gardani It was head and neck-piece, the hood, of a set of horse-clothing. It is the neck-shaped piece Head and Neck cloth
Horse Trappings Horse Trappings were often most richly adorned with silver or gold, embroidery or jewels. When so enriched they were styled saz-i-tilae, or saz-i-marassa .When so enrichedthey were styled saz-i-tilae, or saz-i-marasm . The names of the various articles are as follows: paltah - headstall, inan -reins, zerband - martingale, dumchi - crupper, khogir - saddle, ustak - shabracque, balatang - surcingle, rikab -stirrups, shikarband (ornamental tassels at corners of saddle). The bow or pommel of a saddle was either qarbus or qash . silver or gold.
yaltang-posh some sort of horse equipment

Offensive arms[]


Ahsham (Infantry)[]

The Ahadis (gentleman trooper)[]

Sawar Khan, one of the Royal Guards of the Emperor Shah Jahan

They are the Midway between the nobles or leaders (mansahdars) with the horsemen under them (Tabinan) on the one hand, and the Ahsham or infantry, artillery, and artificers on the other. They offered their services singly, they did not attach themselves to any chief, thus forming a class apart from the Tabinan. But as they were horsemen, they stood equally apart from the specialized services included under the remaining head of Ahsham. They have the emperor for their immediate colonel. The walashahis are the body-guard, or defenders of the imperial person. They were the most trusted troops of the reigning sovereign. These men were attached to his person from his youth and had served under him while he was still only a royal prince, and were thus marked out in a special manner as his personal adherents and household troops. The Yashwalas or armed palace guards were charged with the safety of the sovereign. But they are not very close Emperor. The Ahadis received somewhat higher pay than common troopers. In one instance we are told expressly what those rates were in later times.

Towards the end of the eighteenth century the household troops were amounted to 40,000 men, all cavalry, but usually serving on foot in the citadel and in the palace. They consisted then of several corps besides the Ahadis, such as the Surk-posh (wearers of red), the Sultani (Royal), the Walashahis (High Imperial), the Kamal-posh (Blanket Wearers) and Alah Shah (Exalted Imperial). The Surkhposh were all infantry, eight thousand in number. The Kamal-posh wear a kind of cuirass.


Elephant in Battle

Elephants are the one of fighting force. But long before the Moghul empire fell into decay, they had become principally beasts of burden or means of display, and their role in the day of battle was comparatively insignificant.

Akbar seems to have made much use of elephants, bringing them into the field in great numbers. In his time they carried on their backs musketeers or archers. This practise seems to have soon ceased. They are also used to carry small cannon. each carried two soldiers and two pieces.

To the last some elephants protected by armour were brought into the battle-field. But their use was confined almost entirely to carrying the generals or great nobles, and displaying their standards. The baggage elephants were assembled in the rear with those bearing the harem, the women remaining mounted on the latter during the battle, and protected by a strong force posted round them.

In the day of battle elephants were provided with armour, called pakhar. This was made of steel and consisted of separate pieces for the head and trunk. Elephant armour is called as kajim in general, and defines bargustuioan, as a protective covering adjusted on the trunk of an elephant when going into battle. The rest of the complicated gear used in connection with elephants is set out. Besides their own armour, the riding elephants carried on the day of battle an armour-plated, canopied seat, called an imari, of which the sides were some three feet high. The prince or noble took his seat in this, and was thus protected with the exception of his head and shoulders from all distant attack. Imari and the haudah are different, the former has a canopy and is used for travelling or for purposes of state, the latter has no cover and is employed in war. The haudah is made of boards strengthened with iron, having the shape of an octagonal platform, with sides eighteen inches high. In war time the sides were raised to two feet, and were then covered with iron or brass plates. It was divided into two unequal parts. In the forepart, about three fourths of it, a man may easily sit with his pillows and cushions, or upon a stretch, two men. The hind part held one man, and that with difficulty. when it covered with a canopy it is called an amhari and is not used in the field. A seat with a canopy was so called, and without a canopy it was a haudah. It (the canopy) is generally made of Europe scarlet cloth and embroidered, and sometimes has a golden or silver urn or some such ornament on the top. Mahomedans prefer a crescent".

The object of mounting the general or commander on an elephant was that he might be seen from a distance by all the troops. For in those days battles were nearly always decided by the fate of the leader. If he was killed or disappeared, the army gave up the contest and in a very short space of time melted away altogether. Nadir Shah wondered at this Indian habit of mounting the general on an elephant. In the day of battle they ride on an elephant, and make themselves into a target for everybody! In other ways, too, the elephants were sometimes of more harm than benefit. If wounded, they were liable to get beyond control and escape at the top of their speed.

Elephants were also used to batter in the gates of fortified places. It is for this reason that such gates are generally found protected by metal plates and spikes. To counteract these, the elephant was again, in its turn, provided with a frontlet of steel. Large plates of iron fixed to their foreheads, were intended to break them down. But the elephants, wounded by the musquetry, soon turned and trampled on those who escorted them.

Under Akbar the elephants ridden by the emperor were called khasah(special), and all others were arranged in groups of ten, twenty or thirty, called halqah (ring, circle). khasah including all riding, and halqah all baggage elephants. Mansabdars from 7000 down to 500 were required to maintain each one riding elephant, and in addition, five baggage elephants for every 100,000 dam of pay. As the rule, these elephants belonged to the emperor, and were not even made over to the mansahdar for use. Akbar put several halqahs' (groups of ten, twenty, or thirty elephants) in charge of every grandee, and required him to look after them. In Akbar's time apparently the fodder was supplied by the State.

Fossil bones of elephants found in Europe are the remains of those used in war and sport by the Romans and Moghuls. zanjir a chain, as applied to an elephant. The word zanjtr (chain) is here one of the fanciful catchwords attached to every being or thing in the Oriental art of siyaq, that is, of accounting and official recording. Some fancied appropriateness was discerned in the epithet so used. Pearls were counted by danah, seed, horses by ras, head, shields by dast, hand, bricks by qalih, mould, and so forth. For elephants the word is znjijir, chain,a reference to the iron chain by which an elephant is hobbled when not in use. Akbar's own elephant Asman Shukoh (Heaven Dignity). Catrou has Dalsingar (Ornament of the Army) and Aurang-zeb (Throne-elephant).

After the introduction of fire arrms and the gradual extension of their use, elephants ceased, even in the East, to be of much value in the fighting line of battle. The chief men still rode them and displayed their standards on them. But this was more for the purpose of being seen and of acting as a centre and rallying point, than for any advantage derived from the elephants themselves, either through their strength or their courage.

Nizam-ul-Mulk seems to have maintained a large number of elephants even so late as about (1730-1). When on a campaign to the north of his dominions, in the direction of the Tapti, he had with him 1026 elephants, of which 225 were provided with armour, and presumably were used in battle. On this occasion he made a curious trial of their staunchness or otherwise. In an open space near the river he ranged his guns in a line, (there were 44 top and 1225 rahkalah), and drew up his elephants opposite them. As the elephants advanced, the cannon were fired, supported by musketry. A few of the elephants stood fast, but the greater number filed for miles, the only result being that 306 foot-soldiers were trodden under foot.

Towards the end of the period they were more largely employed as beasts of burden or as aids in the transport of heavy guns. When used for the latter purpose they were furnished with a thick leather pad, covering the forehead, to prevent their being injured. In time of peace, as a means of display, for riding on, for shooting from, they have continued to be largely used. Asaf-ud-Daulah, Nawab of Audh (1775—1797), kept considerably above 1000 elephants merely for pleasure.


According to our European sources discipline was extremely lax, if not entirely absent. It was impossible to restore a Moghul army's discipline, while during the march they moved without order, with the irregularity of a herd of animals. Europeans generally held the true cause of their dread of fire-arms, and particularly of artillery, to lie in the inexperience of their leading men, who never understood the advantage of discipline or the use of infantry.

Nobles while at headquarters were bound to appear twice a day, morning and evening, at the emperor's audience, and on this point they were strictly supervised. But there seems to have been no regular drill and no manoeuvres. From time to time they paraded their troops in the outer court during the time of public audience, and the state of the horses and elephants was then observed. Occasionally, but very rarely, there were special parades in the open. These generally took place on the line of march, the emperor passing in review the troops of some particular commander, as he was making his march to his next camping ground.


There was no regimental organization. The only divisions known were those created by reason of each chief or noble having his own following of troops. Tuman was any body of soldiers and tumandar was the leader or head of such a body. Jamahdar is a smaller man than a tumandar.

As for uniform, the only sign of it originally was a red turban worn by all in the imperial employ. For the great mass of the army there was usually no uniformity of dress. But in a general way each class of troops dressed in a similar style, Persians in one way, Mughals in another, Hindustani Mahomedans could be distinguished from Rajputs, and so forth. But some few regiments clothed in uniform. For example, as early as Farrukhsiyar's reign, the Surkhposhan called as the Red Regiment. In Muhammad Shah's time there were some regiments of body-guards clad alike, and known as the surkhposh, zardposh and siyahposh, from the colour of their coats, red, yellow or black. These men carried gold or silver clubs (gathak).

The atlan (Be mounted) was carried round to the horse guards when the emperor is going to mount his elephant.


For desertion to the enemy we read occasionally of men being blown from the mouth of a gun. In 1714 two Mina robbers were blown from guns by Husain Ali Khan, when on the march from Dehli to Ajmer. In the year 1760 the Mahrattahs blew away from guns two Mahomedan leaders taken prisoners by them at Kunjpurah. In 30 May 1762 the Mahrattah commander, Narti Pandit, blew two men from guns at Burhanpur. They tied the man to the mouth of a cannon. The garrison of Mansurgarh in Orissa (1049 h.) asked for quarter by holding blades of grass between their teeth. This is the well-known Indian custom of indicating submissiveness which is practised by villagers to this day. It is also said to have been resorted to by the Mahrattah horsemen at Dihli (Feb. 1719), when they were overpowered in a street riot.


There seems to have been no drill for soldiers, as such, and no training in combined movements of any sort. The individual, on the other hand, paid the minutest attention to the training of his body, and exercising himself with all his weapons. For this there were the series of movements practised daily, known as kasarat. The traces of order, discipline, and science are so faint as to be scarcely discernible, except in the outward appearance of the men, the management of their horses, and their dexterity in the use of the spear and sabre, which individually gives a martial air. The men exercise at home with dumb bells or heavy pieces of wood. In addition the clubs called mugdar, the chain bow or lezam and single-stick play were used. In this last, a stick covered with a loose sheath of leather was held in one hand and a small round buckler in the other. The stick is called gudka, gadka or gadga. They may play with one singlestick or sword or with sword and shield, or two swords, one held in each hand. There were also wrestling bouts, which usually took place in the rainy season. For mounted men there were tent- pegging and shooting at bottles. The archers had their daily shooting at an earthen mound or target.

Sword play[]

The swordsmen were exceedingly skilful and active. Their attack and defence being accompanied by the wildest gestures, the most extraordinary leaps, and elaborate feints of every sort.

The usual style of sword exercise in India is, with a kind of single-stick, ribbonded with list cloth up to the top, and a small shield in the left hand. The swordsman begins by renowning it, vapouring, waving his blade, and showing all the curious fantasie that distinguish a Spanish espada. Then, with the fiercest countenance, he begins to spring in the air, to jump from side to side, to crouch, and to rush forwards and backwards, with all the action of an excited baboon. They never thought of giving point. Throughout India the thrust is confined to the dagger. The cuts as a rule were only two, one on the shoulder and the other, in the vernacular called qalam at the lower legs. Nothing was easier than to guard these cuts and to administer a thrust that would have been fatal with steel. Native cutting stroke only one capable of penetrating the quilted jackets, or the many folds of cloth worn as turbans by Indians. The Dragoon sword would not penetrate these, even by giving point. The native practice not only requires a stiff wrist, but a stiff though not a straight elbow, for a cut that shall disabl.

Their manner of advancing was exceedingly imposing. Being perfectly undisciplined, they advanced in a crowd. The bravest being in advance and taking high bounds and turning two or three times round in the air, they rushed forward to the sound of small drums, accompanied by the perpetual vociferation of the war-cry "Din! Din! Muhammad! This sounds at a distance like 'ding, ding', which is often used instead of the correct expression. This applied to later days.


An elephant with his mahout attacked by a spearman on horse.

The cavalry had their horses trained to a sort of manege, where the horse was made to stand on its hind legs and then advance by bounds for a considerable distance.As a rule the people of India do not know how to ride, and horsemanship is unknown in Hindustan. In addition, they use their utmost efforts to efface from horses all the qualities of the horse, and make it epileptic and mad. Their movements are not regulated by an intelligible principle, and it is impossible for them to be under the rider's control. The Indian horses ere not good. If one wants to control the speed of the horse and make him travel at the speed one wishes, the beast either stands up on his hind legs or jibs, or hugs a wall till he crushes his rider or kills him in some other way. His paces are accompanied by jumps wholly unnatural.

The Indian style has the merit of holding the horse well in hand, making him bound off at a touch of the heel, stopping him dead at a hand gallop, and wheeling him round on a pivot. The Hindu will canter over a figure-of-eight, gradually diminishing the dimensions tell the animal leans over at an angle of 45°, and throwing himself over the off side and hanging down to the earth by the heel, will pick up sword or pistol from the ground

Gouache painting on mica of a guard or officer who holds a spear over his right shoulder

Mounting Guard[]

In time of peace the nobles took it in turn to mount guard with their troops at the palace gate. This was called chauki and the guard-house was the chauki-kanah. The duty lasted for twenty-four hours and recurred once a week. The relief took place every evening. There was also another division of the army into twelve parts, each of which mounted guard for one month.


Salim Kills Rhinoceros and a Lion

The nearest approach to army manoeuvres was when the army or a division was ordered out to take part in a royal hunt. One branch of the army combined two functions. In peace they were huntsmen, in war, skirmishers. These were the Qarawal, with the Qarawal Begl, or Chief Huntsman, at their head . For this hunt a king gives orders, through his huntsmen (qarawal), to his governors and the zamindars and cultivators (ryots) to surround a wide space full of game. This was closed in on daily till the area was very small. Then the ruler and his friends arrived, entered the enclosed space, and hunted the game. As this was a privilege of kings, no one else, not even a great noble, was allowed to practise it. in India it was given up after the middle of Alamgir's reign.

Army in the field[]

Having sprung from a Central Asian nomad horde, the early chiefs of Taimur's race were perpetually on the move, accompanied by their army. This traditional habit was maintained in India by the earlier and more active emperors of that house From Babar to Bahadur Shah, they were seldom long in one place, and the greater part of their life was passed under canvas. During the five years of his reign Bahadur Shah never slept in any building, and did not enter one in the day time on more than one or two occasions. From this habit it resulted that the empire had never had a fixed capital, the only capital was the place at which the sovereign might happen to be, and as a consequence, the whole apparatus of government was carried wherever the emperor went. Ail the great officers of state followed him, and all the imperial records moved with them. Thus a Moghul army, where the emperor was present, was weighted with the three-fold impedimenta of an army, a court, and a civil executive. It is thus easy to account for the immense size to which their camps gradually extended.

Mir Manzil[]

To preserve order in the audience-hall and its approaches, and to regulate the access of the public thereto, there were a number of guards (yasawal), at whose head were several officers styled Mir Tuzak (literally, Lords of Arrangement). The first of these officials was one of the great officers of State, and it was his duty when the court was on the march, to fix the route, to decide on the marches, and to proceed ahead, select a place for encampment, and lay out the site of the various camps and the lines of shops (bazar). When carrying out these duties, the first Mir Ttizak was more commonly known as Mir Manzil, Lord of the Stages.


The means of transport, consisting of elephants, camels, pack-ponies, bullocks, bullock-carts and porters, wereonly provided officially for the imperial tents and establishments. Every one else was left to make his own arrangements. Each soldier did his best for himself. The baggage was known as bahir o bangah or partal. But Partal used for the means of transporting. Bakhti is the large, two-humped or Bactrian camel.


In an Indian army the commissariat was left very much to take care of itself. The imperial kitchen fed a certain number of palace servants and some armed guards, matchlock men, and artificers. There was also a charitable kitchen kept up, at the emperor's expense, and called the Langarkhanah. In the same way, a chief distributed cooked food to the men more especially attached to his person. Outside these limited circles, every man was left to provide for himself, buying from day to day enough for his daily wants from the numerous dealers who followed the army. These men's huts or shops were erected in long double lines, so as to form temporary streets. These were the so-called bazars or markets. Each great leader had his own bazars, and in these were to be found not only dealers in grain, but merchants and artificers of every sort and kind.

Banjara or Birinjara[]

The supplies of grain were brought in on the backs of bullocks by the wandering dealers known as Banjarahs or Brinjarahs. It is by these people that the Indian armies in the field are fed, and they are never injured by either army. The grain is taken from them, but invariably paid for. They encamp for safety every evening in a regular square formed of the bags of grain, of which they construct a breastwork. They and their families are in the centre and the oxen are made fast outside. Guards with matchlocks and spears are placed at the corners, and their dogs do duty as advanced posts. They do not move above two miles an hour, as the cattle are allowed to graze as they proceed on the march


An elephant carrying fodder.

The grass for the horses was provided, as it still is, by sending men out to gather it. If they had a pony, the grass was loaded on it and brought in. If not, it was carried in on the man's head. These men were either engaged as servants by the troopers or worked on their own account. With an active enemy about, these followers were often cut off, or even frightened into not going out at all. Camels were, of course, sent out to pick up what they could in the country round the camp. These, too, were often raided by the enemy.


In addition to those brought in by traders, supplies were also added to by raiding and plundering in the country through which the army marched. Even in the best time of the monarchy and under the strictest commanders, the course of an army was marked by desolation. These was great destruction of growing coops when the army passed through a fairly cultivated country. Compensation under the name of paemcllt, "foot-treading", was certainly allowed, according to the rules, in the shape of a remission of revenue on the land injured, but this must have been a very incomplete indemnification for the loss of the crop.

Scarcity and other sufferings[]

An army supplied in the way indicated above was peculiarly liable to have its supplies cut off. Then followed at once scarcity, high prices, and if the stoppage continued, death from starvation. Great heat and want of water were also frequent grounds of complaint. In Bahadur Shah's operations against the Sikh leader, Bandah, in December 1710, he was much hampered by the heavy rain and the intense cold, many of the transport animals being lost. When Nizam-ul-mulk on his way in July 1720 to attack Alim Aii Khan, governor of Aurangabad, passed several days in extreme discomfort, exposed to incessant rain and in the middle of deep black mud. The constant rain and the swollen streams stopped all supplies, the Mahrattas plundered close round the camp, not an animal could be sent out or brought in. For many days the only food of the cattle was the pounded leaves and young shoots of trees. The smell even of grass or corn did not reach the four footed animals, and many of them, standing up to their shoulders in mud, starved to death. One rupee would only buy 2 to 4 lbs. of flour.

Flight of Inhabitants[]

In south India, The inhabitants of a country deserted their homes for the hills and woods upon the approach of an invader, taking with them whatever food they could carry, and often perishing of want. Such an exodus was not unknown in Northern India, as for instance, when the Sikhs first rose in 17 JO, and invaded the Upper Jamnah-Ganges duabah and the country north and east of Lahor, the inhabitants, especially the Mahomedans, fled at their approach. More usually, however, the peasants continued with tranquil unconcern to plough, sow, or reap within a stone's throw of a raging battle.

Camps and Equipage[]

Each soldier seems to have had the shelter of a tent, even if it consisted only of a cotton cloth raised on two sticks. The tents are manily twelve different kinds. Rauti was the huge imperial tents. The Shamiyanah is tent in common use. The khargah are folding tents with one or two doors, and made in various ways. He calls them "cabinets", and leads us to infer that they were set up inside the large tents. The emperor and the great nobles were provided with tents in duplicate, one set being sent on to the next camping ground while the other set was in use. The tents thus sent on were known as the peshkhanah or advance-house.


The laying out of the emperor's camp, a plan continued to the last. In the centre was the imperial enclosure of canvas screens 1530 yards long, and about one fifth of that distance in breadth. It was divided across in its length into four courts. Over the entrance, which faced in the direction of the next march, was the drum-house (nagar-khanah), in the second court was the audience tent, in the third a more private hall, and in the fourth the sleeping tents. Behind was a place for Emperors's mother, while outside and still more to the rear were the women's apartments, surrounded on all four sides by guards. Along the outside of the enclosure were ranged on each side the karkhanahs, or departments of the household and arsenal, about ten tents on each side. Still farther away and towards each corner, the tents of the guards were erected. Outside the gate of the enclosure were the elephants and horses with their establishments on one side. The records, the carts and litters, the general of artillery, and the hunting leopards on the other.

First of all the Mir Manzil selected a fit spot for the emperor's tents. This was a square enclosure 300 paces each way. The whole of this was surrounded by screens (qanat), seven or eight feet high, secured by cords to pegs and stayed by poles fixed at an angle, one inside and one outside, at every ten paces. The entrance was in the centre of one of the sides. On each side of the gate were two handsome tents, where were kept a number of horses ready saddled and caparisoned. In front of the entrance was a clear space, at the end of which stood the naqar khanah, or station for the drums, trumpets and cymbals. Close to it was the chauki-khanah, or tent of the officer on guard for the day.

Round the enclosure were the imperial bazars, through which a street led from the gate in the direction of the next day's march, marked out by long poles, which were surmounted by yak tails and placed at 300 paces from each other. The princes and great nobles pitched their camps at various distances, sometimes of several miles, from the emperor's tents. Each was surrounded by the tents of his men and his own bazar, the only order observed being that the chief's tents must face towards the imperial Public Audience-hall. Bernier estimates that where there was ample space for spreading. Alamgir's whole camp would have measured about six miles in circumference. The bazars were marked out by long poles surmounted, as already said, by the tails of the great Tibet cow "which have the appearance of so many periwigs".

The camp where this numerous army rested was laid out daily in the same manner, so far as the nature of the ground permitted. A great enclosure was roped off of square shape, and this was surrounded by a deep ditch. The heavy artillery was ranged from distance to distance and defended the approaches. The emperor's palace was placed in the centre of the camp. This also was square in shape and the light artillery was disposed all round it. The tents of the generals, of a much less height than those of the emperor, were pitched in the different quarters of the camp. The sutlers and traders of all sorts had streets assigned to them. To sum up it may be said that Aurangzeb dragged in his train a travelling city as large and as peopled as his capital".

Some of the tents were of an enormous size. These was one made by order of Shahjahan which bore the name of Dil-badil (Generous Heart). When Bahadur Shah ordered this tent to be erected at Lahor in the year 1711, five hundred tent-pitchers and carpenters were employed for one month in putting it up. This tent cost 50,000 rupees. the emperor's camp was about one and a quarter miles in circuit, it contained one hundred and twenty tents, some of them big enough for several hundreds of men, and the largest might admit two thousand or three thousand. All this was surrounded by a qanat, or wall of cloth six feet high, outside which is a paling which surrounds the whole. It is betwixt these two enclosures that live the guards. Further off, there is another paling, and here, too, in the intermediate space reside guards and people attached to the imperial household, such as chairmen, watermen, or taper-bearers.

Colour of tents -The tents of the emperor, his sons, and grandsons were of a red cloth, called kharwah, a stout canvas-like cotton cloth, dyed red with the root of the alplant. Round the emperor's tents was the enclosure called the gulalhar. Some of the great nobles such as the vicegerent or the chief minister were allowed palapali or striped tents, one red stripe and one white stripe alternately.

Gulalbar - The name of the screen put up round the emperor's tents was the Gulalbar. It was a Red Wall. Before Akbar's time the tents of the Gurgani kings were surrounded by a rope called the tanab-i-quruq or the rope of hindrance. In Akbar's reign the gulalbar was devised. It was formed out of bambus coloured red and held together by leather straps like a net-work, and so made that it might be extended or gathered up at will. Its height was eight feet. It had two gateways to the front and one on the side where the harem tents stood. This screen was erected round the imperial tents, which were styled collectively the Daulat-khanah or Abode of Prosperity. Outside it a ditch was dug, and red flags, an attribute of sovereignty, were displayed on poles.

Jali - The word jail is similarly met with in reference to the precincts of the emperor's tent. Jali is a meshwork . This network (jail) may be the gulalbar under another name. But the tents of princes continued to be protected by the old device of a rope, which still bore the name of tanab-i-quruq, or rope of prohibition (Mirat-ul-I.).

Rahkalah-bar - It was the park of artillery arranged at the entrance of the imperial quarters, or round them, as a protection against attack. The quarters of the Mir Atash were at the imperial gateway.

Harem women with armies - On all campaigns a harem of women with their attendants seems to have accompanied the emperor and the chief men. On the day of battle these women were put on elephants and carefully guarded by the force forming the rear guard, which was posted at some distance behind the centre, where stood the emperor or other chief commander. The habit of being followed by a harem might be justified in cases where the camp was the only home, for perhaps years at a time. But the practice was the same even on short campaigns.

On the March[]

When an army or the emperor first took the field, there were generally great difficulties and delays in making a start. Nothing was ever ready when wanted. If a great noble was put in command, he had always some further petition to urge or objection to make before he could be persuaded to start. Then there were the astrologers to be consulted. No march began until the lucky moment had been fixed by reading the stars. If it were not possible to make a real departure on the proper day or at the proper time, the advance tents would be sent out and a pretended start would be made in the hope of cheating the Fates. In all cases, however, the first march out was a very short one, in order that stragglers might have time to join and anything left behind might be sent for. This regard for lucky and unlucky days was a great obstacle to the Moguls' success in war, as it often prevented them from taking the most obvious advantages of an enemy.

Emperors taking the field in person - The emperor was not supposed to take the personal command unless the army was large and the campaign important. On the way it was usual to pay visits to holy men of repute in order to obtain their blessing. The shrines of any noted saints situated near the line of march were perambulated and the saint's help implored. Another curious practice is, in accordance with an old custom, to Qutb-ud-din's shrine, to have Emperor's turban wound round his head there, and a sword attached to his waist. Then a bow with its string loosened ought to have been placed near the tomb. If the string of itself resumed its place, this would be held a sign of victory. On this occasion, such was the uproar and confusion, the order to bring the bow was not carried out.

Description of an army on the march - The heavy artillery went first and formed as it were the advance guard. The baggage followed in good order. First came the camels bearing the imperial treasure, one hundred loaded with gold and two hundred with silver coin. The load of each did not exceed 500 lbs. The treasure was succeeded by the hunting establishment. There were a great many dogs used for coursing deer and numerous "taureaux". for hunting tigers. Next came the official records. It is the practice of the Moghul empire for these never to be separated from the emperor. The accounts and other archives of the empire were carried on eighty camels, thirty elephants and twenty carts. Immediately behind these came fifty camels carrying water for the court and the princes.Behind these camels came the imperial kitchen and fifty camels with the provisions for the day. There were fifty cows to give milk, as Aurangzeb chiefly lived on milk. One hundred kitchen servants riding on horses followed. Each man prepared one particular sort of stew Next was the wardrobe of the emperor and the harem, and for this fifty camels and on hundred carts sufficed. Thirty elephants bore the harem jewels and the store of swords and daggers, from which the emperor makes presents to his generals. In front of the baggage train and the artillery two thousand pioneers marched with spades ready to smooth the ground. There were other thousand who followed to repair any holes made by the camels or elephants.

The army came after the baggage. It was composed almost entirely of cavalry. As for the infantry it is made up in case of need from the numerous sutlers, traders, and servants that follow the army. These are armed only with the sword, spear and shield. After the cavalry came the emperor, followed by his seraglio. Ordinarily he rode an elephant. On the back of this great animal, they had built a room with glass windows, in which was a couch and a bed. By the side of the elephant were palankins all ready for use should the emperor wish to change his mode of conveyance. His elephant was followed by led horses. Aurangzeb was fond of riding and at a considerably advanced age he was still the best rider in his empire. Some camels preceded the emperor bearing some large cooking-pots always steaming, perfuming the air as they went by. Forming the two wings on the two sides of the emperor's elephants, marched in good order the whole of the imperial guard. The queens, princesses, and ladies of the harem followed the emperor. They were carried, as he was, on elephants, but the room which contained them was surrounded with wooden blinds covered over with loose, thin muslin. They saw all and could breathe the air without being seen. The other women who worked in the harem were on horseback, wrapped in long mantles covering their faces and reaching to their feet. The line of march was brought up by the light artillery, each field piece on its carriage being drawn by horses.

The rear guard was swollen by the prodigious number of people always at the Court, and the innumerable multitude of servants leading elephants, camels, horses, and those carrying the tents and baggage of the lords of the court and the generals of the army. All moved in order and without confusion. This rear guard had its place allotted as exactly as the disciplined troops.

Standards - The flag of the noble or sovereign was carried on an elephant during the march . These was a special officer entrusted with the insignia and standards. These Mansabddrs are called as qur. lord of the Qur is called as Qurbegi. The men under him carried a supply of weapons for the emperor's use. these standards and emblems were surrounded by a large number of players on cymbals and trumpets.

Military Music and the Naubat - The beating of drums, accompanied by the playing of cymbals and the blowing of trumpets, at certain fixed intervals (naubat), was one of the attributes of sovereignty. The place where the instruments were stationed, generally at or over a gateway, was the naubat or naqqar khanah. nine naubat in the twenty four hours, but generally they are spoken of as recurring at the end of each of the eight watches (pahr) into which that period was divided. The continual beating of the naubat, or great drums, is one of the highest signs of rank and power. Over the gate of every palace is a gallery or balcony where this noisy instrument is beaten at certain hours in the day and night. One of them (i. e. a drum) is always carried on an elephant before the commander of a native army.

In addition to the fixed periods at which the imperial drums were beaten and the music played, it would seem that music and drum beating accompanied the march of the emperor. The intention to make a march was announced by the beating of kettle drums. tHE trumpet was sounded for the same purpose. If the emperor were not present, the commander, if entitled to this high honour, caused his own drums to be beaten. The sound of these drums was a sign that some great noble was in command and that probably the army under him was a large one. The drums were also beaten at the opening of a battle. A horn was blown at night in the emperor's camp to indicate a halt for the next day. when a fight was trembling in the balance, Horn - blowers should all blow together and inspire the other side with dread. After a battle the drums and trumpets were also employed by the victors to announce their victory. Even on ordinary occasions a noble was preceded by music.

The kettle drums (7iaqqarali) were made of iron hoops, and they were twice as big as those used by cavalry in Europe. Dankah is a small wooden drum. Shak is a bass kettledrum, in size between the naqqarah and the lakora,

Patrolling and Watching - At night time some troops were sent out to march round the camp and protect it. The name of these detachments was taliyah . Taliah is advanced posts or pickets.As for the care of the interior of the camp, the system of watch and ward then prevailing. His watchmen with their cries of khabardar (Take care), the guards at their watch fires every five hundred paces round the camp, and the kotwal with his armed men and their trumpet, were better fitted to prevent thieves and robbers entering the camp than to act as military precautions against surprise. In later times even these imperfect precautions seem to have been abandoned. In the 18th century it was found that, often as native troops had been surprised in the night by Europeans, they could never be brought to establish order and vigilance in their camp.When they acted as allies of the English, the most earnest entreaty could never prevail upon them to be upon their guard, or quit their ground in the morning to take part in a surprise. The men ate a heavy meal just after night fall, many indulged also in drugs, and about midnight a whole army would be in a dead sleep. In the police of the camp the provost-marshal, or kotwal, was aided by a censor, or muhtasib, whose special duty was to suppress gambling, drinking, and other breaches of the Mahomedan law.

Escort- The name used for this duty was badraqah

Emperors conveyance and usages on his passing by - it was a chair resting on two straight bambus or poles and carried on the shoulders of eight men. Two or three persons could find place in it, and it had not only a canopy over it, but an awning in front to intercept the glare of the sun. Preceding the moving throne were the yasawals, whose business it was to preserve order . Sometimes Bahadur Shah mounted a horse, but he does not seem to have ridden on an elephant except in the battlefield.

Whenever the emperor passed, it was the etiquette for princes, nobles, and chiefs to come out to the edge of their camp and present a gold coin or other offering, The practice of entering the camp sometimes on one side, sometimes on another, a custom either founded on superstition or devisedas a precaution against assassination.

1561-Akbar riding the elephant Hawa'I pursuing another elephant across a collapsing bridge of boats (left)

Crossing Rivers - Babar's built a boat bridge across the Ganges near Kanauj. The practice was exceedingly common. Any river, if unfordable, was crossed by a temporary bridge of boats, such as are still to be seen in the present day. The elephants could cross such bridges, but this is a matter of every day experience. A special officer, dignified with the name of Mir Bahr, Lord of the Sea, was charged with the construction of these bridges and the provision of boats. The army crossed by means of bridges of boats constructed with tolerable skill, and placed between two and three hundred paces apart. Earth and straw mingled are thrown upon the planking forming the foot way, to prevent the cattle from slipping. The greatest confusion and danger occur at the extremities. For not only does the crowd and pressure occur most there, but when the approaches to the bridge are composed of soft moving earth, they become so broken up and full of pits, that horses and laden oxen tumble upon one another into them, and the people pass over the struggling animals in the utmost disorder. The evil would be much increased if the army were under the necessity of crossing in one day. But the king generally fixes his camp about half a league from the bridges of boats and suffers a day or two to elapse ere he passes to the opposite side of the river.When, pitching his tents within half a league from the bank, he again delays his departure so as to allow the army three days and nights at least to effect the passage.

There was one defect in the purely native system of making a boat-bridge. They did not make use of grapnels. Instead of these, they followed the tedions mode of driving stakes into the river bed. The result was a bridge less secure; and what might have been ready in one day took eight or ten days to complete. Bamboos are planted to show depth of water.

Marching through Passes. The passage through a hilly country of such a huge assemblage as a Moghul army, consisting as it mainly did of undisciplined men, was, it need hardly be said, a matter of extreme difficulty, and in the presence of an active enemy likely to end disastrously. Some Emperors adopting special precautions whenever he came to any narrow defile. The emperor sent ahead his general with orders on reaching the other end to occupy in force a position in the open plain beyond. It seems to have taken the main body many days to get clear.

Scouts and Spies - The intelligence department was always in active operation, both in peace and war. Reports of all sorts, descending even to idle gossip and scandal, were always welcome. There were in all four thousand spies(harkarah) in the imperial service scattered throughout the kingdom. There was a head spy or daroghah-i-harkarah who was a man of influence and much feared. His establishment formed a branch of the postal department, managed by a high court official called the Baroghah-i-dak, or superintendent of the Post. When in the field, these spies were sent out in all directions. The runners carrying the mail bags. Despatches and orders were either sent through the ordinary post, manned by foot runners, or by special messengers on camels. If the recipient was to be specially honoured or the matter was very important, one of the imperial mace-bearers carried the message or letter to its destination.

Negotiations - These were carried on as a rule through holy men (darvesh) or through eunuchs, the sacred character of the one and the peculiar position of the other class making their persons more likely to be respected. During Humayun's flight through Sind in 1542, Mai Deo, the son of Rae Lankaran of Jaisalmir, when he came to remonstrate about plundering, bore a white flag.

Length of marches[]

In those days, the length of a day's journey in Hindustan was 11 to 12 kos or about 22 miles for an ordinary traveller. But that of a courier may be reckoned at 30 or 33 miles. On occasions of emergency, they could travel even more, and that for a continuance of fifteen or twenty days. But these figures must not be taken as any standard for army marching. These was an official rate of progress laid down for single officers or small parties travelling to or from Court. At times there were, however, forced marches which much exceeded the ordinary length. on the other hand, the rate of advance of a large army was very much less than the official rate of marching, for slowness of motion and the smallness of the stages are in the idea of the Indians a part of the state that must attend a great man.

The length of each day's march is stated with great precision in jaribi or measured kos. A tanab-i-'paimaish followed the army, and by it the distance traversed was measured. The introduction of the practice into India was attributed to Babar. One hundred tanah made one tanab. Each tanab was of 40 yards (gaz) and each gaz was of nine average fists (mushi). This would make a kos of 4000, instead of 5000 gaz, as the later reckoning was. It was apparently Akbar who lengthened the tanab from 40 to 50 gaz. Other men on foot march with a rope to measure the road, as follows. They begin at the royal tent when the king starts. The first man, who holds tho rope in his hand, makes a mark in the ground, and when the man behind comes up to it, he calls out One. Then the other man makes another mark and counts two. Thus they continue for the whole march, counting Three, Four and so on, the other peon also keeping count. Should the king ask how far he has gone, they calculate the number of ropes making up a league, and answer accordingly.

The official days March. If a man was summoned to court, the time for his arrival was calculated in the following:

  1. For the order to reach him by the postrunners, 30 measured (jaribi) kos (78 miles) a day.
  2. For preparation to march, one week.
  3. For the march, 7 measured kos (18.2 miles) a day.

The imperial measured kos was 200 jaribis of 25 dirah each, that is, 5000 dirah.

The dirah may be safely assumed to be the same as the gaz-i'ilahi, which has been found to be, as nearly as could be ascertained, 33 inches in length. The length of one jaribi kos would be 4583&mnsp;1/2 yards or 2.6 miles; and 7 kos equals 18.2 miles. The reputed (rasami) kos was shorter, one jaribi equalled 1.71 rasami kos, and the rasami kos was thus 1.52 miles in length. But this latter kos varies greatly in different parts of the country.

Dehli to within twelve kos of Kabul the distance was 306 jaribi kos, or 5351 rasami kos, and that it was one and a half month's journey. Taking thirty days to a month, or forty-five days in all, one finds that this brings out a rate of 6 1/2 jaribi and 11 3/8 rasami kos travelled each day, or almost exactly the same as the distance fixed in the official manual. The reputed distance between Lahore and Delhi was 107 kos; measured on the map it comes to about 288 miles, or at the rate of 2.6 miles to the kos to 278 miles, an average of a little over seven miles a day.

Forced marches – The Ilghar is forced march. Some remarkable feats of this nature were performed by Akbar; notably his advance on Gujarat in 1573. Such activity was not displayed in later times, and the Moghuls were habitually outmarched and out-manoeuvered by the Mahrattas. It is true that late instances of forced marches by Maisur troops are on record, but these can hardly be taken as applicable to the Moghul organization. Haidar and Tipu Sultan kept their troops in exceptional order, and what they did could not be done by other native armies. In 1781 Haidar marched one hundred miles in two days and a half, and in November 1790 Tipu s entire army marched sixty three miles in two days.

Army marching – In ordinary times, the usual march of an army never exceeded 4 1/2 kos (11.7 miles) and was sometimes as little as 1 1/4 kos (3.25 miles). When Bahadur Shah marched from Agrah to the Dakhin, and then back via Ajmer to Lahor, the historians record the length of 340 separate marches. Most of them were of 3 to 3 1/2 kos each (7.8 to 9.1 miles). This monarch always halted on Friday, and there was generally a long halt in the month of Ramazan on account of the fast.

In emergency conditions they take less time to march and long distance per a day. For example, the march of Sayyad Husain 'Ali Khan from the Dakhin, a march undertaken under circumstances of extreme urgency, should afford an excellent test of the rate at which a Moghul army could march. He left Aurangabad about ll November 1718, and reached a suburb of Delhi on 16 February 1719. His march thus occupied 98 days, and his route by way of Burhanpur, Ujjain, and Agrah, measures about 695 miles on the map, allowing 1/8 for the windings of the road. His average daily rate of marching (including any days on which he halted) was thus 7.1 miles.

Order of Battle[]

The Battle of Samugarh - It shows order of battle

The ranging of an army in order of battle was known as saff arastan.When a great battle was imminent, it was the duty of the first Bakhshi, the Bakhshi-ul-mamalik, to draw up a scheme of attack, dividing the force into divisions, assigning to each its position and naming the leaders of each. The proposed distribution was laid before the Emperor and his approval obtained. The day before the battle the Bakhshi also caused musters to be made, and an abstract of this present-state was laid before the emperor.

The order of battle was then, roughly speaking, as follows. First came the skirmishers. Next was placed the artillery in a line, protected by rocket-men and sheltered by a rough field-work, possibly the guns being also chained together. Behind the guns stood the advanced guard; a little behind it were the right and left wings. Then, at some distance, was the centre, where stood the emperor on his elephant, having a little way in front of him an advanced guard (illmish) and on each side of it two bodies, thrown a little way ahead, called the tarah. Behind the centre was the rear-guard (chandawul), having in its charge the baggage and the women.

As the names for these different parts of an armv in battle array differ a good deal, it will be as well to set them out somewhat at length. The words solyan and solqul for the left, and ong-qul for the right wing of the centre, as introduced by Babar .

Qalawuri -these are the men guiding or showing the way to an army. They are road-guides, horsemen who guard the flank, spies, scouts.

Iftali - They are advanced force or vanguard

Skirmishers - Qarawal was a sentinel, watchman, spy, guard, the vanguard, a gamekeeper, a hunter. In peace these men were the imperial huntsmen. In war, they were sent ahead as scouts and skirmishers.

Vanguard - This was called either Harawal . Vanguard has "vanguard, running footmen. Certain families among the Moghuls having hereditary claims to certain positions. In India the right to fight in the vanguard was conceded, from the time of Akbar, to the Barhah sayyads, and the fact is often referred to in later times as one of their best titles to honour.

Advanced post of the Vanguard - This body was named juzah-i-harawal or chicken of the vanguard.

Right Wing There are five names for this part of the army, two Arabic, one Chaghatae, and two Persian. They are (1) maimanah (2) ansar-i-maiManah (3) baranghar, (4) dast-i-rast, (5) taraf-i-yamin

Left Wing - In the same way the left wing is referred to by five different names, the maisarah, ansdr-i-maisarah, jaranghar, dast-i-rast, and janib-i-yasar

Advance guard of the Centre This bore the Chaghatae name for the number sixty, that is, iltmish, . Possibly it may have originally consisted of this number of men, and the name having been once adopted, it wasretained regardless of the actual number of men employed.

The Centre - This division was known either by the qul or qalb, literally "heart", and ghol, "troop", "assemblage". Perhaps the centre was called by this name, because it was formed out of the personal retainers or slaves of the leader or sovereign. Another name for the centre is qamargah, Mirdt-i-Ahmadi . This word is more usually applied to the circle within which game was driven by troops used as beaters. It was in the centre that the leader took up his station with his standards displayed.

Wings of the Centre - These were called tarah. This is the reserve, a position on each side, but somewhat in advance, of the centre itself. In this position these troops would seem rather to be the advanced guard than the reserve of the centre.

Rear guard - The name of this was chandawul OR water-carriers, people belonging to the rear guard. In its charge was the baggage of the army.

Saqah - The rear of any division of the army or of any camp was called its saqah.

Nasaqchi - The nasaqchi was an armed man employed to enforce orders.Military punishments were inflicted through them, and one of their duties was to stand in the rear of the army and to cut down every one who dared to flee. Their arms were a battle-axe, a sabre, and a dagger . Their signs of office were a staff or baton carried in the hand, and on the head a tadal, of moulded brass, three sided, in shape like the deeply ribbed or winged fruit of the kamrakh .

Taulqamah - These are the troops posted in ambush to turn the enemy, or the action of turning the flank of the enemy .But the word must be accepted in both senses, namely as a manoeuvre and as a section of the battle array.They may be horsemen.

Conduct of a Battle[]

An open country was one of the first necessities for a successful action by a Moghul army, for without this their cavalry could not deploy freely . Even ground covered with thick scrub was unfavourable, while hills and ravines still more hampered their movements. In a mountainous region they were at a terrible disadvantage. Their mail-clad horsemen were quite unequal to guerilla warfare. In their palmiest days they found themselves unable to reach the Pathans amidst their rocks. In their decadence they were helpless as children against the nimble Marathas.

Usually one, if not both, the armies made ready for battle by drawing out the guns in a long line and protecting them by earth works, the guns being also connected together by chains or hide-straps, to prevent the horsemen of the other side from riding through the line and cutting down the gunners.

If the guns were not too numerous, it was often the practice to post them behind the clay walls of the houses in some village. or to take up a commanding position on the top of an old brick-kiln ; or a temporary entrenchment might be formed out of the earthen bank and ditch which usually surround a grove of mango trees. A discharge of rockets from the artillery position generally began the action. Then the guns were brought into play. The fire never became very rapid. In the middle of the 18th century their firing once in a quarter of an hour. In 1721 the usual rate of fire of the heavy guns was one shot every three hours (one pas). Haidar Quli Khan's men cooled their guns, loaded them, and fired them at intervals of three-quarters of an hour. In Babar's time the rate of firing must have been very slow. In his battle near Kanauj Ustad Quli Khan (mir atash) made very good use. The first day he discharged eight projectiles, the second he shot sixteen, and so continued for three or four days.

Owing to the slowness of the draught oxen, who were unable to keep up with an advancing line, the artilleryseldom took any further part in the battle, once the cavalry advance had passed beyond the entrenched position which had been taken up at the outset. From the same cause, it seldom happened that in case of a retreat or defeat the guns could be saved. they had to be spiked and left behind or as Blacker puts it.

While the artillery duel went on, the rest of the army was drawn up at some distance behind the guns in the order of battle with standards displayed, drums beating, and horns blowing.As the army took up its position for battle, the long brass horns sounded and heralds made proclamation. Shouts and battle cries, coupled with abusive or taunting language, were copiously resorted t. Such cries were Allahu akbar ! (God is great) and Din! Din! (The faith! The faith!). Akbar used the cry of Ya Muin! (O Helper!).The most common cry in later times was Din! Din! Muliammad! Mahratta war cry was "Gopal ! Gopal! or Har Har, Mahadeo". These are the names of Hindu gods.

Cavalry charges - When the guns were supposed to have done their work and had sufficiently demoralized the opposing army, successive charges were delivered from first one wing, then the other. The horsemen began with matchlock fire and a discharge of arrows, finally coming to close quarters and hand to hand fighting with sword, mace, or spear. In this the matchlock played a conspicuous part. In the south of India it was the practice to make the first attack against the rear of an army.

Caltrops khasak is the word for a caltrop thrown down to impede the movements of cavalry.

As to the distinctive difference between Moghul cavalry and that of European armies in their methods of fighting. First of all, to show how formidable such solid but irregular bodies of cavalry. Yet a few European squadrons could ride them down and disperse them. There was a want of sympathy between the parts, and this prevented one part depending upon the assistance of another. Owing to its size, an army of Moghul horse could, for the moment, meet the attack of a small compact body by a portion only of its total strength, and since as against disciplined cavalry an equal front of an irregular body of troops can never stand the shock of an attack, the Moghuls were bound to give way. The whole being thus broken up into parts, the parts avoided exposure to the brunt of the action. The part actually attacked fled, but the parts not menaced did not combine to fall on the rear of the pursuers. On the other hand, the disciplined troops divided, reassembled, charged and halted on a single trumpet-call, and threatened each single part in turn. But if the drilled cavalry tried skirmishing, it was soon found that the Moghul horse, apparently so despicable, were most formidable in detail. In single combat a European seldom equalled the address of a native horseman.

The objective was the elephant of the opposite leader,and round it the fiercest of the battle raged. The centre was the ultimate object of attack and every effort was made to get closer and closer to it. As a rule, a battle in India was a series of isolated skirmishes, the contending bodies holding themselves at first at some distance from each other, and ending in close individual fighting. Numbers always decided the day, that the smaller invariably gave way before the larger force. Accident as frequently as not was decisive, while treacherous desertion or half-hearted support was a frequent occurrence.

The most decisive point of a battle was, however, the death or disappearance of the leader. If he was known to have been killed, or could not be seen on his elephant, the troops desisted at once, and the greater part forthwith sought their own safety in flight. In order to be conspicuous, the leader rode on an elephant, preceded by others bearing displayed standards. Later times Indian generals have abandoned the custom and now appear on horseback, nay have learned to discipline their troops and to have an artillery well served. The troops were very subject to panic and sudden flight. Many battles were lost by the event above referred to, the death or disappearance of the leader.

Untimely plundering - There was also an undisciplined eagerness to break off and begin plundering before the day was really decided. This habit often ended disastrously for those who had too easily assumed themselves to be the victors.

Single combat - Some times emperors of High rank officers challenged for single combat. For example Akbar challenged his opponent, Daud Lodi, to a fight in single combat. It does not appear that any of these duels actually took place. Challenges to single combat seem to have been not unusual between men of lower rank. Individual horsemen would ride up within speaking distance and, with contemptuous abuse of a mode of warfare excluding individual prowess, would give a general challenge to single combat.

The Utara Dismounting or fighting on foot, was a peculiarity of Indian horsemen of which they were very proud. It was specially affected among Indian Mahomedans by the Barhah Sayyads. It is a custom of the Hindu tribes. it was an old-established custom amongst their tribes . The Moghul horseman had to serve sometimes as infantry.It was a special feature of Rajput tactics.

This dismounting was resorted to at the crisis of a battle. When the horsemen alighted, they bound themselves together by the skirts of their long coats. There are many references to this mode of fighting in the descriptions of battles in the early part of the 18th century. The Persians in the Indian service scoffed at this habit, and attributed it not to valour but to defective horsemanship. This manoeuvre of utdra has the appearance of bravery and they boast of it.Some times men binding themselves together when fighting.

Some other technical terms of fighting There are several words and phrases which often occur in accounts of battles, and seem to have, in that connection, a more or less technical meaning.They are Harakat-i-mazbush- This means literally the expiring throes of a slaughtered animal, but seems used to express a feeble and hesitating attack, which is never carried home. The men made a feeble purposeless onslaught and were slain not by their own swords, but by those of their opponents. Qazaqi - This is a military incursion, guerilla warfare, free-booting, brigandage. It may bbe a loose attack in open order, followed by retreat as soon as the attack has been delivered. It is used to surrounding and overpowering any body of men. Talaqi-i-fariqain - It denotes that the two armies are in touch and within striking distance of each other. Siyah namudan - the first faint signs of an enemy's appearance in the distance. Hallah - An on-rush or charge. Yurish - An on-rush or charge. Haiat-i-majmui - some sort of combined advance. Chapkunchi - a reconnaissance. Sipahi-i'falez - a defeated, non-resisting body of troops.

Defeat - In case of a reverse the heavy guns were generally abandoned, as they could not be removed. We are told that in such cases they were spiked and rendered useless. Generally, on the retreat of an Indian army, so great was the dispersion that some days elapsed before the direction of flight taken by the principal body could be ascertained. There were no dispositions taken to cover its escape, no stratagems to mask its route, cover its baggage, gain an advance, lay an ambuscade, or mislead a pursuer. All impediments to flight were successively abandoned, and a retreat became a sauve qui pent. This result is attributable partly to the want of discipline and to defective leadership, which leaves every individual to rely more on himself than on his commander.

Juhar - This well-known Hindu practice of killing women and children to prevent their falling into the enemy's hand.Sometimes Mughals also followed this.

Proclamation of Victory - When the day was won, the victor ordered his drums to strike up and his horns to blow, both to announce the victory to his own side and to produce further dis heartenment among his opponents. Sometimes, to re-animate the drooping energies of his men, a general would order his drums to beat as for a victory, in the hope that they would be cheated into the belief that the day was going favourably for them, and thus inspirited, might turn an imagined into a real success.

Pillars of heads - It was the custom for a subordinate commander to accompany his despatch announcing any success with as many heads of the slain as could be collected. This was a survival of the Central Asian practice of erecting a pillar or pyramid formed of the heads of the dead enemy.

Stratagems, Losses[]

Mughal Emperor with a Document

Reports of Battles - Somewhat in the same way that after a battle a modern general sends off a despatch to his superiors, a Moghul commander prepared and submitted a report to the emperor. Often he also drew up a separate description of the fight for distribution to his friends and equals. These latter papers were styled a roll. If the emperor was especially satisfied with any general, he gave orders that the victory should be recorded in the imperial diary of proceedings, equivalent to our gazette.

Stratagems of War - Deceit and stratagem did not play a leading part in Moghul warfare. This may be so, still they were not unknown. Some men sed to join enemy force. In battle they desert enemy line and attack them. Ambush was not an uncommon stratagem. Matchlockmen were hidden in high crops, or on the edge of a ravine, at a spot where the opposite leaders would most probably pass. At the proper moment a volley would be discharged, and occasionally with deadly effect. An ambush was not unfrequently supplemented by pretended flight, so arranged as to draw the pursuers on and bring them under fire.

Some times they place a large body of army with enemies uniforms and symbols to cheat enemies. If enemy think that it was his allied force. Then he entered into the enemy plan. They may killed or made prisoner.When a leader took to flight on his elephant, it was not unusual for him to change places with the driver in order to escape molestation in case of pursuit and capture.Night surprises were also a form of stratagem not unfrequently employed.

Statistics of Losses - To obtain any idea of the numbers of killed or wounded is exceedingly difficult, historians either omitting to mention them, or if they do so, contradicting each other irreconcilably. After a battle no attempts were made to ascertain the losses or count the slain. Any statements are mere guesses. they are much exaggerated for the defeated, and much diminished for the victorious army. From these causes such statements are quite worthless, and can form no basis for the calculation of percentages, or suchlike strict arithmetical treatment. Incidentally, we learn from passing allusions the severity of the losses in a battle, or the number of the slain in some special group of those who were present. The battles in India were much less bloody than in Europe.

Slain and wounded - Plundering of the slain and wounded seems to have been universal. The camp followers were those chiefly concerned, but the fighting men were not above lending a hand. It was a legitimate source of income. The dead bodies left on a field of battle do not seem to have been usually buried, they were left to lie as they fell. But sometimes their being collected in great pits, which were styled ganj-i-shahid, or martyr store-houses. The wounded seem to have been left mostly to their fate. There was no organization for their succour, nor any attempt to heal their wounds. This was left to their relations or friends.

Forts and Strongholds[]

As early as Alexander's time the Indians possessed walled and fortified towns. The practice of building such strong places was never abandoned, and by the sixteenth century, when the Moghul rule began, petty forts held by chiefs of Hindu clans or by grantees from Mahomedan sovereigns, were scattered thickly over the country. The Mahratta territory possessed so many fortressess.

In the plains of the Ganges and Indus, these forts were usually placed on an artificial mound, the earth for which was taken from the foot of the site, thus forming on one or more sides a large pond or marsh, which protected the fort from a sudden attack. As a rule these forts consisted of four high walls, enclosing a rectangular space. They were provided with a bastion or tower at each corner. They had a fortified gate on one side, the entrance lane turning several times at right angles before arriving at the interior of the place. This narrow tortuous entrance lane was generally enfiladed with guns and loop-holed on every side. The gateways the strongest part of the Indian forts. The outer walls were generally of clay and very thick. They were loop-holed for musketry, round earthen-ware pipes being inserted in the walls for this purpose. If the owner were lucky enough to have any wallpieces, they would be mounted on the flat roofs of the houses built against the inside of the wall. These outer walls might be from twenty to thirty feet in height. Such a stronghold was safe against any small force, and with the means then in use, could hardly be reduced except by starvation. At the more important places they added one and sometimes two ditches, together with outworks, so as to render regular approaches necessary. In hilly country and in the Dakhin the fortresses were of much more elaborate construction.

Bound Hedge - As an additional protection, such places were often surrounded by a thick plantation of thorny trees or an impenetrable screen of bambus. Some of the latter were of great depth enemy troops came across bambu hedges which a cannonball was unable to penetrate. Quick-handed diggers and axemen were collected to cut this down and uproot these. it was a usual custom in Bundelkhand to protect a fort by a wide belt of thorny jungle. these jungles as retarding his operations considerably.

Going to an entirely different part of India, we find that the town adjoining the fortress of Ahmadnagar in the Dakliin had inside a low wall an immense prickly-pear hedge about twenty feet high. No human being could pass it without cutting it down, a work of the utmost diffi-. culty, as it presented on every side the strongest and most pointed thorns imaginable. Being full of sap, fire would not act upon it, and an assailant while employed in clearing it, would be exposed to the enemy's matchlocks from behind it; thus it was stronger than any abbatis or other barrier. Good instance of the adoption of these protective belts of jungle in the case of Bobbili, 1.40 miles N. E. of Vizagapatnam, which was attacked by Bussy in 1757.

Hill Forts- In the parts of India where detached eminences, often of great extent, are found, these were commonly selected for the sites of fortresses. The most celebrated of these in Northern India were the two forts of Ruhtas, one in the Panjab, the other in Bahar, Kalinjar in Bundelkhand, Chitor in Mewar. Further south there were Asirgarh in Khandesh, Daulatabad near Aurangabad, and many others equally celebrated. Forts on the tops of hills were extremely numerous in the Deccan. In that part of the country there was generally a walled town at the foot of the hills, and the fort itself was provided with two or more enceintes. Tn the Dakhin stone walls were common, that material being abundant. Many of these hill forts, if properly defended, were absolutely impregnable, unless by the tedious process of strict blockade. On the contrary, he thought the fortresses in the plains exceedingly weak.

Places of Refuge - Most of the petty semi-independent princes were careful to provide themselves with some fort or place of safety, generally situated in a country difficult of access and at some distance from their capital. Here their reserves of treasure and munitions of war were stored and carefully guarded. Ranthambhur used to furnish such a store-house for the rajahs of Jaipur.

Walled Towns - Tn the western half of Northern India, walled towns were frequent. All the principal places being provided with a high brick wall. In that part of the country, even the smallest village was capable of some defence, the flat-roofed, clay-built huts being huddled very close together, and the only entry being through a few narrow, tortuous paths between the houses. Some of the largest towns had walls as well as fortresses, as for instance Lahore and Delhi. At these places the fortress was built in one corner of the town, a continuation of the town wall forming its outer side. Such strongholds were palace as well as fortress, and covered a considerable extent of ground. Other towns, such as Agrah and Allahabad, although they possessed first-classfortresses, had no wall round the town itself. In their case, the fortress stood apart from the rest of the town.

Descriptions of small Forts -

  • Forts in Audh - The low bank of earth was the outer parapet of the fort of Amethi (insouth-east Audh), with a very deep ditch of irregular profile separating it from the level of the field. It wassome time ere we made out the entry. The gateway was approached by a dam across a ditch full of water, which was dominated by a bastion with the embrasures directed

upon the dam. A sort of causeway at the other bank led us to a high gateway in a mud curtain, which was also flanked by a musketry fire and by a few embrasures. The lines of all the works were exceedingly irregular. The gates were of wood, studded and clamped with iron.

  • Bundelkhand ordinary native fort - These forts are in general of mud, but from six to twelvefeet at the bottom of the wall are often of masonry. They are surrounded by a deep ditch, and the defences consistof small round-towers connected by curtains. Some of them have two or three lines of these walls and towers within each other. On the glacis are generally large excavations for grain; but this, of course, is only in dry situations. The mud walls receive the shot without being shattered, and they are in consequence very difficult to breach.
  • General description of the small forts in the Dakhin - Imagine a mound of earth of about one hundred and fifty yards diameter and about sixty or seventy feet high. Then the sides of thisare scarped off by labour, and the prominent parts shaped into flanking towers. Let the whole be reveted and surmounted by a parapet, and then only an entrance will be wanted. A gateway pierced in the revetement of a reentering angle, something lower than the interior of the fort, will form the inner communication, and on each side will be projected a tower to flank it and to plunge a fire into the next (gateway?). This will be found in a lower wall, the extremities of which will terminate in the revetement of the place, inclosing a small space ; and it will be likewise flanked by projecting towers, independent of the defences being loop-holed. These works, it is evident, may be frequently repeated; and the form of the traverses as well as the relative position of the gates continually varied;but the general practice avoids placing two successive gates exactly opposite, and the outer aperture is invariably on lower ground than that next within, to favour the ascent. On some occasions so much earth may be scarped off as to form a high glacis, which makes the space left between it and the wall actually a ditch; but in very few cases is a ditch actually excavated round a garhi.

Imperial Fortresses - In the official manuals we have several lists of these places. The greater number of these forts were in the Dakhin, and in the better days of the Moghul period, the charge of them was committed to imperial officers called qilahdars, who were appointed direct from the capital, and were quite independent of the governor of the province. This arrangement was rendered necessary from the importance of these strongholds, both as a means of retaining hold of the country, and owing to their employment as great store-houses and arsenals. Moreover, if left under the control of a governor, he might be tempted to make a try for independence, when the possession of one of these fortresses would contribute largely to his chances of success.


Storming a city

In India the art of fortification remained in the same state as it was in Europe before the introduction of the regular systems. The Indians placed their reliance more on a strong profile than on a judicious plan. They never realised the importance of the maxim that every work of a fortress should be flanked by some other. Nothing proved more forcibly their ignorance of the attack and defence of fortified places than their manifest superiority when acting on the defensive. A native army scarcely ever succeeded in taking a place which attempted resistance. It was generally reduced to terms through the distress caused by the force lying around it. On the contrary, some very vigorous defences had been made, prolonged by determined defence of the breach and by bold sallies to the trenches. Mining had found its way to some but not to all parts of India.

Strong places were most commonly reduced by strict investment and starving out. There were few captures by a coup de main (sar-i-suwari), the walls were not often breached, and rarely escaladed. Treachery within the walls was as frequent a cause of surrender as any other thing. In sitting down before a fortress, a Moghul army tried to surround it completely so as to prevent any ingress or egress. Earth works (murchal) were thrown up, in which the siege guns were placed. The system of digging approaches and laying mines (naqb) was known and practised, at any rate in Northern India.

There was also a plan, to which recourse was sometimes had, of building high towers with the branches of trees, and when these were of a height to command the interior of the place, guns were mounted on them. These were called siba. Scaling ladders were not unknown, and were occasionally brought into use. Elephants were frequently brought up to batter in the wooden gates of a fort. The gates always covered by some work, could not be broken in except by grenades or by pushing against them elephants, protected by iron, or by setting fire to them. It was as a protection against elephants that the gates were studded with iron spikes; to meet which it was the practice to furnish the elephant with an iron frontlet. Often the gateway was bricked up when a siege was imminent, and this device rendered it impossible to blow it in.

when one of their armies sits down before a place, the object appears rather to be to harass the besieged and weary them out by a strict blockade, than to effect an entrance by breaching the walls: for although guns are used, they are placed at such a distance from the town, out of musket shot, and not always in battery, that their effect is uncertain, and even this desultory fire is only kept up at intervals during the day; for at night, to guard against the consequences of a sally, the guns are always withdrawn to the camp; and this ridiculous process is continued till the besieged are tired out, and a compromise is entered into.

The investment of an eastern fortress did not in general consist of anything beyond a blockade. The surrender of these forts has been caused more by treachery and scarcity than by any other means. This take a long years. The food of the Indians being almost entirely rice which is the least perishable of any article of subsistence, the defence of such places may be the longer protracted. Though the natives did not understand the advantage of a glacis, still they saw the necessity of covering the foot of the wall from the enemy's fire when exposed to it, and formed a defence similar to a fausse-braye, which they call rainee. They are very partial to loopholes to fire through, Each of these narrow and confined [entrance] lanes is generally enfiladed with guns and loopholed on every side, so that should the enemy force the outer gate, they find themselves exposed to a continuation of fresh dangers from an invisible garrison at every turn.

The Indians, in the defence of their forts, behave with the greatest gallantry and courage, and in this differ from the Europeans, who often fancy that, when a practicable breach is made in their walls, surrender becomes justifiable. But here all feel desirous of fighting man to man, and look upon the contest in the breach as the fittest occasion for meeting their enemies with sword and dagger. They use large heavy wall pieces called gingalls. They send a ball of two or more ounces to a very considerable distance. Having no shells or handgrenades, they cast bags of gunpowder into the ditch, which exploding by fire thrown on them, scorch the assailants and at times they have recourse to thick earthen-ware pots with fuses and full of powder, the pieces of which wound dreadfully. They have been known to line the sides of the ditch with straw thatches, and by throwing other lighted thatch on their enemies, envelop them in flames.

approach by sap and mine[]

A mine explodes during the siege of Chitor

The word used for the galleries of approach seems to have been sabat. sabat is a covered passage connecting two houses. The ordinary Hindi word for a mine is surang and surang urana is to spring a mine. This mode of attack was known and practised. For instance Sher Shah (1545-6) at the siege of Kalinjar advanced galleries (sabat) to the foot of the wall, and then prepared naqb, which appears to mean here mines, and not the mere digging through of a wall .Again at a siege of Budaon in 1555-6 the besiegers resorted to mining, and the commander of the garrison thwarted them by counter-mining, having detected the direction of their approach by putting his ear to the ground and listening. Some times besiegers mine under the walls. many Europeans are employed as sappers in Mughal Army.

Men were constructing sabats or covered ways

Sabat - It is a trench or approach made in besieging a fortress. The sabat were constructed in the following manner. "The zigzags, commencing at gunshot distance from the fort, consist of a double wall, and by means of blinds or stuffed gabions covered with leather, the besiegers continue their approaches till they arrive near to the walls of the place to be attacked. A body of carpenters, stone-cutters, blacksmiths, excavators, earthworkers, and hovelmen were set to work to construct sabat These men laboured at making sabat and digging mines (naqb). Sabat is the name for two walls which are made at the distance of a musketshot. Under the shelter of planks and baskets which are held together by skins, the said walls are carried close to the fort. Then the matchlock men and the mine-diggers (naqqab) come in safety, through the wide way between those walls, to the foot of the fort, and there they dig a mine and fill it with gunpowder. When the fort has been breached, the rest of the array reaches the spot by way of the sabat, and effects an entry into the fort.It was a trench begun at some distance from a fortress, deep and wide enough to conceal the workers, the excavated earth being thrown up on each side to increase the protection. In rocky soil it may have been necessary to form the protecting wall of material, such as planks, trees, or earth, brought from elsewhere. But in most instances the obvious and easy method was to dig a trench in the ground, and use the earth from it to heighten the sides. But a sabat was not a tower or erection, built up from the surface of the ground. Apparently open trenches were resorted to by the Mahrattahs so far back as 1670 at the siege of Karnala. They advanced by throwing up breastworks of earth.

sandbags - In order to facilitate an attack, the ditch of a fort was at times filled up with sacks filled with earth.

Movable shields - Some time besiegers use movable wooden screens, or mantlets, mounted on ordinary cart-wheels. These they brought close to the walls, and from their shelter showered bullets and arrowson the besieged.. Mantlets in general come under Light Artillery.

Shatur - It was made of the trunks of trees, something connected with a siege. This is a shelther under which to approach the walls, something like the Roman vinea, a roof of planks and wicker work supported on poles eight feet long, and carried by the men as they advanced.

Malchar - The malchar was something in the nature of an approach by trenches.

Temporary wall - Another device was to surround a fortress with a temporary wall, leaving a few openings at which strong guards were posted, and no one was allowed to enter or come out without a pass. The materials employed were trunks of trees and clay.

Towers (Siba)[]

A building of high wooden towers, on which guns were mounted, the inside of the fortified place being thereby commanded, so as to make it untenable. At a distance of two arrows flight, batteries were erected of a size sufficient to allow of the guns being worked. They were about three cubits (42 feet) in height and in shape like bastions. A constant fire was kept up on both sides. Whenever a gunner shewed his head above the top of the earthwork, he would be fired at by one of the enemy concealed behind the battlements. In the same way a head showing above the wall was immediately fired at. The enemies answered shot for shot, and the imperialists were unable to move out to an attack in the open.

Some times the besiegers threw up chob-sibae, and drove subterannean passages towards each corner of the fort. These are the mounds of earth raised on the trunks of trees and placed from distance to distance round the fort.Some erect independent structures, and not part of a fortress.

Some times They filled up a house with earth, and on this as a base they raised a square mound, which commanded the gate and every part within the fort. Some times A vast mound of earth was raised to a level with the wall and the artillery mounted on it. Some times they constructed of the trunks of trees in successive layers, crossing each other and compacted by earth rammed between the intervals. The contrivances in the rear for raising the guns were removed when the erection was complete.

Storming-With the inefficient artillery of those days, a breach was very rarely effected, and we hear of very fewforts being actually stormed. Entrance was oftener secured through breaking in the gate, and for this purpose elephants were employed.

Scaling ladders - The name for scaling ladders was narduhan, Steingass, 1395. Babar mentions them more than once. From time to time they were used. They also used in later times. For instance, at the end of 1719, when Girdhar Bahadur was besieged in Allahabad fort by Haidar Quli Khan and other imperial officers, a general attack in two directions was ordered. One of these was headed by Sher Afgan Khan, Daud Khan, an officer under Muhammad Khan, Bangash, and others. They drove the besieged back to the very foot of the wall, then Daud Khan, Bangash, brought up the scaling ladders, hoping to make an entry, but after much struggle and effort, he was obliged to abandon the attempt.

Modes of repelling assault Burning oil. Powder Bags &c. - They has been made to the throwing down from the walls of bags of gunpowder and burning thatch. Huqqah-i-atash used for a similar purpose. At the siege of Chitor the Rajputs brought sacks of cotton cloth and fascines steeped in oil, which they endeavoured to set fire to while the breach was being stormed. As to the throwing of skins full of gunpowder with a match attached. The defenders of a fort in the Dakhin in the fourth year of Shahjahan, From inside the fort they threw rockets and bullets and grenades and stones and lighted powder-skins. Some times huqqah or hand-grenade and the handi or firepot.

The people on the walls continually threw down upon their heads ponderous pieces of amber and flaming packs of cotton previously dipped in oil, followed by pots filled with gunpowder and other combustibles, the explosion of which had a terrible effect

Stones - Where the fort was on an eminence and stones were available, these latter were stored, and rolled down the hill upon any besieger. Sometimes defenders defend fort simply by(the garrison) rolling down stones and large masses of granite on the assailants.

Evacuation after a repulsed Assault - During siege they would silently evacuate the place they had defended so well. Naturally Europeans wondered and sought for a cause. The object did not seem to be to divert the attacking force from some enterprize of greater danger to the general cause. The effort was nearly always isolated and desperate. Why not abandon the place at once, or ask for terms? It seemed that it must be a point of honour with them to try their strength, and having proved their valour, they then withdrew.

Reduction by Starvation Many instances of this cause of surrender might be adduced. This was, for example, the principal reason of the surrender of Agrah in, when Nekusiyar, after laying claim to the throne, was invested in that fort by Husain Ali Khan. "After a month, provisions began to be scarce. Many of those who had joined from the country round began to desert, getting over the walls at night, only to be seized by the Nawab's sentries. These fugitives informed Husain Ali Khan of the disheartened and suffering condition of the garrison. All the good grain had been used up, and nothing was left but inferior pulses, and even these had been stored over seven years and smelt so strong, that even the fourfooted beasts would not eat them with avidity. Attempts were made to bring in small supplies of flour, which were dragged up by ropes let down from the battlements. Some of the artillery of the besieging force took part in this traffic. After this was found out, the strictness of watch was redoubled, anything moving in the river at night was fired upon, and expert swimmers were kept ready to pursue and seize any one who attempted to escape by way of the river. Negotiations commenced, and the fort was surrendered on the 12tb Aug. 1719, after an investment of nearly three months.

See also[]


 This article incorporates text from The army of the Indian Moghuls: its organization and administration, by Irvine, William, a publication from 1903 now in the public domain in the United States.

Further reading[]

  • Edwardes, Stephen Meredyth; Garrett, Herbert Leonard Offley. Mughal Rule In India. 
  • Sharma, S. R.. Mughal Empire in India: A Systematic Study Including Source Material. 

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).