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Science and technology in the Mughal Empire

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Technology in the Mughal Empire is a list of technological and scientific achievements in the Mughal Empire from 1526 to the mid-19th century.

File:Islamic Celestial Globe 01.jpg

Astronomy Edit

The 16th and 17th centuries saw a synthesis between Islamic astronomy and Indian astronomy, where Islamic observational techniques and instruments were combined with Indian computational techniques. While there appears to have been little concern for theoretical astronomy, Mughal astronomers continued to make advances in observational astronomy and produced nearly a hundred Zij treatises. Humayun built a personal observatory near Delhi. The instruments and observational techniques used at the Mughal observatories were mainly derived from the Islamic tradition.[3][4] In particular, one of the most remarkable astronomical instruments invented in Mughal India is the seamless celestal globe.


Sake Dean Mahomed had learned much of Mughal Alchemy and understood the techniques used to produce various alkali and soaps to produce shampoo. He was also a notable writer who described the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II and the cities of Allahabad and Delhi in rich detail and also made note of the glories of the Mughal Empire.

Sake Dean Mahomed was appointed as shampooing surgeon to both Kings George IV and William IV.[5]

Waterworks Edit

File:Scene at Bhimgoda near Haridwar , February 1847.jpg

The first Mughal Emperor Babur is known to have patronized the construction of water channels used in gardens and orchards, ablution pools for his servicemen.[6] This tradition was continued by his grandson Akbar who built monumental waterworks in his capitol at Fatehpur Sikri where he ordered the construction of a Dam with 13 gates, this Dam created a shallow artificial lake during the Monsoon season every year. Water was then lifted into Fatehpur Sikri through large mechanical devices known as the Persian waterwheel and Sakias.[7] Akbar's engineers brought water from the lake constantly into the city in different stages. Gravity than brought flowing water down through a complex system of channels, pools and reservoirs. However due to the shortfall of water and a brief drought Fatehpur Sikri was abandoned and Akbar had to relocate his capitol to Lahore.[8]

It was due to the success of Mughal irrigations systems during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, patronized the digging of wells and build river embankments for irrigation.[9] Shah Jahan ordered the construction of two notable canals: Nahr-i-Faiz and Shah Nahr, which drew water from the Yamuna to various irrigated fertile lands.[10] During his reign Agra also became known as the Waterfront garden city, which provided wealth for its 700,000 inhabitants.[11]

Mughal Emperors famed for their endowments to the construction irrigation systems in order to increase the amount of cultivated irrigated lands, that produced higher crop yields and increased the net revenue base of the empire.[12]

Technology Edit

See also: History of gunpowder: India

Damascus steelEdit

File:Dagger horse head Louvre OA7891.jpg

The Mughal Emperor Akbar is known to have built large foundries producing the best quality sword blades; Akbar himself is known to have preferred Damascus steel Talwars, which were considered the sharpest blades ever used in battle in South Asia.[13]

Cannon foundryEdit

During the reign of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, Jaigarh Fort, became one of the worlds most efficient Cannon foundries mainly due to the abundance of Iron ore mines in the vicinity of the fort. The Mughal cannon foundry Jaigarh Fort had a massive wind-tunnel that sucked air from the high mountains into its furnace creating temperatures as high as 2400degrees Fahrenheit, the heated air would melt the metal. The liquid molten metal would fill a reservoir chamber and into a cannon mold in the casting pit. Most of those Mughal Cannons were massive mostly 16 ft long and had to be prepared within a single day. The Mughals also built a large ingenious mechanical device that had a precision gear system driven by four pairs of Oxen, the device was used for hollowing out the Cannon barrels.

It is believed that Mughal cannon production reached its zenith during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, in fact one of the most impressive Mughal cannons is known as the Zafarbaksh, which is a very rare composite cannon, that required skills in both wrought iron forge welding and bronze casting technologies.[14]

Volley gunEdit

Fathullah Shirazi (c. 1582), a Persian polymath and mechanical engineer who worked for Akbar, developed a volley gun.[15]


Akbar was the first to initiate and utilize metal cylinder rockets known as bans particularly against War elephants, during the Battle of Sanbal.[16]

In the year 1657, the Mughal Army utilized rockets during the Siege of Bidar.[17] Prince Aurangzeb's forces discharged rockets and grenades while scaling the walls. Sidi Marjan himself was mortally wounded after a rocket struck his large gunpowder depot and after twenty-seven day's of hard fighting Bidar was captured by the victorious Mughals.[17]

Later onward's the Mysorean rockets were upgraded versions of Mughal rockets utilized during the Siege of Jinji by the progeny of the Nawab of Arcot. Hyder Ali's father Fatah Muhammad the constable at Budikote, commanded a corps consisting of 50 rocketmen (Cushoon) for the Nawab of Arcot. Hyder Ali realized the importance of rockets and introduced advanced versions of metal cylinder rockets. These rockets turned fortunes in favor of the Sultanate of Mysore during the Second Anglo-Mysore War particularly during the Battle of Pollilur.[18]


Considered one of the most remarkable feats in metallurgy, the seamless globe was invented in Kashmir by Ali Kashmiri ibn Luqman in 998 AH (1589-90 CE), and twenty other such globes were later produced in Lahore and Kashmir during the Mughal Empire. Before they were rediscovered in the 1980s, it was believed by modern metallurgists to be technically impossible to produce metal globes without any seams, even with modern technology. Another famous series of seamless celestial globes was produced using a lost-wax casting method in the Mughal Empire in 1070 AH (1659-1960 CE) by Muhammad Salih Tahtawi (from Thatta, Sind) with Arabic and Persian inscriptions. It is considered a major feat in metallurgy. These Mughal metallurgists pioneered the method of wax casting while producing these seamless globes.[19]


See alsoEdit


  1. Savage-Smith, Emilie (1985). "Islamicate Celestial Globes: Their History, Construction, and Use". Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.. 
  2. Kazi, Najma (24 November 2007). "Seeking Seamless Scientific Wonders: Review of Emilie Savage-Smith's Work". FSTC Limited. Retrieved on 2008-02-01.
  3. Sharma, Virendra Nath (1995). Sawai Jai Singh and His Astronomy. Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 8–9. ISBN 8120812565. 
  4. Baber, Zaheer (1996). The Science of Empire: Scientific Knowledge, Civilization, and Colonial Rule in India. State University of New York Press, 82–9. ISBN 0791429199. 
  5. Teltscher, Kate (2000). "The Shampooing Surgeon and the Persian Prince: Two Indians in Early Nineteenth-century Britain". Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, 1469-929X 2 (3): 409–23. doi:10.1080/13698010020019226. 
  6. "Mughal Gardens: Sources, Places, Representations, and Prospects; \papers Presented at the 16th Dumbarton Oaks Colloquium on the History of Landscape Architecture, Co-organized by Dumbarton Oaks and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Held in May, 1992]" (1996-01-01). 
  8. "The Middle East Garden Traditions, Unity, and Diversity: Questions, Methods and Resources in a Multicultural Perspective" (2007). 
  9. "The Mughal Empire" (1995). 
  10. "Modern World System and Indian Proto-industrialization: Bengal 1650-1800" (2006-01-01). 
  11. "The city in the Islamic world" (2008). 
  12. "An atlas and survey of South Asian history" (1995-01-01). 
  14. "Indian Journal of History of Science" (2007). 
  15. Bag, A. K. (2005). "Fathullah Shirazi: Cannon, Multi-barrel Gun and Yarghu". Indian Journal of History of Science 40 (3): 431–436. New Delhi: Indian National Science Academy. ISSN 0019-5235. 
  16. Islamic Mughal Empire: War Elephants Part 3 - YouTube
  17. 17.0 17.1 (1974) The Mughal Empire - Ishwari Prasad - Google Books. Retrieved on 2012-04-29. 
  18. Roddam Narasimha (1985). "Rockets in Mysore and Britain, 1750-1850 A.D.". National Aerospace Laboratories, India. Retrieved on 30 November 2011.
  19. Savage-Smith, Emilie (1985), Islamicate Celestial Globes: Their history, Construction, and Use, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.

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