Maratha Weapons in the 17th Century
Another strong empire was unfolding on a similar timeline as the Mughal Empire. The empire began with Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in the 17th Century. Shivaji abolished the Jagir system in the military and introduced a new system where officers were paid a salary in cash for providing services to the empire. Despite being smaller in number, the Maratha army was brave enough to challenge the Mughal army. The focus was more on infantry troops than on cavalry. The reason behind it was because the region consisted of a rough landscape of the Western Ghats and other hilly regions. Another reason for the change of focus from cavalry to infantry was that the horse markets were controlled by the Mughals in North India and Shivaji didn’t have access to it.
The fortifications of the Maratha Empire were protected by Artillery. They were strategically built on hilltops so that the army could fire at the enemy from the top. Shivaji relied on foreign services, mainly the Portuguese to manufacture the siege weaponry. The cannons were made by Portuguese Technicians from Goa. The defences were strong enough to withstand a siege attack.
Some of the weapons used by Marathas include muskets, matchlocks, firangi swords, clubs, bows, spears, and daggers. A musket is a variety of long guns that can be held by hand. It was used along with matchlocks to fire at enemies. The matchlocks had the massive advantage of better range and speed and therefore played a key role in battles. The soldiers who carried Muskets were known as Musketeers. The firangi sword was an Indian sword made using blades from Western Europe. It was a longsword typically of the size ranging between 89 to 96 centimetres.
Image Source : Wikipedia (Firangi Sword used by Peshwa Bajirao)
Maratha weapons of the 18th Century
The light cavalry used by the Marathas in the 18th century was agile and fought valiantly against the heavy cavalry of the Mughal forces. Under Peshwa Baji Rao, the Maratha developed a strategy of using small and heavy weapons. They used a cannon known as the Maratha cannon which is a type of Artillery used to fire at the enemy from a distance and protect forts if needed. There were also soldiers armed with flintlocks.
Image Source : Google (A Maratha Cannon)
The artillery was modernized when the Marathas employed Ibraham Khan Gardi, who was an expert with artillery weapons. Gardi infantry was used by the Maratha army and this infantry had Zambaruks, a small cannon, which was mounted on an elephant or camel. Some also carried handguns.
Image Source : Google (A Maratha field artillery gun)
The Marathas employed foreigners to man the guns. The modern Huzurat cavalry used matchlocks instead of the older long swords. De Boigne helped the Marathas improve their battalions. The infantry carried Bayonets which were basically swords or spear-shaped objects attached to a rifle. Some battalions carried howitzer, a long-range weapon, field guns, mortar guns, and camel seated blunderbusses. Blunderbuss is a type of gun with a large diameter barrel, an older version of the modern-day shotgun. The other new weapons introduced by De Boigne included six muskets combined to fire more barrels at once, six-pound field guns instead of the previously used three-pound field guns.
Image Source : Google (Arms Of The Marathas)
Ambulance corps were also introduced during this time to cater to the needs of the soldiers injured at the battle. Mahadaji Shinde built a military-industrial complex to make innovations using indigenous technologies while collaborating with French and Portuguese and this army was one of India’s best armies. Pindaris were horsemen employed by the Marathas who fought the battles, plundered and money was given to them for their services.