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The legend that the ancient Hindus invented gunpowder can be traced back to the writings of Englishman Nathaniel Halhed in 1776 and a Scotsman Quintin Craufurd in 1790, both of who served in India and became fascinated by the history and religions of this country. Gustav Oppert, a professor of Sanskrit Language at Chennai (previously known as Madras), who translated two ‘ancient Sanskrit manuscripts’, in 1880 to prove to his own satisfaction that "gunpowder and firearms were known in India in the most ancient times." As many of the statements in his book are palpably absurd like the size of the ‘Aksauhini’ army corps is given as 2,187,000,000 men, and no proper attempts have been made to date his sources. So, Oppert’s theory cannot be accepted. Manuscripts or printed books, which purport to be copies of earlier works, have been particularly tempting to Chinese historians.

In India, King Babar wreaked havoc on the battlefield by using the Muskets in the war for the first time. The most common Muskets found in India are Flintlocks, Brown Bess Muskets and the Percussion Cap. In India, the few flintlocks made by the native gun makers were also close copies of the European type. One often finds a typical Indian stock and barrel equipped with a good quality London-made lock. In the island of Sri Lanka, however, a most unusual fitted to the left-hand side of the stock. The unique scroll-shaped Ceylon form of butt carries the most profuse kind of ornament. The flintlock gun believed to have been made for the last great warrior King of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Raja Sinha, who died in 1687. Both the barrel and wooden stock are overlaid with sheet silver, parcel gilt and embossed with filigree work, and inlaid with rubies. The lock of this gun, however, probably of later date than of the stock, is either of European manufacture or a close copy of one. In East of India the flintlock is rarely found. These at first sight appear to be a three-barreled matchlock revolver. But the jaws of the cock have been turned horizontally to take a flint, and the priming pans, although fitted with the usual side-swinging double pan-cover, are also equipped with pivoted steels with ribbed faces. Joseph Belton, one of the developer of the muskets, pistols and carbines didn’t succeeded in interesting British Ordnance, but some muskets, pistols and carbines made by him were purchased by East India Company.

A gadget not found on European guns is the small pricker for cleaning the touchhole, which is chained to a container, fastened to the stock just below the pan. The Indian methods of making gun barrels are recounted in full by the Lord Egerton of Tatton in his work ‘A Description of Indian and Oriental Armour’. A part from his interesting description of the damascening and graining of the surface of the metal, he reveals that some of the longer barrels consist of four pieces of cylindrical iron joined together.

The shape of the stock of the Indian matchlock gun, or ‘toradar’, as it was called, varies according to the geographical location of its manufacture. In the North and particularly in the state of Sind, the butt has a very pronounced curve and opens out into a large fishtail shape. This is known as the Afghan stock, as it is modeled after the guns of the neighboring hill tribes of Afghanistan. But where as the Afghan gun is usually of crude manufacture the Indian model is often distinguished by a heavy damascened barrel with a muzzle fashioned as a monster’s head and a stock ornamented enameled plaques rivaling the best productions of Persia.

In the central regions the curve of the Butt is less pronounced, but a distinct notch is cut in the top of the Butt just behind the breach. The true Indian stock favored by the Rajputs and the Marathas has a very slim, straight stock of pentagonal section capable of supporting only a light barrel. Iron, brass or silver plates nailed to each side of the lock housing strengthen it. Although its design is severe in line, the decoration can be magnificent. Even on the plainest of guns, the metal sidepieces are of watered steel with restrained chiseling. If silver or brass is used the engraving and embossing can be profuse. The craftsmen used their fine arts to decorate them.

From the beginning, the European settlers and merchants had coveted the luxurious pelts the Indian collected in his native habitat. Among other things, the Indian, in his turn, coveted European firearms and, the laws of economics begin what they are; the two soon began to change hands. And active trade in guns had developed during the seventeenth century, but it was not until the early 1700’s that a special trade gun was devised for barter.

The Indian knew what he wanted in a gun and the trading companies strove to produce it a price that would permit a pleasingly exorbitant profit. Long, heavy guns were completely unacceptable to the aborigines. There were unimportant details the Indians insisted upon because they were used to them: a serpent-shaped side plate opposite the lock, a deep-trigger guard, and even British proof marks. Straight guns made in America or in Belgium frequently had to bear imitations of these marks before the Indians would accept them.

For almost two hundred years it was the preferred gun of the Indian, and it was made for that whole period without significant alteration. The flintlock suited the Indian perfectly and he preferred on even better arms, which used percussion caps or metallic cartridges. He could make his own flint if he wanted to. A flintlock could be loaded more easily. But with a large touchhole, slapping the butt and jarring some of the charge out of the barrel and into the pan could prime a flintlock. It was customary to hunt buffalo, sheep, and deer in most part of India, for instance, by riding alongside the great beasts and firing at close range, loading rapidly and firing again.

The trade guns were cheap, but they were sturdy. They had to withstand the treatment they received. An Indian seldom cleaned his gun or oiled it as a European would. If the stock broke, he wrapped it with rawhide. Usually he removed the butt plate and made a hide scrapper out of it. Frequently he cut the barrel down to carbine length and made a tent peg or another scrapper from the cut-off portion. He studded the stock with brass-headed tacks, decked it with rawhide, copper wire and scalps. Still, many of these sturdy flintlocks gave dependable service for years.

Brown Bess was the affectionate nickname given to this musket by the British soldier. No one knows how the name originated. Some have tried to link it with Queen Elizabeth, but there were more than a hundred years between the death of the one and birth of the other, so that such an association would have been remote indeed. More likely, the ‘Bess’ was simply a pet name such as men have often applied to gun and the ‘Brown’ stemmed from artificial browning of the barrel and the colour of the walnut stock, which was no longer painted black as it frequently had been in the past.