Mughal heavy cavalryman and war elephant, 17th-18th centuries

The Mughal dynasty of Indian rulers has its origins in the 16th century; its founder, Babur, was of Turco-Mongol heritage, and expanded out from Central Asia. Islam had a presence in India long before Babur’s capture of Delhi in 1526, but Islamic rule gradually stretched across all of India, introducing a unique culture and strong leadership that would endure until the mid-18th century, at which point the Mughal emperors became largely symbolic figureheads.

The Mughal military built up a diverse mix of artillery, matchlock gunners and even war elephants, but cavalry still remained the backbone of the army. The cavalryman and his horse in the picture above are wearing flexible mail-and-plate armour, which was essentially a mix of chainmail with metal plates attached on the outside for additional protection. This man wears iron vambraces and has his mail hauberk fitted with chest and abdomen plates; his helmet features a front nasal bar.

War elephants were certainly used by the Mughals as they were in other Indian armies; the one above is equipped in similar mail-and-plate armour, albeit on a bigger scale, and with embossed decorative plates on each panel. The mahout (driver) and spearman sitting on its back wear chainmail hauberks with iron body plates; mail aventails cover their faces.

By Ibrahim Zamir

Published by Ibrahim Zamir

Ibrahim Zamir - Junior Historian and Illustrator.

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