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Considered the world’s biggest wheeled cannon, the 18th Century Jaivana Cannon was test-fired only once

David Goran

The Jaivana cannon, located at the Jaigarh Fort in Jaipur, is the largest wheeled cannon ever constructed. It was cast in 1720 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II of Jaipur, the administrator of the fort during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah. The formidable strength of its builder lay in the vast array of artillery and copious supplies of munitions which he maintained.

The Jaigarh Fort is located nera Amber in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India. Image by - Acred99. CC BY-SA 3.0

The Jaigarh Fort is located near Amber in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India. Image by: Acred99/CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Its barrel alone weights close to 50 tons. Image by- Acred99 .CC BY-SA 3.0

Its barrel alone weighs close to 50 tons. Image by: Acred99/CC BY-SA 3.0

The 50-tonne cannon rests on six massive wheels, each nine feet in circumference. Four pairs of bulls rotated the gear system made from thick wooden crossbars fixed to a central beam. The tip of the barrel is 711 mm in diameter, while the rear of the barrel is 906 mm. The two thick rings on the barrel were used for lifting it with the help of a crane which, though incomplete, is still lying in Jaigarh. A 776 mm long elevating screw was used for raising and lowering the barrel.

Jaivana rests on a high two-weeled carriage. Image by- Piyush Kumar.Flickr. CC BY 2.0

Jaivana rests on a high two-wheeled carriage. Image by: Piyush Kumar/Flickr/CC-BY 2.0

 

The length of the barrel of the cannon is 20 feet 2 inches. Image by - Nvvchar. CC BY-SA 3.0

The length of the barrel of the cannon is 20 feet 2 inches. Image by: Nvvchar/CC BY-SA 3.0

The design of the barrel is floral. An elephant rests on the tip of the barrel, and a pair of peacocks are carved in the center. The rear of the barrel is decorated with a pair of ducks.

The design of the cannon is floral. Image by - Ashwin Kumar. Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

The design of the cannon is floral. Image by: Ashwin Kumar/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

 

The cannon can fire in any direction. Image by - Bryan Allison.Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

The cannon can fire in any direction. Image by: Bryan Allison/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

This giant weapon was never used in war. It is believed that the cannon was test-fired only once by Maharaja Jai Singh in 1720 with a charge of 100 kg gunpowder. The shot covered a distance of 35 kilometers which is now a pond by the villagers of Chaksu.

The cannon was fired in the direction of the village Chaksu. Image by- Ashwin Kumar.Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

The cannon was fired in the direction of the village Chaksu. Image by: Ashwin Kumar/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

 

In the movie The Pride and the Passion from 1957, the fictional cannon may have been inspired by this gun. Image by- Ashwin Kumar. Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

In the movie The Pride and the Passion from 1957, the fictional cannon may have been inspired by this gun. Image by: Ashwin Kumar/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

The cannon was kept near water for the gunners to dive in and escape the shock waves. But during the first firing, Maharaja Jai Singh, eight people and one elephant were reportedly killed by the shockwave and many houses collapsed in Jaipur.