Science and Technology In Mughal Period
While progress in science and technology in general was relatively slow in this period, there were a few noteworthy advances. An important development during this period was the introduction of some new crops, plants and fruits in India. Many of these were brought by Europeans, especially the Portuguese. The Mughals had started growing central Asian fruits in India from the days of Babur. Tobacco, pineapple, cashew-nuts and potato were the most important crops and fruits that came from America. Tobacco led to huqqa-smoking. Tomato, guava and red chillies were also brought from outside the country. Maize is not listed in Abul Fazl’s Ain-i-Akbari and it appears that this was introduced by Europeans from South America.
Several varieties of melons and grapes were grown around Agra from the seeds brought from central Asia. Cherries were introduced in Kashmir during Akbar’s reign, while mangoes of high quality, including the Alfonso were produced in Goa, through grafting, by the Portuguese.
Arms and Metallurgy
The stirrup, horseshoe and gunpowder had been introduced into India by the Turks. Firearms were used for the first time during the second half of the 15 th century in some regions of India like Gujarat, Malwa and Deccan. But fire-arms on a regular basis were introduced into India through the agency of the Portuguese after 1498 in South India, and by Babur, in the North, after 1526 A.D. Babur used guns and cannons in encounters with the Rajputs and Afghans.
Abul Fazl describes the technique of making iron cannons and handgun barrels at Akbar’s arsenal. Cannons were made of bronze, brass and iron. Zinc metallurgy seems to have started in India around the twelfth century A.D. Abul Fazl mentions Jawar (modem Zawar) in Rajasthan where zinc was available. Archaeological studies near Jawar have revealed the presence of sealed clay retorts for zinc distillation, which when condensed and cooled, yielded the metal zinc. Copper mines were located at Khetri in Rajasthan. Tin was not produced in the country and it was imported from other regions in Asia. Bronze, of course, was in use right from the days of the Indus valley culture. Alloys like brass were being made in India.
European movable metal types were brought to Goa around 1550 A.D. by the Portuguese. The latter started religious tracts on Christian saints, as well as sermons and grammars in Marathi and Konkani languages and dialects, but in Roman script rather than in the Devanagari script.