The Army of Siraj-ud-daula, the Nawab of Bengal in detail

2009/07/26 at 9:02 pm | Posted in Battle | 2 Comments

The Army of Siraj-ud-daula


The army assembled on the battlefield at Plassey consisted of approximately 35,000 untrained and undisciplined soldiers. Armed with matchlocks, pikes, swords, bows and arrows. The Nawab also had the use of 15,000 cavalry who were better organised. These were mostly Pathan tribesmen armed with swords and long spears, and riding large horses. The clothing worn by the Nawab’s men was as diverse as their ethnic origins. Some men, probably cavalry, wore armour and mail manufactured in Lahore. There were also armoured elephants and an artillery train of 53 large guns (mainly 18, 24 and 32 pounders) under the command of the French.


A Mughal Army

A  typical mid to late Mughal army would have been made up of some of the following components:

  • Bumi – Indian Militiamen – Wore little armour and carried a composite bow, sword or axe and a dhal (round shield )
  • Afghan infantrymen – Wore afghan tribal dress, armed with swords or axes
  • Mughal Bunduqchi – Matchlockers. Wore north Indian/Turkic dress and fired from behind a protective wooden pavise. Would have had a khatar or similar sidearm
  • Rajput Zamindar – Heavy Rajput infantry, with warhammers or maces and shields
  • Afghan Light Cavalry – Fierce tribal cavalry, with almost no armour and carrying a sword and shield (dhal)
  • North Indian Cavalrymen – Armoured Muslim cavalry carrying spears and shields (dhal)
  • Mughal cavalry – Lightly armoured horse archers, armed with composite bows and talwar
  • Mughal heavy cavalry – Medium armoured Mughal cavalrymen, armed with round shield and spear and maybe a composite bow.
  • Mughal Heavy cavalry – Indian heavy cavalry, with decorated robes overlayed with thick armour. Armed with heavy broadswords and axes, and equipped with a large dhal
  • Khidmatiyya – Palace guard
  • Imperial guardsmen – Heavy cavalry, with chest plates, composite bows, swords and shields
  • Rajput cavalry – Medium armoured ferocious cavalrymen from Northwest India. Armed with spears and swords
  • Mughal Elephants – Heavily armoured elephants, with metal plates and usually tusk-swords. Mounted with a mahout and a matchlocker
  • Artillerymen – North Indian or Turkic, very skilled but armed only with a khatar or dagger
  • Rocketeers – Indian rockets, not accurate but helped to scare enemies


The illustrations above are too early for Plassey but may give some inspiration. They’re from the Osprey book, ‘Mughal India 1504-1761’. (Unfortunately it’s out of print & hard to get. These images were on the internet).

As there were no written records of this army, it is purely speculative which elements would have been present.

The following illustrate how the army may have looked and the weapons they probably would have carried.


Mughal Standard

I presume Siraj-ud-daula would have had a standard on the battlefield:

A very rare and spectacular example of a royal standard from the Imperial Mughal Court, this fish insignia was considered one of the highest honours, granted only to those nobles above the rank of 6000 zat and to highly valued allies of the Mughal sovereign. It is applied with three fins, a knop-form finial and iron teeth, engraved with lotus motifs and fish scales, and with a red textile tongue.


To see this in more detail click on this link:

The figure of the fish, possibly a cat-fish, would have been attached behind with a long textile streamer which became inflated as the wind blew through the fish’s mouth. This standard was fixed on to the top of a long pole and carried in important processions or into battle by a member of the nobleman’s retinue, who would have been riding either a camel or an elephant. The standard would thus have towered high above the ranks on foot. The head was accompanied by two spheres or balls of power??, one of which is present?, also fixed on poles. Together the head and the spheres were known as the ‘fish and dignities’ (mahi o maratib).

The fish emblem was one of the nine royal emblems that symbolised the Mughal emperor’s conquest of the world (S.C. Welch, India: Art and Culture, 1300-1900, New York 1985, p.323). The earliest known fish standards of this form were carried by the armies of Aurangzeb during the siege of Golconda in the late 17th Century, although reference is made to such a standard in the reign of the Emperor Shah Jahan (r.1628-1658).

Surviving examples of fish standards are extremely rare. Other examples of 18th Century Deccani fish standards are in the Jagdish and Kamal Mittal Museum and in the Rao Madho Singh Trust Musem, Fort Kotah, illustrated in S.C. Welch et al, Gods, Kings and Tigers, The Art of Kotah.



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  1. Do you have any information on the 72″ composite bamboo bow used by the indian archer.
    Probably the bow shown by the bumi militiaman in the photograph

    I’m specifically looking for construction details and materials. I’ve been looking for a long time.

    Hope you can help.



  2. Good

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