BHAṄGĪĀṄ DĪ TOP, or the gun belonging to the Bhāngī misl, known as Zamzamā, is a massive, heavy-weight gun, 80-pounder, 14 ft. 41/2 inches in length, with bore aperture 91/2 inches, cast in Lahore in copper and brass by Shāh Nazīr at the orders of Shāh Walī Khān, the wazīr of Ahmad Shāh Durrānī. In English literature, it has been immortalized by Rudyard Kipling as Kim's gun. It is perhaps the largest specimen of Indian cannon-casting, and is celebrated in Sikh historical annals more as a marvel of ordnance than for its efficiency in the battlefield. Yet for its effectiveness it has been called "a fire raining dragon" and "a gun terrible as a dragon and huge as a mountain. "
The casting of this gun cost the Durrānī invader almost nothing. A jizyah or capitation cess was imposed on the Hindu and Sikh families of Lahore in 1760 by Shāh Walī Khān requiring them each to contribute a copper or brass vessel for the manufacture of a cannon. Afghān and Indian ordnance manufacturers set to work, under the supervision of Shāh Nazīr, on casting the metal thus collected into a cannon, which according to the local chronicles of Lahore was completed before 1761. The gun was used in the third battle of Pānīpat in 1761. Being too cumbersome to move, Ahmad Shāh left it with Khwājā Ubaid, the governor of Lahore. In 1762, the Bhaṅgī chief, Harī Siṅgh, attacked Lahore and took possession of the cannon. It then came to be known as Bhaṅgīāṅ dī Top. It remained in the possession of the Bhaṅgī Sardārs, Lahiṇā Siṅgh and Gujjar Siṅgh till 1764, when the Sukkarchakkīā chief, Chaṛhat Siṅgh, who had assisted the Bhaṅgīs in the capture of Lahore, claimed it as his share of the spoils. Chaṛhat Siṅgh had it carted to Gujrāṅwālā with the help of 2, 000 soldiers. Soon afterwards, the Chaṭṭhās of Ahmadnagar wrested the cannon from the Sukkarchakkīā Sardār. A feud arose over its possession between the two Chaṭṭhā brothers, Ahmad Khān and Pīr Muhammad Khān. In the ensuing battle between the claimants two sons of Ahmad Khān and one son of Pīr Muhammad Khān were killed. Gujjar Siṅgh Bhāṅgī, who had helped Pīr Muhammad Khān against his brother, took the cannon to Gurjat. In 1772, the Chaṭṭhās recovered it and removed it to Rasūlnagar. It was captured by Jhaṇḍā Siṅgh in 1773 and carried to Amritsar. In 1802, when Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh occupied Amritsar, the cannon fell into his hands.
Contemporary chroniclers of Raṇjīt Siṅgh's reign, particularly Sohan Lāl Sūrī and Būṭe Shāh, record that the Bhaṅgīs used the Zamzamā in the battle of Dīnānagar which they fought against the joint forces of the Kanhaiyās and the Rāmgaṛhīās. Raṇjīt Siṅgh employed it in his campaigns of Ḍaskā, Kasūr, Sujānpur, Wazīrābād and Multān. To Multān it was transported in a specially built carriage during the siege of the citadel in 1810, but it failed to discharge. In April 1818, it was again taken to Multān with reinforcements under Jamādār Khushāl Siṅgh, but its shells proved ineffective against the thick walls of the fortress. In these operations, the cannon was severely damaged and it had to be brought back to Lahore, unfit for any further use. It was placed outside Delhi Gate, Lahore, where it remained until 1860. When in 1864, Maulawī Nūr Ahmad Chishtī compiled the Tahqīqāt-i-Chishtī he found it standing in the Bārādarī of the garden of Wazīr Khān, behind the Lahore Museum. During the years following the British occupation of the Punjab, many a legend grew around this massive relic of the Sikhs' victory over the Afghāns. In 1870, it found a new asylum at the entrance of the Lahore Museum, then located in the Tollinton Market. When the present building of the museum was constructed it was removed further west and placed opposite the University Hall. Repaired in 1977, the cannon now rests opposite the Institute of Chemical Engineering and Technology of the Paňjāb University at Lahore.
The cannon bears two Persian inscriptions. The front one reads : "By the order of the Emperor [Ahmad Shāh], Dur-i-Durrān, Shāh Walī Khān wazīr made the gun named Zamzamā or the Taker of Strongholds. " The longer versified inscription at the back eulogizes its bulk and invincibility. "A destroyer even of the strongholds of the heaven. " The following verses at the end of the inscription contain a chronogram :
From reason I enquire of the year of its manufacture;
Struck with terror it replied,
"Wert thou be willing to surrender thine life,
I wouldst unfold unto thee the secret. "
I agreed, and it said, "What a cannon!
'Tis a mighty fire-dispensing dragon!"
Sardār Siṅgh Bhāṭīā