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Sunday, September 4, 2011

When I was a child, Doordarshan used to air a television serial named, “The sword of Tipu Sultan.” I used to be very fascinated with this serial and didn’t miss a single episode. Thanks to the serial, I began to respect Tipu Sultan as someone who had made his mark on history. Perhaps it was that fascination for the life that he lived that inspired me to begin trekking and to enjoy seeking out our glorious past which is now under ruins.

Considering my fascination for the king and the fact that I was already in Mysore, I was not about to let go of the opportunity to visit Srirangapatna, the birthplace of Tipu Sultan and the place where he breathed his last.

Srirangapatna is located at a distance of 30 minutes from Mysore. Neel and I decided to take a local bus to the place. The bus reminded me of the Maharashtra ST bus, my regular means of transport on most of my treks.

We reached Srirangapatna and decided to survey the entire city on foot. Taking a photograph of a map of Srirangapatna on our cameras, we set out on our adventure.  

Daria Saulat Baug
Daria Daulat Baug, as the name suggests, has a huge garden attached to the palace. The entire structure is painted yellow and white. We bought the entry ticket and stepped into the palace. The windows and doors at the entrance were beautifully carved. The doors were huge and looked beautiful in the yellow and white paint.

The garden was well maintained and the grass well trimmed.  The approach road to the palace was from the side and there was a rectangular garden in between with Ashoka trees surrounding it.

There were two structures painted yellow on either side of the entrance but visitors are not allowed to enter these. These identical dome shaped structures were nicely made up. Each had an entrance to it and there were many small square holes in the walls. I guess they were meant for ensuring ventilation.

As we approached the palace via the garden, I wondered what it might feel like to have such a big and beautiful garden all to oneself. As there were no hi-tech modes for entertainment in those days, the gardens were the place where the Kings used to spend most of their times when not at war.

Cannons near the Palace

Near the palace, there were a few cannons with cannon balls piled up. The cannon balls were as big as bowling balls. I tried to lift one but it was so heavy that I could not lift it. Shame! And I call myself fit!

The palace was Tipu Sultan’s place of residence. It later became the residing place of Colonel Arthur Wellesley.

Since photography is not allowed inside the palace, my readers will have to rely on me to bring them an accurate picture of the interiors of the palace.

The palace, designed in the Indo-Sarcenic style, was built in teakwood. Rectangular in shape, it is built at a height of around 5 feet. The palace has wooden pillars everywhere. The most stunning feature of the palace is that all the walls, pillars, canopies and arches have been adorned with colourful paintings. The outer wall was covered with portraits of battle scenes while the inside walls had foliage and floral patterns on them.

The palace was one storey tall with balconies protruding out from the front. It reminded me of the palaces in Rajasthan. The walls have not been painted since Tipu’s time.

Although the color has faded over the years, the sight of the palace still manages to transport you back in time to its glory days. The artisans who decorated the palace must have been true masters of their crafts.

The palace is like a tiny museum from the inside and it has photographs of Tipu and his family along with the photos of the British who visited it. The photos are very detailed. It took us around 45 minutes to see the palace in its entirety and then we headed off to see Gumbaz.


In Gumbaz, lie the tombs of Tipu Sultan and his parents Hyder Ali and Fatima Begum. If the burial site is so beautiful, what must the palaces have looked like then? The artisans who worked on these constructions must have been truly creative and talented. The proof of this is seen in the fact that their work retains its splendour even after the passage of three centuries.

The entrance has been carved in the Islamic style. Ashoka trees adorn the gardens here as well.

Gumbaz, as a structure, was very tall and beautifully designed. Everything about this place is beautiful. I am running out of words to describe this place. The ground floor had pillars made of black amphibole. It differs from the colour of Gumbaz but it must have been painted that way for some reason.

Tipu's Grave

The doors at the entrance of Tipu’s tomb are painted dark brown; they are joined by beautiful arches. There is an inscription in Urdu above the entrance. The pillars were also painted dark brown and looked lovely. Gumbaz was very cool although it was extremely hot outside. So I preferred to stay inside it.

The graves of Tipu's near and dear ones
The tombs of Tipu Sultan are well kept even today as many people come to visit them. There are many tombs located outside the tomb which may be those of Tipu’s near and dear ones. These were decorated with ivory which had been presented by Lord Dalhousie. The interior walls of the Gumbaz were covered with lacquer tiget strips which were one of Tipu’s favourites. As it was a burial site, I could not take any photos inside but it was very beautiful.

Jama Masjid
Next we headed towards Jumma Masjid.

What I noticed is that most of the structures in Srirangapatna are painted either yellow or beige. Wonder why?

Jumma Masjid was built by Tipu Sultan in 1784 after he became the King of Mysore. He performed his first imamath (religious course in Islam) here.

This mosque has two identical minarets that touch the sky with an open platform next to it like a verandah. These minarets are octagonal in shape and have small pigeonholes on the dome.

There is a huge prayer hall on the western side. There is an inscription here that mentions the ninety-nine names of Allah.

The walls of the Jumma Masjid are well decorated with fine calligraphy and beautiful designs.

The Place where Tipu's body was found
 A little ahead lies the place where Tipu Sultan died fighting the British. A memorial had been built by Colonel Wesselley at the place where Tipu Sultan’s body was found.

Water Gate
The entry to Srirangapatna had been breached at Watergate, so when Tipu heard of the same he came out to fight the British. He was shot down by a British soldier. So we stood there to pay homage to one of the greatest rulers of India
Thomas Inman's Dungeons
 A little further is Watergate, the place from where the British invaded Srirangapatna. Another place worth a visit here are the dungeons named as Thomas Inman’s Dungeons. Painted white in color, these were built as an underground dungeon and used mainly to punish and torture prisoners.

These dungeons didn’t look very scary. There were a few cannons inside. We wondered whether they were used to kill the prisoners.

Srirangapatna Railway Station

Bridge on the River Cauvery


Next we headed off to see the Obelisk. Frankly we didn’t know the meaning of Obelisk. We thought it might be a point on the fort. After walking for around 30 minutes, we reached the Obelisk.

It turned out to be a memorial built by the Government of Mysore in honour of the soldiers who had given up their lives in the siege of Srirangapatna. The names of all the soldiers who died fighting in order to conquer Srirangapatna are embossed on the Obelisk.
Delhi Gate

The ruined walls of the Srirangapatna fort can be seen throughout the city. The wall, a storey tall, must have been heavily guarded then. There are two entrances to the city via these walls. One of these is called Delhi Gate, the other has no name.

From the Obelisk, we saw a train crossing the Cauvery river and heading to the Srirangapatna station. Trains are something which people of all ages are attracted to. We stood there to see the train cross the river and head to the Srirangapatna station and again cross another bridge to head to its destination.

Frisbee shaped boat in the Sangam River
Sangam River is a holy river here where many people come to take a holy dip. It is a pilgrimage site for Hindus. Many people sat in an upside down frisbee shaped boat and took a ride in the river to empty the ashes of the dead.

The water of the river near the banks was infested with guppy fish. We were standing with our feet in the water and could feel the fish tickling our feet.

Ranganathaswamy Temple

The last on our agenda was the Ranganathaswamy Temple. The temple was closed when we reached it. So we viewed it from the outside.

The temple was shaped like a thinner and taller version of a pyramid and had carvings of gods all over it right up to the top. In fact all temples down south have the same style of carvings on the outside of the temple.

How much time it must have taken the artisans to make these beautiful temples! Perhaps even years. Their craftsmanship too has survived the onslaught of time.

Chariot outside the Temple

Outside the temple, there is a huge chariot with wheels as tall as me, which is pulled by humans and taken for a spin around the temple. Standing next to that massive chariot made me look very puny indeed.

The chariot had carvings similar to those on the temple. The only difference was that the carvings on the chariot were carved out of wood unlike the rock carvings in the temples. The chariot was painted brown and the top of it was covered with dried coconut leaves so we could not see what was inside. It was kept on top of concrete boulders which are brought down only during festivities. This temple is very close to the place where Tipu’s body was found.

Finally most of the places on my itinerary for this trip were done.
Surveying this city had enabled made me to feel as if I had gone back in time. It was a good opportunity to see rather than just read about history.

Make sure Srirangapatna is a must-see on your list when you visit the beautiful south of India.


Rahul Menon said...

He was a great ruler and great strategist. But he was intolerant to other faiths. He and his father hyder Ali was responsible for destruction of more than 2000 temples and destruction of entire calIcut City and forced converting of thousands of people.

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