>The Tiger comes to town

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Summer is upon us now and there is no better time than this to visit the cool, ventilated “Rashq -e-Jannat ( Envy of Heaven) Summer Palace of Tipu Sultan, aka `The Tiger of Mysore’ in Chamrajpet on Albert Victor Road. The beautiful Saracenic palace is over 200 years old and built almost entirely of wood ( except for the foundation, walls and pillar base) . All that remains now is a wistful,  North facing hall. It was begun in 1781 by Hyder Ali and completed by Tipu a little later. From 1831 to 1868, the palace served as the Administrative Office of the British Raj before it was shifted to the Attara Kacheri. The palace is now maintained by the Archeological Survey of India from whom we bought a very well designed ticket at the gate for only Rs.5/-. It allowed us to take photographs, but no video.

Elegant balconies and fluted pillars

While you are there, do take a closer look at the fluted wooden pillars which rise from delicate lotus blossoms and end in fancy trefoil arches. The deep Burnt Sienna walls may not be the original colour but they create an effective contrast to the dark chocolate – cream combination. ( Perhaps it would have better to have left the pillars in the original, unadorned rosewood they once were ). Cantilevered balconies overlook the ground floor in this two storied palace while intricate murals and frescoes in floral and geometric motifs are painted on the walls/ceiling of the first floor. While the main Palace was in Srirangapatna and this was just the summer residence, it was nevertheless carefully built to accommodate various needs.There was a zenana area ( ladies chamber ) and the balconies were ( in East-West facing halls ) where Tipu apparently sat when the town durbar was in session with his ministers and courtiers in attendance at the balconies on either side.  Some walls have faded murals depicting scenes from various battles fought by Tipu. And there were many of these.

Blotted out by time and ardent lovers

Tipu Sultan ( 1750 -1799 ) was a great warrior, statesman and scholar who was fluent in Urdu, Kannada, Persian and Arabic. He was the son of Hyder Ali, a military commander who went on to become the ruler of Mysore and his wife Fakhr-un-nissa, the daughter of the Governor of the fort in Kadappa.Tipu was born in Devanahalli and never imagined even in his dreams that his birthplace would one day be taken over and ruled by an entity called the BIAL !  He was a passionate patriot, an involved ruler and aesthetic planner who introduced many novel administrative reforms, planned beautiful buildings and gardens including the magnificent Lal Bagh in Bangalore (with Hyder Ali ). He laid the foundation for an early dam over the Cauvery in Mysore where centuries later, the great Krishnarajasagar Dam would be built and is also credited with the early use of solid fuel rocket technology, specimens of which are on display at the Royal Artillery Museum in London.

Tipu died in an intense battle ( Fourth Mysore War ) against the British in Srirangapatna (outskirts of Mysore ) on May 4th, 1799. It marked the end of a lifetime spent resisting them.

If you walk to City Market via Bazaar Street, you will reach the Bangalore Fort. Its origins are still debated with one set of experts attributing it to Chikkadevaraja Wodeyar and the other to Kempegowda I in 1537. What we do know is that it was reinforced with stone by Hyder Ali in 1761.  The original fort was built around the entire Pete area with different gates. Today all that remains of the Fort is the Delhi Gate which was laid seige to and battered quite significantly by Lord Cornwallis in the Third Anglo-Mysore War (1791 ).  Following this battle, parts of the Fort were demolished by Tipu who may have realised just how inadequate it was when under serious attack and then by the British who whittled it down to suit their needs.

The new entry to the fort

Intricate detailing including the Alam motif of the Shia community ( the paan leaf emblems on either side of the doorway)  softens the solidity of this massive gate which once faced the other direction towards the town and of course, the North.  After the Battle of Pollilur in 1780,  British officer, Sir David Baird was taken prisoner by Hyder Ali and later shifted here from Mysore. He was released in 1785 after the Peace Treaty ( Treaty of Seringapatam) and went on to lead the final assault against Srirangapatna in 1799.

On the left of the gate

Once you are sufficiently intimidated by these massive wooden gates with sharp spikes on them, and manage to walk through without flinching, you immediately see a small structure which resembles a cottage but is actually a 16th century Ganesha Temple built just at the entrance to the fort. The temple is a departure from the usual Dravidian style but exudes a quaint charm.  There is also an interesting story that creates a rich mosaic of connections between Hyder Ali and the Fort,  the birth of Tipu, the Sufi shrines and the Dharmarayaswamy Temple in the Pete area.

The great gates with spikes

Today, Tipu’s descendants ( seventh generation)  live in Kolkata, where they were taken to from Vellore after the 1801 uprising. It is ironic, that the descendants of the Tiger of Mysore finally found refuge in the home of the Bengal Tiger.
Though the Fort and Palace are steeped in dramatic history, when I went there was very little material or a trained guide available on site.  The relics are protected with care but a lot more could be done to recreate history, especially for younger audiences. Tourists wander in and out with no available context for the space. A leaflet or two, maybe a conversation, a map or even a picture gallery could even for a brief moment, help bring the past alive.

Just before the Ganesha Temple at the Gate

Over time the city has grown up and all around precious historical sites of great value. Often, we live right next to a building, walk down a lane, stop at a corner, without knowing its significance or relevance. If we did, perhaps we would take a second look, and thereby, give the past the acknowledgment it deserves. For the curious, and those willing to walk,  Bangalore still offers a constant journey of discovery. Once you begin, its a big adventure !

A new form for a temple

There is ample information available about Tipu, but a lot of it is conflicting and controversial. On one hand he is described as an egalitarian, enlightened patriot, fighting to keep the British from his doorstep and on the other, he has been positioned as just the opposite by some local historians. Either way, history in my opinion is purely subjective and can be interpreted in multiple ways depending on whose eyes you choose to see it through.

The Tiger strikes on stone

Updates  :

Another article on the subject

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3 comments

  1. Nice, go on … 🙂

    1. Bharati · · Reply

      The places visited undoubtedly is interesting but what makes it more interesting is the way it is told very passionately and and sincerely

  2. Thank you, means a lot. 🙂 Wish there was an archiving system or body in this city where all the information collected could be deposited in one place to share with the city itself. Wish there were people who could talk and bring history alive at these places. Wish history could be taught experientially to children so they develop a sense for it and not fall asleep in class ! 🙂

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