Saturday, November 22, 2014

Memoirs of Mysore and Srirangapatanam

Memoirs of Mysore and Srirangapatanam
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Here is my travelogue of the Mysore visit on 19th November 2014. This is my fourth visit to Mysore and the historical places around it but it was most memorable of them all because it was with Hena, my wife and Ismail, my son.
My first stop was at Karnataka State Open University where I had official work. The new building that has opened recently was the place where I spent some time in meetings and negotiations.

Then we headed to Srirangapattam and went to the tomb of Hyder Ali, his wife and Tipu Sultan . It has a magnificent Gumbaz or dome and that has a great art work. The place has a mosque where 5 times prayers are held daily.  It has lots of graves of the family members of Tipu sultan.
After the fall of Srirangapattam fort, members of the Tipu family were killed and brought here and buried in the courtyard outside the tomb and beyond.

Hyder Ali who was commander-in-chief to Krishnaraja Wodeyar wrested power from him 1761 and became independent ruler. After his death in 1784, his son Tipu ruled Mysore till 1799. After the fall of Tipu, Wodeyars, returned power and ruled from Mysore under British protection. Mirza Ismail Beg was the famous Diwan, of the Wodeyars and credited to have built the dam over river Kaveri and famous Brindaban garden by its side.      

The next stop was Daria –Daulat palace or the summer palace of Tipu Sultan. Tippu Sultan built this palace in 1784. The palace is built in the Indo-Sarcenic style in mostly made of teakwood. The most stunning feature of the palace is that all the space available on the walls, pillars, canopies and arches have colorful frescoes in the style of Mysore paintings.

The building is a nice structure with ornate and intricate work.  It’s a museum now and has various artifacts at display. It has a collection of Tippu memorabilia, European paintings and Persian manuscripts.  There are paintings on the wall that depicts the procession scene.

Then we headed to the Srirangapatanam fort, a massive place, which is now taken over by the local people who have built their houses and living there. The exterior has the entry gate to the fort, and some of its parapet is still intact reminding of the structure that may have stood 200 years ago. Now it’s a thriving locality with a sizable population.

The only remaining memory of Tipu Sultan is the Jama Masjid inside the fort of Srirangapattam fort. It has more south East Asian features then the mosques of north India. Instead of four minarets, it has two minarets starting from the ground level and going up high. The ground floor of the mosque has Madarsa and the first floor has the prayer chamber with the usual dome. It’s a magnificent structure that survives the day.  

Inside the fort there is the exact spot where Tipu Sultan’s body was found dead. He was killed during the battle, dismounting from the horse and indulging in sword fight.

The historic Ranganathaswamy Temple inside the fort is other great structure that survives to this date. It’s built of Nagra style and resembles many south Indian temples. There was a beeline of local tourist visiting the temple.

While inside the fort of Srirangapatanam, a stream of thought flew into my funnel. My first brush with Srirangapatnam was reading the history lesson in the school. Then it was reading modern Indian history at Irfan Habib’s class in AMU, Aligarh. Gidwani book on Tipu Sultan gives a graphic description of the siege of the fort of Srirangapatnam the British that took months to finally breach it and that too by the internal connivance of the insiders.

During my visit to London museum, I saw a separate gallery on Tipu Sultan, which has his horse stirrup, cloths, sword and the tiger, his symbol. The museum has the famous painting "Storming of Srirangapattanam" an oil painting by Sir Robert Ker Porter made in 1800. This historical painting depicts the final fall of Srirangapatana on 4 May 1799. Tippu's men are seen giving stiff resistance to the British army and many British officers are clearly visible in the painting.  The military might of the British that rested on Indian foot soldiers were on full display in the canvas. There were other paintings that depicts the final moments of Tipu sultan. It is in this fort that Tippu died fighting the British.

I was trying to compare that huge canvas of Srirngapatnam fort with the latest structure on the ground right. There are only remains of it left today. The British looted and destroyed all the structures inside the fort. Tippu's Palace, the Lal Mahal lies in ruins and there is no trace of it.    

My next halt was Sailm Ali Bird observatory. It is a nice place and the birds are placed in its natural habitat. We had a boat ride and saw the birds sitting on trees and flying around. There were crocodiles in the lake but were at a distance and did not disturbed anyone.  It’s a very scenic environment and the company of birds made it chipper.

We returned back to Mysore city and headed to the historic Chamundi hill shrine that is over 3000 feet from ground. Mysore city view from the Chamundi hill was amazing. One can see the entire Mysore city from the hill top. The famous Dassarah procession that starts from Mysore palace every year concludes in this hill shrine. I found a plaque depicting Muslim names that has contributed to the building of some structure in the
shrine complex. This was something amusing.    

We then visited St. Philomena's church, a Catholic church built in honor of St. Philomena. It was constructed in 1936 using a Neo Gothic style and its architecture was inspired by the Cologne Cathedral in Germany. It is a very impressive structure indeed.

Our last stop was Mysore palace also known as the Amba Vilas Palace. It is the official residence and seat of the Wodeyars — the Maharajas of Mysore.  The palace houses two durbar halls and incorporates a mesmerizing and gigantic array of courtyards, gardens, and buildings. The palace is in the central region of inner Mysore, facing the Chamundi Hills eastward. Mysore Palace is now one of the most famous tourist attractions in India, after the Taj Mahal, and has more than 3 million visitors annually.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at –

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