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Glancing Through Srirangapatna – The Capital Of Tipu Sultan

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The legacy of Tipu Sultan’s valor has invigorated several poets and authors, irrespective of their faith and identity, including John Keats, Gustave Flaubert and Sir Muhammad Iqbal among others, who have placed the gallant soldier on a high altar and given him graceful accolades in their respective compositions.

In a quest to learn further about an enigmatic dream of Tipu Sultan concerning my matrilineal ancestor – Makhdum Jahanian Jahan Gasht (originally named Syed Jalaluddin Bukhari, a resident of Uch, Bahawalpur) and discover his vanished dominion, and heritages; I, along with my friends Mirza Niazmand Ali and Syed Shahan Mehdi, paid a brief visit to Mysore and headed straight to Srirangapatna – which is situated in the adjacent district of Mandya.

Tipu inscribes about his dream sequence VI that, “O merciful God! On the 24th, the following day being Saturday, I had a dream: a venerable old man appeared with a large piece of beryl in his hand and said that a mine of this precious stone was situated in the hill named after Makhdum Jahanian Jahan. This hill is situated near Salem. Accordingly, I ordered trusted individuals to go and find out what was the actual position as regards the beryl mine”. Late Professor Mahmud Hussain of Karachi University records: “this hill is still known by this name amongst the Muslims of locality and is situated at a distance of about seventeen miles from Salem. Coffee is grown on it and it is a source of supply for aluminium and sand used in the manufacture of sand-pepper. It is also known by the names of Arkad and Sarwerayan”.     

  

Heritage configurations abound in Srirangapatna and the first halt on our sojourn is the place where the corpse of Tipu was found; an inscription there exclaims that, “in the fourth Mysore war, the British laid siege to Srirangapatna on 4th May 1799 AD and effectively breached the fort at Watergate. On hearing of this storming of the enemy, Tipu moved in posthaste to the spot, and in the fight, fell to the bullet of a British soldier. It was here the body of Tipu Sultan was identified and recovered amidst heaps of the dead soldiers. In recognition of the valiant Tipu Sultan, Colonel Wellesley set a stone tablet to mark the spot.

Heading a little further, one chances upon Colonel Bailey’s dungeon which was used by Tipu to incarcerate the British officers. It “lies North of Ranganatha Swamy temple and close to Lal Mahal Palace. The oblong bastion referred to as Sultan Bateri, conceals the vaulted dungeon measuring 30.5 M * 12.2 M, built in brick and mortar. The prisoners were chained to the stone tablets fixed on the East, North and West Walls.

Named after Colonel Bailey who died here in 1782 AD. This dungeon was used to imprison prisoners like Captain Baird and Rulay, Colonel Brithwhite Sampson, Frazer and Lindsay by Tipu Sultan”.

In the vicinity lies the renowned Ranganatha Swamy temple which is believed to have received handsome financial contribution from Tipu Sultan. Quite close to the sanctuary is the birthplace of Maharaja Sri Krishnaraja Wodeyar Bahadur III who was born on Monday 9th July 1794 AD.

The minarets of the Jama Masjid rise above the skyline and transmit an aura of grandeur, elegance and religiosity. Located near the “Bangalore gate” in the eastern part of the now ravaged Srirangapatna fort, the mosque was built by Tipu in 1787 AD who frequented it to pay obeisance to the almighty.

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“The mosque is of magnificent proportions with two majestic minarets adorned with exquisite florals cornices and parapets. The panoramic view of the area from the top is splendid, accessible by staircases in the two shafts. A mehrab on the Western wall of the main symbolizes the light: Allah. The stone tablets, fixed in the hall are inscribed with Quranic verses, including the one, which mentions the date of the construction of this building. The building is an interesting example of the combination of Hindu and Islamic architecture”.

Navigating through the vestiges of the good old days, we reach Dariya Daulat Bagh. Two inscriptions, pretty opulent in minutiae, present an abridged history of this summer palace of Tipu Sultan. First one reflects the following lines: “The palace is square in plain, built on a raised stone plinth, with teak pillars running along the outer edge, enclosing a corridor. There are two recessed bays on the northern and southern sides overlooking two large halls, through canopied balconies. The living spaces on the two floors of the palace are accessible by four staircases.

All the walls and ceilings of the entire palace are painted. The paintings depict the durbar scenes of Tipu’s contemporaries like the Rani of Chitoor, the Raja of Tanjore, the Raja of Banaras, the Peshwa Balaji Rao II, Magadi of Kempegowda, Madakari Nayaka of Chitradurga and Krishnaraja Wodeyar III. After the death of Tipu Sultan in 1799, this palace was occupied by Colonel Arthur Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington)”.

Second tablet represents the ensuing specifics: “The summer palace of Tipu Sultan in the Indo-Islamic style, built in AD 1784, is mostly of teak wood. It is situated outside the fort on the banks of river Cauvery. It is rectangular in plan and stands on a raised platform. Open corridors run along its four sides with wooden pillars at the edges of the plinth. While the eastern and western wings have walls, the other two wings have recessed bays with pillars supporting the roof of upper storey. There are four staircases for the upper storey. The most striking feature of the building is that the entire space on the walls and the roof, pillars, canopies and arches are painted artistically. The outer walls depict battle scenes and portraits and the interior walls are decorated with scrolls of thin foliage and floral pattern. Traces of fountains exist on four sides to speak out the beauty and ambiance of the palace”.

The palace is studded with numerous sketch line drawings (inscribed by Thomas Hickey in 1801 at Srirangapatna and Vellore), paintings and engravings (by H. Singatoto, N. Schiavanetti Londen, Captain Allen, J. Wells, Robert Ker Porter, John Zoffany and Robert Home) of Tipu, his allies, children, and various expeditions whose niceties merit a discrete annotation altogether. Nevertheless, a fleeting reference to some of the particulars of glossed sketches would assuage the longing of this piece: Ali Raza Khan – an advocate of Tipu who took part in the negotiation of the treaty of Srirangapatna; Badr-uz-Zaman Khan – a cousin of Tipu and commander of the Dharwad fort; Ghulam Ali Khan – he played a major role in suppressing a revolt against Tipu at Coorg under Viraraja in 1789, and later served as a Governor of the fort of Srirangapatna; Shaikh Hussain – a great soldier in the native infantry; Raja Khan – a confidential servant of Tipu; Firuz Saut – a senior doorkeeper of the Tipu’s palace at Srirangapatna; Ghulam Ali Khan – Deewan of Tipu Sultan; Fateh Haider, Abdul Khaliq, Maizuddin, Sultan Mohiuddin, Yasin Sahib, Subhan Sahib, and Shukur Ullah – seven sons of Tipu Sultan in the chronological order.

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In addition, one comes across some other portrayals also in the palace which include: “the surrender of two sons of Tippoo Sultaun”; “the last effort and fall of Tippoo Sultaun”; “Seringapatam”; “Woodia Droog”; “storming of Srirangapatna”; “the great historical painting of the storming of Srirangapatnam”; “Tipu Sultan as prince”; and “departure of the two sons of Tipu Sultan as hostages”.

The summer palace distinguishes itself as a treasure trove of larger than life murals as well whose flamboyance has endured the vagaries and whiplashes of copious decades. Significant among the specimens are: Colonel Bailey’s defeat in the Pollilur war; procession of Nizam; war procession of Tipu Sultan (the image of Mir Sadiq conversing with Tipu has been defaced, possibly, as a consequence of his treachery); and war procession of Haider Ali.

Proceeding towards the terminus of our journey we arrive at the eastern extreme of Srirangapatna which harbors the celebrated Gumbaz. It is a bravura edifice of ostentatious proportions overseeing large swathes of land dotted with graves and a well-groomed garden. A panel installed by the Archaeological Survey of India states that the “tomb and mosque were built by Tipu Sultan as a tribute to his illustrious father, Hyder Ali, after his death.

It enshrines the cenotaphs of Hyder Ali, his wife Fakhr-un-nisa and Tipu Sultan, after his death in 1799 A.D. It is built on a stone plinth, with polished black granite pillars that run along the corridor around the inner chamber. A magnificent dome crowns the building. The chamber is painted with tiger stripes that were associated with Tipu. The structure, laid out amidst a garden, typical of Islamic architecture, also houses the Masjid-a-Aqsa.

At the eastern entrance of the mausoleum is a tablet in Persian script that speaks of the martyrdom of Tipu Sultan. There are also numerous other cenotaphs of the relatives of Tipu’s family”. At least three surplus Persian inscriptions, reciting paean to the fearless warrior and his father, embrace the ornate entrances to the central tombs chamber. It is to be noted that Madeena Begum, Tipu’s foster mother, too lies buried in the Gumbaz.

Relic of a rectangular stone sundial with almost slight impressions now is breathing its last in a quiet corner on the campus (it would be apropos to remark that Jama Masjid of the town also holds a circular sundial).

 

Our physical presence in the town gives us an opportunity to decipher the puzzling dream in an effective manner.

Though, it is not possible to negotiate through the town – which accommodates a plethora of places of historical interests – in a short span of time but such a void always crafts circumstances for future appointments. We return to Mysore with the realization that an overdue visit is now accomplished, promising Tipu that any call to Mysore would certainly add Srirangapatna in the itinerary.

Note: Professor Mahmud Hussain was the brother of the third President of India, Dr. Zakir Hussain. He had translated dreams of Tipu Sultan into English (1950) and Fath-ul-Mujahideen (Zainul Abedin Shustri’s magisterial corpus on Tipu’ art of warfare) into Urdu (1950)

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