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Sunday
, April 28, 2002
Heritage

Into the enchanting summer den of the Tiger of Mysore
Shefali Takalkar

A view of Tipuís Summer Palace, the Darya Daulat
A view of Tipuís Summer Palace, the Darya Daulat

THE drive down the road lined with tall and thick trees was invigorating. We had crossed a little village and it certainly appeared as if we were heading towards some historical place. However, we did not know exactly which place we were going to and the cab driver was not volunteering any information. From the taxi we could catch glimpses of a white structure through the foliage and gathered that we were nearing our destination. The taxi came to a halt at what might be called a glade and in front of us was an entrance gate in its whitewashed imposing height. The cabby turned to us, smiled and in a strong Kannada accent pronounced briefly, "Tipuís Summer Palace." Through the wide arch of the entrance we saw a leaf green oblong structure standing in a pleasant Moghul-style garden. Frankly, it was too unpretentious a building to be called a palace, but palace it was, named Darya Daulat by its owner, Tipu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore.

Tipuís Summer Palace stands at Srirangapatnam, an island in the river Kavery, 15 km short of Mysore, if one was to drive from Bangalore. Tipu was a great builder and when not embroiled in wars, he ruled his kingdom with the acumen of a statesman and built upon it with a fine aesthetic judgement. The Summer Palace was built in 1784. The beauty of this palace lies in its magnificent architecture that looks cool and elegant in its simplicity. However, this outer simplicity is in sharp contrast to the extravagance of its interiors. Built in the Indo-Saracenic style, Darya Daulat is made of teak wood. Gigantic wooden pillars support the outer ceiling and its supporting arches are carved in the Islamic style of architecture. It is painted forest green and has a lush verdant garden around it. As you walk towards the palace from the entrance you are mesmerised by the charming garden, the fresh lawns, water founts and reservoirs (in the style of the Taj garden) and large trees of numerous varieties. Sometimes a bird or two may twitter breaking the silence of the surroundings, as if to add to your joy.

 


The palace houses an archaeological museum at present but it continues to be a testimony to the life and times of Tipu. Large wall murals, still vivid in hue, depict the ruler in all his glory, his cavalry units, the darbar scenes and army contingents. In one mural the war scene is so graphically portrayed that one can almost visualise the marching armies, the elephants with the howdahs mounted on them and men carrying flags with sun emblems. There is another mural with Mysore soldiers, French comrades-in-arms and their British rivals. Thus, the four walls located at a little distance from the wooden pillars bring back to life the days of the Sultan.

The imposing entrance gate to Tipu Sultanís Summer Palace
The imposing entrance gate to Tipu Sultanís Summer Palace

One of the wonders of the palace is a life-like painting of Tipu Sultan in which Tipu seems to look at you regardless of where you are standing. A number of other paintings by artists like Robert Hume, John Zoffany and C.F. Cherry depict the scenes and people of the time. There are also beautiful sketches by renowned British artist Thomas Hickey. Another painting that captures the imagination is by Sir Robert Kerporter depicting the storming of Srirangapatnam. The picture gallery houses some exquisitely detailed depictions of the colonial era of the East India Company. In some of these aquatints illustrating landscapes with long fort walls resting on mountain tops, the surrounding boulders, rocks, weeds and greenery have been so vividly painted that one can almost perceive the gradients and shadowy details.

Though still new in appearance, these exquisite works of art require preservation. These works are eco-friendly as they have been executed with vegetable-dye and can be protected by fumigation and exfoliation.

The richly decorated interior of Darya Daulat
The richly decorated interior of Darya Daulat

One room houses the museum exhibiting the personal belongings of Tipu Sultan: a gold-embroidered tunic, his coin collection, his weapons and other items. The palace floor, ceilings, walls and arched pillars have intricate patterns executed with artistic precision. Rich floral designs give a luxurious look to the surroundings. The magnificent balcony projection, the strong but delicately carved staircase going up, the inner walls, all bespeak of the delicate workmanship that enhances the beauty of this otherwise simple palace. Occasionally, one may spot tiger-striped flooring or wall motifs and remember the Tiger of Mysore who was known for his ferocity and tactics, and whose insignia was tiger stripes. Interestingly, everything from his throne to his dagger featured some either the tigerís head or its claws or its teeth.

A few kilometres away from the palace, Tipuís fort, his tomb called Gol Gumbaz, the Jama Masjid and the Sri Rangnatha temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, all speak of the great secular heritage of the country. The temple has been built in the Hoysalan and Vijayanagaram styles. Lord Vishnu is represented on the pillars and the ceilings. At the temple precincts you see a huge and beautifully carved wooden rath that was donated to the temple by Hyder Ali. Inside the sanctum, is a reclining figure of Lord Vishnu, called SriRanga, after whom the island takes its name Srirangapatnam.

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