On Tipuís trail

Jangveer Singh visits Srirangapatna, the historic battleground of Tipu Sultan 

The tomb of Tipu Sultan
The tomb of Tipu Sultan where his body is interred with that of his father Hyder Ali and mother Fakr-un-nissa

A section of murals in Tipuís summer palace
A section of murals in Tipuís summer palace, Daria Daulat Bagh. ó Photo by the writer

The town of Srirangapatna takes its name from the famous Ranganathaswamy temple, which is an important centre of pilgrimage
The town of Srirangapatna takes its name from the famous Ranganathaswamy temple, which is an important centre of pilgrimage 

TIPU Sultan may have died fighting the British and the Wodeyars. But these enemies have been united in death. The Palace of Mysore of the Wodeyars and Tipuís fort, tomb and other places associated with him on the island town of Srirangapatna, 15 km away from Mysore, are a major tourism centre of Karnataka attracting a large number of visitors.

The island town of Srirangapatna has something for everyone. From history lovers to naturalists, to contemplative quiet seekers and the devotees, the island has places to suit a variety of tourists.

A visit to Srirangapatna can typically be divided into two parts. While one part of the island is dominated by the fort complex and places associated with the famous battles fought by Tipu, the second has the Ranganathaswamy temple and Juma masjid.

The town takes its name from the Ranganathaswamy temple. The temple, built by the Ganga chieftain Thirumala, is one of the most important Vaishnavite centres of pilgrimage in southern India. The temple has many pillars with intricate carvings. The sanctum sanctorum has a huge idol of Lord Ranganatha, who is shown lying on the serpent Aadi Sesha. The idol is richly decorated. The temple management disclosed that it was still in possession of jewellery donated by Tipu, which is an example of religious harmony existing during his times. An annual rath yatra is held in January, attracting devotees in thousands.

The Srirangapatna Fort is the center of attraction in other half of the town.

However, Lal Mahal palace, Tipuís residence within the fort, has been reduced to rubble and is now just a mound marked by a notice board.

There is also an obelisk inside the fort marking the spot where Tipu fell, betrayed by his own men during the fourth battle of Srirangapatna. Close by are the dungeons where British officers were kept following their defeat in the Mysore wars. Prisoners were chained to stone slabs fixed on walls of the dungeons. The dungeons are named after Colonel Bailley, who died there in 1782.

There also lies a cannon ball, which broke through the brick and mortar structure, a silent reminder of Tipuís last battle (May 4, 1799).

Outside the fort, across the main road, is a garden in the center of which stands Tipuís summer palace called Daria Daulat Bagh. Built in 1784, this summer palace was one of Tipuís favourite retreats. Made of teak, the structure has ornate and beautiful frescoes, beautifully carved pillars, arches as well as decorative balconies. It also has an exquisite waterway.

The summer palace looks quite ordinary on first impression with large chiks covering its verandas. However, on entering inside the palace an explosion of colour hits you. The veranda has beautiful murals of Tipuís battle scenes with one of them showing a fleeing Colonel Bailley (the second battle of Srirangapatna).

It goes to the credit of the British for restoring these murals 50 years after the fall of Srirangapatna. Lord Dalhousie during a visit there ordered the restoration of these murals ďwith the help of those who remembered them in their completenessĒ.

The Summer Palace also has a museum, which houses memorabilia of the military conquests of Tipu and his father Haider Ali, including costumes, arms and coins. But most haunting are the aquatints of Tipuís sons being handed over to the British after the fall of Srirangapatna.

The visit ends at Gumbaz, the beautifully-carved white-domed tomb of Hyder Ali, where the body of Tipu was also brought to be buried along with his father and mother Fakr-un-nissa. Though this was a hurried move, with his wife, sons and relatives being accommodated nearby, the legend of Tipu has left its mark on the tomb, too. The walls of the tomb have been painted in his favourite tiger stripes. It continues to draw a steady stream of visitors who have come to pay their respects to the man who had it in him to change history but failed tragically.