'Wealth of the sea' and other palaces

The splendour of Tipu’s court was reflected in its magnificent houses of state, the royal residences of Tipu Sultan. We may classify among his residences four major palaces and three minor ones. The palace at Bangalore which still exists today was commenced in 1778 by Haidar Ali and completed by Tipu in 1791.

The artist Robert Home writes that “the palace was grand and spacious, displaying to the four winds of heaven as many ample fronts, each composing a lofty hall, the wooden roof of which is supported by colonnades of the same material. The pillars are connected by scolloped arches; and the whole is superbly painted and gilt. The walls in front of the entrances to the East and West halls have balconies, richly carved, and raised by small pillars united by arches.”

To Robert Mackenzie, the palace was “the most airy and elegant of any in the East,” discounting those of Delhi and Agra. He greatly admired the paintwork and decoration of flowers in gold leaf, in the Diwan-i-Aam, as well as rich floor carvings and wall hangings, and he found extensive ivory inlay.

At Ganjam

The Dariya Daulat Bagh at Ganjam, two km east of Srirangapatna and on the north branch of the Cauvery is another existing palace of Tipu. It is now a museum under the Department of Archaeology, Government of India. The Dariya Daulat or ‘Wealth of the Sea’ palace was built by Haidar and Tipu often resided here during the day.

Very similar in design to the Bangalore palace, it was here that the famous mural commemorating the Battle of Polilur was painted. Buchanan refers to other paintings here as well depicting Haidar and Tipu in public procession and the costumes of various castes and professions, common in Mysore.

 However, the largest and handsomest palace of Tipu was his residential palace in Seringapatam or Srirangapatna. Of this magnificent structure, only a mound and ruined walls remain. It lies within the fort and is a stone’s throw away from the Sri Ranganathaswamy temple. Surrounded by massive and lofty walls of stone and mud, its outward appearance was said to be very mean.

But inside, the public apartments or audience halls were very handsome, with the throne room resembling to some degree that of the Lal Bagh pavilion: “A kind of colonnade painted green with red ornamental work, forming what is called the tiger stripe...Round the arched compartments of the roof, or ceiling, are disposed a variety of Arabic and Persian verses, applicable to the signs of the Zodiac, and importing the godlike superiority of the Sultan in his princely character."

Sadly, this palace was dismantled in the years between 1807 and 1809 on the orders of Colonel Wellesley. The wooden pillars of the palace were probably utilised for the Maharaja’s palace in Mysore. It was in this palace that the British grand Army accepted the surrender of Tipu’s sons on that fateful day on May 4, 1799 and to which Tipu’s lifeless body was brought in preparation for the burial. Another important palace of Tipu’s that was pulled down by the British was the Lalbagh palace, situated at the southeast tip of Srirangapatna, on the south bank of the Cauvery, ordered to be pulled down by Sir Stephen Rumbald Lushington, Governor of Madras.

The Dariya Daulat bagh was retained because of its connection to the Duke of Wellington, Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley who made the palace his residence. The Marquis of Dalhousie visited the palace in November 1855 and ordered the  repair and re-painting of the wall murals and a general restoration of the structure to honour its legacy of being the former residence of the Duke of Wellington. The work was completed in a little over three years at a cost of Rs. 37,000.

Bangalore palace

The Bangalore palace also largely undisturbed because it was used by the British army as an office and store along with the fort that was turned into an English garrison and arsenal. In 1831, Bangalore’s public offices were also moved to the Tipu palace where they remained till 1866, when they were moved to the Attara Katcheri.

Of the minor palaces or residences, the Tipu palace on the Nandi hills, Nandidurg of yore, still attracts tourists who go there to savour the excellent weather of the hills, some 40 km from bangalore. This may not have been a palace in the strict sense of the term but a retreat home for Tipu Sultan when he was inspecting the Nandidurg fort that was a very important fortress at the very doorstep of Bangalore, his second largest town.

Tipu also had a provinicial palace in Coimbatore, that has disappeared today. Francis Skelly in his despatch to Charles Stuart on August 1, 1790 describes it “as an excellent house, with a handsome front, the chambers are large and lofty, and the walls covered with a kind of plaster, called chunam, polished so as to appear like marble.” It was also found to contain “ivory, sandalwood and other things of value.”

There was also a small palace in Mysore on Chamaraaja road, believed to have been used by Tipu Sultan, of a design very similar to the Bangalore and Dariya Daulat palaces.

There are still two views about whether Tipu actually built the palace or if it was built by Tipu’s descendants after his death. However the style of construction may point it to another palace of Tipu Sultan who founded a new city in old Mysore, and named it Nazarbad, which still exists as a thriving locality. Tipu projected Mysore as a strong and prosperous state and this reflected upon the grandeur of his many residences.

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