A ray of hope shines through on the restoration scene when it comes to the historic fort at Srirangapatna town in Mandya district. Lakhs of tourists who visit Mysore will make it a point to visit Srirangapatna to see the monuments that hold a mirror to the achievements of one of the the greatest warriors of Indian history-Tipu Sultan, popularly known as the ‘Tiger of Mysore’.
The monuments in and around Srirangapatna tell tales of heroism of this great administrator. For many years, this fort remained neglected for various reasons. In the absence of watch and ward, many portions of the fort were encroached upon and vested interests levelled the fort wall to raise a garden. The importance of these monuments were understood after these sites were declared ‘protected monuments’ by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Around 20 years ago, a portion of the fort was demolished to make a thoroughfare into the town without understanding its importance.
The ASI authorities are striving hard to protect these monuments. In the absence of co-operation from the local administration, they are finding it difficult to manage them let alone protecting them from some vested interests.
A number of dwellings have come inside the town and they are covering the monuments. The moat around the fort is being used as a dumping yard by local residents and traders. All kinds of garbage, plastic bottles, plastic carry bags and discarded clothes are dumped inside the moat. There is a lush growth of weeds inside the moat and it is spoiling the very beauty of the fort. Local people revealed to Spectrum that there are people who use the stones of the fort for laying foundation for their houses and buildings. Unfortunately, the ASI did not have adequate staff to keep a watch on such activities.
The arch of one of the entrances from the bus stand side has already developed cracks due to constant movement of vehicles. Vehicles are allowed through this gate unmindful of what impact it will make on the fort. Besides, the walls of the arch and space supposed to be meant for guards are filled with filth raising a stench. The colour inside the arch has already turned black due to smoke emanated from vehicles.
Neela Manjunath, heritage commissioner, Department of Heritage, Bangalore, told Spectrum that in connection with the 150th year anniversary of Tipu Sultan, the Government of India had given funds for restoration of the armoury and a portion of the fort. While the restoration of armoury is nearing completion, the rebuilding of the fort is going on. The department is mainly concentrating on the preservation of the fort, one of the prime attentions of Srirangapatna. Declaring the fort as a ‘heritage monument’ has come as a blessing for the department to take up restoration work.
The condition of armoury, at the time of taking it up for conservation, was in a horrible condition. Workers were reluctant to go inside the monument because of the filth and years of uncleared garbage. Despite all these odds, the department has done a neat job and has completed restoration.
A total of Rs 30 lakh has been allocated for both these works. The department plans to continue restoration of the fort wall from the present place, i.e, at the main entrance on Mysore-Bangalore Highway. “It is definitely possible to bring back the glory of this historic town if local people join hands with the authorities concerned. There is a need to protect these monuments for the future generations,” she added.
Neela said she has written several letters to Srirangapatna Town Municipal Council requesting the authorities to clean the moat at least, as it can be seen right at the entrance. Tourists who wish to explore the town on foot are repulsed by the heaps of garbage inside the town. To ensure involvement of local people in conservation work, the department is planning to start a heritage committee comprising prominent local people and officials from various departments to give suggestions for overall improvement of the place.
Besides, heritage clubs have been started in local colleges to educate the youth about the importance of heritage. The department will write to the district administration directing the authorities to ban movement of heavy vehicles through the arch gate, situated next to the bus stand and suggest an alternative route, in order to protect the monument.
Further conservation work will be taken up after funds are made available in the coming months.
A revenue officer said the district administration of Mandya has also evinced keen interest in the development of Srirangapatna and is planning to convene a meeting of officials from ASI, Department of Archaeology and Museums, Department of Heritage and Town Municipal Council to work out a plan of action.