Exploring heritage sites

Remnants A team of tourists walking along the Srirangapatna Fort

In the history of India, Srirangapatna is the only place that witnessed the rule of five dynasties that were totally different in their cultural ethos,” remarked Prof Karimuddin. Writer Prof K S Balasubramanya echoed similar views and said: “Five dynasties — Gangas of Talakadu, Vijayanagara Empire, Hoysalas of Dwarasamudra, Mysore Wadiyars and Hyder Ali-Tipu Sultan ruled from Srirangapatna for about 900 years one after another.”  As they began tracing the history of the town, a team of 50 tourists from Mandya, Mysuru, Bengaluru and other parts of the state followed them exploring the various memorials in Srirangapatna.

Digging the story deep

We walked behind the two historians as part of ‘Silent Conversations with Monuments’, a one-day walk organised by K Y Srinivas. As we began exploring the historical town digging deep into its history, the duo provided us valuable insights about the fort, the armoury, the dungeon, masjids, churches and temples. These inputs yielded a perception for a better understanding of the town which houses many monuments, each having a tale to narrate. Karimuddin exclaimed: “There you are, at Jama Masjid! Tipu Sultan constructed it in 1784. It is situated to the north-west of the Bangalore gate. The two highly decorated finials on the peak of the two lofty double-storeyed minarets have been manufactured using metal. The octagonal exterior accommodating pigeon-hole like decoration lend necessary elevation to the mosque.” 

“Those days, soldiers would stand near the minarets watching suspicious movements of enemies,” he said and guided us to the terrace of the mosque. It was now our turn to watch and get details about the sundial, the route used by Tipu Sultan to enter the mosque on his horse, and the kalyani. Balasubramanyam provided a detailed account of the fort. The three-ring fort of 6.5 kilometres in circumference was developed by a French engineer as per Tipu Sultan’s request. Despite witnessing eight fierce battles, the fort is still solid,” he said. Then we climbed to reach the Bathery which is 3,000 feet above mean sea level. Tourists can have a glimpse of Mysuru town, Pandavapura, Melukote, Kunti hills, Krishna Raja Sagara reservoir and Karighatta from there. 

After exploring the Bathery, we reached the northeastern side. “You are now near Anekote gate. Visitors should pass through three toughest gates before reaching the Anekote gate,” he said. On entering, we touched its heavily built wooden doors. Balasubramanyam provided valuable insights about the phases and developments that shaped the town over the centuries.

We learnt about the Jacobins club that inspired the French Revolution, the club’s branch in Srirangapatna with Tipu Sultan as its first member, the defeat of the British in the second Anglo-Mysore war, detention of Colonel William Baillie, the launch of a cricket club by the British in 1801, Lord Wellesley’s special love for the summer palace and his stay over there; Kanteerava Narasimharaja Wadiyar’s efforts to construct a canal to bring water to Srirangapatna in the 17th century; construction of Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple by the Gangas and the Immaculate Conception Church (Abbe Dubois Church) established at Ganjam 200 years ago by a French missionary, Jean Antoine Dubois.

We resumed the walk after a short break and spotted Shambulingaiaha Katte gate. There was a route at the bottom of the fort resembling an arch. It is six feet in height and 50 feet in length providing direct connectivity to River Cauvery. The hanging bridges lie towards its right side. French engineer Colonel D’ Haviland built it in 1808. The bridge that lies in the east-west direction is 112 feet in length and 4 feet in width. Local residents had named it as ‘jug bridge’.  The hanging bridge collapsed in 1936. Today, it is buried in the bushes. 

We walked a few steps and reached the western side. “What you see there is Delhi Gate. On May 4, 1799, the British fired cannons and destroyed the fort. A troop swam across the river and entered Srirangapatna. Led by General Harris, they killed Tipu Sultan and won the battle,” Balasubramanyam said.

The triple alliance comprising 24,000 soldiers from the British army, 11,000 from Hyderabad Nizam’s army and 6,000 Maratha soldiers defeated Tipu Sultan. Mir Sadiq connived with the British for the downfall of Tipu Sultan, he explained.

Monumental brilliance

We entered a tiny valley, moved further and reached the three-ring fortification, originally constructed by Thimmanna Nayaka of the Vijayanagar empire and later modified by Tipu with the help of the French. Water flowed to the valley which had crocodiles to thwart attempts by enemies to enter inside the fort.

Minutes later, we were at an obelisk erected in memory of Josiah Webbe and the English soldiers died during the siege of Srirangapatna. It rests on a small platform. The pillar juts out with a conical top. It also contains a tablet on its eastern face. We ended the trip after exploring the stone mantapa of Gautama Muni and the three directions in which River Cauvery flows.

(Translated by JA)

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