Tippu’s Fort , Palakkad

Posted: May 26, 2012 in Uncategorized
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21 May 2012

As it often happens, the places that are the closest are often the ones that are farthest! This has been so with me, in the case of Tippu’s Fort which is located at Palakkad. Palakkad is but 15 Kim’s from my hometown, Chittur, but I have never visited the fort after my schooldays; which, admittedly, was way back. So, I had decided that I would make it to the fort this time around when I went to Chittur.

The fort has been restored quite recently and some of the ramparts that had fallen down have been rebuilt. It dates back to medieval times and was renovated by Hyder Ali (Sultan of Mysore) in 1766, when he was invited there by the king of Palakad to help against an invasion threatened by the Zamorin, the king based in Calicut. Hyder took advantage of the opportunity, realizing the strategic significance of Palakkad. The fort changed hands a few times between the British, Hyder Ali and his son, Tippu Sultan till 1790. The British controlled the fort from 1790 onwards and used it as their base. Even today, the fort is known as “Tippu’s fort” even if Tippu held the fort only for a few years and was not the one that built it. When I thought about it, I was happy that there were at least some monuments left as remembrance for this brave and patriotic son of India.

I have felt that Tippu Sultan has often been sidelined and his role in history underplayed, by vested interests. He was one of the very few kings in South India that realised the threat the East India Company and the British posed. His wars with the British have been well chronicled and even though he succumbed in the end, he remained a thorn in the side of the mighty British for many a year and that too when all the rulers of the neighbouring kingdoms had meekly surrendered, out of cowardice and for personal gains. He had the vision of free India and fought for it, ultimately giving his life. As a true hero, he fell in battle, fighting till the very end.

Yet, he is painted as a religious fanatic, one who was only interested in converting Hindus to Islam. No matter that the first sight that greets you as you walk into his fort in Palakkad is a Hanuman temple – one of the most powerful Hindu gods. This temple is a big favourite with devotees even today. It also does not seem to matter that the very famous Srirangam Temple stands within Tippu’s fort and stronghold at Srirangapatnam and I cannot imagine that it would have been a huge effort for him to mow it down. It is obviously of no significance that it was Tippu that sent money to help the Kanchi Mutt after that Hindu monastery was ransacked by the Hindu Maratha rulers. The list goes on and I am just writing what I have seen and heard and by no means am I an expert. I am sure that his armies would have raped and plundered as is the wont of victorious armies but then, which victor has ever held his forces back after a battle? Even today, in our “cultured” ways, the spoils of war go to the victor.

The fort itself stands on a small hill and there is a large moat surrounding it. In my childhood, I had heard stories that only Tippu’s horse could leap over the moat and when I looked at the size of the moat, I realised that it was just that, a story, given the size of the moat.

There is very little water in the moat today and you enter the fort through a small bridge.

The fort itself is very functional and is built with large granite boulders and limestone. It is of rhomboidal shape shape and has seven bastions with very thick walls. There does not seem to have been much effort spent to make it beautiful in any way. At the main entrance, I saw some decorations on the wall above the door and that was pretty much the only decorative piece I saw in the entire fort.

As you enter, on the right, there is a small idol of Hanuman set into the wall. This has now become a very famous temple and there were many devotees even at mid-morning, when we went in. I was not allowed to photograph the temple itself, in keeping with the recent form of intolerance which denies entry to non-Hindus to temples. I also noticed that the temple itself had a “saffronised” look with the imagery and colours used and even with name of Ram, written in Hindi. Perhaps this is a good indication of who controls this temple and I felt one could easily transport this temple to North India and it would fit in there very well.

In the centre of the fort, there are a few buildings and this must have been where the people that stayed in the fort lived. The buildings do not look as old as the fort and must have been constructed during the times of the British. There is a very well maintained lawn with a couple of large trees.

There is also a stepped well on one side of the courtyard and I learnt from the Information Centre that this well was dug later.

The Information Centre is hosted in an interesting stone building with 28 pillars, which was also constructed later. Unfortunately, there is not much information provided about the fort or the battles that were fought there or the people that lived there. There are some photographs of the restoration and of other places of tourist interest in Kerala.

One of the buildings houses a jail and that was of personal interest to me as my father was imprisoned here for two weeks in 1961 when they were agitating for the implementation of the Land Reforms Act in Kerala. I guess the jail must have been in the same old shabby condition even 50 years back.

There is a walkway that takes you around the wall of the fort and there were some good views all around. One could see that the fort offered a very good defensive position. I was quite disappointed that there were no markings or indications of any of the places of interest within the fort or any details provided about its history. There is a small board at the entrance with a few lines on it but that hardly does justice to the place. It was equally disappointing that there was no mention of Tippu or Hyder or anyone else that lived there. But, the people of Palakkad still honour that valiant son who was the first to rise against the British in South India and call it Tippu’s Fort…..

Comments
  1. Ravi Padiyath says:

    @Sudeesh – As you rightly said you the places which are near are the farthest to see…..After school days even I have not gone to that fort even though on an average you tend to in front of that place almost every month…….Good writing and photos

  2. Radhika menon says:

    very nice blog Sudeesh…touching in fact…as I’ve always had a lot of respect for Tippu sultan….it is a bit embarrassing but I’ve to admit that I myself have never visited the fort….maybe during my next visit….

  3. Dhanya Suresh says:

    Nice Photoes and description.. I didn’t know that the fort was not made byTippu Sultan, though we were taken there every year for Excursion during our UPSchool tme! Again I feel sad how the important subject of history is made irrelevant and dreaded for the children, when there are so many ways of making it connected and interesting!
    The stone walls, water in the moat and greenery gives a cool nice feel in the picture but I really wonder how cool it is really in the Palghat heat!
    This post gave a nice nostalgic feeling.. Thanks Sudeesh.

    • sraddha sashi says:

      kottayennu kelkkumbol kaivilangittu police akambadiyode povunna thadavukarude ormakalanu.vettila mala aninjha hanumante ormakalanu.ennatheyum pole sudheeshinte chinthakal ivideyum vere thanne.

  4. kvdsampath says:

    i never knew about the fort in palakkad.it is also well preserved.
    nice photos.

  5. RAJALAKSHMI IYER says:

    I AM PROUD OF MY HOME TOWN , NOW I REALIZE ITS WORTH

  6. Me too Sudeesh. Though a student of Palakkad Victoria college in 60s I had never known this. Thanks for retrieving Historical architecture of Forts nearer home. I will make it a point to drive up to Palakkad when I am in Coimbatore on work.
    Thanks. the photos are great and vantage indeed.
    Vasu.
    (camp Gurgaon )

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