Archive for February, 2014

26 January 2014

Tucked away in a corner of Bangalore associated with the perishable goods market and a bus station, is one of the most important historic monuments of the town. Not many tourists actually go there and it took me 22 years of life at Bangalore to go there the first time. I was in love with the place from that visit and have been there two more times. To me, it is a fantastic visual treat and looks like a poor cousin of the Mezquita in Cordoba, Spain. Of course, the Mezquita is far grander and is older; I guess it is the beautiful arches in the palace and the Islamic architecture that brings out the resemblance.

The construction of the fort was started by Hyder Ali, Tipu’s father, in 1781 and completed by Tipu Sultan in 1791. It is located within the old Bangalore fort (of which only a small portion is still standing), right next to an old temple.  After Tipu’s fall, the palace was used by the British as administrative offices and as can be expected, only a small portion of the palace is left behind.

The palace is built entirely with wood and has an abundance of beautifully carved arches. It was originally painted with vegetable pigments and some portions of the original work can still be seen. However, I was told that the current colour combination is attributable to the Archaeological Society of India, which has done some restoration work.

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View from the front

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Views of main durbar hall

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Pillars and arches

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Works in ceiling and wall

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Views of rear durbar hall

There is also a small museum inside, wherein some objects like a replica of the famous toy that Tipu had (of a tiger attacking an Englishman) and some rockets he used, are kept. It seems Tipu’s army had been able to make and use rockets that could travel a distance of two and a half kilometres, a remarkable achievement indeed, in those days.

There is an Arabic inscription in the palace which says it is the “abode of happiness and envy of heaven”. Even in this day, in its current condition, it is magnificent. One can only imagine how it must have been in its heyday. However, as I sat there among those beautiful arches, a sense of outrage kept tugging at my heart. Here I was in the palace of a very brave king, a truly patriotic king, who was the first in South India to stand up to the British and indeed, beat them in many battles – the only one in these parts of whom the British were truly afraid of. He was a visionary who was a very good administrator and who understood the relevance of international trade and relations and had envoys in faraway places like France and Turkey. He stands head and shoulders above the rest of the South Indian kings who mostly kowtowed to the British to save their power and riches. Yet, today, he is neglected in his own state. There is hardly any monument in his name (in a country where every Tom, Dick and Harry and their families get statues erected in their honour) and even this palace does not get the attention it deserves. It is definitely the most important historic monument in Bangalore. The answer to this neglect, most probably, could be found in the introductory words of a guide that I had hired during one of the visits. “This is the palace of Tipu Sultan, the Muslim king…….”. And thus, another Republic Day went by…