20 August 2009

A day in the Tiger's capital

The entire town of Srirangapatna is on an island in the river Kaveri and the most important sight here is the Ranganatha temple.
Tradition holds that all the islands formed in the Kaveri River are consecrated to Sri Ranganathaswamy, and large temples have been built in very ancient times dedicated to that deity on the three largest islands (Shivanasamudra and Srirangam being the other two cities).
The town takes its name from this celebrated temple and is dominated by its presence.
The temple makes Srirangapatna one of the most important Vaishnavite centers of pilgrimage in south India. Although this temple is of great religious significance it's overall ambiance and architectural scale is one of great tranquility - a quality that most temple complexes (of any religious significance) miserably lack - a stunning difference from the usual chaos!

Here's quiet a few photos from this amazing temple complex:

The temple was built by the Ganga dynasty rulers of the area in the 9th century; the structure was strengthened and improved upon architecturally some three centuries later. Thus, the temple is a medley of the Hoysala and Vijayanagar styles of temple architecture.
The rest of the day was spend see various sights related to the legendary 'Tiger of Mysore' - Tippu Sultan - who ruled over the Islamic Kingdom of Mysore from 1782 (the time of his father's death) until his own death in 1799 with Srirangapatna as his capital.

We started by seeing the double-walled Srirangapatna Fort (the temple is actually inside this fort). Its simple structure was constructed under directions from Tippu. The fort is made up of apporximately 40 ft. high walls on three sides - which is believed to have been used as the launch pad from where Tippu's men used to launch their missiles.
Next we halted at Lalmahal - Tipu's residence - this was completely demolished by the British, and the spot is today marked this is ruinous mound, with a ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) board on top of it.
Next was the Jamia Masjid. The main mosque of the capital situated near the Bangalore Gate of the fort.
Standing on a high basement with an open court; inside the court is a covered verandah with a spacious prayer hall.
It's most prominent feature is its 2 double storied minarets that are octagonal in shape with pigeonholes surmounted by domes.
We then on our way out of the fort but stopped at this small fenced park with a stone marker in the centre of it. This is where the legendary tiger is believed to have died defending his capital on 4th May 1799
- quiet possibly making him the only King to have died on the battlefield in modern history!

Leaving the fort we headed for the Daria Daulat Bagh which is just outside the fort wall. Built in 1784, this Summer Palace is believed to have been one of Tipu's favourite retreats.
It's an amazing structure with exquisite teak wood structural work and amazing murals (in its corridors depicting Tipu's battles against the British). The two-storey palace is raised on a 1.5m high platform and sits on a beuatifully proportioned (mughal inspired) garden.
Once again you are not allowed to take photos on the inside of this structure (you can however see a couple of snaps of the mural on this BBC link - http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/empire_seapower/tiger_of_mysore_gallery_04.shtml)
Our last stop before heading back to Mysore was the Gumbaz.
This is the mausoleum of Tippu Sultan, and his father Hyder Ali and mother Fathima Begam.
This was built by Tippu Sultan between 1782-84,
the Gumbaz, an imposing structure in the midst of the char bagh garden, stands on a high and wide platform with an open verandah of polished pillars all round.
The importance of Gumbaz lies in its well-shaped large dome, ivory inlaid doors, carved stone windows of fine workmanship and inscriptions. Tipu's favourite Tiger stripes cover the walls.Inside are the tombs of Haidar in the center, his wife and his son Tippu on either side.
In the verandah and on the platform are the other tombs of Haidar’s family members.
Here's a few photos of the arcaded structure that surrounds the Gumbaz:

And one of the mosque of this complex:
While setting out on this trip to Mysore I had no idea of the importance and significance of Srirangapatna (both historically and architecturally).

I guess I will have to come back here once again to really soak in Tippu's brilliance!

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