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Tipu's Palace in Bangalore - Fading fortress

SURESH MOONA suggests a new dimension to tourism in Bangalore city.

BANGALORE is changing. Sobriquets like IT capital, Silicon City, Seminar City, are replacing the old ones. In spite of the hype surrounding Hyderabad, Bangalore attracts people from all over the world.

International conferences and the recent global investors' meet bring bureaucrats, business tycoons, diplomats and tourists.

After checking into five-star hotels, these people do like to have a glimpse of the city.

Many of them seek information from tourist guides published abroad, some of these books, while writing about Bangalore, have made disgraceful remarks such as, ''there is nothing to see in Bangalore ... there is hardly anything to see in Bangalore".

Though, such remarks in interna-tional guides do hurt the sentiments of true Bangaloreans and monument lovers, it is a fact that many heritage structures and sites are neither exposed properly nor made tourist friendly. Such drawbacks would prompt any author of tourist guides to make such remarks. The city has an inflow of tourists including world luminaries. Tour operators and authorities have to give a new dimension to tourism in Bangalore city.

The City market area is a very important heritage site of the city, the extended Stone Fort of Haider's period, Tipu's palace, and the Armoury are prominent pages of Bangalores History.

A fort was built around Bangalore for the first time by its founder, Kempegowda. After the rule of the Gowdas, an extension was made to it by Chikkadevaraya, who added an oval fort to the existing one. Later it was strengthened by Haider Ali.

Ibrahim Khan, the kiledar of Bangalore built the fort in 1761 and it was considered a formidable structure in 1791, in the best fashion of Muslim military architecture.

But after the 1791 war, parts of it were dismantled, since it was not strong enough to withstand the attack of the British. Later Dewan Purnaiah rebuilt it in 1800.

An old painting at the palace

The main Mysore gate which was to the south is still intact near the city market .

There was another main gate called the Delhi Gate towards the northern side of the fort. It was said to be a magnificient structure.

One can now get into the fort through the southern gate from K R Road, or from the Vani Vilas Hospital side. This gate is not only strong but very attractive, with beautiful floral designs at the top of the entrance. The walls on either sides of the entrance are black. May be the paint or writing on the walls has eroded over the years.

A similar type of blank space can be seen at the gate (northern gate which is now closed), near the Dental College. There is clear evidence of tampering. The walls and roof of the inner portion of the entrance near the Dental College are tarnished by graffiti.

The doors of the southern gate are strong, tall and thick. A little beyond the entrance is the Ganesha Temple. There are other archaic structures beside a spot which was used to confine prisoners of war. There are some interesting reliefs on the walls of the fort and the lawn inside the fort is well-maintained.

The most important, and interesting aspect of this fort is a white memorial tablet found on the outer wall opposite the Kote Anjaneya Temple. The message on the tablet reads, ''Through this breach the British assault was delivered. Dated March 21, 1791".

This writing takes us back to an event in 1791, which not only gave a twist to the history of Bangalore, but also altered the future of Tipu Sultan. During the third Mysore war, Lord Cornwallis led the army to the outskirts of Bangalore. Tipu was surprised by this move, as he was expecting him at Srirangapatna.

He rushed to Bangalore and camped at Kengeri, entrusting the task of facing the British forces to his trusted officers, Syed Sahib, Kamruddin Khan and a few others.

All arrangements had been made to face the British. Syed Sahib was in charge of Peta region and Kamruddin Khan was to face the enemy at the Western side of the fort. While all these arraragements were being made, some of the local leaders who were disgruntled with Tipu hatched a conspiracy against him.

They knew in advance about the British attack and approached Cornwallis. They assured him of help in capturing the fort provided he guaranteed them protection. Cornwallis willingly agreed.

Syed Sahib had made tight security arrangements at Halsoor gate to prevent the entry of the enemy. On the western side fighting had already commenced between Kamruddin Khan and the British. At the same time, about 1,000 soldiers, with Cornwallis, came in disguise to the eastern side. They found a breach in the wall of the fort and forced their entry through it. While Syed Sahib was fighting the enemy he was attacked from behind by these soldiers. He was shocked to see them come from inside the fort. He fled the battlefield immediately to save himself. Seeing their leader withdraw, the army
was in disarray. Thus Cornwallis could easily capture the fort.

Fort at City Market

Bangalore remained under the British for one year after the seizure. It was handed back to Tipu Sultan under the terms of the Treaty of Srirangapatnam, which was signed on March 19, 1792. In spite of such a thrilling history behind it and attempts made by the authorities to make it attractive, few visitors frequent this structure. There is absolutely no space at all for even a car or a taxi to park anywhere near the fort. If tourists are determined to visit, they have to venture through unclean roads. As the edifice is surrounded by a hospital there is no scope to improve the present condition. Thus an
important memorial, in the heart of the city, is doomed to remain just a mute witness to mundane happenings around. Tipu Sultan's Palace, to the west of Venkataramana Swamy Temple near Bangalore Medical College, is another compelling one among the old structures remaining in Bangalore.

The palace, temple and the armouries will be described in the next of the series.

(The author is the director of AARAMBH)
Photos by the author

--- DECCAN HERALD, Friday, June 16, 2000