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The Elephanta Caves

The Elephanta Caves , located on Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri, about 11 Km off the coast of the Gateway of India, Mumbai, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A visit to these caves, excavated probably in the 6 th century CE, is awe-inspiring, and also thought-provoking. Over the years, I have visited the caves a number of times, and also attended a number of talks by experts in the fields of art, history and archaeology on the caves. Together, they help me understand these caves, their art, and the people they were created for, just a little bit better. Every new visit, every new talk, every new article I read about the caves, fleshes out the image of what the island and the caves would have been like, at their peak. I last wrote about the caves on this blog, in 2011, almost exactly 11 years ago. Since then, my understanding of the caves has, I would like to think, marginally improved. Hence this attempt to write a new and updated post, trying to bring to life, the caves of Elephan

On Tipu's trail - Six Sights in Srirangapatna

He was called ‘The Tiger of Mysore’, but it is Srirangapatna that stands a silent witness to his exploits. The town might be named for the reclining Lord, Sri Ranganatha, but it is Tipu Sultan, who made this small town his capital and the focal point of his multiple wars against the British, who is most remembered here. All over the town are scattered reminders of those momentous years, when the town and its fort bore the brunt of the British might, and survived, over and over again, till it finally fell, with its bravest king. Tipu’s life began near Bangalore, and took him across Southern India in his bid for freedom, and following his trail is not an easy task. However, a walk through Srirangapatna allows us to follow his footsteps to a small extent. Join me as I try to follow his trail, visiting 6 monuments connected to his memory.

1.     Ruins of Srirangapatna Fort and Palace

The first indication that Srirangapatna is indeed a fort, comes right at the outskirts, when the crumbling fortifications talk of the time the sound of cannons reverberated through the now silent countryside. The fort was first built by the Hoysala kings, and expanded during the reign of the Vijayanagar Empire, but it was under Tipu that the fort saw the most long-lasting battles.

Tipu’s palace in Srirangapatna was once an imposing structure, but only ruins remain today, like the rest of the fort. Tipu Sultan is said to have been an ardent Muslim, devoted to his religion. However, he is also known to have made massive donations and provided help to various temples in the region. His palace was built near both, the Sriranganatha Temple, and the Jama Masjid, so he could hear both, the temple bells as well as the calls to prayer, at both shrines.

2.     Dungeons

Where there are forts, there are dungeons, and in Srirangapatna are two dungeons that speak to us of two different wars. Colonel Bailey’s Dungeon, very near the temple, is where the colonel was imprisoned during the second Mysore War. The chain posts built into the walls and a sole cannon which fell through the roof are grim reminders of those terrible times, but fascinating to see as monuments to our interesting history.
The Thomas Inman’s dungeon, on the other hand, was used to imprison the Marathas, who then sided with the British, but at present, this dungeon is not in any condition to enter.

3.     Jama Masjid

The Jama Masjid or the Masjid-e-Ala, was built by Tipu after he ascended the throne of Mysore. The towering turrets even today stand tall over the surroundings, the sole survivors of Tipu’s legacy here.

4.     Dariya Daulat Bagh

14 Km from Srirangapatna, on the banks of the Kaveri, is Dariya Daulat Bagh, Tipu’s summer palace. A simple, wooden structure, built in an Indo Saracenic style, in the centre of a sprawling garden, the most fascinating thing about the palace are its walls, covered with paintings, showing the battles of Hyder Ali and Tipu. The paintings are so incredibly detailed, with so many interesting facets, that one can simply spend hours poring over them. Today, the palace houses a museum, dedicated to Tipu, filled with his memorabilia.

5.     Place where Tipu’s body was found

Tipu’s final battle was just as impressive as his entire life. He fought, side by side with his men, against multiple British soldiers, and he was found, with the rest of his men, surrounded by the dead bodies of all those he had sent to an early grave. It was perhaps a fitting end that he died as he lived, firm in his quest for freedom, killed by a shot by an unknown soldier. A simple stone marks this spot, installed by Colonel Wellesly, which only goes to show that even his enemies admired him, even while they fought against him!

6.     Gumbaz – Tipu’s Mausoleum

Tipu lived a tough life, filled with conflict, forever on the move. However, he lies at rest, in the most peaceful of places, on the banks of the Kaveri, near his summer palace. This was the place he chose for his parents’ memorials, and it is here that he lies too, along with the rest of his family. This structure, like his other monuments, is built in the Indo Saracenic style, and filled with intricate details. Verdant lawns surround the structure, irrigated by the waters of the holy river. All around are scattered other memorials, to his family members, and even friends and courtiers.  On the inner walls of his mausoleum are painted stripes in the colours of the Tiger. After all, he was the ‘Tiger of Mysore’!

Srirangapatna is just 19 Km from Mysore, and worth a whole day to itself. Make sure you visit the Sri Ranganatha Temple at the centre of the town, and, if you are interested in nature, do spare a few hours for the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary.

This post was originally published on the Club Mahindra blog. You  can read it here.

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  1. Indeed he was a great man. I like your blog because it has very interesting information and has great pictures. I see you have a lot of love for traveling. Keep up the good work. I have learned many things from you!

  2. @Anuradha, India is truly a nation so rich in history and relics that I am quite sure every city has the relics of several Sultans, Maharajas and Chatrapatis to boast of. You have shared some impeccable photographs that leave me awestruck.

    1. Thank you so much, Amrita! You are so right! every corner of our country has gems like these! Its up to us to appreciate and preserve them though...


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