Tuesday 31 December 2013

When Bangaloreans relished Roman Beauty

Two days ago, there was an article in Deccan Herald about how apples in Bangalore have made a comeback and how the first harvest of apples are being harvested in Lalbagh.
Bangalore had never grown apples and the credit for introducing this fruit must go to the British, particularly the Superintendents who tended to Lalbagh.
Apple was one of the many temperate fruits brought to Bangalore mainly to sustain the demand for such items from European civil and military officials.
The demand for apples and other English and European fruits and vegetables had their beginnings in the establishment of the Cantonment in Bangalore in 1804.
The British had decided to pull our their troops from Srirangapatna as they were unable to face the mosquitoes. They choose Bangalore as their spot for setting up the biggest Cantonment n south India
The then Governor-General, Wellesley had asked several botanists and naturalists, including Benjamin Heyne, whop was employed in the Madras Government to take over Lalbagh in 1800 and introduce crops, including fruits and vegetables palatable to the British.
Thus was born the first experiment in India to grow alien crops and this started in 1800 and continued till 1807. Apple was one such fruit. Heyne also introduced cocoa, durian, clove, nutmeg and mangosteen and the fist saplings of these were planted in the Lalbagh.
By 1820, apples were popular in Lalbagh. In the same year, John Sullivan, the Collector of Coimbatore, sent a few Apple saplings to Arthur Hope, the British Resident in Bangalore in 1820.
In 1880, the Superintendent of Lalbagh, John Cameron, introduced Rome beauty Apple to Lalbagh. He actually imported seventeen varieties of apples and grew them in Lalbagh. Of them, he found the Roman Beauty the best to grow in Bangalore. He then introduced the Apple to other parts of Bangalore and its surroundings such as Whitefield.
The seeds of Roman Beauty were then distributed to farmers and owners of estates in Bangalore and Whitefield.. Slowly, the cultivation of Apple became popular and it soon became a commercial crop.
Cameron also introduced a variety of fruits and vegetables in Bangalore, including chow chow, cabbage, cauliflower, beetroot, radish, carrot, garden peas, turnips, rhubarb. Another Superintendent of Lalbagh, Gustav Krumbiegal, introduced Italian olives, Araucarias from Tasmania, and even caraway from France.
Krumbeigel took a series of steps to made the Apple a commercially viable and lucrative crop. 

By the 1920s, Bangalore’s Apple were named Roman Beauty and they had a unique taste. These Apples were grown in more than a thousand acres in and around Bangalore. It was very popular among Bangaloreans and it was sold in the neighbouring districts too. 
Compared to their counterparts in Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, the apples from Namma Bangalore were priced cheap and they had their own taste. Bangaloreans relished it and even the Maharaja of Mysore planted scores of apple trees in what is today Lower Palace orchard, Upper Palace Orchard and Vasanthnagar. 
Several British bungalows and big houses of native Indians, as they were called, had trees that gave these Roman Beauties. People of all walks of life, including the British and large number of foreigners, relished them.
However, the change in the climate, growing urbanisation and depletion of the green cover sounded the death knell for the apples. A disease quickly spread among the apple trees and soon they became history. 

Monday 30 December 2013

The first drought of Bangalore

It was sometime in 1804 and Bangalore was just a small dot on the map of India. It was not even as big as Mysore, which had become the capital of the Wodeyar Kingdom.
The new king of the Wodeyars, Mumadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar (1794-1868), had gone about in right earnest rebuilding Mysore which had been ransacked and pillaged by Tipu Sultan years ago.
Though Tipu had died in May 1799 at the gates of Srirangapatna and the British had returned the Mysore Kingdom to the Wodeyars, the British were still wary of the south. The British forces in the South were completely exhausted by the four Anglo-Mysore wars that they had fought against Hyder Ali (1721-1781) and his son Tipu Sultan (1750-1799).
Though Tipu’s children and grandchildren had been taken prisoners and kept in the Vellore fort (they were taken to the fort on June 19, 1799), there was still a sense of uneasy among the remaining British troops that had been billeted in Srirangapatna. FSherzada Hyder Ali, the grandson of Hyder Ali and son of Abdul Kareem, had escaped from Vellore Fort and joined the Marathas in 1801.
The Mysore State was on the boil and there were revolts in different parts of the Kingdom. The British managed to suppress them, but they were vary of a backlash. They had wanted to completely destroy the fortification of Srirangapatna but had been asked to desist by the then Governor-General, Wellesley.
Wellesley had also refused to pay heed to the entreaty of  the British officers to shift the Army from Srirangapatna to Bangalore.  
Though the British had appropriated Bangalore to themselves, including the Lalbagh, they had conveniently left out the Pettah or Pete areas or old Bangalore to the Maharaja of Mysore, Mummadi Krishna Raja Wodeyar. Thus, old Bangalore was still in the hands of the Wodeyars, while the fort was in the custody of the British.
The British had a substantial military presence in Srirangapatna and Mysore. The Wodeyars had shifted the capital of Mysore Kingdom from Srirangapatna to Mysore and the boy king, Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar, was assisted among others by Dewan Purnaiah (1746-1812) and Barry Close (1756-1813), the British Resident, in running the kingdom.
The British in Mysore were more uneasy as they for the first time faced a sever drought. In one of the official despatches to the Madras Government, Dr. Heyne, on August 25, 1804, reported on the state of the garden- Lalbagh-under his care, stating that it had suffered due to drought, and requesting permission to purchase around 400 sheep to ensure a supply of manure for the Garden.
The Madras Government replied from its headquarters in Fort St George, on March 23, 1804 and October, 16, 1804. Both these letters were regarding Dr. Benjamin Heyne's report on the Botanical Garden at Bangalore.
It was in 1799 that Hayne had taken charge of the gardens under the order of Lord Wellesley. Dr. Heyne was a naturalist and a medical officer with the Topographical survey of Mysore. During the surveys, economic, demographic, botanical, geographical and cultural data of Mysore was collected.
Botanical data was given particular importance as Wellesley himself had instructed Heyne to take charge of the Sultan's Cypress Gardens, called the Lalbagh, and stressed that it should be turned into a botanical garden and developed “as a depository of useful plants sent from different parts of the country”.
Heyne also sent a letter to Fort St George, dated April 27, 1803, proposing the retention of a small spot of ground in Bangalore for the purpose of cultivating the potato, turnip and other culinary vegetables.
However, the drought of 1804 bothered him and he wanted the permission of the Madras Government to rectify this.
If Heyne was bothered about lack of manure and water to his Lalbagh, the British were concerned about the severe drought in Bellary during 1802-04 and again in 1805-07.
By then, Hayne had collected a large variety of plants and trees, giving special importance to economically useful plants and those that could be used medicinally. He left Lalbagh in 1812 to join and assists Francis Buchanan in his survey of Mysore.
He himself reported sometime in 1812 that some plots of  Lalbagh had all but disappeared and the major part of the garden was under the cultivation of ragi and rice.
At around 1804, the British Residency was just shifted from Mysore to Bangalore and the official residence of the British Resident of Mysore was the old post office building on Madras Bank Road.
Unfortunately, there is not adequate record of this drought though we are told that there was scarcity of water and foodgrains and that the people of the Petta suffered most. The ruling Wodeyars did their best to alleviate the suffering of the people.    
However, this drought was as severe or as painful as the one that struck Mysore Kingdom, including Bangalore, decades later. The drought and famine of 1875 that would sweep through Mysore State led to major changes in lifestyle and economy of Bangalore and Mysore.
Yet, the drought of 1804 is important as it is the first such natural calamity that occurred when the British were ruling the south and they had partitioned the Kingdom of Mysore between themselves, Wodeyars and Nizam of Hyderabad.

Thankfully, the Lalbagh had developed into a world class garden by then and it continues to exist today and the full credit for this goes to the foresightedness of its founders and its many superintendents.  

Sunday 29 December 2013

He introduced apples to Bangalore

The Lalbagh is perhaps the most famous landmark of Bangalore and it is one of the finest botanical gardens in the world. There are many people whose association with the Lalbagh is still recalled with respect and awe.
If Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan are credited with having started the garden and also developed it into the charbagh style, the British subsequently took pains to not only maintain the garden but also develop it.
The names of botanists and Superintendents of Lalbagh like James Cameroon, Krumbeigal, Mari Gowda and others quickly come to the fore but there are a few others whose contribution is as great as that of these men.
One such person is Benjamin Heyne (1770-1819), a surgeon, botanist and naturalist. Heyne nurtured Lalbagh during the early 1800s and it was he who gave the botanical garden its present shape. What is more it is this man who introduced apples into Bangalore along with several other fruits and vegetables.
It was in 1793 that a young Heyne joined the service of the British East India Company. In 1796, he was assigned to the Madras Presidency as Botanist to Samalkot (Samalkot today is s small mandal in Andhra Pradesh and it is about 64 kilometres from Rajamundhry. Samalkot then had a botanical garden and it was part of the Northern Circars that the British ruled).
In 1799, the British alliance defeated Tipu Sultan in the fourth and final Anglo-Mysore war. The British returned the Mysore Kingdom to the Wodeyars and appropriated the Lalbagh Botanical garden in Bangalore.
The British decided to transform Lalbagh as a “depository for useful plants sent from different parts of the country.” They then ordered Dr. Benjamin Heyne, the Company’s botanist at Madras, to take charge of  Lalbagh.
The order to preserve and protect Lalbagh came from the Governor-General of India, Richard Wellesley. The British asked Heyne to accompany the Surveyor, with the following instructions:
“A decided superiority must be given to useful plants over those which are merely recommended by their rarity or their beauty,... to collect with care all that is connected with the arts and manufacturers of this country, or that promises to be useful in our own; to give due attention to the timber employed in the various provinces of his route,... and to collect with particular diligence the valuable plants connected with his own immediate profession, i.e. medicine.”
Heyne was in charge of Lalbagh till 1812. He set about the task he had been assigned with diligence and he collected a lot of plants, shrubs and plants from Bangalore, Mysore, Coimbatore and even the Western Ghats.
A large collection of plant specimens which were forwarded to London. He collected more than 350 species from the Western Ghats and more than 200 species were named by him. He also sent many of his Indian botanical specimens to the German botanist Albreht Roth, whose work “Novae plantarum” ) is largely based on these botanical specimen.
Coming back to the Survey work he had been entrusted with,  Heyne was assistant to Francis Buchanan. Both took up and completed the epoch making Mysore Survey.
Benjamin Heyne died at Madras in 1819 but not before he had been appointed to superintend in 1803 the cultivation of potatoes and other culinary vegetables such as turnip in the Company's garden in Mysore State. The garden, of course, was in Bangalore.
He was also tasked with the job of introducing bread fruit in Mysore State. Bread fruit belongs to the mulberry family, Moraceae. In Karnataka, it is locally called divi Halasu.
It is to him the credit must go of commissioning botanical illustrations though none of them survive today. In the eighteenth century, botanical illustrations had become important and botanists depended on them to identify, classify and publish botanical nomenclature. Heyne was keen to train ‘native' artists in identifying and illustrating characteristics of plants and shrubs that he had collected and planted in Lalbagh.

In 1803, William Bentinck wanted Heyne to  apply his “mineralogical knowledge to the subject of gold sand, collected in the vicinity of Bangalore, and the mode of extracting it from the stones in which it is embedded”.

Bangalore's Van Gogh

He was an artist, freedom fighter, legislator, newspaper editor and he was posthumously conferred the Distinguished Citizen of Bangalore.
Yet, he remains an obscure figure known largely in the field of painting. He was among the first few who loved painting the many trees, flowering plants and the beautiful parks of Bangalore. He loved Cubbon Park and Lalbagh and he immortalized them in colours.   
He excelled in painting landscapes and he had a distinct and unique style of his own so much so that he was often labelled as the Van Gogh of Bangalore.
Though he remembered for his contribution to painting, he took to it only after he was 53. Till then, he was a freedom fighter and politician rolled into one and he actively participated in the Vidhurashwatha Sathyagraha in Gauribidanur taluk where several farmers were killed by the British.
For two decades till his death in a road accident in 1988, he was a familiar figure on the tree lined avenues of Bangalore and its gardens and fountains, who carried his own folding stool, easel and art materials. He set them up wherever his eye caught the fancy and he got the urge to capture it on paint.
Born more than a hundred years ago in Dodaballapur, this man was none other than Rumale Chennabasaviah. He was a man of several vocations and he started out as a freedom fighter. Born in 1910, he was a freedom fighter till 1947 and then till 1963, a politician. He took to painting only in 1963and today he is more remembered for his landscapes of Bangalore than for anything else.
Many of his paintings are in water colours though he was adept at using oil paint.  
It was his elder brother who noticed his talent for art and enrolled him in Kala Mandir, in 1929-30. He then decided to study art at the Chamarajendra Technical Institute (CTI),  but he gave up after he met Mahatma Gandhi in 1934. Strangely, he exhibited 18 water colours at the Dasara Exhibition in Mysore in 1935 before abandoning the profession to jump into the freedom movement..
He participated in the Vidhuraswatha protest near Gauribidanur where ten people were killed in the firing. He spent several months in jail between 1939 and 1940.
It was only after 1947 that he decided to concentrate on his art but it was not until several years later that he again took up painting. Meanwhile, he took over as Editor of Tainadu, a Kannada newspaper, from 1956 to 1960.
In 1960, he went on to found the Chitrakala Parishat and from 1962, he began taking painting seriously.
He soon became famous as Rumale and today the Rumale Art House in 3rd Block, 45th Cross, Rajajinagar has a collection of one hundred of his paintings. He loved Cubbon Park and Lalbagh and frequently painted tress and flowers from these two gardens.  

On February 1988 morning, Rumale died in Bangalore when the autorickshaw he was travelling was hit by a factory bus just adjacent to Lalbagh.

Tuesday 17 December 2013

The little known historic temple

Bangalore has several temples dedicated to Someshwara or Ishwara (Eshwara) and the most famous is the one at Ulsoor or Halsoor. The Ulsoor temple was built by the Cholas and subsequently improved upon, enlarged and renovated by the Vijayanagars and Kempe Gowda.
The Ulsoor temple is a marvel of stone and it is a tourist attraction. Much has been said and written about it but there is one more similar temple in Bangalore that has not received the attention that it deserves. Nor is this temple on the tourist map.
Though the areas where this temple is located is situated amid one of the most heavily traversed roads of Bangalore, very few people and fewer motorists care to stop and spend time at this temple.
What is more astonishing is that this temple too is built by the Cholas and it is located in one f the oldest localities of Bangalore. However, neither Bangaloreans nor tourists seems to have heard of it, let alone come to visit it.
This is the temple of  Someshwara in Madivala. The temple is said to be as old if not older than Madivala. The temple is a virtual delight for an epigraphist as its walls are full of writings and records, some as early as 1247. This was the time when the Hoysalas were dominant in this part of Karnataka and their Emperors, Vira Narasimha and Veera Someshara defeated the Pandyas, Gangas and the Cholas.      
The 1247 record refers to lands donated “'below the big tank of Vengaluru”  by a resident of  Veppur, now called Begur. This probably means that the earliest Bangalore we know existed somewhere in and around Begur-Madivala.
Today, Madivala has lost almost all its links with the past. Talk of Madivala and the only thing that springs to the mind is the Central Silk Borad Road junction and the massive traffic hold up ever day.
The road engineering here is so bad and the traffic so heavy that vehicles keep on piling up regularly and at all hours.
None of the exhausted motorists have any inclination or even desire to stop for a few minutes near the silk board junction and take in the centuries old Someshwara Temple.
The Someshwara temple is a structure in stone and large portions of its outer walls are covered with inscriptions in Tamil and Snaskrit. The script used here to inscribe writings in Sanskrit is Grantha and this is yet another proof of its antiquity.
This script was widely used between the 6th century and the 19th century mainly by Tamil speakers in South India, particularly in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, to write Sanskrit. This script is in restricted use in traditional vedic schools or patashalas.
Other inscriptions relate to grants made during the reigns of Hoysala king Ballala III and Chola king Rajendra. One record, from 1365, mentions a land grant at Tamaraikkirai  and this today is known as Tavarkere locality.
Apart from the inscriptions, the outer walls are sculpted with images of  various gods including Ganesha, Durga and Vishnu.
The garba griha and artha mantapa of the temple appear as they were constructed. These inner chamber is small and dark.
There is a beautiful Nandi placed in the artha mantapa. It faces the Linga, which is believed to have self manifested.
Though the temple was built by the Cholas, it was substantially renovated and repaired by the Vijayanagar Emperors.
The temple is open for worship from 7:30 a.m., to 11a.m., and again from 5:30 p.m., to 8:30 p.m.
Maha Shivratri, every February, Pradosham which occurs once a fortnight and every Monday is special for this temple.

The temple is very near the silk board junction. It is located near the Mariamma Temple and the place to alight if traveling by BMTC bus is Kuvempu Nagar bus stand.   

Monday 16 December 2013

No King died in this palace

This is rated as one of the finest palaces in the world and lakhs of tourists come every day to look at the resplendent royal home. The palace has become so famous that it has been giving the Taj Mahal of Agra a run for its money as the most visited monument in India.
Before Independence, the palace was not only the centre of attraction but also the chief employer of the erstwhile princely Kingdom. Though it was designed by a British architect, it is essentially an Indian creation, combining many styles.
Strangely, this is not the first palace but one of the many that stood there. The palace that stands today was rebuilt starting from 1897 after a major fire destroyed most of the structure during a wedding ceremony.
This is the majestic and awe-inspiring Palace of Mysore, also mistakenly and more popularly called as the Amba Vilas Palace, of Mysore. This is the official residence of the Wodeyars - the royal family of Mysore, which ruled the princely state of Mysore from 1399.
However, what sets this royal palace aside from others of its ilk is that it has never seen the death of a Raja on its premises for over a hundred years. All the Kings and princes who have sat on the ornate and magnificent Chinnada Simhasana or Golden Throne have never died on the palace premises after the structure was rebuilt.
The last King to die in Mysore was Mummadi Krishna Raja Wodeyar and this was sometime in 1868. Then, the palace was a wooden structure and it had been built in 1799-1800 after the British had killed Tipu Sultan in the fourth and final Anglo-Mysore battle.
The British had restored the Wodeyars to the Mysore throne and Mummadi Krishna Raja Wodeyar was crowned King in a makeshift tent in today’s Nazarbad area of Mysore. As Tipu had completely razed the erstwhile royal residence and forcibly transported the royal family of Wodeyars from Mysore to Srirangapatna where he kept them under strict watch, a new palace had to be built.
The palace, built of wood, came up exactly at the very place, where the Main palace stands today. History records that the first palace was built by the Wodeyars here sometime in the 14th century. However, this structure did not survive for long and it was demolished and reconstructed. The palace seems to have been constructed multiple times.  
The current palace was commissioned by then regent of Mysore, Maharani Vani Vilas Sannidhna, in 1897 and it was completed in 1912 and expanded later around 1940. British architect, Henry Irwin, designed the Indo-Saracenic three-storied structure .  
Today, the palace sees more than 2.7 million visitors every year. Strangely, after Mummadi Krishna Raja Wodeyar (1794-1868) died (March 27, 1868) in the old wooden palace, no other reigning monarch has died here. He had ruled the Mysore kingdom from June 30, 1799.
After Mummadi Krishna Raja Wodeyar, his grandson, Chamarajendra Wodeyar, the tenth, was enthroned in 1868.  Born in 1863, the young king was just 31 years of age when he passed way in distant Calcutta.
Chama Raja Wadiyar X was also known as Chama Rajendra Wadiyar X ruled from 1881 and 1894. He was born at the old palace or wooden palace in Mysore on February 22, 1863, as the third son of Sardar Chikka Krishnaraj Urs of the Bettada-Kote branch of the ruling clan. His father had died a week before his borth and his mother, Rajkumari Sri Puta Ammani Avaru, was the eldest daughter of Krishna Raja Wodeyar, the third, the then Maharaja of Mysore.
Krishnaraja Wodeyar adopted as heir his grandson, Chamaraja, on June 18, 1865. This adoption was recognised by the British Government of India on April 16, 1867. Since Mysore was under the direct administration of the British from 1831, Chamaraja was handed over the Kingdom only in 1881.
Chamaraja Wodeyar died of diphtheria in  Calcutta on December 28, 1894. His last rites were performed at Calcutta itself and even today there us a small memorial where his last rites were performed.
Chamaraja was succeeded by his 10-year-old son, Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV. Since he was young, his mother, Maharani Kempa Nanjammani Vani Vilasa Sannidhana Avaru, served as regent of Mysore, for some tine.
Krishna Raja Wodeyar IV, also known as  Nalwadi Krishna Raja Wodeyar, was the Maharaja from 1902 until his death in 1940. He died in Bangalore palace.
His successor, Jaya Chamarajendra Wodeyar Bahadur,(1919 – 1974) was the 25th and the last Maharaja of Mysore and he reigned from 1940 to 1950. Jayachamarajendra too died at the Bangalore palace in 1974.
Jayachamarajendra’s son was Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar. He was only a Yuvaraja and he was the last scion of the Wodeyars. He too died at the Bangalore palace just a few days ago.
Thus, we see that apart from Vani Vilasa Sannidhana, who was the Regent of Mysore (1894-1902) and who died in the Mysore palace, none of the rulers have breathed their last on the premises.
The last reigning monarch to die at the palace was Mummadi Krishna Raja Wodeyar and this was in 1868. Since then, the rulers-Chamaraja, Nalwadi Krishna Raja, Jayachamarajendra and Srikanta Datta-have all died outside the palace.
All these rulers with the exception of Chamaraja have died at the Bangalore palace which was built in 1862. This palace was bought or purchased by Chamaraja Wodeyar  in 1873 from Rev. Garrett, the first Principal of Central High School of Bangalore.   
What would you call this. Coincidence or a mere play of history. Whatever it is, this is as mysterious as the royal curse. Incidentally, both the palaces-the Mysore and Bangalore palaces, are under litigation and both act as the residence of the Wodeyars. A section of both the palaces have been turned into private museums by Srikantadatta Wodeyar. He lived, just like his father and grandfather, in both the palaces. 

Saturday 14 December 2013

The Vajra Musti Kalaga

There have been several queries on Vajra Musti Kalaga. Several people have either written or called to find out how the sport is played and whether they can learn it.
Well, here are some details and we hope it will be of some help.
The Vajra Musti Kalaga is a sport played in Mysore only during Dassara and that too only within the confines of the Mysore Palace.
The name of the sport has its origin in Sanskrit. The Vajra Musti refers to a knuckleduster-like weapon. It also means the weapon which is employed in this unique forms of wrestling. The weapon is called by many names such as ayudha, bhukhandi or Indra-mukti which means Indira’s fist.
The Vajramusti is usually made of ivory or buffalo horn. Its appearance is that of a knuckleduster, slightly pointed at the sides and with small spikes at the knuckles. The variation used for warfare had long blades protruding from each end, and an elaborate bladed knuckle.
The Vajramusti is a fierce mode of  wrestling where the combatants wear the Ayudha or Vajramusti on their right hand. This weapon has several small holes along its length, so it can be tied onto the hand with a thread. This is to ensure that it cannot be  dislodged during the fight.
A weapon similar to the Vajramushti was also used by ancient Greek and Roman boxers and Pancrationists. They called it the Cestus and this was a ring, usually made of bronze, worn around the knuckles.
The first mention of vajra musti is in Manasollasa, a reference work, of the Chalukya Emperor Someswara III (1124–1138). However, history tells us that Vajra Musti was practiced even during the times of Mauryas.
The first English account of Vajra Musti is given by James Scurry (1766–1822), a British soldier and memoirist. He was captured by Hyder Ali and imprisoned in Srirangapatna for ten years from 1780.
After his release in 1790, he reached an English camp. He then prepared a narrative of his captivity in 1794, but it was published in 1824, after his death.
This work is called “The captivity, sufferings, and escape of James Scurry”. In one of the chapters, he describes the Vajra Musti thus: “The Jetti’s would be sent for, who always approached with their masters at their head, and, after prostration, and making their grand salams, touching the ground each time, they would be paired, one school against another. They had on their right hands the wood-guamootie -vajra-musti- of four steel talons, which were fixed to each back joint of their fingers, and had a terrific appearance when their fists were closed. Their heads were close shaved, their bodies oiled, and they wore only a pair of short drawers. On being matched, and the signal given from Tippu, they begin the combat, always by throwing the flowers, which they wear round their necks, in each other’s faces; watching an opportunity for striking with the right hand, on which they wore this mischievous weapon which never failed lacerating the flesh, and drawing blood most copiously. Some pairs would close instantly, and no matter which was under, for the gripe was the whole; they were in general taught to suit their holds to their opponent’s body, with every part of which, as far as concerned them, they were well acquainted. If one got a hold against which his antagonist could not guard, he would be the conqueror; they would frequently break each other’s legs and arms”.
After Tipu died in 1799, the Wodeyar Kings of Mysore continued patronising it. Over decades, it slowly lost out to other sports and was restricted to the royalty. It then became an integral part of the Dasara and came to be reduced as a ritual.
The Kalaga now precedes the Jumbo Savari on Vijaya Dashami and it is personally inaugurated by the Maharajas of Mysore. After the last Maharaja, Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar, died, it was his son, Srikantadatta Narasimnharaja Wodeyar who inaugurated this ancient sport in the palace courtyard.    
The sport commences on Vijaya Dashami and it takes place at the Savari Thotti, the courtyard in the Mysore palace. The Jumboo Savari procession commences immediately after this ritual.
This year, that is 2013, the Vajra Musti Kalaga began with Yuvaraja, Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, performing pooje between 9.15 a.m., and 9.25 a.m., in the auspicious Vrischika lagna.
The palace priests, Narasimha Sharma and Manjunath Sharma, chanted the slokas after which the Kalaga or fight between Jetties commenced at 9.50 am.
This year, for jetties participated in the contest. Narayana Jetty from Bangalore, Vijaykumar Jetty from Mysore, Anil Jetty from Channapatna and Shamanth Kumar Jetty from Chamarajanagar.
The contest is stooped even as the first blood spills. Narayana Jetty
drew the first blood by pinning down Mysore’s Vijay Kumar Jetty.  Srikantadatta Wodeyar then pierced a pumpkin with a dagger,
signaling the commencement of Vijaya Yatre or victory parade.
Senior jetties Srinivas Jetty and Tiger Balaji were the referees of the the bout.
By the way, R Vijaykumar Jetti is an autorickshaw driver from Mysore. You can ask his address at the Mysore Palace office or any autorickshaw driver hailing from Mysore.
Last year, Manjunath Jetty, a KSRTC driver, had represented Mysore and had won the bout. The KSRTC officials will have details about him, if not the conductors and drivers. 
Even today, members of the Jetty or Jetti community are found in large numbers in Mysore, Chamarajanagara, Channapatna and Bangalore. They originally hailed from Delmal in Gujarat but migrated to Vijayanagar first and Mysore next when they saw that the Mysore Kingdoms –of Hyder, Tipu and Wodeyars-patronised wrestling.
History tells us that the first migration of the Jettys from Gujarat was in the 11th century when the Hoysalas ruled Mysore.
If you want more details abpout jettys and their art, you can contact M.R. Madhava, son of M.R. Sudarshan of the Jetty family, who lives in Mysore.
The family of  Madhava is synonymous with the vajra mushti kalaga. They trace their fighting skills to the times of Tipu Sultan. When Kari Jatappa, great great grandfather of Madhava, was a Raja Vastadi or royal courtier. Another well-known Vajra musti exponent in this family is Rama Jattappa who was patronised by  Mummudi Krishnaraja Wodeyar.
Rama Jatappa was considered to be invincible and people treated him with a lot of respect. They would say “Aakashakke eeni ella, Rama Jatappange kustili sati ella” (Just as there is no ladder to the sky, there is no equal to Rama Jatappa). Another wrestler in the family was M.R. Jatappa who supplied agarbattis to the palace durbar. It was famous all over India. His son was M.R.  Sudarshan, who was conferred the title Mr. Body Builder Mysore and with Mr. Olympics in Madras.
Tiger Balaji, the referee is one of the five sons of  M R. Sudarsha. The other brothers of Tiger Balaji are Ramji, Basavanna, Arvind and Madhav. All five were experts in wrestling and M.R. Madhava specialised in Varja Musti.
Now coming to the contact details, in case anyone is interested in getting more details about the sport or the participants, please check with the Mysore Palace Board. This board is in charge of the Mysore Palace and is involved in its day to day running. If you fail to get information here, you can contact the office of  the late Srikantadatta Wodeyar and we are sure they will be happy to help you out.  

There are many akhadas or wrestling houses in Bangalore and Mysore and they will be able to give you more details. If you still fail to gather information, check out with the Karnataka Wrestling Federation. They should be having some information. If all this fails, head straight to Mysore, talk to the auto drivers and ask them to take you to the house of  Madhava or any other Jetty.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

The Pyroclasts of Peddapalli

India has a variety of tourism circuits. They include historical, pilgrim, Nature, wildlife and even medical tourism and in Mumbai there is the slum tourism which takes you to Dharavi, the largest slum in Asia and possibly even the world.
However, there is one sector where the tourism potential has not been tapped. This is the Geological sites that are available in plenty in India and Karnataka is fortunate in having four of them. Of them one is right in Bangalore city and another is near the metropolis. The other two are a little far away.
The first is of course the famed rock in Lalbagh botanical gardens and the Bugle rock in Basavanagudi. Both the rock formations are millions of years old and both are of immense geological value.
But did you know that another little known wonder of Bangalore is that it sits atop a rock and this is called gneiss.
Another geological wonder is the Pyroclastic rocks of Peddapalli near Kolar, which is a little more than 75 kilometers from Bangalore.
The third geological wonder is the Pillow lava formations in  Maradihalli near Chitradurga. The fourth geological monument of national importance is the Columnar basaltic lava on St.Mary's Island near Udupi in Arabian Sea.
Since, an earlier post has already dealt with both the rocks at Lalbagh and Bugle Rock, let us go to the geological rock formations in Kolar district.
Kolar district adjoins Bangalore district and from times immemorial it has been known as the land of gold. Kolar and its surroundings are historically important. It is also the district with a large number of pilgrim places.
Today, thousands of people travel through the district on the way to Tirupathi-Tirumala bit few know the jaw-sagging rocky outcrops that we see when we enter the district is more than a picture postcard.
The rock formations at Peddapalli near Kolar have been declared as a natural or geological wonder by the Geological Survey of India (GSI). But apart from budding geologists and Earth scientists, few know of the importance of this unique rock formation.
Peddapalli is a small village  about 700 meters east of the road connecting Kolar Gold Field with the Bangarpet- Betmangala.
There is signboard put up by the Geological Survey of India (GSI) leading to the rock formation and it can be best approached by driving towards the southerly diversion near the 10 km stone for about one kilometer.
The rocky outcrop of pyroclasts is on the north west corner of the village. Pyroclastic Pyroclasts is also called as tepra  (It is a Greek word for ash) and they are nothing but volcanic fragments that was hurled through the air by volcanic activity that took place here several millions of years ago.
The explosions could have been one or many and such rocks would have hardened over a period of several million years. A  pyroclastic rock is a hardened, solidified or compressed version of an originally loose pyroclastic deposit that was thrown up in air and fell in a heap on the ground and subsequently solidified.
The word pyroclastics is derived from a Greek word meaning fire. This is reference to the red hot lava that comes out a volcano. Thus the term pyroclastic means broken by fire.
If the volcanic rocks has been transported and reworked through mechanical action either by wind or water, they are then called volcaniclastic.
By the way, even ash is considered to be pyroclast as even it is a form of  fine dust made up of volcanic rock.
These pyroclast thrown up by a volcano vary in size and composition. However, all these ejected material consolidate to form pyroclastic rocks.
The smaller rocks is known as lapilli, while bigger sized rocks are called as volcanic bombs or blocks. Some of the bigger rocks are known to weigh thousands of pounds. Some rock fragments of granite gneiss found in Peddahali measure upto 80 cm in diameter
The GSI says the Pyroclastic rocks of Peddapalli is a welded rock of large fragments of granite, granite gneiss, basalt and banded ferruginous quartzite which is set in a matrix of ignimbrite. While many rock fragments are angular, some of them are round in shape.

Check out the natural rock formation. It will help us understand the history of the Earth where we all live.

Saturday 16 November 2013

When Rice saw Lalbagh

No visit to Bangalore would be complete without walking around Lalbagh, India’s most famous botanical garden. But did you know that this was almost precisely the same words that BL Rice (1837-1927) wrote when he visited Bangalore and wrote the gazetteer.
Rice was in Bangalore to compile facts for his gazette. He went around the city and he has given us a detailed description of Bangalore and its environs.
He says horticulture in the State and Bangalore in particular received a boost with the establishment of the Agri-Horticultural society in Bangalore in 1839.
Horticulture received a further boost when Lalbagh was declared as a horticultural and botanical garden in 1856.
Rice says the Lalbagh helped growers and horticulturists of Bangalore make a profitable living.
The Lalbagh inspired many Indian and European growers and farmers to take up horticulture and floriculture. Both the Lalbagh and growers imported seeds and plants directly from England and other places.
Rice says Roses were the most favoured flowering plant to be imported into Bangalore. He says the authorities at Lalbagh took care to grow 258 varieties of roses, 160 kinds of ferns, 122 varieties of crotons and a large number of ornamental and flowering plants including orchids and creepers.
The Lalbagh thus took the initiative in introducing several new varieties of plants and fruit bearing trees in the State. Besides, it imported scores of species of plants and trees and encouraged the growth of horticultural crops.
Rice says Lalbagh imported from South America, varieties such as  Achras Sapota (which is widely used in medicine), Eucharis Grandiflora, Allamanda Grandiflora and from north America it imported Magnolia Grandiflora, rubra, phlox paniculata.
Plants and tree such as AgapanthusUmbillatus,  Mellanthus Major, Ganzia Splendens were imported from the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.
Lalbagh also imported from the South Sea islands, Acalypha tricolour and Crotons, while the Castanospermum funebris, Aslophila latebrosa and coccoloba plotyclada came from Australia.
The Cupressus funebris, farfugium grande, alternathera sessilis all came from China,      
The Anagalis carrulea, viola odorata, myosotis arvenis came from England and from Mexico came Fuchsia fulgens, ageratum mexicanum and agave Americana.
Rice found all these species growing in the Lalbagh. He says no account of Bangalore would be complete without a notice of Lalbagh. “This beautiful garden, situated a mile to the east of the fort, appears to have been first laid out in the time of Hyder Ali and enlarged in the time of Tipu Sultan”.
He then goes on to mention the description of Lalbagh in 1800 by Buchanan.
Rice says that Lalbagh has a rare and valuable collections of tropical, sub-tropical pants together with indigenous and foreign fruit bearing trees, He says this stock is constantly replenished by exchanges and donations. He says the Lalbagh was extended and it covered a little more than 100 acres.
He also mentions that a spacious glass house has been constructed. He then goes on to mention that a native artist has been hired to paint coloured drawing of all plants.
Thus, we see that Lalbagh even a century ago was the center of attraction and people visited it in large numbers even then. It was a cynosure of all eyes then and has continued to remain so even centuries later.
By the way, all the shrubs, plants and trees mentioned by Rice still continue to flourish in Lalbagh. Care to take a look. Then head to Lalbagh.        

Friday 15 November 2013

A Chanakya link to this town

Bangalore today is acknowledges as one of the oldest cities that existed on this side of Karnataka. True, its antiquity may not be as old as some of the religious and pilgrim places in India but there are several villages and small towns in and around Bangalore that are as old, if not, more old than many such places in south India.
One such town, which today, is known for its special economic zone, is Nandagudi and its antiquity goes back to hundreds of years even before there was a place or rather city called Bangalore or the village Benda Kalaooru.
Nandagudi has been in the news recently for the decision of the State Government to set up a SEZ there. Located just 45 kilometres from Bangalore in Hoskote taluk, the State Government proposed SEZ generated a lot of “heat and dust” and political parties and NGOs jumped into the fray backing and opposing the acquisition of land.
In the brouhaha over the issue of land acquisition and displacement of farmers, what was forgotten was that Nandagudi has a history dating back to the Nandas or the period when the Maurya dynasty took shape.
Much like Nandigram in West Bengal, Nandagudi too saw farmers in the forefront of the protests against the acquisition of the 31007 acres for the proposed SEZ and a modern township.
Even as political parties took sides and made hay, “scoring “brownie points over each other”, the history of Nandagudi and its link with Kautilya or Chanakaya took back seat.
As the name itself suggests, Nandigudi was more than two thousand years ago, a province of the Nandas who were overthrown by Chandragupta to found the Maurya dynasty.
Chandragupta was helped in his endeavour to build the first kingdom if India by Chanakya. This was sometime in 321 BC and if we calculate the timeline, it would be more than 2334 years ago. So ,we can safely say that the antiquity of Nandagudi goes back even years before this date.
Nandagudi, more than to thousand three years ago, was the capital of  Uttunga Bhuja who ruled over these areas. This King traced his lineage to the Pandavas. He belonged to the kakatiya clan, which says its ancestry is derived from Janamejaya, the King of Hastinapur.
Janamejaya was the son of Parikshit and the grandson of Abhimanyu. He was followed on the Hastinapur throne by Satanika and then by Kshemaka who was the last Puru King. He ruled for 50 years before he was killed by his commander Vishrava.
Kshemaka had two sons, Vishnuvardhana and Uttunga Bhuja. Both of them came away from north India and settled down in the south. While Vishnuvardhana made Dharmapuri the capital of his kingdom, Uttunga choose Nandagudi.
Nandagudi then became the capital of the Kingdom with four hundred or more villages. His son, Nanda, improved Nandagudi and called it Nandagiri. One of his ministers was Dandasasi Nayaka.
The Nandas are believed to have invaded south India. Three ancient Tamil poets, Mamulanar, Parankorranar and Attiraiyanar, write about this invasion. They talk of how the Nava Nandas came to Kosar and Vadugar and the defeat of their Tamil king of Mohur (Mohur in South Arcot).
Then, Nanda married a Chola princess of Kanchi in Tamil Nadu. His son was Vijayapala, who was said to have governed the province wisely. Over time, Nandigiri came to be known as Nandagudi. This account of the place and its history is dated in history to about 400 AD or nearly two thousand years ago.
Another legend, and this is true, is associated with the nine Nanda princes. All of them were taken prisoners by Uttunga Bhuja. These princes together were called the Nava Nandas. They were releases , thanks to the intervention of Chanakya or Kautilya and they returned to rule.      
This account is contained in the Sanskrit drama, Mudra Rakshasa or the Signet of the Minister by Vishakadatta. The Mahavamsa, a Buddhist text. also corroborates this fact. It says, “Nava Nanda (Nava bharato), tato asum”.
However, the name Nandagudi has created confusion in the minds of historians and research scholars on the origin of the place and the usurpation of Nanda Empire by Chandra Gupta as dramatised in the Mudra Rakshasa and as contained in several pother Greek and Indian accounts.
The Mysore Gazetteer states that the Rakateya family that ruled over Nandagudi had links to the Pandavas and that the line of the Kings of this province proceeds from Janamejaya,  Satanika, Kshemaka and his two sons, Vijayarka and Somendra. It says the sons of Vijayaraka and Somendra called Vishnuvardhana and Uttunga Bhuja, left north India and settled to the south of the Godavari.
When Nandagiri was built, it was initially the place where the four castes of Hindus were located. Even today, there are old buildings at Nandagudi which residents claim mark the site of Patalipur, the erstwhile capital of Uttunga Bhuja.
What happened to the capital of Uttunga. It is mystery that is waiting to be resolved. Perhaps, the Cholas overran Nandagudi or the Gangas who had nearby Kolar as their capital. What we are sure is that over a period of time, Nandagudi lost its importance and it could never again regain the glory of earlier times.
Many other towns and cities in and around Bangalore such as Bangalore itself, Anekal, Yelahanka, Magadi, Manne (near Nelamangala), Chennapatna, Ramanagar, Sira, Kanakapura grew in importance and relegated Nandagudi to the obscure town that it is today.  

Sunday 10 November 2013

The dreams of a Sultan

The dreams of Tipu Sultan or Tippuvina Kanasugalu is a Kannada  play written by playwright Girish Karnad. The play traces the story of Tipu and follows the last days of the Tiger of Mysore.
However, this post is not about this play. It is about the dreams of Tipu Sultan and it is these dreams that Tipu compiled in the form of a book.
The book, as can be expected, is not in India. It was looted from Srirangapatna along with other books, artifacts and other items by the British when they killed Tipu and overran Srirangapatna his capital on May 4, 1799.
The book, -dreams of Tipu-was not in the library or the royal library in Srirangapatna. It was discovered hidden in the bed chamber of the Sultan in his palace Lal Mahal the ruins of which can be seen today in front of the Sri Ranganatha Swamy Temple.
Tipu has recorded 38 dreams in this book. He was always careful t ensure that nobody saw the book or had an occasion to read it. He kept it so well hidden that even his personal servants and body guards could not locate it.
What makes this book unique is that it can give us a clear and umambiguous portrait of the man that Tipu was, his inner conflict and his ambition.
The dreams are recorded in flawless Persian, a tribute to the language skills of the Sultan. Most of the dreams are about his conflict with the British and the volatile political situation of the times.
The dreams tell us that Tipu was as human as anyone like us and that the hectic life he lived was reflected in his dreams too. The dreams are the inner reflection of his personality and a mirror to his unconscious self.
The dreams are in his won handwriting and reflect his inner most thoughts. It was discovered in his bed chamber after a thorough search  by none other than Col. Kirkpatirck who was assigned the task of  indexing Tipu’s library.
Habibullah, the Munshi of Tipu Sultan, was present at the
time the manuscript was discovered. But he too had only heard of the dreams and never seen it.
Kirkpatrick, in his letters and book on Tipu’s Library, acknowledges the fact that Habibullah knew of the manuscript but Tipu had concealed it even from him as he did not want anyone to read it.
Habibullah told Kirkpatrick that Tipu Sultan was always anxious to hide the book from the view of anyone who happened to approach him while he was either
reading or writing in it.
Later, on April 23, 1805 this book was presented in
the name of the Marquis Wellesley to Hugh Inglis, Chairman of the Court of  Directors of the East India Company, by Major Alexander Beatson.
This was how the book was first taken to the library of the India office in London and subsequently it became a part of the collection of the British Museum. A copy of this is available in the Bibliotheque Nationale of Paris which was made for it in 1822
The dreams and other notes in the book are recorded on the first thirty- two pages and again on eleven pages towards the end of it. In between, a large number of pages are left blank. The size of the register is 7 inches by 5I inches.
The first of the recorded dreams is dated 1785 and  the last 1798, just a year before he was killed in the fourth and final war with the British. The dreams cover thirteen years of his reign. By the way, Tipu has himself given his own
interpretations to some dreams.
Six of these dreams (Nos. 12, 13, 14, 17, 24 and 28) have
been translated by Beatson and given in the form of an
appendix to his book.
Beatson notes in his “ A View of the Origin and Conduct of War with Tippoo Sultauny London, 1800, p. 196”,  that “...the destruction of Caufirs (English) were subjects of a sleeping (no less than) that of his waking thoughts.” 
The language is good but on some places defective and even ungrammatical. But what has astonished its readers is that it has some spelling mistakes. Was this because Tipu woke himself forcefully from his sleep after his dreams and immediately recorded them without caring for either language or spelling. He himself agrees that he has recorded some of the dreams as soon as he woke up.
There are several dreams which give Tipu tidings of general success and victory in war such as dreams II, IV, V, VI, IX, XVI, XVII, XVIII, XIX, XX, XXII,
XXIII, XXVII, XXVIII, and XXXIII. Many dreams show us Tipu’s intense love and veneration for the Prophet,
Hazrat Ali, other Muslim saints and even sufis. This can be seen in dreams VIII, X, XII, XXXI XXXIV and
In some of the dreams, Tipu says he write them down almost immediately after he woke up. The Sultan also  interpreted some of his dreams as in dreams  
XIII, XVII, XXVIII and XXXI. Some of the interpretations are highly interesting and they show us the interpretative ability of the Sultan. For example, in dream XIII Tipu
interprets the woman in man's dress as the Marhattas, against whom he was waging a war at that time. In
dream XXVIII the three silver trays of  fresh dates are seen as the dominions of his three enemies, the British, the Marhattas and the Nizam, which he hoped, would fall into his hands.

Saturday 9 November 2013

The library that the British completely looted

Tipu Sultan (1750-1799) had a wonderful library. We are fortunate in having an account of the books that he maintained in his library near his Lal Mahal palace in Srirangapatna, near Mysore.
The library was fortunately not burnt when the British defeated Tipu in the fourth and final Anglo-British war if 1799 and overran Srirangapatna on May 4, 1799.
What the British forces did was that they emptied the library of almost all of its books, journals, chronicles, maps, drawings and other items. They then took away these items either back home to England or to their libraries and houses in Madras, Calcutta and even Bombay.
A few of Tipu’s books formed part of  the collection of the library of the Governor-General of India in Calcutta and then the Viceroy’s library first in Calcutta and in Delhi after the capital of India was shifted from Calcutta to Delhi in 1917.
What was Tipu’s library like? How was it different from other libraries.
Unlike Hyder Ali, Tipu was educated. Though Hyder was unlettered, he encouraged his people-family, friends and relatives Tipu included, to learn and write.
Tipu, as was his personality, was diverse in his reading habits. He liked books on the Koran as he did on military strategy. His library also had books on gardening and horticulture.
When the British managed to raid his library on May 4 and May 5, 1799, they indexed 44 different volumes on the holy Koran or Quaran, 41 commentaries on Koran and each of them by different authors, 35 books on prayers, 46 on tradition, 115 books on Sufism, 24 books on ethics, 95 texts on law and jurisprudence, 19 on arts and sciences, 118 on history, 53 letters, 190 works on poetry, seven on mathematics, 20 on astronomy, 29 on lexicography, 45 on philosophy, 23 on Hindi and Dekhani poetry, 62 on physics, four on Delhani prose, two on Turkish prose and 18 fables and stories.       
Many of the manuscripts were earlier in the possession of the Adil Shah Kingdom of Bijapur, the Qutb Shah dynasty of Golconda, the Nawab of Savanur and the royal libraries of Chitoor and Kadapa.   
Tipu was fluent in several languages such as Kannada, Hindustani, Persian, Arabic, French and English and he had books on each of these languages in his library.
Tipu was highly possessive of his books. He often read them and some he read over and over again. He made it a practice to put his signature and stamp on every book he read. When the British looted his library, they found that most of the books in the library bore his signature and stamp.
The signatures were artistic and put in an intricate and unique style. Many books bore the signature Nabi Malik, another name of the Sultan.
When the British decided to make an inventory of the library, they appointed Kirk Patrick, as its supervisor. He went over almost every book in the library and also made a mote of the books on which Tipu had signed. He found Tipu’s wittings to be much  superior to others. Some of the comments and writings that Tipu had jotted down were exceptionally lucid and compact.
Kirk Patrick indexed at least 2000 books in the library. This loot was divided between the Cambridge and Oxford Universities in England and the College of Fort William in Calcutta and the Royal Asiatic Society, Calcutta.
Some books came into the possession of Robert Orme, the historiographer of the East India Company who had collected a large number of manuscripts, books and letters during his career and requested the East India Company to create ‘a repository for Oriental Writings.
That Tipu loved Sufism is without doubt. He had great respect for them and he often read about Sufism. He also encouraged Sufis to reside in his kingdom. His respect for the Sufis grew manifold when two Sufis fought alongside him in the battle of Bangalore against the British.  
Charles Stewart in his book, “A descriptive catalogue of the oriental library of the late Tippoo Sultan”,  lists 115 books on Sufism in Tipu Sultan’s library. He also says that the library had  190 books on poetry,  118 on history and 90 on the Koran and Hadith.
He also records in the book that after the fall of Srirangapatna, Marquis Wellesley, the Governor-General of India, ordered that the Mysore manuscripts in the library be transferred to the library of the college on Fort William in Madras.
One of the most valuable books in the library of Tipu was the illuminated Koran. As can be guessed and expected, the British took it away to England. It was presented to the University of Cambridge by the Court of Directors of the East India Company in 1806. The volume is beautifully bound in gold and it has two decorated medallions and two magnificent headpieces containing the Fātia. The text of the Koran here is followed by some prayers, and a Fal nama. The manuscript is not dated but it is believed to have been written sometime in 1655.
Another Koran is in the possession of Oxford University. This beautifully decorated copy was in the personal library of Tipu.
This is among the books that the East India Company gave the Bodleian, Cambridge University Library and the Royal Asiatic Society.
This manuscript is open at the highly adorned carpet pages. Written in the centre of the decoration is the first chapter of the Koran. Above are two sarlawhs, is the literature saying: “This is the opening chapter of the Book which was revealed at both Mecca and Medina. It consists of seven verses”.
Other books in the library included Su' al-o- Jawab-i-Dara Shikoh Wa Baba Lal, a treatise detailing the conversation between Prince Dara Shikoh, the Mughal prince and brother of Aurangzeb and Baba Lal Das of Kaithal on the life and doctrines of Hindu Faqirs or Hindu mendicants.
Another book was Kashf al-Mahjub, the oldest systematic work on the theoretical and practical doctrines of Sufism by Abul Hasan Ali bin Uthman bin Ali al-Hujwiri.
The history section of Tipu’s library had books such as Tawarikh-i-Firuz Shahi by Shams-i-Siraj Afif, Akbarnama and Ain-I Akbari by Abul Fazal, Majmu’a-i-Khuwrrami and Shah Jahan Nama by Bahadur Singh, the Alamgir Nam-the tale of Aurangzeb’s first ten years as the Mughal Emperor and even a book on Bahadur Shah, the son of Aurangzeb.
Tipu also had in his library accounts of the countries of Iran, Afghanistan and European countries and he had books such as Tarikh–i-Alam Ara–Ara-i-Abbasi, a history of the life and region of Abbas of Safawi dynasty of Iran by Iskandar and the Ketab Timouryeh and Tarikh Shah Rookh which deal with Timur Lang: Rozet al Jenat on the history of the City of Heart: Abdallah Naheh which deals with the history of the Usberg Tartars.
The Tabkat Akberry is a manuscript that deals with the history of India: Tarelh Bahmani a history of the Bahmani kings of Gulbarga in north Karnataka.
The Tarikh Rozet al Suffra, a work in Persian, dealt on the Prophet and the first four Khalifs. 
Thus, we see that Tipu has a fairly vast and diverse collection of books covering a range of subjects. Tipu owed his knowledge of the arts and his education entirely to his father, Hyder Ali.
Though he was unlettered, Hyder made special arrangements to ensure that Tipu received good education.
An expert calligraphist, he wrote more than 45 books himself or he got it written under his supervision. Tipu was a bibliophile and he get good religious books read out to him at lunch or dinner time.
He went to bed in his hammock with a book in hand. He also built up a rare and comprehensive personal library in the palace, which contained an exquisite collection of rare books on different subjects. The books were looked after by a librarian.
He established a separate department  for binding books. After binding the books, the name of Allah, Muhammad, members of the Holy Prophet’s family and the rightly guided caliphs were printed on the title page. Then, on the top and bottom of the book were inscribed the words, Sultanat-e-Khudadad.
 In 1785, he received a book in French from Europe about the science of medicine. He ordered that the book be translated. The same year, he set up a university in Srirangapatnam called Jamia-i-Umoor where both religious and modern education were imparted simultaneously. A rare Persian translation of Mahabharata prepared on the order of Emperor Akbar under the supervision of Abul Fazal, was also part of Tipu’s library.
Apart from the University, Tipu asked the Qazis and the Imams of mosques to set up a madarsa in each mosque, where education was imparted to children and the details of the children and their books were to be made available to the Sultan. If a child bunked school,  the Taluqdar of the area was supposed to ensure that the child was present in the madarsa.
Today, the British Museum in London has 94 priceless manuscripts of Tipu’s library. It also has 438 manuscripts belonging to the Adil Shah royal library of Bijapur, 141 manuscripts purchased from Richard Johnson in 1807 and 72 manuscripts bought from Warren Hastings, the first Governor-General of India, in 1809. 

Friday 8 November 2013

Tipu in Rashtrapathi Bhavan

The Rashtrapathi Bhavan or President’s House in New Delhi has been in the news recently for several reasons. The first was when the President of India, who stays in the Rashtrapathi Bhavan, declined to entertain the mercy petition of several people like the Pakistani terrorist Kasab and Parliament House attacker, Afzal Guru both whom were hanged to death.
The Rashtrapathi Bhavan was in the news again when the President sought certain clarifications on a bill that the Congress Government wanted to pass regarding allowing convicted netas or politicians to contest elections. The Government wanted to pass an ordinance on the issue till the Bill was passed and, hence, they had sent the ordinance to the President for his approval.
However, there is another little bit of news from the President’s  office and this would please all Kannadigas. The magnificent library of the Rashtrapathi Bhavan is being renovated and refurbished.
The library too like the rest of the Bhavan was personally designed by Edward Lutyens. The main library is the focus of the restoration drive being taken up now and 24,000 books and manuscripts are in the queue for digitization. Of them, 4,000 have already been archived during the tenure of President A.P.J Abdul Kalam.
The main library room has a collection of over 2000 rare books published from 1800 to 1947 and they are stacked neatly by year of publication in the built-in shelves.
Often described as the daughter of the Durbar Hall, the library room located at the North-East corner of  sprawling building and it has an imposing interior. Two fire places make the room cosy for winter reading.
The library overlooks the Raisina Hill and it is being renovated as per Lutyens’ original design. Old and rare photographs and artifacts are being reintegrated to bring about harmony and old world taste.
Extra shelves that were added over the years to accommodate books have been removed and an old table that Lutyens himself designed, along with set of chairs inspired by his famous round spectacles occupies the pride of place.
The library, when built, was equipped with 60 feet of book cases, two fire places and a marble and golden yellow Jaisalmar stone. However, what would make Kannadigas rather proud is that the library has two rare books on Mysore and each is a masterpiece.
And the oldest book in the collection is one dating back to 1800 and this on is on Tipu Sultan (1743-1799), the Tiger of Mysore, or Tipu Sultaun as his name is spelt on the cover of the book.
The book is by Lt Col Alexander Beatson (1758-1830) and it is a beautiful  narrative of the operations of the combined armies of the British, French mercenaries and the Nizam of Hyderabad under the command of Lt Gen George Harris.
The combined forced laid siege to Srirangapatna and on May 4, 1799 killed Tipu in the battle. The body of Tipu was discovered several hours later lying under a heap of other bodies near the present Water Gate.
Beatson penned the book to bring he facts and incidents about the war and its aftermath to the attention of the chairman and directors of the East India Company. It was calledA View of the Origin and Conduct of the War against Tippoo Sultaun” and it was first published from London in 1800.
Beatson became a cadet in 1775 and the next year he was appointed as ensign in the Madras Infantry in India. He served as an engineer officer in the war with Hyder Ali.
As lieutenant, he served with the Guides in Lord Cornwallis’s campaigns against Tipu. In 1799, he was a field officer and  surveyor-general under Gen Harris in the fourth and final Anglo-Mysore war.
Another book is an 1810 volume called  “Historical sketches of the South of India”  by Col. Mark Wills.
The author says this is an attempt to trace the history of “Mysoor”, from “the origin of the Hindoo government of that state to the extinction of the Mohammedan dynasty in 1799”.
Mark Wilks  (1759–1831) was a Manx soldier and administrator. He was also the author of “Report on the Internal Administration of Mysore”. This document is a continuation of report of the survey of Mysore undertaken by Lt. Col Colin Mackenzie.
Wilks was the uncle of Mark Cubbon who was the Commissioner of Mysore and after whom the Cubbon Park in Bangalore is named.
Both the books shed light on the life and times of Tipu and the socio-economic condition of the then Mysore State. Both these books are rare and are of immense interest and importance to historians and researchers alike. These books came to the library when the capital of India was shifted from Calcutta to Delhi and the office and residence of the Viceroy of India too was shifted to Delhi.
The books were part of the collection of the library of the Viceroy when they had their residence in Calcutta. Apart from these two books, there are scores of others on and from Karnataka but none as precious and as invaluable as these.