Monday 15 April 2013

The story of the elastic sword

The Palace of Mysore, also known as the Amba Vilas, is the second most visited monument in India after the Taj Mahal of Agra.
The Wodeyar kings first built a palace in Mysore in the 14th century but it was demolished and reconstructed several times. The construction of the current palace was commissioned in 1897 and it was completed in 1912 and again expanded around 1940.
Mysore palace has seen more than 2.7 million visitors. The magnificence of the palace awes one and all but there are several rooms which are locked and they are out of bounds for tourists and visitors alike.
One such locked entity within the palace premises is the royal armoury or the Ayudha Sala which is sealed and kept out of bounds.
No tourist visiting the Palace has seen the Ayudha Sala and though an effort was made in 2004 to throw it open to the public, it never came through mainly for security reasons.
The armoury is a virtual treasure trove of weapons and they date back from the 14th century to the present days. There are close to 1,000 weapons, though the website of the palace says there are 725 offensive and defensive weapons.
Most of the weapons are a century or more old and the first inventory of this priceless collection was made during the reign of  Krishnaraja Wadiyar III.
It was this King who took personal interest in the armoury and he  provided each of the weapon with metallic labels containing a serial number.
One of the most priceless collection is the armoury is an elastic sword which is numbered as 198. This sword can be worn as a belt and it belonged to Kanthirava Narasaraja Wodeyar who lived between 1638-1659. This is one of the oldest weapons in the armoury.
British accounts state that this probably is the sacred sword which Ranadheera Kanteerava called Vijaya Narasimha. This sword is supposed to have saved the life of the King several times.
One story about the sword still stands out today. The annals of history say that the King of Trichinopoly (today it is called Trichy) was smarting from the defeat of his champion wrestlers by Ranadheera Kanteerava.
Ranadheera had entered Trichy incognito and defeated the champion wrestler. The King, who was also jealous of the growing power of Mysore decided to extract revenge.  
The time for the revenge came when Mysore was celebrating the ascension of Ranadheera to the throne. The Trichy King sent twenty five of his best warriors, who were also expert swordsmen,  to Mysore.
The Tamil warriors managed to enter the palace of the King, which then was in Srirangapatna. One night, they secreted themselves in the rooms leading to Ranadheera’s private quarters. The Mysore King, saw the movement of shadows on the walls and immediately sensed danger. Even as he pulled out his elastic sword, the Tamil warriors attacked.
Ranadheera swiveled about and used the sword to good effect. By the time his personal body guards came, he had already killed several of  the warriors. The rest were easily overcome and when they revealed the plot, they were sent back to Trichy. 
When news of the deed spread, the whole Kingdom celebrated and the Wodeyar family and Ranadheera ordained that the sword should be worshipped regularly.
Ranadheera then liberally endowed a daily allowance to perform pooja to the sword.
Another weapon is a knife bearing the inscription “chura de 2” and this belonged to Chikkadevaraja Wadiyar who ruled between 1672 and 1704.
A sword called nimcha and bearing the number 36 was the personal property of Hyder Ali and another heavy sword named Sanva was used by Tipu Sultan. There is a beautiful knife with an inscription labelled Pesh-Kabza and it was used by Krishnaraja Wadiyar III.
Another exhibit is the herige katti, which is a knife that was used by midwives for delivering infants. Some of the other weapons are tabbar, jambya, gaddara, khandava, abbasi, saipu, madu, and alemane.
The round flat discs in the armoury were deadly weapons, They were thrown in the hope of slicing off an enemy's head. Other objects in the armoury are  brass spears to be attached to the tusks of war elephants; and several fearsome daggershears, looking like enormous five-bladed scissors, some blades having saw-like edges. Some of these instruments were dipped in poison before they were used to cut at the enemy.
Very few survived the wounds from these five blades as they ripped open the flesh. The armoury also had six or seven small state guns, probably presented to Krishna Raja Wadiyar III at his enthronement and one of them apparently captured by Col. Wellesley, in 1803, at Bijapur.
The gun presented by Wellesley has an inscription saying Moolke Maidan of Beejapore (Bijapur). Many guns are inscribed with the names of princes and officials ho used or owned them.
The armoury also has two chauris with an inscription stating that they were presents to Krishnaraja Wadiyar III by Lord Dalhousie.
The armoury is believed to have been founded by Chamaraja Wodeyar IV, who is more popularly known as Bola Chamaraja or the Bald Wodeyar, sometime in 1575.
There are several vajra-musti, or tiger claws.
The use of these claws and the Vajra Musti is described in detail by Col. Wilks when he saw a mock fight during a Dassara celebration.
Some of the claws are made of buffalo horn, and, even so, are capable of splitting open an adversary's skull. However, in real fights, iron claws were widely used and one of the most celebrated stories of such claws is of Shivaji and the Bijapur General Afzal Khan.
There are several accounts of Britishers, including Col. Mark Wilks (1758-1831) who saw the tiger claws and other objects hung on a pillar in the armoury (Mark Wilks was the uncle of Mark Cubbon who was the Commissioner of Mysore and after whom the Cubbon Park in Bangalore is named).
Col. Mark Wilks wrote one of the first histories of medieval South India called “Historical Sketches of the South of India”, in which he has examined the rise of the Wodeyars. He has described Mysore, the King and the armoury. The book is the first account by an European about the rise of the Mysore Wodeyars following the fall of  Vijayanagar in 1565.
The royal throne is preserved here in a locked room and it is displayed only during Dassara.
Today, some of the weapons used by the royal family are exhibited in the private collection of Wodeyars.
One of the best books on the subject is “Arms and Armoury of the Mysore Palace” by HT Talwar and the Mysore Gazette apart from records with the ASI and the Wodeyar family.
Next to the armoury is the trophy room, which is a taxidermist's delight. There is the massive trophy of an African two-horned rhinoceros, which one of the Mysore kings reportedly shot on a hunting expedition to Africa.
There are also 14 tigers, all shot within the territory of the Maharajah – in his private hunting grounds and estates, which are now well known today as Bandipur and Nagarhole. There are more than 50 stuffed animals on display.

1 comment:

  1. @The Palace of Mysore, also known as the Amba Vilas.....

    Amba Vilas is the name of private Durbar hall. Palace was never officially known as Amba Vilas. It is only in recent times some ignorant media people have started using the name and it is becoming stuck !

    @ Wellesley... There were three Wellesleys's connected with Mysore.

    1. Richard Wellesley -Earl of Mornington & Governor General of India. The Bridge at Srirngapatana is named after him.

    2. Arthur Wellesley- Duke of Wellington - Prime Minister .... Wellington Lodge at Mysore was built by him and he stayed there.

    3. Henry Wellelsy: 1st Baron Cowley- Youngest Brother -assisted his brother, GGI, in a variety of diplomatic capacities, negotiating treaties with Mysore and Oudh..