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.

Saturday 2 November 2013

Reviving the Srirangapatna Dasara

The Festival of Lights or Deepavali is on and Dassara or Dasara, the State festival, has just ended.
Lakhs of people have gone back with fond memories of the Dasara at Mysore. The many literary, cultural, religious and sporting events held at Mysore as part of the Dasara drew fairly large crowds.
Events such as wrestling or Kusti, the Jumboo Savari or procession drew large crowds. However, the Dasara at Mysore definitely overshadowed and overwhelmed a similar event at Srirangapatna where the event began.
It was in this fort town in the midst of the Cauvery that Raja Wodeyar commenced the tradition of Dasara. When Abhimanyu, the 47 year-old-tusker carried the idol of Goddess Chamundi during the Dasara procession in Srirangapatna, the event triggered  memories when the festival was held here till it was shifted to Mysore in 1800.
The origin of the present Dasara goes back to the Vijayanagars and after the fall of Hampi in 1565, Dasara all but disappeared as a public function. When Raja Wodeyar, the King of Mysore, defeated Sriranaga Raya, the Viceroy of Srirangapatna and a representative of the Vijayanagar Empire in 1610, he captured the town of  Srirangapatna.
Realising the strategic importance of locating a capital in an island, Raja Wodeyar shifted his capital from Mysore to Srirangapatna. He began ruling from Srirangapatna and he also decided to revive the annual Dasara festivities.
The magnificent Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangapatna was the centre of Dasara activities just as the Vijaya Vittala and Virupaksha Temple were in Hampi. Raja Wodeyar set the ball rolling for the coming centuries when he gave directions on the conduct of the Dasara festivities.
He set rules for the conduct of the festival and ordained that the festival should not stop even if there is a death in the royal family. There was one soon after he framed these rules and the King ordered the festivities to go on.  
Thus, after Hampi, it was Srirangapatna which became the centre of Dasara in Karnataka. Several Wodeyar Kings, including Ranadheera Kanteerava or Kanthirava Narasaraja Wodeyar (1638 -1659 AD) and Chikka Devaraja Wodeyar (1673 -1704 AD) contributed immensely to the growth of the Dasara in Srirangapatna, while subsequent Kings like Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar (III) (1799 - 1868 AD), Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar -IV (1902 -1940 AD) and Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar (1940-1947) did so in Mysore.
For several decades, Srirangapatna Dasara was a forgotten episode. Neither the Government nor the people displayed any interest in reviving an ancient tradition. This was so until a few years back-till 2007- when the Mandya district administration woke up to the tourist and pilgrim potential of the Dasara at Srirangapatna too.   
Since the last four years, the government has been trying to resurrect the glory of Srirangapatna Dasara. It has ensured that a Dasara procession is organized just like the one at Mysore and a caparisoned elephant leads the procession.
The Jamboo Savari of Srirangapatna drew fairly large crowds this October as Abhimanyu carried the idol, placed in a flower decorated mantap.
The Srirangapatna Dasara was inaugurated by G Venkatasubbaiah, lexicographer and Kannada writer, at Bannimanatap. He offered  pooja to Goddess Chamundi. The Mysore Dasara was from the main palace to Banni Mantapa, while its counterpart in Srirangapatna saw the procession from Banni Mantapa near the Kirangur Gate, off the Bangalore-Mysore Highway to Srirangapatna where it ended at the Ranganathaswamy Temple.
There was cultural and musical events during the five day Dasara festival at Srirangapatna.
The Mysore Dasara Committee had lent five elephants, horses and a wooden ‘ambari’ for the procession. This year’s attraction was the spectacular sound and light show (Son et lumiere), about the rise and fall of Tipu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore who was killed in battle in 1799.
Forty tableaux by various government departments, organisations and folk art troupes  accompanied the Jamboo Savari procession. The cultural and musical events were organized at Sriranga Vedike, near Sri Ranganatha Swamy temple. Unfortunately, the Srirangapatna Dasara was not as well publicised as the Mysore and Madikeri Dasara. Thousands of visitors to Mysore were unaware of this Dasara.
Dasara in Srirangapatna continued even under Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. Both of them allowed the Wodeyar Kings to participate in the Dasara procession. Thus, Srirangapatna had a history of Dasara from 1610 till 1798 after which it was shifted to Mysore.
There are many accounts of the Dasara held in Srirangapatna by the Wodeyars. The then Wodeyar rulers did their best to revive the glory and pomp of the Vijayanagar Dasara and they succeeded in doing so to a large extent.
One of the best accounts of the Srirangapatna Dasara is in the work of Govinda Vaidya, the court poet of Ranadheera Kanteerava. He gives us a beautiful and evocative account of the Vijayadashami procession in Kantirava Narasaraja Vijayam in 1648 which he calls Jambi Savari, meaning a procession to the Banni tree (Subsequently, Jambi became Jumbo, while Savari remained unchanged. So today, we have Jumboo Savari and not Jambi Savari).
The royal pavilion from where the Wodeyar Kings worshipped the royal cow, royal elephant, royal camel and royal chariot was at the exact place where the Daria Daulat stands today. Lt. Col. Mark Wilks (1760-1831), who was the Resident of Mysore  from 1803 to 1909 and who fought against Tipu Sultan, also locates the royal Dasara pavilion at this place.  
Unfortunately, the glory of Srirangapatna Dasara is gone and it cannot be revived unless and until the State Government makes sincere efforts to revive the rich cultural heritage and legacy of our ancients.