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 Of them, 4,000 have already been archived during the tenure of President A.P.J Abdul Kalam.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.

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