Friday 24 January 2014

When Ganjam lost its sheen

It was once a prosperous City that Tipu Sultan, the                          tiger of Mysore, founded. It was on the banks of the Cauvery. No, it was not Srirangapatna but a suburban town that Tipu built when he conquered Sira, near Bangalore.
After the sacking of Sira and the defeat of its ruler, Tipu forced the people of the once thriving town to migrate to another town, many miles away. This was the town of  Shehar Ganjam that he built on the outskirts of Sriranapatna.
Tipu ensured that Shehar Ganjam was well-populated. The city was planned well and it was adjacent to Daria Daulat, his summer palace on one side and Gumbaz, where his father was buried, on the other.
Ganjam had four major roads and it was bisected by smaller roads. Tipu grew several fruits and flowering plants and trees around the town and also encouraged gold and silver smiths. Soon, Ganjam came to be known as the foremost jewellery centre of south India and it rivaled Hyderebad in the design and production of jewellery.
The tradition of jewellery became so synonymous that people called it by the name of the City-Ganjam. The royal patronage endured that artisans and gold and silver smiths apart from jewellery designers flocked to the suburb of Srirangapatna.
There are records to indicate that much of  Tipu’s gold and silver jewellery and the jewellery at the royal treasury came from Ganjam. Of course, there were also spoils of war. But the royal treasury and also the jewellery and ornaments of the high-ranking nobles and courtiers came from Ganjam.
At its peak and this was during the heydays of Tipu, Ganjam was peopled by 12,000 artisans. Ganjam then was also known for its clothes, paper and manufacture of stringed musical instruments.
Ganjam suffered a serious setback in 1799 when the marauding British and Nizam forces set camp at Gajnam and at Karighatta hill. They destroyed the fort of Ganjam and also hacked the magnificent garden and orchards developed by Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan.
Many people, including traders and jewelers fled from Ganjam. After Tipu died in 1799 in the fourth and final Anglo-Mysore war, the gold trade of Ganjam received a setback. When the Wodeyars were handed over the Kingdom of Mysore and the sons of  Tipu imprisoned in the Vellore fort, there were fears that Ganjam would lose its importance.
For some time, this proved true as the political uncertainty of the Mysore Kingdom led to a decline in the trade. However, once the political situation stabilised and the Wodeyars shifted their Kingdom to Mysore from Srirangapatna, the trade in gold and jewellery picked up again.     
Over time, the artisans of Ganjam made the jewellery so famous that it rivaled the reputation of Surat. Thus if Surat came to be known for its trade in diamonds, Ganjam earned famed for its signature jewellery.
The intricate design and the many patterns of Ganjam jewellery made its stand out against jewellery from other centres. During the Wodeyar rule from 1799, Ganjam once again regained its prominence as the primary manufacturing and trading centre of jewellery.
Ironically, the final nail in the coffin of Ganjam came after India attained Independence from the British-the very dream that drove Tipu to battle the British. The modernisation of the jewellery making process and the sophisticated equipments used in the manufacture of jewellery and the mechanisation of its process sounded the deathknell of the Ganjam jewellery industry.       
The local jewelers and designers slowly but surely went out of business as orders became far and few. Imitation jewellery and import of gold coupled with high prices of gold and lack of Government support routed the once prosperous small-scale industry.
Where Ganjam once had hundreds of artisans and designers, none survived. Today, it is hard to spot even a single jewellery shop in Ganjam and of course of the designers and makers there is none.
Today, Ganjam survives only as the name of jewellery shops. Of the once thriving trade and commerce centre, there is not a whiff. All we can see is the Gumbaz and the Daria Daulat and sandwiched between them is the village of Ganjam.
Today, thousands of tourists make a beeline to Ganjam to see the Sangam, the Daria Daulat and the Gumbaz. Very few of them know the Ganjam as a prime jewellery manufacturing and designing centre which brought name and fame.     
Ganjam is just two kilometers from Srirangapatna, 17 km from Mysore and 127 km from Bengalore. It is easily accessible from Srirangapatna. 

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