Tuesday 26 August 2014

Older than the temple

Srirangapatna, the erstwhile capital of Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan, has a history dating back to the New Stone Age. But very few of the thousands of visitors and pilgrims who come to this island town are aware of this fact.
The New Stone Age is also called the Neolithic Age and it was a period of human development and technology.
It began sometime in 10,200 BC and ended between 4500 BC and 2000 BC. In south India, the Neolithic period began in 3000 BC and continued till about 1400 BC. The age in Karnataka is characterised by ashmounds.
Robert Bruce Foot (1834 -1912), a British geologist and archaeologist, discovered the first conclusive Paleolitic stone tool (a hand axe) in Pallavaram near Madras. He then along with William King went on to discover more such tools and settlements in South and West India, including Srirangapatna. He is, therefore, often considered as the Father of Indian prehistory.
In 1884 he discovered the 3.5 kilometres (2.2 miles) long Belum caves, the second largest cave in the Indian subcontinent. Foote spent 33 years, starting as a youth at the age of 24, working for the geological survey.
Foote's father-in-law was the Rev. Peter Percival, missionary, linguist and a pioneering educator of Sri Lanka and South India. Foot’s grandson, Major General Henry Robert Bowreman Foote, was awarded the Victoria Cross during the second Word war.
Coming back to Srirangapatna, other archaeologists have discovered some stone tools such as an axe, hammer and other antiquities of the new stone age culture.
In 1984, Dr C. Mahadeva discovered stone tools such as bone, Ardha chandra and a chopping splinter belonging to the microlithic age. It is significant that these tools are made out of jasper, chert and other stone materials.
The discovery of many microlithic weapons in the area has led archaeologists and historians to believe that this must have been a factory site. Historians have discovered stone age settlements in Pandavapura, Kuntibetta and Srirangapatna. Some remnants of the stone age culture have been found at Hangarahalli
and Ranganathittu on the banks of Cauvery, (Srirangapatna taluk); Maralahalli, Belakawadi, Muttatti, Halagur (Malavalli taluk) Kuntibetta, near Pandavapura and Sanabakoppalu in Pandavapura taluk.
The findings suggest that the population density in this part was very thin. The stone age man who lived around thick forests, river valleys.
Srirangapatna was originally built by Udayaditya, the brother of Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana, in 1120 AD. It soon became an important agrahara during the Hoysala period. In 1454, Timmana Dannayaka, a local chief of Nagamangala, obtained permission from the Vijayanagara king Praudadeva Raya, and built a fort at Srirangapatna. Soon, the Vijaayanagar rulers mde Srirangapatna their provincial capital. 
This fort was captured by Raja Wodeyars from the Vijayanagar Viceroy, Tirumala, in 1610 and it later fell into the hands of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan.
The fort was destroyed in May 1799 in the fourth and final Anglo-Mysore war. After the death of Tipu in 1799 A.D., Srirangapatna lost its glory as the Wodeyars shifted the capital to Mysore.
Since the island is home to the first of the three Ranganatha shrines on the banks of the river Cauvery, it is also known as Adi Ranga. As it is located to the west of Srirangam (in Tamil Nadu), it is also called as Paschima Ranganatha Kshetra.
Several inscriptions belonging to the Gangas (2), Hoysalas (2), Vijayanagars (12), Wodeyars of Mysore (15) Hyder-Tipu (14) and others (22) have been found here. Among them, four are in Tamil, 36 in Kannada, eight in Sanskrit, 14 in Persian and two each in Telugu and English.

Thus we see that Srirangapatna has much more to offer than the Ranganatha Swamy Temple and the monuments belonging to the Hyder Ali-Tipu era. A student of  history and archaeology would be interested in the ancient history of the island which is older than the ancient and hoary temple of Ranganatha.

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