Battles, forts, palaces, mausoleums… In Srirangapatna every structure tells a story, says Catherine Rhea Roy
It is not a long drive from Bengaluru to Mysore, it is an even shorter one from Mysore to Srirangapatna. The rock city, built on an island in the Cauvery is quiet and unassuming — you could never wrap your head around the kind of stories her walls might whisper. Stories of battles, and forts and battles in forts, of royalty dressed in silk and precious stones — but pay attention just so you don't miss the stories in between the distracting bustle of the larger satellite city.
The city used to be the fulcrum of politics and religion, and there is no trace of a lifestyle that once was except in the leftover strategic architecture of the place.
I walk into the grounds where lies Tipu Sultan's tomb, remembering the last time I was there — a school picnic, in the afternoon heat of a month not most suited for day-long picnics.
The Sri Ranganathaswamy temple was built on the island, which is how it got the name Srirangapatna. The region was under the Vijayanagara Empire, and was the base of the viceroys till about 1610 when the Wodayar king, the ruler of Mysore, refused to continue to be a vassal of Vijayanagara and captured Srirangapatna. He then moved his capital to Srirangapatna which was later moved to present-day Mysore.
During the rise of Hyder Ali, the town came into prominence again and along with his son Tipu Sultan, he converted Srirangapatna into a fortified city. Between 1766 and 1799 four wars were fought between the English East India Company and Mysore which was the undoing of Tipu Sultan.
The lawns are still green, manicured, and moist from a recent watering, and the mausoleum that stands in the distance houses the tomb of Tipu along with those of his parents.
Another structure to include on your check-list is the Dariya Daulat Bagh, an Indo-Islamic structure dating to 1784 built of teak. It looks rather unpretentious and modest from the outside, but when you look beyond the fronds of green you find a wooden palace that boasts of heritage and history through elaborate interiors and rich paintings.
Another sight to see is Captain Bailey's Dungeon, a fortress that was named after the hapless captain who died during a military blockade in Srirangapatna when a canon rolled back, fell through the ceiling and into the dungeon. The canon can still be seen at the site. A vast expanse of mortar, the fortress was where Tipu kept his prisoners of war. One day in Srirangapatna does not do enough justice to the place — there is too much to see. Your explorations should not be restricted to the town, with some more expansive trekking you could find yourself at the Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary and the Balmuri Falls.
But then again Mysore is not too far from Bangalore and Srirangapatna even closer to Mysore.