For the offbeat traveller

R. Krishna Kumar
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WAR MEMORIAL: The Obelisk at Srirangapatna is virtually unknown to tourists. — Photo: M.A. SRIRAM
WAR MEMORIAL: The Obelisk at Srirangapatna is virtually unknown to tourists. — Photo: M.A. SRIRAM

The onset of winter also coincides with the peak tourism season in Mysore district and the conventional travellers content themselves with the usual places of interest: the palace, Brindavan Gardens, zoo and Chamundi Hills, with a few monuments such as Dariya Daulat and Gumbaz at Srirangapatna thrown in for good measure.

But for the intrepid or the curious tourists who wish to embark on an uncharted circuit, the region has plenty to offer and is worth exploring.

And the most romantic and enchanting of them is the Venugopalaswamy temple (also called Gopalakrishna temple) which has been resurrected to its pristine glory in the backwaters of the Krishna Raja Sagar (KRS). The massive temple complex was conceived and reckoned to have been constructed in the 12th-13th century A.D. reflecting the Dravidian and Chalukyan styles of architecture. However, when the KRS dam was conceived in the early 20th century, Kannambadi village, where the temple was located, was condemned for submersion.

As the dam made progress and the Cauvery came to be impounded, the temple submerged, obliterating it from the consciousness of the public. However, during periods of drought when the water level at the KRS used to deplete and hit the dead storage level, the crests of the temple tower used to make their appearance. During the prolonged drought between 2001-04, the entire temple complex showed itself to the world and was a sight to behold.

Notwithstanding the fact that the temple remained submerged for over 60 years, it remained intact but for the collapse of a few supporting columns and beams, and used to be a spectacular sight.

It was then that the Khoday group sought permission from the authorities for its translocation and restoration and the slabs were dismantled – one by one. Each slab was numbered and its orientation in the original plan, documented and over 16,000 photographs were taken in the process. A new site was identified adjoining the new Kannambadi village where nearly 4.5 acres of land was acquired and the painstaking work of translocation commenced. Now, the work is nearly complete and the temple – in the reflection of the setting sun and the KRS backwaters – leaves one overwhelmed.

The temple complex measures nearly 100 yards by 60 yards and artisans from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka were roped in for the restoration work. The original complex was a symmetrical building enclosed by two ‘prakaras' and there was a ‘mahadwara' leading to the inner enclosure, akin to the Somnathpur temple.

Art historians aver that there original temple had 46 shrines — 17 on the southern side, 12 on the west and 17 on the north — in the inner prakara which was embellished with 24 murthis and 10 avatars of Lord Vishnu besides the figures of Brahma, Saraswathi, Harihara, Hayagriva, and Jalasayana.

Emerging from the depths of the swirling Cauvery, Venugopalaswamy temple in its new avatar complete with the decorative elements and sculptures, is now a replica of the original and beckons the offbeat traveller. The temple is yet to be officially “inaugurated” but is bound to emerge as a “must-see” in the itinerary of the tourists, given its hoary past, incredible architecture and its history of its submersion and translocation.

Obelisk War Memorial

Built on a lesser scale, relatively recent but no less important is the Obelisk war memorial. Built to commemorate the soldiers who fell in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore war in which Tipu Sultan met his end on May 4, 1799, the monument is located amidst the archaeological ruins of Srirangapatna Fort, the swift flowing Cauvery and a railway track that cuts across nearby.

This battle ensured the supremacy of the British in South India as the last king standing against the imperial rule was slain. It was thought fit to built a memorial for the soldiers who died in this historic war in 1907. The Obelisk is square shaped, tapering off at the top, and chiselled on four sides. The engraving reads: “This monument was created by the Government of Mysore in 1907 in order to commemorate the siege of Seringapatam by the British Force under Lieutenant General G.Harris and its final capture by assault on the 4th May, 1799….”

For the history buff, the visit to the Obelisk will be a throwback to the past as the names of the regiments that are reckoned to be legendary in their own right, are mentioned as a tribute. Madras Pioneers (2nd Queens Own Sappers and Miners), Bombay Pioneers (3rd Sappers and Miners), Madras Native Infantry, 65th Punjabis, 10th Gurkha Rifles, 7th Coorg Rifles, 79th Carnatic Infantry, 83rd Walajabad Light Infantry, 103rd Maharatta Light Infantry, 10th Wellesely Rifles, Bengal Native Infantry, Bengal Volunteers, Madras Artillery, Bengal Artillery, Madras Engineers, Battalion Royal Highlanders, and Battalion Gordon Highlanders, to name a few; regiments which merit high acclaim in the military history.

The Obelisk is located opposite the Srirangapatna railway station but very few, if at all, venture to this spot and its isolated existence makes it even more exotic.

Within Srirangapatna, the Wellesley Bridge is well known but not many are aware of the memorial stone located at the far end of the bridge close to a village. Likewise, the ramparts of the Srirangapatna Fort houses what has been recognised as the launching pad of missiles that were used by Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan. Way back in the 18th century when the concept of rockets was in its infancy, Srirangapatna had experimented with it and used it with deadly results in the battles against the British.

Though there is adequate reference to the missiles of Tipu Sultan, a few of which have been preserved in the Royal Artillery Museum in England, the launch pad is in a degraded state in the absence of conservation efforts and merits a visit.

The sand dunes of Talakad in T.Narsipur taluk with excavated temples hold special interest for the local pilgrims. But not many tourists visit the place and is worth promoting.

R. Krishna Kumar

Visit an enchanting temple or go back in time in front of an obelisk