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Multiple stories waiting to be unearthed

AMULYA PURUSHOTHAMA
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Blast from the past:Inscriptions and other features on the cannons dug up by Metro workers near Victoria Hospital helped experts date the objects to Tipu’s era.—File photo: Harsha Padyana
Blast from the past:Inscriptions and other features on the cannons dug up by Metro workers near Victoria Hospital helped experts date the objects to Tipu’s era.—File photo: Harsha Padyana

When workers at the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. (BMRCL) began excavating the earth to build a new station near Victoria Hospital in November, little did they know that they would stumble upon an important piece of the city’s history.

They found two cannons near Tipu Sultan’s palace that told stories about the wars between Tipu and the British. Soon, the Archaeological Society of India (ASI) moved the cannons to their office, where historians and archaeologists examined the cannons to find clues about their past.

Recently, the cannons were moved to the Karnataka Government Museum on Kasturba Road, and are now housed among many other artefacts from Tipu’s era. “It was fairly easy determining the time period of this cannon,” says T.M. Keshava, Deputy Superintending Archaeologist, ASI. “Apart from a chemical wash which would scientifically determine their age, we also found clues from the way the cannon was manufactured and from the inscriptions on the cannon. The pattern was similar to other cannons from Tipu’s era. What put us on the right course was the location where we found the cannon — near Tipu Sultan’s palace. In Tipu’s day, K.R. Market was a battlefield. There could be many more cannons around the area.”

However, questions about the makers of these cannons still remain, he says. “Many historians believe that Tipu employed French nationals to manufacture these cannons in a factory near Ulsoor, but the jury is still out on these questions.”

More underground?

The cannons may be the first of many relics to be unearthed near the City Market, says Keshava: “Ancient Bangalore still lies buried underneath our streets and flyovers. It is possible even to find streets and houses and other relics that belonged to Tipu Sultan’s era beneath the streets of Kalasipalya and K.R. Market.”

The discovery of these cannons immediately raised concerns about the possibility of the city’s heritage getting buried under its infrastructure, but R. Ramakrishna, the Commissioner of the Department of Archaeology, says there is no need to worry. “After we found the cannon, we went on a drive to sensitise our metro workers to what they should do in case they find any historical artefacts around the area, and we brought in experts who could tell us the likelihood of finding more historical relics. Many experts have told us that there may be more historical objects in the area.”

Finding a home for these cannons was a tedious process, said Mr. Ramakrishna: “We had several requests from museums like National Military Memorial to keep the cannon there but we decided on the Government Museum in Bangalore in the end.”

AMULYA PURUSHOTHAMA

Experts say the cannons found near Tipu’s Palace may not be the last of the buried artefacts from the ruler’s era

The cannons are now housed at the Karnataka Government Museum on Kasturba Road