27 December, 2007
Lal Mahal -- Tipu's palace -- Srirangapattana
A short distance from Water Gate was the Lal Mahal, one of Tipu’s palaces. The British desccribed this palace as "very handsome". It had a regal audience hall or the durbar hall with three rows of magnificient pillars supporting a roof two stories above, a library and zenana. The palace also had sophisticated underground piping. It is said that Tipu had chained four tigers near its entrance. Col Wellesley destroyed lal mahal after the seige of Srirangapattana.
Could these flight of steps have led to the zenana?
It is said that in Tipu’s large zenana were, in addition to purchased slaves from such places as Istambul and Georgia, two sisters of the Raja of Coorg and a niece of none other than Purnaiya, who was Tipu’s Diwan http://www.organiser.org/dynamic/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=152&page=13
The zenana could have also been where Tipu's body was set after the British killed him in the last battle of Srirangapattana. Henry Singleton has painted this imaginary portrait. Moorish columns and archways form the dark scene and sleeping veils hang down from the ceiling. Tipu Sultan's body lies on a diwan, limp and robed. His arm hanging down lifeless, his head lolled back and only recognisable by its distinctive curled moustache. Women in diaphanous French empire style gowns surround the body in various poses of distress: one kneels and kisses his feet, with her back to the viewer; another stands with arms outstretched and open-mouthed head thrown back, in a pose that suggests the image of a maiden wailing for her demon lover. Two distraught young children in white gowns, clearly the hostage princes stand at Tipu's head; other Mysore attendants, in poses of distress or indifference, stand in the shadows.
Tipu's wives and children, and over 800 women from the royal zenana, were transported from Srirangapattana to Madras (present day Chennai) shortly after the capital fell to Baird's troops. They were all then imprisoned at Vellore Fort that was surrounded by moat filled with alligators of a very large size.
Ghulam Mohammed, Tipu Sultan's oldest and only surviving son, wrote a passage to his keepers in 1854 that revealed how very far both the Sultan's family and the British empire had traveled since the Romantic and revolutionary days of the 1780s, before Cornwallis, before Wellesley, and before the storming of Srirangapattana:
In the year 1799 AD, my father, the once powerful sovereign of the South of India (may his tomb be sanctified), fell subdued by the force of the invincible arms of Great Britain. With his downfall fled the greatness of his family, and the glory of his house was extinguished; but if in his wisdom, an Almighty Providence thought proper to crush him, I, his now only surviving son, can praise that One and only Being, who, in his bounty, has also thought fit to vouchsafe to us such merciful conquerors. I can now, with a sincere and true heart, offer up prayers for the safety and good health of her Majesty, our most Gracious Queen Victoria, and I can bless the Prophet, on whom be peace, that successive Sovereigns of her mighty Empire have entrusted the Government of this country, and the care of Britain's fallen foes and their descendants, to that just and even upright body, the Honourable the Court of Directors."