KNOWN TO the British as Seringapatam , this island fortress in the Kaveri river enjoys historical significance as the site of the battles between the British and Tipu Sultan, the “Tiger of Mysore”. The British finally stormed the citadel in 1799, killing Tipu and consolidating their power in South India. Today, none of the structures within the fort survive, barring the bridges across the two arms of the Kaveni river, from which the bathing ghats and the ramparts can be seen.
To the east and the south, a broad moat surrounds the polygonal bastions and turreted parapets constructed by the French engineers employed byTipu. The Mysore Gate and Elephant Gate, to the south, are flanked by guardrooms. Sultan Battery, the dungeons where Tipu used to keep British prisoners, is to the north; nearby is the Water Gate, where Tipu was killed.
The Sri Ranganatha Temple, after which the island is named, is a large complex that was substantially restored in the 19th century. The inner sanctum enshrines an image of the reclining Vishnu and is approached through pillared halls and an open courtyard with a gilded lamp column. At the fort’s eastern end is the Jami Masjid, erected by Tipu in 1787. It has an elevated prayer chamber with a tall minaret on either side. The Daria Daulat Bag, Tipu Sultan’s summer palace, built k in 1787, stands in the iddle of a beautiful garden near the river, short distance south of the fort. Each of its sides has three arched openings in the centre and the whole palace surrounded by a pillared erandah.
The east and west ails of the verandah are oth covered with murals, stored in 1855. On the west wall are scenes of battle, one of which illustrates Haidar Ali’s victory over the British al Pollilur (1780), while the east wall depicts courtly scenes. The carved woodwork and the elegant painted floral designs on the wall reveal Mughal influence. The palace is now a museum, with paint- – ings, maps and Tipu memorabilia on display. Further south, past the Church of the Abbe Dubois (where the learned French Jesuit priest and author lived between 1799 and 1823) and the British Cemetery, is the Gumbaz – the tombs of Hadar Ali and Tipu Sultan, The walls of the chambers are decorated with the tiger-stripes motif (hubri) favoured by Tipu. The ebony and ivory doors were a gift from the viceroy, Lord Dalhousie, in 1855. The sangam (confluence) of the two arms of the Kaveri river is further south.