Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Tipu Sultan and the Chennai connection

Ask any Chennaiite about the city’s connection with arms production and the spontaneous reply could be the Heavy Vehicles Factory at Avadi, which manufactures the indigenous Arjun Main Battle Tank. But, South India’s tryst with weaponry and ordnance manufacturing dates back to over 200 years, according to experts at the government museum in Egmore. The exhibit of the model of the State Gun of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan is, they said, a pointer to that. 

The miniature of State Gun displayed at the museum as the ‘Exhibit of the Week’ was fabricated at the Gun Carriage Manufactory of Madras for the Superintendent Major John Maintland, commemorating the victory of English East India Company over Tipu Sultan of Srirangapatnam near Mysore in 1799 during the Mysore War IV.

According to C Maheswaran, Curator, Archaeology Section, Government Museum, the British seized several cannons after defeating Tipu Sultan at Srirangapatman on May 21, 1799. “Thereafter, a miniature of the State Gun was made at the Gun Carriage in Chennai in the same year,” he added.

Interestingly, the Government Museum acquired the model just for Rs 60. During the pre-Independence era, the British government had transferred several objects to the museum  free of cost though a few historical exhibits like the State Gun model, which were sold for a price.

Historians claim that cannons were not conceptualised by the British — a popular belief among the countrymen — but was actually introduced by the Mughal emperor Babur in India. Firearm was an invention of the Chinese, who passed on the technology to the Mughals as the two races had good relations with each other. Hyder Ali and his successor Tipu Sultan developed the cannons to effectively counter the British during the four Mysore wars.Maheswaran said that Tipu Sultan could be termed a master in warfare, including the guerrilla warfare.

“Tipu Sultan was a legend during his lifetime, who ruled Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. He set up arsenals in almost all the areas under his control, constructing watch towers on the hill tops to have a watch on the enemies,” he observed.

The big guns have since gone silent. But the model of the State Gun manufactured by the British tells a tale — of bravery, resilience and resistance – of a ruler called Tipu Sultan to the present generation.
Yogesh Kabirdoss in The New Indian Express dated 9 Aug 2011. Here

Little school kids walk into the main building of the Government Museum Egmore to be stopped in front of a miniature model displayed as the ‘exhibit of the week'. 

“So, what is that?” asks a museum staff. “It is a bullock cart,” says a girl. Most of them have no clue as to the display – the miniature of the gun used by Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan to fight the expansion of English East India Company. 

C. Maheswaran, curator, anthropology section, patiently tells them the story — rather, the history — behind the miniature model. “At the fall of Tipu Sultan in 1799 A.D during Mysore War III, the English East India Company captured the State gun of Hyder and Tipu. In memory of this historical moment, it created a model of the gun in brass at its gun carriage manufactory in Madras the same year,” he says, adding the state gun is in Srirangapatinam. 

The children keep nodding their heads and walk away and the next batch of noisy kids troops in. “It is like a time capsule. We don't know where the gun carriage manufactory was in Madras but it was fabricated under the supervision of Major John Maintland,” he says. 

The swell of the muzzle of mounted gun is shaped like the conventional head of Yazhi (the mythical animal). Urdu inscriptions are noticed on the stock of carriage. On the vertical bar, the word ‘Seringapatam' (Srirangapatinam) is noticed and on the horizontal bar the words, ‘progress' and ‘decline', are inscribed in equi-distance. 

“There is this word ‘Hoonsur” inscribed in Kannada. Probably, it could be the place where Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan manufactured the guns,” says Mr. Maheswaran. Interestingly, the Government Museum acquired this miniature exhibit for Rs 60.
A report in The Hindu dated 9 Aug 2011. Here

1 comment:

Sirajuddin said...

Tipu Sultan was the greatest warrior. The fact that the British felt the need to design a miniature of his cannon shows his supremacy over the British in technology.


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