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Tipu Sultan's Palace (Bangalore, India)

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The summer palace of Tipu Sultan in Bangalore, India.

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      08.10.2011 11:28
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      A poor imitation of its more famous sister palace.

      In the days when the British were trying to stamp their mark on India, Tipu Sultan and his father Hyder Ali were thorns in their side. As other local leaders fell under the rule of the East India Company and the British army, Tipu Sultan fought back again and again, earning himself the nickname of the Tiger of Mysore. He wasn't a sultan - his father just gave him that name, a bit like Michael Jackson calling his son 'Prince Michael' but sometimes a name is like a parent-given statement of intents. Such was the case with Tipu Sultan.

      If you visit the region between Hyderabad and Mysore as we did in 2009, you cannot fail to come away aware of Tipu Sultan and his impact in the region. Even before I went to southern India the first time about 9 years ago, I knew of him through one of the Victoria and Albert's most famous exhibits - an automaton called 'Tipu's Tiger' which is a large metal clock-work figure of a tiger (symbolising Tipu Sultan) mauling a figure dressed as a British soldier.

      On that first visit to Mysore we saw Tipu's summer palace in the town of Srirangapattana. It was one of my stand-out attractions from that tour and I wanted to see another of his palaces so when I realised that Bangalore had his 'summer palace' I wanted to see it.

      Tipu Sultan's palace in Bangalore dates back to 1781 when his father Hyder Ali started its construction and it was finished ten years later by the son. It is mostly made of wood with some very grand carved teak pillars. Its design is very similar in construction to the palace we'd seen in Srirangapattana but it doesn't have the large beautiful gardens or the astonishing level of preservation of that place but it's still worth a visit.

      Entrance is 100 rupees per person for foreigners - around £1.30. The tuk tuk driver we'd hired for the day tried to persuade us not to go because he thought it wasn't worthy of a visit (and he undoubtedly wanted to drag us round more shops where he could earn commission) but I'm too stubborn and too interested in Tipu Sultan to be put off. The palace is adjacent to a Hindu temple that's probably worthy a visit if you have a bit more time but we were tyring to squeeze in a couple more attractions before it got dark so we stuck to the palace. It stands in neatly manicured lawns with tidy little flower beds and the most neatly trimmed box hedges I've seen in India. Sari-clad gardener ladies were patching up the grass and removing weeds to keep everything looking pristine and we took a few minutes to wander in the gardens before heading inside.

      The shape is very similar to his other palace and is a two story construction with colonnades and open verandas and balconies but the colours are very dark and a little bit gloomy. Some of the hand painted wood is very pretty but it suffers badly by comparison with his other palace. It feels more like a pavillion than a palace and with just a few rooms, I'm still not quite sure what it would have been used for.

      There's an interesting exhibition on the ground floor about Tipu Sultan and Hyder Ali which includes a smaller version of the Tipu's Tiger automaton as well as lots of prints and information about the four Anglo-Indian battles he fought. He won the first two but lost the third and fourth and as a result two of his children were taken 'hostage' by the British. Can you imagine how that would go down under the Geneva Convention?

      If you are unlikely to make it down to Srirangapattana to see the best of his palaces, then this is worth a visit. If you have seen the other, then this is an interesting contrast. But if you have no interest in Tipu Sultan and his place in Indian history, then you can listen to your driver and go elsewhere.

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