India has one of the greatest traditions of paintings on walls. Called murals or frescos, we see a high level of technical excellence, grace and sublime beauty among Indian murals right from the time of Ajanta.
In 1335 AD, the remarkable city of Vijayanagar or the ‘city of victory’ was established in south-central Karnataka. In no time, the city and the empire became a fertile ground for creativity, thanks to the patronage of its powerful King Krishnadeva Rai. A remarkable style of painting evolved with ideas merging from Deccan, Cholas of Tamil Nadu and Jain tradition. When the Vijayanagar Empire collapsed after the battle of Talikota in mid-16th century many of state artists moved to Serirangapatna, a pristine and sacred land surrounded by Cauvery River on all sides. Here they thrived under the royal patronage of the Mysuru Wodeyers. In 1761 AD, the island became the seat of power of Haider Ali Saheb. He and his son Tipu Sulatan established Mysuru as a vibrant Sultanate and continued to patronage the artisan of Vijayanagar ancestry.
Daria Daulat Bagh is a palace situated in the island near the village Ganjam at Seringapatna. The village is set amidst beautiful gardens. It was built by Tipu Sultan in 1784 as his summer palace.
Built entirely out of teakwood, the architecture of the palace shows remarkable fusion of Deccani, Persian and Rajput styles. The most stunning feature of the palace is that all the space available on the walls, pillars, jharokas and arches have colourful fresco work in the style of Vijayanagar-Mysuru paintings.
On the western wall right to the entrance is depicted the battle scene of second Anglo-Mysore war or the battle of Pollilur. The battle had been fought between Haider-Tipu and the British forces, in which Haider and Tipu combated splendidly and won.
The paintings executed by the artists at the instance of Tipu Sultan where primary aim was to glorify their victory over the British. Colonel Bailley, the defeated British officer was taken to Serirangapatna after his defeat. The battle mural is seen in four different panels portraying Tipu and Haider marching in procession towards Pollilur near Kanchipuram. Tipu is depicted in all finery, himself leading the army towards Pollilur riding a beautiful white horse. Baillie sits in a palanquin as he is wounded and biting his pointing figure – a gesture employed by many to signify defeat in dismay.
The climax of the battle scene depict Baillie’s defeat giving special prominence to the explosion of tumbril and to the consternation of the British square colonel.
On the eastern part of the building there are a number of small frames containing figural motifs, architecture in brilliant composition. The most special is the one where the queen is seen seated on a carpet smoking a hookah. Some of the layouts strongly resemble Rajasthani miniature. The other panels illustrate incidents in the lives of princes, rulers and grandees of Tipu’s contemporary and also includes several rajas defeated by him. There are also neighbouring nawabs and kings including the Hindu Rani of Chittore, Rajas of Tanjore, Benaras, and Balajirao Peshwa II.
Come, lets discover the murals of Daria Daulat Bagh and appreciate the legacy of Tipu Sulatan, a brave son of the soil and perhaps one of the earliest freedom fighters.