The British Empire Library

Select Views in Mysore in the country of Tippoo Sultan, from drawings taken on the spot by Mr Home: with historical descriptions

by Robert Home

Book Review by kind permission of Chowkidar, the journal of the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia
Reception of the Mysorean Hostage Princes
Home accompanied Cornwallis’s army against Tipu Sultan, 1790-1792 from the attack on Bangalore to the taking of Seringapatam and a treaty involving two of Tipu’s sons as guarantors. One of Home’s paintings (in the National Army Museum, London) shows Cornwallis receiving the young hostages and include the artist, holding his portfolio, at the rear. Home selected views of Savendroog; Outradroog; Ramgurry; Chenapatam; Ooleadrog; Shevagurry; Shevagunga and Peddinaigdurga ‘as a delight for those who have never visited India and a faithful record for those who gallantly fought there’. Three folded sheets complete the volume: plans of Ootradroog’s 6-tier defences, of Bangalore fort, and a map of the Carnatic and Mysore, with a Distance grid for nineteen towns. 'Occurrences of the Late War...' are listed too, because full descriptions in the text ‘would take up too much room’. ‘Whatever tends to increase the sphere of man’s knowledge is unquestionably important...’ the Preface affirms, adding ‘it is our province to stimulate curiosity not to gratify it.’

Text and engravings vividly create Home’s ‘on the spot’: Ramgurry’s ‘wild savage aspect,’ abode of tigers; Shevagurry, surrounded by forest stretching 70 miles by 40 miles wide; the ‘incredible exertion’ required to cut a gun road and transport artillery to Savendroog through thick bamboo and rocky terrain. Imagine 6,000 cattle and 2,000 sheep near Ooleadroog, or over 200 elephants before Seringapatam (plus 100,000 cavalry, a body of infantry and 50 large cannon), an earlier Mahratta attack was thwarted by Haidar’s scorched earth policy. The Laul baug on the island had ‘regular walks of shady cypress’ with ‘fruit trees, flowers and vegetables of every known variety’ and ‘a pleasure house or ‘bungulo’ looking down the Cauvery.’ The airy splendour of the Palace interior at Bangalore is almost tangible, ‘open to the four winds of heaven,’ with flower gardens to north and south, and a fountain at each side.

Home’s military details certainly ‘stimulate curiosity.’ Seringapatam’s prospect was ‘conspicuous’: ‘magnificent buildings’; ‘lofty mosques’ and the fort walls painted white. Bangalore fort, ‘improved in the modern style’, had 30 semi-circular bastions, a cannon foundry and a machine for making 130 musket barrels ‘all at once.’ When Col. Maxwell attacked at 11.00 pm, the assailants were immediately ‘completely illumined’ by numerous blue lights, hung from the ramparts.

'Elegant monuments’ commemorated those lost in the attack, although in View of the Burial Ground at Bangalore ‘it was not possible in so small a space to engrave the inscriptions’. All are transcribed in the text. Home concludes ‘We cannot better terminate our work than with the proud mausoleum of Hyder Ali’ with its adjacent ‘faquiers choultries’ and the recent memorial to Burham ud Din, who fell at Sattimungulum (1790). His beautiful sister, one of Tipu’s wives, ‘died absolutely of fear’ as Cornwallis attacked Seringapatam. Her orphaned son, Mooza ud Deen, aged eight, was the younger hostage prince. In 1799 he would lose Tipu, his father, also. It’s an absorbing story.

British Empire Book
Robert Home
Review Originally Published
Spring 2021 in Journal of the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia


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