A stone's throw away from Srirangapatnam railway station lies Colonel Bailey's Dungeon.This is perhaps the least noticed and least visited place of the many places of interest in Srirangapatnam.
Srirangapatnam is an island formed by the Cauvery as the river bifurcates forming this island and again meets at Sangam. The entire place of Srirangapatnam is dotted with such monuments which speak about the life and struggles of the Tiger of Mysore and it also urges us to know more about our struggle for freedom.
The small town of Srirangapatnam was once the capital city of the great Tipu ,and is also the place which witnessed the 4 Mysore wars. It goes without saying that it was the hub of many political activities in the 18 th century , many scars of which are still visible,at this place...Colonel Bailey's Dungeon is one such place which was used to keep British prisoners of war captive during the four Mysore wars.
Hyder Ali and then his son Tipu Sultan both had tried to bar the British extend their empire to the south.It wasn't an easy task though ,as the British had already joined hands with the Nizams and the Maratha.
In the war of Pollilur , Colonel Bailey and his troops were defeated by Tipu ,and the British officer was held captive here till he breathed his last in 1782. Later many more British high ranking officials were held captive here like Captain Baird and Rulay and Colonel Sampson and Frazer.
The dungeon, as you can see in the picture above are built a few metres below the ground level ,this was probably so ,to keep it away from view and to make it easier for the sentries to keep watch over the prisoners. Every effort was made to make the place completely inaccessible to any outsider ,as the stairs we used to go down to the dungeon also did not exist then ,it was made only for the convenience of the tourists. The four stone slabs that can be seen at the distance on the wall were the ones used to enter and leave this place
Once inside, it looks like this with domed archways and walls on all sides. The clean interiors do not speak much of the morbid state it used to be in the past.This place used to be filled three fourth with water in those days ,with captives chained to the walls. It was only in the recent years that the place was cleaned up and painted before a visit by the President Sri Abdul Kalam Azad
That's my husband giving a demonstration of how the captives were chained to the stone blocks and dunked in water for hours
The picture above shows the holes on the stone blocks through which the captives were chained to the walls. When observed closely ,the place is full of such small details which substantiate the purpose of this place, that it is not difficult for one to get illusions of prisoners chained and tortured here during the wars.
The most interesting thing inside the dungeon is the huge wrought iron canon lying right at the centre of it. There are many theories explaining its presence there ,according to some ,the canon rolled out of its place and fell through the roof while Tipu was waging a war against the British,while other theories explain that the canon was always kept there but during a bombardment a bomb fell straight through the roof and chipped off a portion of it .Very aptly, for both explanations the roof has an open portion just above it.
The mark left on the canon probably by the bomb
It is so said that the bomb was actually targeted at Tipu ,as the British had expected him to be here at that time ,but fortunately he was not present in the dungeon.
The above picture shows an opening
in one corner of the dungeon,which was later discovered as the entry to a secret tunnel connecting the dungeon to the palace. Secret tunnels have always fascinated me,and this one could not stop me from thinking that Tipu made surprise visits to this place through this tunnel.
And guess what is this ...probably the place in the wall which was used to fill the dungeon with water from the Cauvery ,at least that is how our guide put it.
The captives here were prisoners of war and so security was very important,the openings on the walls above the dungeon to keep watch and to fire the canons from.
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The dungeon was very strategically built, the river Cauvery formed a natural moat behind the it .This river must have been more voluminous before the dams were built. The dungeon which in itself was a small fortress was located inside the fort of the ruler ,needless to say the importance it had for the Sultan!
Keeping Indian rulers and Sepoy captive by the British was a routine affair during the British rule,but a place built exclusively to keep British prisoners of war captive by an Indian ruler somewhat induces a sense of pride in us.
Tipu was well known for his valour and his military ingenuity , his rockets had not failed to awe the British. The relatively simple brick and mortar structure which we had just visited, actually stood in silent testimony to the same valour and the mettle that was so quintessential of Tipu Sultan.
Srirangapatnam is located about 14 kms from Mysore and 125 kms from Bangalore and lies on the Mysore Bangalore highway.It is very well connected by rail and road ,there are also buses plying regularly to Mysore from Bangalore.The dungeon lies very close to the railway station ,one can visit the Ranganatha Swamy temple ,which is only half a km from this place.The place where Tipu's body was found is also very well marked and lies very close to this place. Srirangapatnam is generally visited from Mysore as a one day trip, though there are very good boarding options here itself .We stayed at the KSTDC property ,Mayura River View about 2 kms away.