Mysuru: The panoramic view of the historic Island of Srirangapatna is an awesome sight with the River Cauvery in full flow on either side of the fortress town. Come rainy season and the water released from KRS Dam in Mandya district gushes out and joins Cauvery River.
However, the future of this great river island looks bleak as the town saw the release of nearly 1.50 lakh cusecs of water from the dam in the past two days, which is unprecedented according to the locals who have never seen such a huge quantity of water being released.
When one looks at the way floods are causing devastation in many parts of the country and the nearest that the Mysureans are witness to is in Kerala and Kodagu, then the question that arises is how safe is Srirangapatna and will a day come when the whole town could be submerged in flood waters.
Time to reinforce the Fortress: Has the time come to reinforce the fortress near the town’s Railway Station that lies behind the western part of the bus stand where the Obelisk (war memorial) is situated? The answer is a resounding yes. The three layers of the Fort was built by Dandenayaka Thimmanna Hebbar in 15th century after taking permission from Vijayanagar rulers. Military technology was used to build this mud fortress and subsequently Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan strengthened the fortress using stones. But over the years the layers have been chipping away as the water has been seeping into the walls.
The top layer of the wall has collapsed and the remnants can be seen still lying near the river. But after the fall of Tipu, the fort has been lying in a state of neglect, even though the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has its office in the river island since the past many years.
The residents allege that except pointing to a few violations of construction activity near the protected monuments, the Department has hardly taken any initiative so far to strengthen the fortress.
The biggest fear for the people living in the island is what if the flood waters breach the fort and the whole town is washed away, just as it is happening in Kerala, Kodagu and other parts of the country.
The Cauvery River divides and flows on either side of the fort. It is also the place where there is confluence of three rivers — Cauvery, Lokapavani and Hemavathy — at the Sangam. Once the fort is breached by the flood waters, then the direction of the river will change and it will become unidirectional, feel the residents living here.
Historian Prof. Kareemuddin, a long-time resident of Srirangapatna, speaking to Star of Mysore said that the three layers of mud walls were built by the then Palegars ruling the town. But when Hyder and Tipu came, they buttressed the fort spread over six kilometres, using stones and also building two gates — the Delhi Gate and Mysore Gate.
“The floods have always been common in these parts during the rainy season. Hence, the 60,000 strong Tipu Army would relax during the monsoon season but they would keep a strong vigil with the soldiers working in 12-hour shift, day and night guarding the fort,” said Prof. Kareemudddin.
“Srirangapatna, the heritage town is today facing the wrath of the River Cauvery because of poor river edge management, improper development of water bodies and temple Kalyanis. Our research over the last three years has established the fact that there is an urgent need to protect the banks beyond the traditional course of the river,” said Prof. D.S. Ramakrishna Rao, Design Chair and Head Research Cell, Mysore School of Architecture.
There are so many monuments and places of historical importance that no organisation, be it the ASI or State Archaeology Department or the Wakf Board are willing to come out and say which monument belongs to whom. For instance, the ASI officials say that the upkeep of the monuments come under the State Department. This has resulted in the total neglect of the place, allege the residents.
Whether it is the elected representatives, MLAs, Ministers, Government or Taluk administration, none of them are looking to the future of Srirangapatna’s safety and taking measures to safeguard the town.
Poet Anarkali Salim urged the officials concerned to at least now do something to protect the fortress and the people of Srirangapatna.
In this game of passing the buck, the weak fortress is standing as a mute witness and the day is not far off when the tragedy will strike the island town and there won’t be any remnants left of the fort or the people, fear the aggrieved residents.
By Vinay Karekura