Minerva memories – Mangalore


Mangalore Port, the main export from here is coal, lots of it. Alternating from relaxed coastal town to hectic nightmare, Mangaluru (more commonly known as Mangalore) has a Jekyll and Hyde thing going, but it’s a pleasant enough place to to visit. While there’s not a lot to do here, it has an appealing off-the-beaten-path feel, and the spicy seafood dishes are sensational.  It sits at the estuaries of the picturesque Netravathi and Gurupur Rivers on the Arabian Sea coast and has been a major pit stop on international trade routes since the 6th century AD. It was ruled by the Portuguese during the 16th and 17th centuries, before the British took over a century later.


The Sultan Battery is one of the most prominent places of interest in Mangalore. The importance of this place of the city is that it bears testimony of the historical events that have taken place at this place. The Sultan Battery of Mangalore is actually a watchtower, which is located at a place called Boloor. The Battery is made up of special type of stones, which are termed ‘black stones’. Tippu Sultan constructed the Sultan Battery in Mangalore for some important contemporary political reasons. He wanted to stop the naval vessels from stepping into a river called the River Gurpur. For this reason, he constructed the massive structure of the Sultan Battery as a barrier for the naval vessels. The entire structure does not exist any more, though a portion of the fort is still preserved for the tourists, so that they can get a glimpse of this historic monument. The existing portion of the Sultan Battery is called Tippu’s Well. The place where this fort stands is today completely forsaken. The watch tower is so beautifully made that it looks almost like a small fortress. The structure is well adorned with equipments for shooting canons. If one wants to see the Sultan Battery, then he has to travel to Mangalore, which is easily communicable by air, rail and road.


Tipu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore, or Tippoo Sahib as the British called him, was the Indian ruler who resisted the East India Company’s conquest of southern India. Public opinion in England considered him a vicious tyrant, while modern Indian nationalists have hailed him as a freedom fighter, but both views are the products of wishful thinking. A small, plump man with a round face and black moustache, who wore clothes glittering with jewels, Tipu was vigorous, forceful, brave, warlike and cruel; a devout Muslim ruling a mainly Hindu population. He had inherited the throne from his father Haidar Ali, who had driven out the previous Hindu dynasty. Tipu used to say it was better to live for two days like a tiger than drag out an existence like a sheep for two hundred years. He had a special reverence for tigers. He kept six in his fortress-city of Seringapatam (now Sriringapatna), 200 miles west of Madras, where his throne was shaped and striped like a tiger. His elite troops wore tiger badges, the hilt of his sword was in the form of a snarling tiger, and his favourite toy was a mechanical tiger straddling a British officer while the victim squealed in terror (it is now in the Victoria & Albert Museum). Tipu was determined to build a rich and powerful state and he was feared with reason by his subjects, his neighbours and other Indian princes, who joined forces with the British against him. He tried to build up an alliance to drive the British – ‘those oppressors of the human race’ – out of India and intrigued with the French in Paris and Mauritius. In dealings with them Tipu improbably donned a cap of liberty and expressed his sympathy with French Revolutionary ideals.

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The British feared an invasion of India by Napoleon, and Lord Mornington, arriving in Calcutta as British Governor-General in 1798, decided to settle accounts with Citoyen Tipu. An army of East India Company sepoys and cavalry was assembled in Madras under General Harris with a contingent from the Nizam of Hyderabad, and the British Thirty-Third Regiment of Foot under Mornington’s younger brother, Colonel Arthur Wellesley (the future Duke of Wellington). In February 1799 the order to invade Mysore came, and the motley array toiled across the border accompanied by elephants and camels, thousands of baggage bullocks and flocks of sheep and goats to provide meat for the officers, as well as hordes of camp followers and a travelling market selling food and drink for the soldiery. Officers took along cooks, grooms, laundrymen and cleaning wallahs, and senior officers like Wellesley, who brought his silver-plated tableware with him, had thirty or more servants in their train. Moving ponderously in the burning heat, the army covered an area of eighteen square miles and on a good day managed to advance ten miles.


Tipu’s initial resistance was pushed aside and the British army sat down around the limewashed walls of Seringapatam which bristled with cannon. Soldiers captured by the sultan’s men were taken into the fortress and killed. Nails were driven into their heads or they were strangled by Tipu’s jettis, professional strongmen–executioners. Tipu sent placatory messages to the enemy commanders, hoping to delay matters until the monsoon arrived, but they continued with their siege works and cannonades. When the morning of May 4th came, Tipu was told that the omens were not propitious. He tried to ward off misfortune by presenting the Hindu priests and Brahmins with a purse of gold, an elephant, a black bullock and two buffalo, a black nanny goat and a black coat and hat, but in vain. The assault was launched soon after one o’clock by troops equipped with bamboo ladders for scaling the walls. Within minutes a British flag was planted in the breach as the defenders fled. Tipu himself fought bravely, dressed in his finest, loading and firing muskets handed him by his servants as if he was at a sporting shoot, but the odds were too great. He was wounded and his staff tried to hurry him away in a palanquin, but he was killed for his jewellery by an unidentified British soldier. As night was falling a British party found the sultan’s body under a heap of corpses. He was given honourable burial in his family mausoleum in the city.
The news of Tipu’s defeat and death caused excitement in England and his treasure-hoard provided ample prize money for the British senior officers. Harris was given a peerage and Mornington was made Marquess Wellesley. Arthur Wellesley was put in charge in Mysore and moved into Tipu’s palace, while the throne was bestowed on an infant member of the previous Hindu dynasty. The tigers were shot.


Moodabidri, a temple town in Karnataka has some fascinating stories of a rich cultural past embedded in its eighteen temples. With 18 roads connecting various villages, 18 lakes, 18 temples and 18 Jain Basadis, Moodabidri has a definitive link to the number 18. Located 37 kilometers away from Mangalore, the town was named after the abundant bamboo growing in the area. Moodabidri is a compound word made up of Mooda (East) and Bidri (Bamboo).


Saavira Kambada Basadi, a Jain temple in Karnataka, is well known across the world not only because it was built in 1430, but because of the remarkable pillars that are an integral part of the temple. The temples is also known as the Tribhuvana Tilaka Chudamani Basadi or the crest jewel of the three worlds.


The local Chieftain Devaraya Wodeyar initiated the construction of the temple in 1430, but the temple as it stands today includes additions made in 1962. The temple was constructed over a painstaking period of 31 years. An equivalent amount of 9 crores was spent in the construction of the fascinating temple.
The construction of the temple took place in phases. The first phase saw the construction of the sanctum sanctorum with the eight foot idol of Chandranath. The idol is the reason the temple is also known as the Chandranath Basadi.

The second phase oversaw the construction of the magnificent prayer hall with its innumerable pillars. The last phase of construction was the erection of the manasthamba, commissioned by Queen Nagala Devi. The 60 foot monolith is in many ways the center piece in a temple that is awe-inspiring around every turn.


On our return to the Port we found the complete ship covered in a thick film of coal dust which luckily was washed off by a shower at sea.

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About Basia Zarzycka