Monday, July 6, 2009

Colonel Bailey's Dungeon, Srirangapatna

Chained at the wrists to the wall, having to stand in waist deep water, cold water that is infested with leeches, in a dark dungeon that was hidden from most of the world. That is Colonel Bailey's Dungeon for you. If you visit Mysore, visit Srirangapatna. If you visit Srirangapatna (Wikitravel link), this is a must visit spot.

Ok - so what is Srirangapatna. Who is or who was Colonel Bailey. Why is there a dungeon named after him? And so on.

Let's see.
Srirangapatna is a historic town close to Mysore, some 19kms from the city of Mysore.
Srirangapatna is surrounded by the Cauvery river, and is thus really an island. In the centuries gone by, before dams had curtailed the vastness of the rivers, this would have afforded Srirangapatna a measure of safety from invaders. It takes time to cross a massive river you see. Srirangapatna is also the location of a millenium old temple, that I shall blog about in a future post.

Srirangapatna (link to Wikipedia page) was the capital of the kingdom ruled by Tipu Sultan and Hyder Ali.
Tipu Sultan did not get along well with the Englishmen, and fought several wars with them. After one such war, a number of English soldiers were imprisoned in this dungeon, including one Colonel Bailey, who died here in 1780.

View Larger Map (Colonel Bailey's Dungeon on Google Maps)

This slab above greets you at the entrance to the dungeon. It reads:
"In this dungeon were confined for many years the British officers taken prisoner by Tipu Sultan."

Enter past the gate, and to your left is the dungeon: a short flight of thirty odd steps needs to be descended before you get to the arches of the dungeon.

This is another view of the steps, seen from the opposite side.

The shoulder height stone slabs have holes in them, into which chains were attached that tied the captives to these slabs. The dungeon looks very clean, spic-and-span, because it has been cleaned up, the water drained out, and the walls painted. Which is a sort of a shame, because you are quite unable to visualize or imagine just what it would have looked like a couple of hundred years ago. No photographs (obviously), nor any paintings or artists' renderings of what the dungeon would have looked like then, so you have to use your imagination.

When the English laid siege to Srirangapatna, one of the canons fell through the ground and into the dungeon, and that is how the dungeon was discovered. Our good guide informed us that the cannon in the dungeon is not the actual cannon that fell, but a replica. I couldn't tell, either way.

These above are two photographs showing the canon that fell into the dungeon.

Now, the dungeon from above looks very nice, but our very helpful and informative guide informed us that much of this very neat work was done in preparation for a visit by Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, the then President of India.
This is how the site looks from the other side of the road - from the Cauvery river side.

According to
The dungeon measures 30.5 metres X 12.2 metres and is built of brick and mortar. Prisoners were chained to stone slabs fixed on its walls. Named after Colonel Bailey who died here in 1780 A.D., this dungeon was used to imprison Captain Baird, Captain Rulay, Colonel Brithwite, Samson, Frazer and Lindsay by Tipu Sultan. During the seige of Srirangapatnam, one of the cannons rolled back, pierced the ceiling and fell into the dungeon. It is lying there still.

You can see the Cauvery river in this photo. Summer months mean the river is a pale shadow of its glorious self. Post-monsoon months should afford a much fuller view of the river.

The entrance to the dungeon: as you can see, you have to climb down a few steps to reach the dungeon.

The view from the dungeon looking up. As you can see, it is a dungeon, and therefore not at ground level, but several feet below. Some twenty feet or so below the ground level I would estimate. Unless you knew what you were looking for, and approximately where, in the centuries gone by, this would have been near impossible to locate.

© 2009, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.