Back to home page

1799 Letter
1799 Journal
Other Documents
Place Names


George, Viscount Valentia

Description of Tipu's Palaces and Mausoleum at Seringapatam

[February 1804]

"The Lolmahal, or private residence of Tippoo consists but of one square, three sides of which are divided into two stories, with a verandah of unpainted in front: behind were many small rooms, used by him as warehouses, but now painted and fitted up for the Resident [ie. Col. Barry Close]; the fourth side consisted of a single room the height of the whole building. It was the durbar of the tyrant, in which he sat and wrote, or received his ministers. It is a very handsome room, about seventy feet wide in front, and forty deep. The walls are painted red with a gilt trellis-work running over it, formed by the tiger's scratch, the favourite ornament of Tippoo. Sentences from the Koran in letters of gold on a red background, each about a foot high, run round the room as a cornice. Three rows of pillars sustain the roof, which is painted like the sides of the room. Each pillar is of a single piece of wood painted red, and highly varnished. The shape is fantastic, bulging much towards the bottom, but again narrowing till they join a base of black marble. Behind the durbar is a smal room where the tyrant slept, when fear or anger would permit him. There are only two windows, both grated with iron, and the door is strongly secured. The only entrances into the Lolmahal are through the harem that adjoined, and through a narrow winding passage, where his fears had chained some tigers as an additional defence. When in the vicinity of Seringapatam he never slept at any of his country palaces, but constantly returned to this more secure fortress....

... Accompanied by Major Symons I visited the Lolbaug, a country palace, situated at the other extremity of the island on which Seringapatam is built. It was begun by Hyder, and finished in 1780, when he was fighting in the Carnatic. He never returned to inhabit it. It is of two stories high, and by no means an inelegant building. The ground floor seems to have been occupied by the attendants,, and is very public; above, are some excellent apartments, and balconies opening into courts, for the Sultan to sit in, and give audience. It was prettily painted; but being too gloomy to be lighted up well for European entertainments, Colonel Close has whitewashed a considerable part of it. It is situated in a garden, which might have been handsome before the first siege of Seringapatam by Lord Cornwallis, when it was filled with avenues of cypress, but at present it is very ugly. Many fruit trees are cultivated in it, but they are regularly planted, and have each a small canal to conduct water to the roots. A Mussulmaun has no idea of the beauties of nature.

Adjoining to the Lolbaug is the mausoleum of Hyder, where rests all that was royal of this Mussulmaun dynasty, Hyder himself, his wife, and Tippoo; who lie under tombs of black marble, elevated about eighteen inches from the ground. They are covered with rich cloths, and have a canopy over them. The whole building, with its dome, its brillantly polished black marble columns, and its mospqu annexed, has a handsome effect. In the verandah are buried several of the family; and again without that, but on an elevated platform which goes round the whole building, are the tombs of several faithful servants. The British Government have, with their usual liberality, continued the allowance for the Moulahs to read the Koran. The expence of this amounts to two thousand pagodas per annum. Three pagodas per day are also distributed in charity at the mausoleum.

We next visited a very pleasant country palace, built by Tippoo nearer the town. It is the residence of General Wellesley when here; and he has contrived to make it a very good house for an European, without destroying its Asiatic singularity and beauty. Here Tippoo frequently retired early in the morning, and continued the whole day; but invariablt returned at night to Seringapatam. The upper floor consists of one centre room, with four others at the corners, and verandahs between them; all very curiosly painted. A verandah below covers each side, the walls of which are painted in a very whimsical manner. On one side is the famous battle with Major Baillie, in which Tippoo gave hopes of future military talent, which were never realized. Major Baillie is in the centre of the hollow square, formed by his small body of men. The tumbril is in the act of blowing up. Tippoo and Hyder are advancing against him. These figures are well done, and are said to be like. In the opposite verandah the paintings are still more curious: Hyder anf Tippoo appear there in all their splendour as conquerors, and the different princes conquered are painted below. Amongst these are placed some that never submitted, particularly the Rajah of Tanjore.

I was mortified to see there a British officer, whom Tippoo said he always wished to have the command against, as he was sure to take his detachment prisoners. He added, that if taken, he should be safe; in oposition probably to the fate of poor Baillie, of whose talents he had a very different opinion, and who therefore only found safety in the grave. This person is represented more than once. In one place he is drawing his sword on a woman, with a most threatening air and countenance. In another he is amusing himself with dancing-girls. In the same verandah are figures of natives of every cast and profession. These are very interesting, and I should much like to have had them copied had there been time. General Wellesley has had them retouched, as they were going rapidly to decay..."

Extract from George, Viscount Valentia's description of his visit to Seringapatam in February 1804.

George, Viscount Valentia. Voyages and Travels to India, Ceylon, the Red Sea, Abyssinia and Egypt in the Years 1802-1806. London: F. C. and J. Rivington, 1811 Vol. 1 pp. 358-359 and 366-367.