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  5.28 The Water gate, Seringapatam  


©Anne Buddle
The Water gate, Seringapatam

Modern photograph, 1984

n a letter to his father on 6th August 1799, the Scotsman, Thomas Munro, described Tipu's last hours in few words:
'when the assault commenced, he repaired to the outer ramparts; but being driven from them he fell as he was returning into the body of the place, in a passage under the rampart called the Water Gate....the road was chocked up and almost every soul in the gate slain. Though he had got a wound in the leg and two or three balls in the body, he was still alive and continued in this state over an hour.' Tipu refused his servant's entrety to declare himself, and the passing soldier who shot Tipu as he rallied to defend himself certainly did not recognise his opponent as the Tiger of Mysore.

Following Tipu's death, a watercolour of the Gateway was painted by Thomas Sydenham, an officer who had fought with Col. Sherbrooke in the final assault of Seringapatam. His painting seems to have been a key source for another watercolour of the gateway, painted c.1799-1800 by a young man aged 24, who had just been elected an Associate of the Royal Academy, and who would become one of the most famous of all British watercolour artists, J.M.W.Turner. Turner had already exhibited a dramatic canvas of the Battle of the Nile and now, mindful of the lucrative potential which Robert Ker Porter was already exploiting with his vast panorama, Turner also turned to the subject of Seringapatam. Three large watercolours were produced: 'The Residence of the Mysore Rajah within the fort of Seringapatam'; The Siege of Seringapatam'; and 'Hoollay Deedy or new Sally-port in the innter rampart of Seringapatam, where Tippoo Sultan was killed, on the 4th May 1799.' While the latter is very close to Sydenham's view, Turner's 'Siege of Seringapatam' must have been based on an actual view such as that by Alexander Allan.

By 1804, Lord Valentia, who was staying at Seringapatam with the officers of the De Meuron Regiment, reported in a letter of 4th March that 'The Gateway where Tippoo Fell has been destroyed with the inner work: a road is formed in its stead which will ultimately add much beauty to the town.' Today a stark inscribed stone, isolated some yards East of the Water Gate, purports to mark the spot where Tipu fell - a claim which is now challenged by a least one Indian historian. Beatson and Allan, describing the discovery of Tipu's body on the fateful 4th May 1799, refer to 'a gate-way in the North face of the fort' to which Allan was led by the killedar (commander) of the fort. The cusped arch discernible in the shadows of related paintings by Devis & Wilkie certainly suggests a structure similar, if not identical, to the surviving Water Gate.

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