ackenzie, from the Outer Hebrides
arrived in India in 1783 to join the Madras Army. His keen
interest in mathematics had already been applied in connection
with a biography of John Napier, the inventor of natural
logarathims. For this, Mackenzie had studied the Hindu knowledge
of mathematics, and with these
skills, it was not long before he transferred from the infantry
to the engineers. His career in India was a remarkable combination
of geography, natural history, and active service. During
the Third Mysore War, he was Aide de Corps to the Chief
Engineer, and in the final Mysore War, he marched with the
Nizam's forces. After the fall of Seringapatam, together
with Thomas Fraser on survey
duty, he made detailed drawings of the city and mapped the
newly acquired terrritory of Mysore.
'I was provided with an establishment suited rather to an
economic scale of expenditure than to so extensive an undertaking,'
he recollected in 1817.
Mackenzie's surveys in South India took him to Amaravati,
first in 1797 and again in 1816, and also to Sravanabelagola,
the most sacred Jain pilgrimage site in South India. Mackenzie
was probably the first European to record and measure the
huge statue of Bahubali, which is clearly visible in the
painting, on the skyline behind the figures. With Mackenzie
are his Jain and Telegu Brahmin assistants, and on Mackenzie's
left, holding a telescope, his peon, Kistnaji. With them,
he collected and recorded innumerable details concerning
every aspect of South Indian history, language, life and
religion , resulting in possibly as many as 2,000
drawings and over 8,000 copies of inscriptions. Much
of Mackenzie's 'general' collection was purchased from his
executors: part was deposited with the India Office Library
in London, and part was returned to India and the Tamil
Nadu Government Oriental Manuscripts Library in Madras.
Benjamin Heyne, assistant to Buchanan on
his Mysore Survey, records in his Journal, his visits to sites with
Mackenzie : 'To Sautgur Hill (near Conjeeveram) with Mackenzie ….of
the Sienite they made formerly Canon balls of which many are found
lying all over the Hill,' or at Nandydroog which was 'this morning
Cloathed with a white fog, when the rest of the country was Clear.
The country hereabouts pretty well cultivated. Yesterday morning was
with Capt Mackenzie in the Fort, in which the Houses very few excepted,
were empty. The Garden in it that was formerly famous is entirely neglected
and nothing in it worth attention but a few apple and Coffee Trees.'
This anonymous early watercolour is a copy after the original oil by
Thomas Hickey, the only portrait painter actually on the spot at Madras
when Seringapatam fell. Other portraits painted by Hickey in India
included those of the diarist William Hickey; Capt.
William Kirkpatrick; Thomas Graham of Kinross; Tipu's Chief Minister,
Purniya; Lt.Col William Kirkpatrick and a
wonderful series of portrait drawings of British Officers and the sons
and ministers of Tipu, drawn at Seringapatam and Madras in 1799 and
1800. From these portraits, Hickey intended to paint a series of seven
History paintings related to the Mysore campaign, but these were never