Given that a large portion of current South India was part of his kingdom, it is but natural that there are many sites small and big related to Tipu Sultan spread all over the region. I have been to his supposed place of birth, visited his hunting lodge and fort, been mesmerised by his small but elegant summer palace and awed by the fort built in an unique style.
Mangalore plays host to a small watch tower called Sultan Bathery. ‘Bathery’ is probably a corrupted version of ‘Battery’, a battery being a fortified place with artillery. As a child I remember it was called both – battery and bathery. All I remember of an attempted visit during my childhood is the horrid odour emanating from the place being used as a ‘public toilet’. It stank so hard that it has wiped clean any faint memory I had of the place. Then I heard that the place got a facelift. So I was curious to see what it looked like.
According to a fading board at the foot of the watch tower (which is placed so badly that you have to look for it!) Tipu’s father Hyder Ali captured Mangalore in 1763 and was in the hands of the father and son till the British took over in 1768. Mangalore is a port town, in fact one of India’s important ports. Sultan Bathery (do not mistake this for the town in Kerala’s Waynad district) is positioned strategically at the mouth of the Gurupur River in Mangalore. From there Tipu could keep an eye out for any British attack from the Arabian Sea.
The watch tower is shaped like a fort. The rounded wall bears several embrasures with crenellations on top of the tower. A few steps is all it takes to get to the top of the tower which gives a sweeping view of the Arabian Sea. Behind the fading board is a small gate that is locked. According to stories I have heard, there is a tunnel that goes all the way to Mysore which was Tipu’s seat of power; and as it cannot be verified, it remains just that – a story.
Far as I can remember, this area of Mangalore was on the outskirts of the city despite it being no more than 5km away from the city centre 🙂 A fairly large community of fisher folk called Mogaveeras have for a long long time called the area around the watch tower home. As proof, you see fishing boats neatly lined up along the banks of the river toward the sea. There is a small shrine dedicated to the head of the Mogaveera community.
The watch tower is only an autorickshaw ride away or you can take a bus (sorry, I cannot remember the bus route number, any bus going to Boloor from the main city bus stand will take you there). Ample car park facility is available. A small cafe serves coffee, tea and small eats. Today, one can take a 10-minute ferryride from here to Tanir Bhavi, a favourite beach of Mangaloreans.