Deccan Chronicle

The first time, the British saw a rocket was in Mysore'

Deccan Chronicle | DC Correspondent

Published on: November 7, 2019 | Updated on: November 7, 2019

Mr. Olikara advocated for the need for Tipu to be remembered for his innovation that took Mysore to America, England and the whole of Europe.

Mysore Rockets: The Prowess of 18th century Mysore!

Mysore Rockets: The Prowess of 18th century Mysore!

Bengaluru: As controversy swirls on whether or not, all references to Tipu Sultan should be removed from school text books, Nidhin G Olikara an independent researcher from Shivamogga district presented his findings on the progress of the study of rockets from Tipu’s era that was recovered from Nagara,  Karnataka

Mr. Olikara's passion for the subject has seen him write and research the subject since the late 1990s with the book ‘History of Mysore under Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan’. Speaking at Bangalore International Centre. Mr. Olikara expanded on his recent findings about the development and innovation of iron- cast rockets, and put forth a comparison of these Mysore made rockets with their European counterparts. In recognition of Tipu’s innovation, Mr. Olikara advocated for the need for Tipu to be remembered for his innovation that took Mysore to America, England and the whole of Europe.  

Mysore’s Rockets & Tipu’s Rocketry

"The first time British saw a rocket was in Mysore," said Mr. Olikara. This was a relatively different one as it was made of iron-case as apart from the rockets that was in use by the Mughals, Delhi Sultanates, etc., of the earlier times which was made of wood, primarily with bamboo and with powder inside.

Although Mr. Olikara couldn’t claim that it was during Hyder Ali’s tenure that the iron rockets were first made but confidently claims that it was Hyder and specifically Tipu who used the rocket to the maximum. The value addition to the weapon largely lies in "How to you use the weapon, how to position it, positioning people around the weapon and in the process of training to use." It is the pattern of using the weapon that makes it effective in battle," he said.  Tipu’s excellent approach in this regard explains his relation with rocketry.

Current presence of Mysore rockets

Till 2002, there were only 2 Mysore rockets available which were in England and 3 partial rockets emptied of powder that has been recovered lately but has never been displayed at the Bangalore Museum. His quest to trace the existence of other rockets was instrumental in identifying a few recoveries of 'Mysore Rockets,' termed as shells' from Nagara.

In 2002, during the construction of a well in Nagara, (a town close to Shivamogga district) 160 cylindrical tubes were discovered. It was mistaken as shells for eight years until the Deputy Director Siddhan Gowda identified these shells as rockets of Mysore used in Tipu's era, and wrote a Monograph about the same in 2010. Mr. Olikara, during his study, came across this Monograph and went in search the rockets, in 2013. Subsequent to his inquiry, these rockets were recognized and registered in the Ascension List. However, it is still not displayed, he says.

Mr. Olikara identifies Nagara as an ‘Archaeological Dream come true’ because all what was there in rubble and ruins is still there." During debris clearances undertaken in Nagara, over 3000 Mysore rockets have further been recovered, till date. 

Specialty of Mysore Rocket

The Karnataka State Department of Archaeology, Museum and Heritage provided Mr. Olikara and his team (Mr. Shejeshwara, Asst. Dir. Archaeology Dept, GoK, Prof. Sharada Srinivasan, Archaeometallurgist, Prof. H S Mukunda- Combustion scientist, CGL IISc, Dr. Ajay Sharma- GIS Mapping of Nagara and V.K. Divekar, helped with Lab tests) the opportunity to study the rockets, test them and write a report of the same.

The results left them amused, as they found low carbon steel castings, clay used as insulators and gun powder packed inside. "The use of clay was an innovation and lowering the amount of carbon while making steel required a lot of work, based of the technology present during those times," said Mr. Olikara.  A cursory observation of the undamaged rockets also helped the team to find that "Mysoreans had also learned to propel the rockets in different ways with standardized nozzle diameters."

Tipu’s Engagement with Kannada

Apart from the scientific and technological advancements, Mr. Olikara also speaks of the language Kannada, and its position in Tipu's administration. He said, "With the introduction of Persian language, Kannada lost its primary place in the court.

But this in no way removed Kannada writers from the court. The largest part of official correspondences and revenue correspondences in the court was in Persian with first source documents being generated in the local languages like Kannada, Telugu, etc. Therefore, the move only meant that the every record would also have a Persian equivalent." Further based on Tippu’s letters, he said, "Tippu’s letters to the Sringeri Matha was in Kannada.

A whole lot of Tippu’s letters to the Hyderabad Karnataka belt was written in Telugu." This proves that he did respect and uphold the language of the land. 

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