Bengaluru, Nov 3 : Tipu Sultan, the erstwhile ruler of the Mysore kingdom, was the first Indian who developed rockets and fired them in the wars he fought against the British in the 18th century.
According to the state Archaeology Department’s Assistant Director R.S. Nayaka, Tipu made hundreds of war rockets secretly and stored them at an armoury he built in his kingdom’s capital Srirangapatna near Mysore, about 120 km southwest of Bengaluru.
“Over 1,000 corroded rockets of Tipu were found in an abandoned open well at Bidanooru fort near Nagara in the state’s Shivamogga district during its excavation,” Nayaka told IANS on phone from Malnad, about 275 km northwest of Bengaluru.
A chance discovery of 160 unused rusted rockets in the vicinity in 2002 and their identification after a five-year research in 2007 with the Tipu era made the department explore if more such ammunition was lying buried in the fort.
“Digging of the dry well where its mud was smelling like gun powder led to the discovery of the rockets and shells in a pile, each filled with potassium nitrate, charcoal, and magnesium powder used to fire or lob them using an artillery,” said Nayaka.
A 15-member team of archaeologists, excavators and labourers took three days in mid-July 2018 to unearth the rockets along with gun powder and cast in rustic iron.
“The rockets are in different sizes, measuring 23-26 cm or 12-14 inches. They were found buried in a secure place in the well-shaped place beneath the surface,” noted Nayaka.
The rockets are kept for public display at the Department’s museum at Shivamogga.
“The iron-cased rockets showed the technology Tipu used in making them. Some of them could even belong to Keladi dynasty and the Wodeyar rulers of the Mysore kingdom after Tipu’s reign,” added Nayaka.
The department’s records show that the Malnad region, including the fort area in Shivamogga, was part of Tipu’s Mysore kingdom from 1750-99 and the rockets were used in the wars he fought against the East India Company of the British empire.
Tipu was killed in the fourth Anglo-Mysore War in 1799 at Srirangapatna near Mysore after successive victories in battles against the British rulers.
A pioneer in using rocket artillery, Tipu used to deploy the rockets to deter the British forces from advancing into his kingdom.
For developing the rockets, Tipu took the help of the French army, which used the British Congreve rockets in the wars its commander-in-chief Napoleon Bonaparte fought in Europe.