• Tipu Panorama 1

    THE BATTLE OF POLLILUR

  • Tipu Panorama 2

    THE BATTLE OF POLLILUR

  • Tipu Panorama 3

    THE BATTLE OF POLLILUR

  • Tipu Panorama 4

    THE BATTLE OF POLLILUR

September 1780 CE/1194 AH

The Battle of Pollilur, fought in September 1780 between the British East India Company and the forces of Tipu Sultan and his father Haydar Ali, was described as ‘the severest blow that the British ever sustained in India’, and resonated for years in both Britain and Mysore.

Tipu’s victory was recreated as a wall painting in Tipu’s palace, the Darya Daulat Bagh. It survives to this day, although it has been heavily restored.

Dary Daulat Bagh
Dariya Daulat Bagh (Wikimedia Commons)

The cycle of paintings on display in The Tiger’s Dream appears to be a preparatory attempt at the mural, and thus preserves details which have been lost. In their original state, the paintings on display were one continuous roll of rice paper, approximately 2 meters high and 9 meters wide, but they have since been cut into 24 separate pieces. On display in the exhibition and above, the painting has been digitally re-stitched, allowing it to be seen again as a single artwork.

Painting of the British force in a square formation

The paintings are intended to be ‘read’ from left to right, showing Tipu and Haydar’s army proceeding towards the surrounded British force, shown in a square formation towards the end of the cycle.

Although the imagery may look bright and almost cartoon-like to modern eyes, it is in fact a highly developed and complex narrative in which the entire battle has been compressed into a single scene. The key characters within the narrative – some of whom appear twice – have been identified in contemporary notations on the painting, written by someone who was present at, or very familiar with, the battle.