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The cannon that Bhagavan discovered was abandoned when Haider Ali’s army was driven out of Tiruvannamalai by a British force headed by Colonel Joseph Smith. Smith had already fought Haider Ali in Chengam, about 33km to the west of Tiruvannamalai. Though Colonel Smith won the battle there, he had to undertake an immediate emergency forced march to Tiruvannamalai because his supplies had run out.

One of Tipu Sultan's tiger cannons. Many of his armaments were embellished with tiger motifs. This particular one was cast in bronze in 1790, the year that Tipu Sultan annexed Tiruvannamalai.

Why do I think that this cannon comes from the 1767 battle and not the later invasion when Tipu Sultan took control of the town? I found a far more detailed account of the 1767 battle in a British military history that described how the armies of Haider Ali and the British had actually circled the Pavalakundru outcrop before finally engaging in their decisive battle at its base. Haider Ali’s forces were decisively routed and had to flee in disarray, leaving many of their heavy armaments behind.

I found this brief account of the subsequent battle online:


Smith then proceeded to Tiruvannamalai. Finding no provision there, he was compelled to move further eastward in search of supplies. On September 8th he was joined by Colonel Wood, and on the 14th he retraced his steps to Tiruvannamalai. There on the 26th he brought on a pitched battle with Haidar [Ali] and won a decisive victory. The Nizam and his army bolted, 55 field pieces were taken, and Haidar was compelled to retire into the Baramahal.


One of the field pieces that escaped the attention of the victorious British soldiers was this cannon that Bhagavan unearthed about 120 years later. Bhagavan reported his discovery to the local authorities who dug out the cannon and took it to Madras, where it was apparently put on display in a museum.

The political divisions of South India in 1765. In the 1767 Battle of Tiruvannamalai (and also the preceding Battle of Chengam) the armies of Mysore, headed by Haider Ali, in alliance with the troops of the Nizam, were fighting the soldiers of a British army that was moving westwards through the contested Carnatic.

David Godman Books


Books by David Godman on Ramana Maharshi, his devotees and his teachings

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