Thursday, May 12, 2005

Tipu Sultan again

I am almost done reading a well researched book on Tipu. It is by Prof HD Sharma - the original being in English. I read a Kannada translation - which was good but the translation of the letters written by Tipu are difficult to read. There is a translation touch to it - you can feel that it is a translation. The author has done some extensive research and has a good reference list at the end of the book. He has referred to the India Office archives in London where most of Tipu's correspondence and effects lie.

The book is not big at all. It is close to 200 pages. A simple gist of the book is as follows.

Tipu was a bigot on the same level as Mahmud Ghazni, Aurangzeb, Mohammed bin Tughlaq and Alla-ud-din Khilji. So, if we already know what the others have done, Tipu has matching deeds.

According to the book, Haider Ali, Tipu's father surprisingly comes out as a good leader and a king, in spite of some of his bad deeds. I was surprised as a lot of people from Chitradurga (where Haider Ali defeated Madakarinayaka, the local chieftain) loath Haider while being indifferent about Tipu.

Tipu's political life is in two phases one from 1767-1792 and the second one from 1792-1799. The phase break came because of Tipu's defeat in the Third Mysore war after which he became neurotic.

In the first phase of his life/rule, Tipu comes across as a ruthless, tyrannical despot with a level of bigotry that would make even Osama bin Laden look to Tipu with awe. Haider Ali for all his faults had a few merits. He hired the local Hindu people to look after his army and administration. Diwan Purnaiah was the most important of the lot. Haider was clever enough to recognize talent and use it and not be clouded by affiliation to religion. He kept religion and politics separate and in that aspect he was truly a secular ruler.

There are claims to Tipu's having many Hindu officials. They were the ones who remained after Haider's death and Tipu's ascent to the 'throne'. Tipu actually removed several Hindu officials and replaced them with Muslim ones, even though they were illiterate.

Tipu perpetrated horrors in the Malabar region and in the state of Travancore where he forcibly converted thousands of Hindus and Christians to Islam. The rest were killed. In fact, a note written by Tipu orders one of his commanders to kill 5000 people to instill fear in the people. It is estimated that Tipu destroyed at least 8000 Hindu temples. He was a very religious Muslim and read from the Quran every day and followed its edicts quite literally.

Haider Ali had at least bothered to put on the mask of a regent while pretending to serve the Wodeyar King of Mysore. With Tipu, even the mask was lost. Tipu imprisoned the Royal Family of Mysore and ill treated them. He even took a few Hindu women associated with his administrative officials and other royal families forcibly into his harem. In fact, he had Diwan Purnaiah's niece in his harem. This is to show the 'good' feeling Tipu had for his ministers.

He had a lot of people killed in Srirangapatna and Melkote also because they seemed to support the Wodeyar family. It is believed that he had the supporters of the royal family hanged (at least 800 families including women and children) from the trees in a tamarind grove close to the Sri Ranganatha temple. To give an idea of the horrible punishments Tipu meted out, he had a commander very close to Haider Ali, Krishna Rao, killed by dropping him alive in a pan of boiling oil. Tipu then took the wife of Krishna Rao forcibly into his harem. To compound it, the execution of Krishna Rao was based on flimsy reasons. The royal family of Travancore was subjected to similar ignominies when the bodies of the royal family members were subject to humiliating treatments.

However, there are records to show his devotion towards Hindu Temples. This happened because of the change in mind after his defeats to the British - which was more out of fear than any wisdom. He consulted astrologers and sought their advice more readily than from his maulvis and imams. Even then, Tipu did not stop to solicit help from several Muslim rulers around the world. These messages had a common refrain - "Let's make India a Muslim country and let's kill the "atheists"". Atheists referred to non-Muslims and Muslims like the Nizam of Hyderabad. In fact, the inscription on his famous sword expresses similar emotions.

There were a few positive qualities of Tipu also. 5'8" in height (not a positive quality, just mentioned it), he was a simple dresser and loved his wives and children a lot. He was a brave warrior and very energetic and enthusiastic. He actually banned the sale of intoxicants in his kingdom. He was well trained in Persian, Arabic, Urdu, Kannada and the other local languages and loved to engage in letter writing very frequently. He even kept a journal of his dreams. He was supposed to be an excellent horse rider. He respected his mother a lot and made at least a show of listening to her.

Towards his end, we see Tipu becoming a nervous wreck requesting for many pujas and yajnas to be performed to ward off evil. He continued to write letters to France, Egypt, Turkey and Afghanistan requesting for help - but none arrived. He died on May 4 1799 when he was trying to retreat to his palace from the Srirangapatna fort. He did not die fighting as expressed by many historians. He was buried next to his father and mother. The British, the Marathas and the Nizam of Hyderabad proved to be real enemies to Tipu.

To sum up, Tipu was not a freedom fighter and neither was he secular because he did not have such ideas at all. He was quite a selfish ruler who could stoop down to any level if permitted by the political conditions. He was a bigot heavily influenced by Islamic theological training at a young age (In fact, Haider Ali deplored this teaching). Also, Tipu was never trained in any religion other than Islam contrary to what is reported in TV serials and popular books. His tyrannical rule adversely affected tens of thousands of families in Kerala and the Malabar region and even in his own kingdom. His death gave a lot of relief to families across South India. That probably is the reason why the British were welcomed in Karnataka.

One of these days, I will go to Srirangapatna and spend the entire day there looking at the different places associated with Tipu's life.


Venkatesha Murthy said...

I watched the TV serial only occassionally both because of its production values (or the lack of it) and because it made no attempt to mask its "all was good" bias which perhaps might have have come from the book. If I remember right, there was a furore about this and the producers had to insert a disclaimer at the begining about the work being fiction and so on and the author of the book was understandably upset. Now to disclaim myself, I haven't read Gidwani's book myself but I'd like to see how much he researched in the parts of the country that Tipu had most sway.

Suresh said...

Interesting! Can you please tell me the title of the book (Kannada version) and the author? Thanks! Suresh

nIlagrIva said...

The book is titled "TipUvina nija swarUpa". The author is HD Sharma - I don't know who the translator is. I forgot who the publisher is - it may be rAShtrOtthAna sAhitya.

If possible check out a good book by Sita Ram Goel on the same topic. The review by CJS Wallia on speaks a lot about this.

But the sad truth is that in India - the secular mask takes precedence over truth. Recognizing and understanding the past is key to not repeat the same in the future. But if we decide to deliberately stick our heads in sand and attempt to be ignorant, it won't help us one bit.

Suresh said...

Thanks! I agree with you. Today's youth should dig more to find out whats the truth and what we were told by history books. Atleast, next generation should be taught the "real" history rather than "pseudo-secular" history.

Anonymous said...

Hi Thanks for your information. I heard one serial took by mumbai people about Tippu Sultan right. Do you have any information about that.

Anonymous said...

Well, How do you know which one is the truth. Again you are rellying on a book written by some one..Do your research by yourself and you will know how good Tippu Sultan was.

nIlagrIva said...

Well, how do you know what the truth is? Did you not rely on a book or books to see how good he was? Or on Bhagwan Gidwani's play? The fact (I can't go back in time to see Tipu - but neither can anybody else), after considering multiple sources seems to be that Tipu was not as great a ruler as he is made out to be. Why do you think people in Kerala still shudder at Tipu's name? Certain people in India seem to prefer political convenience to the inconvenient truth and that is what has made Tipu a national hero.

Anonymous said...

Hi Nilagriva,

I must confess that I have always considered Tippu as a great hero and patriot who fought the British. Most of my impressions were based on the TV serial by Sanjay Khan and sayings by tour guides in Srirangapatna. I do not consider myself educated enough to make a comment on the actual character of Tippu but I would certainly recommend you to go to the Shiva temple in Nanjanagud (near Mysore). You can see an inscription in the temple describing Tippu's devotion to Lord Shiva. I was told that he also donated huge sums of money to the temple and also installed a Shiva Linga in the temple. This Linga is famous as "Hakim Nanjunda".

Awaiting your further research and comments on the post.


nIlagrIva said...


As I have mentioned in my blog before, Tipu began doing pUjas of all kinds when he became more of a nervous wreck. The Nanjangud "Hakim Nanjunda" story was known to me in my childhood. When I was in my tenth standard, I too believed that Tipu was a great patriot. The endowments to Sringeri Matha and this faux piety towards Shiva all belonged to this phase.

Do his letters to the king of Afghanistan lie? What about that inscription on his famous sword? Why do Mandyam Iyengars not celebrate Naraka Chaturdashi even today? What about the tens of thousands of Keralites who were converted to Islam? If you know Kannada, SL Bhairappa's critique of Girish Karnad's position can be studied. Read the book I mentioned and let me know what you feel.

One good act by Tipu cannot be considered sufficient to wipe out the other sins he had committed. But to be fair to Tipu, he was just acting according to the tenets of his faith which encouraged him to kill kafirs. If Tipu were without his "faith", we might have seen a different person; this we will never know.

Vinay said...

you can apply Logic to find out tippu was against kannada or not? Intrestingly the administrative language of tippu rule was "parsi" and thats the reason muslims in karnataka are used to speak "Urdu" whereas muslims of tamilnadu and kerala speak tamil and malyalam.

Vinay kumar

Anonymous said...


Assuming Tipu was strongly anti-Hindu in the first phase I can't understand why he did not destroy the Ranganathaswamy temple Srirangapattina so close to his capital and forts ? If he had destroyed 8000 temples why would he spare this magnificent temple ?

Even close to his summer palace in Nandi Hills he hasn't touched the temples that were constructed before him.......


~rAGU said...

Let there be no mistake. There is no need to read history books. The broken temples in Shimoga district speak for themselves. Keladi kingdom was annexed by Hyder Ali in 1756 which until then was a free kingdom fiercly defending its sovereignty against many including Wodeyar rulers. But during subsequent attacks on Keladi Nayakas many temples including the famous Aghoreshwara temple was sacked. Even today priests in the temple mention the the Kalasha on top of the Sanctum Sanctorum was stolen and many murthys broken. Similarly , Ganapathi temple in Sagara shares a wall with a Mosque even today. History aside, having grown up there I know what it could have been like. I would like to read the books you mentioned though.

vijayendra said...

hi guys,

the solution to most of the problems r very simple and most of the times very clearly seen and understood also.

the very reason, for the others(early muslim invaders and british) to be so successful in their conquests of india, is that the hindus were/are very self-centered and politically very weak as a unit.

even today,the situation has not changed.

we are already pushed to the corners and still relish the dream that we are great in so and so fields etc etc.

everything is waste if you are politically meak.

Anonymous said...

It has been accepted by a majority of non-muslim scholars in history that there is nothing in Islamic teachings that can be hated or even criticized. Yeah, there are Maulvis, Mullahas and some muslim priests who have distored the true image of Islam by their man-made counterfiet religious teachings. Let us look at the past 500 years and compare the number of muslims who have changed their faith to a differetn religion with those non-muslims who have converted to Islam I think the ratio would be 1:15000. Quran guarantees the rights of Non-muslims. However, some verses regarding infidels have been misinterpreted. According to Quran, an infidel is not just any non-muslim but an enemy who wages war against peaceful and peaceloving people.
However, as far as Tipu Sultan, an ordinary book by HD Sharma is not enough to criticize Tipu's policies, legacy and rule. Nobody can go back in past and relive with those who are already gone, the best thing that can be done to reach a conclusion is to see what most of the historians are saying and agree with. It is also notable that after Tipu Sultan, British army officials and writers who had full control over everything in India may have tried to distort the historical image of Tipu Sultan by presenting him as a tyrant and religious bigot so the future generations of India particularly those from Southern India could develope hatred against him and this is what they did with some of the Mughal kings like Shah Jehan and Aurangzabe. They attributed irrational and funny stories with these great Mughals like the one attributed to Shah Jehan that he cutt off the hands of those labors and architectures who built Taj Mahal so they could never re-built a palace like it again. Aurangzabe may have been a very strict ruler but not necessarily a tyrant and cruel monster as usually described. I think, when British writers were writing our history and distorting the image of our kings, they must have attributed all these stories with the names of these great Non-Hindu kings. Just try to understand the nature of British rule and remember their policy (Divide and Rule) they had to do everything they could have in order to distort the image of Mughals and later kings such as Tipu Sultan so in future, Hindus can develope hatred against Non-Hindu rulers of past. That was their strategy.
If Tipu Sultan was not a brave and energetic ruler, he would have fled from his palace even before the British marched towards his capital and this is notable that a king who had crushed the British in Battle of Poliloor in 1782, how come he met a defeat being totally helpless at the end and how come the British and Nizam even reached and surrounded his capital, Could Tipu Sultan not have resisted them way before reaching his capital since he had great rocketry missiles some of which were used even in the last war and crushed the British army in those parts of the battlefied where they were used but not all of them could be used as Mir Sadiq and Purniyah had preplanned their war methodology. It was Mir Qamar-ud-Din, Tipu's first cousin, Mir Sadiq and Purnayiah, who betrayed, didn't resist the British forces and gave them way to reach and surround his fort. And as far as how Tipu died in the battle, well, the picures of his last effort and fall were drawn or painted by Britishers who admitted that he died manfully at the end and that even Napolean who may have possessed the same courage couldn't die like him, but instead Napolean surrendered to the British.

Anonymous said...

bloody hell with ur book..who is that author man who doesn no abt history..bloody hell with that author also..n bloody hell wit u also who agreed tat tipu is a negative ruler..wich book on earth says tat wodeyar family was prosecuted? den y dint he kill d next wodeyar successor who was jus 8 yrs old wen tipu tuk over mysore..he wud hv kicked wodeyar family out..but he dint..he always respected was he who saved wodeyar ruler from british..n for ur kind information tipu studied both holy books of hindus n muslims..tat is bhagwat gita n the Quran while he was growin up..go read more books on him..girish karnad d famous kannadiga who is also a hindu is big fan of tipu n he also has A community of tipu n he has written books on him go read tat..rather den readin books of dis senseless authors..n ya u need a luk arnd dos ppl suffered wen tipu died..go ask jus do hell wit ur author..wat ever his name is n think once b4 spkn abt such a grt king u got it..

ayyo said...

To Anonymous writer above,
Girish Karnad writes fiction, he does base his characters on historical names. But by no stretch of imagination, can he be called a researcher of Mysore/ Karnataka history or a historian. Just because his name is more recognized by the masses, what he says does not become the only "TRUTH".
As mentioned by others, please read a few more books, gather information from various sources (not just TV/ movies!!!)and then form your own opinion on things. When someone says that your childhood hero is not as great as you thought he was, all you do is throw a tantrum ..grow up already!!

SrI nRsimhapriya said...

There are few things here that are wrong.....Coming from tonnur based mandyam iyengar family, I feel that its only right thing to correct these mistakes......

1. Tipu had nothing to do with dewan purnaih's family.He never iltreated his family but offended purniah on many occasions.

2. Tipu ordered mir sadak to kill krishna rao and bring his wife. fortunately Krishna rao's wife kamala bayi commited suicide in the nick of time.

3. Tipus forces attacked kamala bayi's sister vimala bayi's husband in central karnataka and it was this lady and her daughter tArA who became the victims of mir sadak and tipu respectively.

4. Tipu's anger towards mandyam iyengars had more to do with one of his officer shamaih's rebellion than with tirumalacharya.

5. There was a court official called ramachandra who was a relative of tirumalacharya and a close friend of maharani. He had a very goodlooking daughter called madhavi (malini or madhura according to different records). But in our family records, her name is mentioned to be madhavi. This girl was very dear to maharani and she was adopted by maharani. This same girl was kidnapped by tipu and taken to his harem. when discovered, ramachandra rebelled ;so he was focribelly converted and imprisoned. That was the same time tipu was planning to destroy kodanda ramaswamy and gangadhareshwara temples.....shamiah secretly released ramachandra and sent him to bengaluru where he built a force of few hundreds and made preparations for a revolt. This revolt was put down and shamiah was killed along with ramachandra. That triggered mandyam massacre in srirangapatna. The actual number was 700 ish and not 800 families.

6. Madhavi and Tara made friends with several coorgi slaves in the harem and came to know about their plan for a rebellion. They joined and managed to escape from the harem along with thousands of coorgi slaves.

7. Unfortunately tara was caught by mir sadak and later managed to kill him during 4th anglo mysore war.

8. madhavi escaped and joined british forces and she also took part in 4th anglo mysore war as a nurse in british camp.

9. both madhavi and tara killed themselves by drowning in kaveri after they came to know about tipus death and fealt relieved.

10. tipu was not retiring to his palace on his lat day, he was actually sneaking out of the fort and was caught in cross fire. He was disguised as a merchant and hid himself among corspes. One of his own soldiers without knowing the identity of tipu tried to steal his emerald ring thinking he was stealing from a dead body. Tipu attacked him with his sword. The soldier realized who it was and shot him and took the emerald ring.

11. Most of this in its true from has been written in a Kannada novel called "vajranakha", but here and there many fictional accounts have been told. Some of the early mysore history books from 19th century give more details about tipu. Mysore history textbooks from 19th and early 20th cent. give a brief account of this, avoiding gory details.

12. Tipu was indeed a coward but very cruel when it came to his hindu hatred.

13. Beacause he banned alcohol in mysore, his income went down and to compensate, he had taxed all temples in mysore except sriranganatha in pattana and cheluvaraya in melukote.

14. His donations to these temples were made after he lost 3rd anglo-mysore war so he could woo his hindu subjects to support him in his wars.

15. His superstition and request for yajnas, pujas and abhichara all came after his elephants was cured by the holy waters from nanjundeshwara temple.

lastly all mysore region based iyengars know of this gloomy period and there are no contradictions in our records except for the name of the daughter of ramachandra. But because Madhavi is more common among iyengras than malini or madhura, I belive madhavi was her name.

Girish karnad is a sick man
who is white washing tipus deeds.

Jayaram J

SrI nRsimhapriya said...

Tipu destroyed thousands of temples in coorg and malabar. He did not touch temples in mysore because of three strong reasons.

1. Tipu was unpopular even before he came to power and it was known to his father. Hyder aften mentioned to his close associates "I am born for building an empire and my son is born to destroy it". Tipus deeds in north karnataka and tanjore regions had earned him the distrust of his hindu soldiers. He fired many hindus soldiers and officers and appointed muslims in their places who, he knew, could not be trusted.

2. Even after he came to power, he was not free to act at will beacuse most of power was in the hands of hindu chiefs like dewan purnaih, shamiah and krishna rao. Another important officer was mahammad ali a friend of hyder and he too did not like tipu. This mohammad ali was the fist victim of tipu. Tipu slowly took control of the whole administration after bringing mir sadak into office. Once he took complete control, he turned a jihadi. Mir sadak was complicit in all of tipus barbaric deeds.

3. Economy of the state suffered a set back when he banned alcohol in mysore. He had removed many hindus from offices and appointed muslims in their places. They were very currupt and looted the state money on many pretexts. One of the source of income was taxation of hindu temples. The pilgrims brought lot of money to his treasury.

As I have said in my previous post, His elephants eye was cured by the holy teertha of nanjundeshwara which made him donate to the temple. Thats the reason why name "hakim nanjunda" came into existence. Untill then he was a tyrant. He had alianted mysore hindus with his deeds, like pludering and burning down mysore palace, dessecration of coorg and malabar, forcing hindus to use persian, arabic and urdu, renaming towns with urdu names, kidnapping hindu girls(he had hundreds in his harem), iyengar massacre, heavy taxation, currupt muslim officers who themselves were no less of tyrants etc.

Third mysore war had shown him that he could not survive without hindu support and to gather that, he made donations to many temples. Most of the money for this came from looting mysore palace. Inspite of making a big show to gather hindu support, his plans were still the same, to convert whole of south into a muslim state.
His communication with muslim countries can prove it.

Basav Biradar said...

First of all the TV series was based on a "Novel"...

Secondly and most importantly let us look at history with an intent to learn the facts instead of trying to judge someone who ruled over 200 years ago. I myself have researched a lot on Tipu and have worked as a guide in Srirangapatna and have met some of the authors who have written on Tipu. All i can say do not get disillusioned by opinionated authors. you can go to Mysore archives office and read all documents/letters from that period yourself. Also it is important to be aware that we now live in a democracy and cannot judge a monarchy since we havent really lived under such regime. It is very different. I am apalled at the way we make judgements by reading a 200 pages long book.

K Nidhi said...

Write about Hindu Maharaja's and sects internecine wars. Much before Chris & Moh'd came to India, what was the situation? Were e'vrything peaceful? No Hindu kings were fighting amongst them? Don't become over-enthusiastic. Not only Hindu maharaja's among themselves, even muslim rulers did the same among themselves. Its simply a matter of 'Kursi', Jaanewalon ko 'haay' aur aanewal chadthaa suraj ko 'salaam'. Come on guys, get a life man. British ruled for about 200 yrs but these muslim rulers more longer. But they were not clever enough to divide and rule as they felt it is already in the society in there. Read this review:

This is the only sensible review I've come across. You may learn something.
I'm not intend to buy & read that 'novel' unless it comes by.KNidhu

Syed Faaez said...

You are fooling yourself by reading books of such authors.. Its becomming a common trend in today's world to portray muslim rulers as tyrants and hindu rulers all of them as secular and tolerant.. You might propogate false information but you can never deny the fact that tipu was secular and a freedom fighter.. Read Authentic books instead of reading such foolish right wing mentality authors who only know to wrong the actual history. You are doing exactly what the british did in those days..

Syed Faaez said...

Real history is what you were taught earlier.. Now because all of the history can't be changed some books are being rotated in the markets and "sanghi history" would be the most appropriate word for it,fabricated by fools like the author of the book you were talking about.

Syed Faaez said...

My Question to you is how did the british establish themselves in india, who helped them, rulers like the Nizam of hyderabad, The marhatas, Raja of coorg, Malabar. There were Hindus as well as muslims who helped them..The Marhata leaders like Hari Punt,parsuRam bhau, Nizam of hyderabad who were selfish with their own greed to rule, sameway there were muslims and hindus who were against them Nana Phadnavis,Raja of chitaldurg, Rani of Balam, Nawab of manglore being examples
If Tipu faught hindu rulers he also faught muslim rulers his own relatives also. He faught all those who were willing to and helped the british in establishing themselves in india. So it is my kind request to you to stop fooling yourself and realise that There are goods and bads in every community.. There are muslims who sacrificed their lives for india... and muslims who betrayed, There are Hindus who sacrificed themselves and also there are Hindus who betrayed..

Unknown said...

YOU logically sick fool!!just use your brain before calling the tiger as coward!if he had been a coward,he would nevery have fought those many battles with British and as far as the matter of sneaking away comes,why would he wait until the British army came to Fort? If he had ideas of sneaking away, he would have done that a far time before those white buggers came to his fort!! Just do one thing guys,when you potray tipu sultan on such a dark side,parallelly you guys praise and call britishers as heroes who not only came to rescue of karnataka people from cruel clutches of tipu sultan but as heroes who came to rescue india from clutches of cruel muslim rulers too!! Mentally sick people!you'll even forget the slavery and cruelty which india faced during British rule when it comes to your hatred for muslim rulers. In this regard I would say the seeds of " DIVIDE AND RULE" sown by the British buggers are so strong that they continue to this day. Really I praise those British minds!