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November 18, 2014 / subramanyam

Tipu Sultan – The Tyrant of Mysore.


Having grown up in the 90’s in India,  I knew about Tipu Sultan only from Sanjay Khan’s serial on DD.  The sword of Tipu Sultan was something we kids could not resist on the Sunday mornings.  It had everything a kid would long for.  An Indian hero fighting for the glory of his motherland with a foreign invader.  A righteous, tolerant king laying down his life for the motherland was indeed inspiring and we as kids were enjoying every bit of the serial.

Few years ago, I and my Malayalee friend were discussing few things and I happened to speak about Tipu and his gallant sacrifice for the nation.  My friend looked  offended and told me that the serial was not based on facts of Tipu’s life.  My friend who hails from the Malabar region went on to claim that the local tales in Malabar and Koorg portray Tipu as a cruel dictator who raged Hindu temples and converted a lot of Hindu’s and Christians to Islam.  I rejected this as a hearsay, however he did not give up and went on to tell that the serial on DD had a disclaimer that the serial was in itself not based on Tipu’s life.

This turned out to be true. Here is what Wikipedia says about the legal tangle on the DD serial.

Petitions were filed in the Supreme Court of India against the telecast of this drama. The petitioners, Ravi Varma, et al., argued that it was not based on the real life and deeds of Tipu Sultan. After hearing the arguments, the Supreme Court gave a judgment that the drama could be telecast but that a notice has to be displayed along with each episode stating: No claim is made for the accuracy or authenticity of any episode being depicted in the serial. This serial is a fiction and has nothing to do either with the life or rule of Tipu Sultan. The serial is a dramatised presentation of Bhagwan Gidwani’s novel.

Having known all these,  I was curious to know as to what was the true picture of Tipu Sultan and his 17 year rule.  Recently I came across Sandeep Balakrishna’s book “Tipu Sultan  The tyrant of Mysore” and bought the book to know more about Tipu. Here is what the blurb of the book says.

This book is part of a series of books aimed at disseminating the accurate history of India drawn

The Cover page of Sandeep Balakrishna's book

The Cover page of Sandeep Balakrishna’s book

from the primary sources. History writing, especially about the medieval Muslim rule has been fraught with political correctness, controversy, and in several cases, downright falsification. This has occurred mostly with official state patronage. As a result, any attempts to correct this course has been virulently opposed with the result that most urban-educated Indians have now internalized a politically correct version of Indian history. 

The history of Tipu Sultan too, stands as a glaring instance of this distorted historical narrative. Indeed, we have seen, read, and heard about a lot of people claiming to be freedom fighters and receiving pensions from the Government. Several of these worthies would not have been born before Independence yet they succeed in such blatant manipulations. There are instances of portraying certain rulers and chieftains as true heroes who fought against the British Empire. One such ruler happens to be Tipu Sultan. 

Tipu Sultan is widely known as the Tiger of Mysore. Indeed, the image of Tipu battling a tiger barehanded crosses the mind whenever his name is mentioned. But is this the truth? Was Tipu Sultan truly the warrior as he has been portrayed? What exactly is his record of fighting the British? Was he really a freedom fighter as is widely claimed? 

Sandeep Balakrishna in this well-researched book, explores both the myths and the truth surrounding Tipu Sultan. A must-read for those who wish to learn the true story of Tipu Sultan.

This book is a well researched piece on the life and times of Tipu Sultan.  The author gives us enough background about the Mysore Kingdom, the Wodeyar kings who ruled it, the political picture of South India and the relationship of the Wodeyar kings with the powers of their times.  The Maratha’s , the Nizams of Hyderabad , the British and their intentions in the matters of South India were explained in an informative manner.

The author then explains the rise of Hyder Ali.  Hyder Ali,  who is Tipu’s father who was a normal mercenary soldier once used his intelligence and the opportunities very well and ended up as the King

The author Sandeep BalaKrishna

The author Sandeep BalaKrishna

of Mysore.  His rise , his military prowess and fearless leadership were well illustrated by the author. With this back drop we are introduced to Tipu and we get a glimpse of him when he is a young man.  The author brings out interesting episodes as to make us  understand what sort of person Tipu was and if his father indeed trusted him.

From there,  we see the circumstances under which this young man becomes the king and how Tipu took charge of the affairs in the palace.  His religious intolerance, his complete mis-handling of the economy, his lack of trustworthiness, his Islamic fanaticism, his ignorance on what was happening in the world, his madness to control and change India into an Islamic state, the way he ransacked temples, his reign of tyrrany that isolated him from all the kings of south India (at that time) and the double games he tried to play with the French, the British and the Islamic rulers outside India was very well brought out in this book .  The author provides us with evidence for every claim he makes.

As the world knows, Tipu wrote his own letters.  These letters serve as huge testimony to the sort of person Tipu was, the author brings a lot of letters to light. Here is one of them.

Tipu writes to Burduz Zamaun Khan on 19 January 1790: “Don’t you know I have achieved a great victory recently in Malabar and over four lakh Hindus were converted to Islam?”, and to Syed Abdul Dulai on 18 January 1790: “With the grace of Prophet Muhammad and Allah, almost all Hindus in Calicut are now converted to Islam. Only a few are still not converted on the borders of Cochin State. I am determined to convert them also very soon. I consider this as Jehad to achieve that object.

The author has researched  very well and brought a lot of these letters to light in the book. He not only brings out the letters of Tipu and what the British wrote about him.  The author pulls data from various places and presents it to the audience.  For example : here is what a portuguese traveller had to say about the great sultan and his love for his faith.

The world-famous Protuguese traveller, Fr. Barthoelomeo, not a Britisher, writes in his book Voyage to East Indies: “First a corps of 30,000 barbarians who butchered everybody on the way… followed by the field-gun unit under the French Commander, M. Lally… Tipu was riding on an elephant behind which another army of 30,000 soldiers followed. Most of the men and women were hanged in Calicut, first mothers were hanged with their children tied to necks of mothers. That barbarian Tipu Sultan tied the naked Christians and Hindus to the legs of elephants and made the elephants to move around till the bodies of the helpless victims were torn to pieces. Temples and churches were ordered to be burned down, desecrated and destroyed. Christian and Hindu women were forced to marry Mohammadans and similarly their men were forced to marry Mohammadan women.1 Those Christians who refused to be honoured with Islam, were ordered to be killed by hanging immediately. These atrocities were told to me by the victims of Tipu Sultan who escaped from the clutches of his army and reached Varappuzha, which is the centre of Carmichael Christian Mission. I myself helped many victims to cross the Varappuzha river by boats.”

The author Sandeep Balakrishna then goes on to expose Tipu’s games with the nation.  Tipu is glorified because he fought the British.  However, the question is why did he fight them?  Did he fight for his own terrtorial gains or did he fight to send the Europeans away from the country?  The author gives a lot proof as to how Tipu had no qualms with French controlling India and how he invited a lot

What was the motive behind Tipu's fight with the British ?

What was the motive behind Tipu’s fight with the British ?

of Muslim rulers to come and attack India. Again the author reproduces the letters Tipu wrote to the French, the Caliph in Turkey, to the rulers of Afghanistan and Persia. Can this be called patriotism?  The author again does an excellent job of exposing all these misdeeds.

In the final lap the author takes us to the ways in which Tipu lost the Third Anglo-Carnatic war and what he did after that.  How he,  with his faith in Astrology believed that he would become a Padushah and gave donations to some temples.  How he kept judging things erroneously, how all the rulers of south India,  both Muslims and non-Muslims deserted him and how Tipu sent invite after invite to the French to come and attack the British in India, how the British made their proposals and the war that killed Tipu .  It would be interesting to note that the Nawab of Arcot, Nizam of Hyderabad and many other Muslim rulers despised this man and his deeds.  The very fact that the then Caliph also rejected his proposals tell us how this man was put at bay by the Muslim rulers of his time.

I loved author’s research and the guts to write a book of this sort. The references the author provides and the way he presents facts are good.  At the end of the 200 page book I felt as if the author concluded it a little too fast and little too early, I felt he could have written more about this topic.  This is a must read for everyone who wants to understand the true nature of Tipu.

The only recommendation I would like to make to the author is that he gets too judgemental when presenting facts, he can leave them for the inference of the reader.  There were a lot of areas where I felt like —-  let me infer and make my choice—  please don’t serve me judgements.

That apart it is a fantastic book that Sandeep Balakrishna gives to all of us. Do read the book. It unearths many truths and exposes a man who left a deep scar on people of South India.

Sandeep if you would ever read this, A big thank you for exposing one of the tyrants who ruled this country.  Keep up the work you are doing.

References :

I picked the online version of Tipu’s letters from Mint. This is the link on Mint.com:

http://www.livemint.com/Leisure/bO9Ma9Sb2g4aUvIUT29fCP/Why-we-love-to-hate-Tipu-Sultan.html?utm_source=copy

I picked the online version of Fr. Barthoelomeo from here.

http://voiceofdharma.org/books/tipu/ch03.htm

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9 Comments

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  1. kalyan / Nov 18 2014 7:25 pm

    I too knew about Tipu Sultan only from Sanjay Khan’s serial on DD. The sword of Tipu Sultan was something i when i’m a kids could not resist on the Sunday mornings. but reading this article i’m totally blunt ohh what? this happen in the regime of tipu sultan. just want to read full article.

    tyrant usually controls almost everything, and is considered a ruler of horrible and oppressive character…….

    Like

  2. subramanyam / Nov 18 2014 11:49 pm

    Hi Kalyan
    Welcome to SatyaSurya, true most of us look at him as a national hero , but then what he did is extremely disturbing. Do read the book, it will dispel a lot of myths about him.

    Like

  3. Vinay Nagaraju / Nov 20 2014 5:32 pm

    This is a very interesting perspective mate. I too have heard varied views about Tipu and his administration. Some people have taken offence when I have talked about his achievements and think that he should be cast in a black shadow. But I am not really sure which side to believe. Down south, esp kerala, people have often refered to him as a tyrant but there are a few pockets which consider him a hero. I guess this would be an eternal debate.

    Thank you for the balanced view on this book, I would be very interested in picking this up 🙂

    Like

    • subramanyam / Nov 23 2014 6:02 pm

      Hi Vinay

      Welcome to Satyasurya . Yeah the truth on Tipu would indeed be an eternal debate but the evidence as of today is on oneside only . Let us hope that more research is done and more and more truth comes out.

      Like

  4. ram.k.s. / Jan 13 2015 10:51 pm

    Only a few who came across the book could realise that there was something wrong in the Indian history. But most of the youth in the 90s were embossed in their minds with Thippu as a Hero. This wrong impression spreads amongst their friends , family, and children to think in future that , even the correct true factors look FALSE. It is like the conversion of the Orisa tribals at childhood enmasse that to day they believe that their own culture is alien to them. All to the great national service of Congress.

    Like

  5. subramanyam / Jan 14 2015 12:40 am

    Hi Ram,
    Welcome to Satyasurya . Yes, we are all victims of the distorted history. While politicians have their political motives its unfortunate that historians too played a role in that.

    Like

  6. Yoonk Yoonky / Jan 14 2015 6:28 pm

    Since there are so many voices of agreement, I’ll put my voice of dissent here. The book is fascinating reading, but, for someone without a background in academic history, I find the book very disturbing, because there are absolutely no references to where he has drawn his material from. The list of books at the end is just a handful. I’ve written many 4000 word essays for my Masters course, and even that would contain about 50 sources with referencing throughout. I’m not saying what he’s written is untrue. I’m saying that simply by reading it, there is no way of proving what he’s written is true.

    But, having said that, I also think that a lot of people forget that India, as a nation, did not exist prior to 1947. The “Bharat” that we hear of, was more like the EU. A collection of many small kingdoms (513 at the time of independence) who were often at war with each other. Now, in light of that, when the author suggests that Tipu had no problems with the French controlling India, what was he talking about? The state of Hyderabad, the state of gwalior, Bombay Presidency…..

    You see where I’m getting at? There’s no academic grounding to a book that provides fascinating reading, yet nothing to back up it’s accuracy. Are we simply to trust the author, who has set out to disprove what we know as ‘mainstream’ – without providing the academic rigor that is needed.

    Like

  7. subramanyam / Jan 20 2015 7:02 pm

    Dear Yoonk Yoonky ,
    I am sure this is not your original name, The fb link you shared to identify you is also fake. So please share your original credentials before you comment on any thing of this. Else, I would consider you as a troll for all practical purposes.

    Coming to the veracity of research in the book , please check for Tipu’s diaries and letters . They are on display in Sri Rangapatnam. He openly declared that he converted lakhs of people to Islam that too forcibly. What kind of rulers does such an atrocity and then take pride it announcing it.

    Please google for this and you would find out that, he wanted the Afghan Kings to attack India, he wanted the Persians, the Caliph to come and establish an Islamic kingdom here.

    He invited the French to invade India. The letter, dated April 21, 1797, written by Tipu and classified as No. 4 in the Persian File of Records, and quoted by Muthanna in his book, reads:

    “Citizen Representatives:

    “Since I manifested my friendship in writing to you, my messengers have arrived with the following intelligence which will not be displeasing to you.

    “The Nizam, an ally of the English, and the Chief of the Mughals, is very ill and his age leaves no prospect of his recovery. He has four children who are disputing the right of succession. One of them is much attached to me, (he) is the favourite of the chiefs of the people and is expected to succeed him.

    “I inform these events in order to prove to you that it is now the moment for you to invade India. With little trouble we shall drive the British out of India. Rely on my friendship.

    “Your ally (Sd) Tipu Sultan.”

    So French as imperialists are Ok and Englis are not isn’t it?

    Coming to your idea of India, India was one nation under Asoka, under the Mughals (Barring few extreme south regions) . Even the Maratha confederacy controlled vast parts of it. Yes Britishers altered the boundaries but then we cannot praise a man who wanted another foreign power to invade India just because he had animosity with one.

    The french was present in India during his time. They were involved in quite a number of conflicts and were trying to expand their foot print. They and the British were supporting competing successors in quite a number of provinces. Please check you facts.

    Coming to the references, I believe there are good amount of references given in the book and if you have doubts you have the versions of Islamic Hagiographers who wrote about this man. Well, if you referred to 50 references paper you published so be it, if I write a 200 page book with 30-40 references it does not mean that your research was greater than mine or I am running low on references. There is some thing called quality and that is more important than quantity.

    And yes, next time you post a comment please give your real name and real web link.

    Like

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