Tipu Sultan (1750-1799) is celebrated across the peninsular. His birthday is a state holiday in Karnataka while the AIADMK have funded an entire building in his memory, stocked with his memorabilia. Tipu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore is regarded as a safe-keeper of Kannada culture and a ferocious freedom fighter who fought valiantly against the British. It won’t be late before a B-town director picks the Mysore ruler for his next ambitious historical project.
Like the Mysorean Rockets, the first iron-cased rockets put to military use by Tipu, his legacy and its celebration is irony at its finest. Tipu Sultan might be regarded as a torch bearer of Kannada Legacy or be seen as a helping hand to the Hindu culture, but it’s far away from the actual truth. Tipu Sultan was a religious fanatic who succeeded his father into a Hindu Majority state as a devoted Islamic ruler, determined to push and convert till all the evening prayers sounded the same. Tipu imposed unfair taxes on Hindu’s or Christians along with whichever community sided with the British. He ransacked temples and emptied their coffers to fill his own. Some historians write about how he gave grants and helped rebuild some iconic temples but when ruling a Hindu Majority state, he had to have thrown a little fodder to keep the people at bay. While he took three steps advancing towards an Islamic state, he cleverly took one step back to look secular.
Lewis Rice, a British historian who wrote the History of Mysore and Coorg says,
“…vast empire of Tipu Sultan on the eve of his death, there were only two Hindu temples having daily pujas within the Srirangapattanam fortress. It is only for the satisfaction of the Brahmin astrologers who used to study his horoscope that Tipu Sultan had spared those two temples. The entire wealth of every Hindu temple was confiscated before 1790 itself mainly to make up for the revenue loss due to total prohibition in the country.”
As for him being the pride of Kannada culture and a hero of Mysore, Tipu’s indifference to Kannada is well documented. He introduced Persian as the official court language while changing quite a few cities across his kingdom to Islamic names. Mangalapuri became Jalalabad, Bepur became Sultanapatanam while Cannanore changed to Kusanabad. His atrocities against the natives of the land somehow has been awarded with a state-wide holiday, by a government which takes so much pride in its language and culture.
His fight with the British was never for an idea of “India” but for an extended Islamic Mysore state. Tipu was already bitter about the British not rallying with him against the Maratha’s. This developed into a personal grudge match between the British and Tipu. He only fought against them because they stood in his way of creating the Mysore State he wanted. He knew that the British were a big fish that stood in his way of commerce and governance and he needed them out of the way. If he was a Freedom fighter like everyone says, why would he invite to France, Afghanistan and Persia to come help him defend his kingdom?
Tipu Sultan is a bright example of twisted history and glorification, used extensively for vote-bank politics by the Congress. In simpler and clearer terms, he was a bigoted Muslim fanatic who cared only about his treasury and kingship. He was a green tiger disguised as a secular freedom icon.