Tipu Sultan Shaheed

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat

The RSS, VHP and  BJP have now started a new drama, calling Tipu Sultan  a murderer , tyrant and bigot. It is not for the first time that they have started this campaign. In fact, it has  been continuing for decades. But when a couple of months ago Congress government in Karnataka decided to organise Tipu Jyanti , RSS backed organisations started spitting venom. This is a direct attack on the legacy of Tipu Sultan, who was martyred while fighting British troops supported by Marathas in 1799 at Srirangapatuam. When the second war of Mysore (1784) came to an end with the signing of Treaty of Mangalore , Tipu Sultan had an upper hand over British forces. This  was, in fact, the last occasion when an Indian king dictated terms to the British. This treaty is a prestigious document in the history of India.

A tolerant ruler: In 1916 the Directorate of Archaeology in Mysore (Karnataka) discovered around 30 letters written in Kannada language which had been exchanged between the then Shankaracharya of Sringeri and ruler of Mysore, Tipu Sultan. Most of these letters  were written by  Shankaracharya to Tipu Sultan in 1791 when the Army of Marathas had raided the temple and math at Sringeri. During this raid Maratha soldiers had killed and wounded many civilians and also looted the temple / math of cash , jewelry and other valuables. The Shankaracharya of Sringeri,  who was also the custodian of the famous temple and math had appealed to Tipu Sultan for help. Tipu Sultan while replying to one of the letters had expressed serious concern and grief over the plunder. While addressing the Shankaracharya of Sringeri , Tipu Sultan said, “People who have sinned against such a holy place are sure to suffer the consequences of their misdeeds at no distant date in this kalyug. People do evil deeds smilingly, but suffer the consequences crying” . Tipu Sultan, without wasting any time, directed Asaf of Bednur to supply  200 rahatis in cash and other gifts to the Shankaracharya . Tipu Sultan’s letters written after 1791 to the Shankaracharya are still preserved which makes it clear that he was in constant touch with the Shankaracharya of Sringeri. It is not the only incident which proves Tipu Sultan’s love and affection towards his  non-Muslim subjects.  There are dozens of such incidents which make it clear that Tipu was an extremely tolerant and affectionate ruler who laid down his life in the battle field fighting against the British East India Company.   

Hindu Ministers
Had Tipu Sultan been intolerant he would have never appointed Hindus to head his important ministries. Krishna Rao was his treasurer, which proves that Tipu had full faith in Rao who was assigned such an important  portfolio. Shamaiya Iyengar was his minister for internal security and posts. Shamaiya’s  brother, Ranga Iyengar, was also a senior officer in Tipu’s administration. Purnaiya Pandit held the very important post of Mir Asaf. Moolchand and Sujan Rai were his chief agents at the Mughal court, and his chief peshkar, Suba Rao, was also a Hindu.  Editor of Mysore Gazette, Srikantaiah has listed 156 temples to which Tipu regularly paid annual grants. Between 1782 and 1799 Tipu Sultan issued 34 sanadsipu sultan (deeds of endowment) to temples in his domain. He also  presented  many of them with gifts of silver and gold plate. The Srikanteswara Temple in Nanjangud still possesses a jewelled cup presented by Tipu Sultan.

Tailpiece: While delivering Tipu Sultan Shaheed memorial lecture in Bangalore on November 30th 1991, the former President of India Dr APJ Abdul Kalam  called Tipu Sultan the innovator of world’s first war rocket. Two of the rockets, captured by the British troops at Srirangapatna , are still displayed in the Royal Artillery Museum in London. Tipu managed to subdue all the petty kingdoms in the south. He defeated the Nizams and was also one of the few Indian rulers to have defeated British armies. Tipu Sultan started a new coinage, calendar, and a new system of weights and measures mainly based on the methods introduced by the French. He was well versed in Kannada, Urdu, Persian, Arabic, English and French. Tipu was such a brave warrior who initiated freedom struggle against the British East India Company at a time when rajas and maharajas across India had surrendered or become allies and stooges of Britishers . If this brave warrior, who sacrificed his life for the freedom of India, is portrayed as bigot and murderer by RSS and its allies merely on the ground that he was a Muslim, what kind of message does it convey to the people of India?   Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is a Kashmir-based activist / columnist .
He can be mailed at