"If you love me, should you not put up with my weakness sometimes?" - Tipu Sultan is purported to have asked Mir Sadik who was one of his ministers. This is a remark invented by Bhagwan S. Gidwani in his controversial novel, The Sword of Tipu Sultan.
Across-section of the new generation of historians and novelists is of the opinion that all the available documents and history books on Tipu Sultan originate from the British and, therefore, they cannot be relied upon, the ostensible policy of the British being to 'divide and rule'. Pointing to the correspondence between Shrimad Paramahamsa Parivrajakacharya Shri Sankaracharya of Sringeri Mutt and Tipu Sultan during 1791-92 and 1798, they argue that Tipu was an apostle of secularism and as such respected Hindu religious heads and places of worship. Tipu is also identified as among the first nationalists who fought against the British to liberate the country.
However, the arguments fall apart if one goes through various letters and edicts issued by Tipu Sultan to various public functionaries, including his principal military commanders, the governors of forts and provinces, and diplomatic and commercial agents.
William Kirkpatrick, who compiled many of Tipu's letters, writes in his book, Selected Letters of Tipoo Sultan (published in 1811): "Tipoo knew his will to be a law the propriety of which would never be questioned or doubted by any of his slaves He probably measured the sentiments in question by a different standard from that with which we estimate them. Thus the various murders and acts of treachery which we see him directing to be carried into execution, were not criminal, but on the contrary just, and even meritorious, in his eyes."
Kirkpatrick continues: "The Koran taught him that it was not necessary to keep faith with infidels, or the enemies of the true religion, in which case it was not difficult for him to persuade himself that it was right to include all who opposed or refused to cooperate in his views for the extension of that religion; or, in other words, for his own aggrandisement."
This observation of Kirkpatrick is found to be valid when one goes through the letter of January 19, 1790, sent to Budruz Zuman Khan by Tipu himself. It says: "Don't you know I have achieved a great victory recently in Malabar and over four lakh Hindus were converted to Islam? I am determined to march against that cursed 'Raman Nair' very soon (reference is to Rama Varma Raja of Travancore State who was popularly known as Dharma Raja). Since I am overjoyed at the prospect of converting him and his subjects to Islam, I have happily abandoned the idea of going back to Srirangapatanam now" (K.M. Panicker, Bhasha Poshini, August, 1923).
In a letter dated 8th Eezidy (February 13, 1790) addressed to Budruz Zuman Khan, Tipu writes: "Your two letters, with the enclosed memorandums of the Naimar (or Nair) captives, have been received. You did right in ordering a hundred and thirty-five of them to be circumcised, and in putting eleven of the youngest of these into the Usud Ilhye band (or class) and the remaining ninety-four into the Ahmedy Troop, consigning the whole, at the same time, to the charge of the Kilaaddar of Nugr " (Selected Letters of Tipoo Sultan by Kirkpatrick).
In a letter dated January 18, 1790 to Syed Abdul Dulai, Tipu writes: "With the grace of Prophet Mohammed and Allah, almost all Hindus in Calicut are converted to Islam. Only on the borders of Cochin State a few are still not converted. I am determined to convert them also very soon. I consider this as Jehad to achieve that object" (K.M. Panicker, Bhasha Poshini).
The translation of the great seal of Tipu found in Major Alex Dirom's comprehensive account of the Third Mysore War published as early as 1793 in London, reads as follows:
"I am the Messenger of the true faith.
The letters and the seal speak volumes of the mind of the man who wantonly roamed and terrorised South India and the southeastern borders of Maharashtra for a decade. It cannot be said that he did so because the Hindus were assisting the British.
The contention of a secularist section of historians and novelists that Tipu was a patriot since he fought the British, has no validity. The renowned historian, Dr. I.M. Muthanna, says in his Tipu Sultan X-Rayed that Tipu was a traitor as 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:
"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."
That was Tipu's expression of love for India!
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 Padayottam military occupation period won't be forgotten by the Malayalis for generations. It was this invasion, between Malayalam era 957 to 967 (1782 to 1792) that turned Malayalam upside down," says P. Raman Menon, biographer of Shaktan Tampuran, the King of Cochin during Tipu's invasion. He adds: "There was hardly any cowshed left in Malayalam where the Mysore Tiger did not enter." The reference is to the mass cow-slaughter carried out by Tipu's army on his orders.
In 1783-84, 1788 and 1789-90, Tipu personally led the attacks on Malayalam (Kerala), besides sending his army contingents to various resistance spots during the intervening period. Well-known Muslim historian, P.S. Syed Muhammed, author of Kerala Muslim Charitram (History of Kerala Muslims), has this to say about these invasions: "What happened to Kerala because of Tipu's invasion, reminds one of the invasion of Chengez Khan and Timur in Indian history."
Vadakunkur Raja Raja Varma writes in Kerala Samskrita Sahitya Charitram (History of Sanskrit Literature in Kerala): "The number of temples destroyed during Tipu's invasion is countless. It was the hobby of Tipu and his army to put the temples on fire destroy the idols and indulge in cow-slaughter. The memory of destruction of the Talipparampu and Trichambaram temples aches the heart."
According to the Malabar Gazetteer, the important temples in the towns of Tali, Srivaliyanatukavu, Tiruvannur, Varakkal, Puthur, Govindapuram, and Talikunnu were destroyed by Tipu's ravaging armies. Even the Tirunavaya Temple known all over India as a centre of Rig Veda teaching was destroyed. Tipu personally ordered the destruction of Calicut which was the capital of the Zamorin Rajas.
The record books maintained at the Vadakumnatha Temple of Trichur, Zamorins of Calicut by K.V. Krishna Iyer, and Malabar Manual by William Logan also list hundreds of temples destroyed during Tipu's invasion.
It is common knowledge that Tipu had immense faith in astrology. He used to keep a number of astrologers in his court who were asked to calculate the time auspicious for his invasions. It was at the appeals of these astrologers and his own mother that Tipu spared two temples out of more than a dozen within Srirangapatanam Fort. Moreover, by the end of 1790, Tipu was facing enemies from all sides. He was also defeated at the Travancore Defence Lines. It was then that in order to appease the Hindus of Mysore, he started giving land-grants to Hindu temples.
This view finds endorsement in the biography of the Diwan of Travancore, Life History of Raja Kesavadas by V,R. Parameswaran Pillai. Pillai writes: "With respect to the much-published land-grants I had explained the reasons about 40 years back. Tipu had immense faith in astrological predictions. It was to become an Emperor (Padushah) after destroying the might of the British that Tipu resorted to land-grants and other donations to Hindu temples in Mysore including Sringeri Mutt, as per the advice of the local Brahmin astrologers. Most of these were done after his defeat in 1791 and the humiliating Srirangapatanam Treaty in 1792. These grants were not done out of respect or love for Hindus or Hindu religion but for becoming Padushah as predicted by the astrologers."
Sanjay Khan, producer of the controversial TV serial on Tipu, contended in the beginning that there was no distortion in his serial (based on Gidwani's novel). He has now admitted in an interview to The Week that "Gidwani's novel may not be historically correct".
Indian Express (Bombay), March 10, 1990