TIPU SULTAN A SPLIT PERSONALITY
By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant, VSM
Was Tipu Sultan, Rajah of Mysore a patriotic warrior who loved Hindustan more than his own life and limbs? Or was he a Middle Age Islamist Jehadi whose actions and omissions were guided by his supposed zeal to convert Hindus, Christians and others of his principality to Islam and found a kingdom named Sultanat-e-Khudadad? This has been a hot topic of debate among historians, intellectuals and now politicians since he ascended the throne of Mysore at the age of 32 years in 1782.
Taking a close look at the events of his life wherein he was the principal player, one cannot but arrive at the conclusion that Tipu suffered from schizophrenia. Many a time he was unable to bring in cohesion between his thought and action. He often showed a tendency of withdrawal from reality on account of his failure to coordinate his emotions and behavior. He would think of becoming an effective ruler to mitigate suffering of his people and elevate their economic and social conditions but his obsession with converting his subjects to Islam by force, by hook or crook spoiled the paramount plan of good governance. RAJ DHARM was jettisoned and persona of a Ghazi embraced instead.
FEELING OF GUILT
Tipu suffered from a sense of guilt all along. His father, Hyder Ali – an illiterate adventurer – had usurped the royal right to rule of the Hindu King of Mysore of the long standing Wodeyar dynasty and become de facto ruler. When he died of cancer in 1782, his eldest son, Tipu, became both de facto and de jure ruler of Mysore by imprisoning the real royalty. Tipu replaced every sign and symbol of the dynasty that had been ruling Mysore since the fourteenth century. He changed the Hindu names of people and places, struck coins in his own name replacing Sanskrit and Kanada with Persian and Urdu, writing letters to foreign Muslim rulers to invade Hindustan for Loot and in furtherance of the cause of Islam. Hyder Ali had ruled in the name of the Hindu King but everyone knew that he wielded the power. Tipu erased the name of the old Hindu dynasty, WODEYARS, but could not win over the hearts and minds of his people who were predominantly Hindus. This eventually cost him dearly in various military adventures of his.
It is a historical fact that Tipu had written to Zaman Shah, King of Afghanistan, to attack Hindustan for Loot and for the cause of Islam. He made sincere efforts to get military aid from the Ottoman Turk Empire but all his efforts came to naught since he was not a known personality outside Mysore or may be India. Tipu’s efforts in this direction failed to fructify as the said foreign ruler of Afghanistan had other preoccupations and affairs of Tipu’s Mysore mattered little to him. In frustration he wrote to other Arab rulers of Oman, Arabia and even to Napoleon Bonaparte but no foreign ruler came to his rescue when he needed their help most. Tipu fought his battles against the Maratha Empire, the East India Company and even his co-religionist the Nizam of Hyderabad all alone and lost almost all of them. He lost his life in the battle of Srirangpatna in 1799 fighting against overwhelming forces of the East India Company under command of Lord Wellesley. It may be relevant to mention that the same general in his later Avatar as Duke of Wellington had defeated Napoleon Bonaparte, King of France, in the decisive battle of Waterloo in 1815.
TIPU THE HINDU HATER
The possessive sense of guilt of Tipu that he had inherited a kingdom wrongfully usurped by his father was magnified by his paranoia of being similarly dispossessed by a scion of the same Hindu dynasty and Hindu subjects who did not like his style of governance smeared with blood of innocent men, women and children of territory that he had been invading in Coorg, Kerala, Karnatak rural areas and so on.
Kozhikode in Kerala had suffered most at the hands of Tipu in 1789. He boasted of having massacred many thousand Hindus there after his conquest. He wished to penetrate deep in the southern peninsular kingdom of Travancore but the brave fighters, Nair brigade and others halted his victorious march. Tipu’s master battle strategy was to catch enemy napping by his sudden swift surprise blitzkrieg. It paid him rich dividends elsewhere but not in Kodagu, former Coorg, where the freedom loving men and women waged guerilla war to keep the wily invader at bay. Tipu used the stratagem of friendship and lulled them to inaction before launching a ferocious attack killing, raping and looting the brave people of Kodagu. A large number of the 80,000 men and women of Kodagu captured by Tipu by treachery were forced to convert to Islam. Men were forcibly circumcised by Tipu’s officers as they had been doing elsewhere too.
“Tanjore abductions” will remain a permanent blot on both Hyder Ali and his son, Tipu. In 1780 – 1782, both father and son ravaged Tanjore destroying crop and cattle. Because of this massive policy of scorch earth used by the invaders, economy of Tanjore was reduced 90 percent and many poor people perished. The aftereffects of the massive burning and looting of the father-son duo was so crippling that Tanjore economy remained at sixes and sevens for over a century until boosted by the Maratha rulers. Tipu had abducted 12,000 children from Tanjore and adjoining area who never returned to their parental care. Did Tipu have a tendency to be a paedophile? More evidence needs to be collected to substantiate the charge, if any. Nevertheless the Tanjore loot and arson perpetrated by the father-son duo of Mysore caused stark deprivation and passed on into folklore as “ Hyderakalam”
Mangalore in North Karnataka suffered immensely at the hands of Tipu. Both the Hindus and Syrian Christians were subjected to harsh treatment by Tipu, his army and civil administrators. Temples, churches were razed to ground and Hindus and Christians taken prisoners to be taken to Srirangpatna on foot for intensive brutalization until they gave up the Faith of their forefathers. Unfortunately for Tipu that was not to be. Many devout Hindus and Syrian Christians preferred to die than change faith. Swadharme Nidhanam Shreyah, Pardharmo Bhayavah – was their motto and they stuck to it. It is interesting to note that the first part of the Sanskrit saying is the motto of the Madras Regiment till today.
Besides being an anti-Hindu, Tipu was out and out anti Christian too. He had destroyed 27 churches in and around Mangalore and took away many young petit girls with him to his capital Srirangpatna. Many of the captives remained enslaved until Tipu was killed in battle defending his capital in 1799.
In fairness to Tipu it would be relevant to mention that he bestowed both monetary and land grants to some temples in his kingdom. Tipu wrote a number of letters in Kanada to the Swamiji of Sringeri Math sympathizing with him and giving liberal grants to make good for the loss caused by the plunder of the Math by some delinquent marauders of the attacking Maratha force of the Peshwa of the Maratha Empire. It was an aberration of Hindu soldiers of the Maratha legion looting a Hindu place of worship.
There was the temple of Shrirang Ji so close to the palace of Tipu in the Srirangpatna fort that he would hear both the temple bells and the Muezzin’s call for prayers from the mosque nearby. A ruler who destroyed some temples also gave grants and subsidy to other temples. Indeed a sign of the split personality of the ruler of Mysore, Tipu that he paid annual grants to 156 Hindu temples and yet destroyed some others elsewhere. He had presented a greenish LINGA to the temple located in the fort in his capital city.
Tipu had many Hindu advisors and ministers to help him carry on smooth administration and manage finances effectively. Prominent among them are Purnaya designated as Mir Asaf, Krishna Rao as Finance Minister and Sharmaiya Iyengar as a close confidant. However, his fortress commanders, governors and field army commanders were Muslims by and large.
MARATHAS MADE MYSORE KOWTOW
Tipu was dead scared of the Hindu Maratha rulers of the Confedracy. He had faced the Maratha might in many a battle and lost heart to face them further. It is a recorded fact of history that Tipu had dispatched two emissaries to Pune, capital of Maratha Confederacy and of the Peshwa. He had sued for peace by ceding a lot of his territory to the Marathas thus extending the boundary of the Maratha Empire to the banks of the Tungbhadra.
Tipu used to play diplomacy. While he bought peace with the Marathas by ceding important fertile territory of his, he simultaneously corresponded with King Zaman Shah of Afghanistan to form an Islamic Confederacy in India. Of course, he had failed on this front too.
The Maratha army under captainship of Peshwa Madhavrao had regained most of his empire lost after the disaster of the third battle of Panipat in 1761. He had decisively defeated both Hyder Ali and Tipu in battles in 1764 and 1767. It is interesting to note that the Maratha Army had occupied the fort in the capital of Tipu in Srirangpatna. A defeated and forlorn Tipu had paid a large sum of Rupees 4.8 million to the Peshwa Madhavrao’s commanders as war damages besides agreeing to pay Rupees 1.2 million as annual tribute to the Marathas.
Whenever Tipu chose to raise the banner of revolt against the Maratha rule, the Peshwa would dispatch a large and effective military force to subdue him. Once Nana Phadnavis was the commanding general of such an expeditionary force and Tipu kowtowed to the Maratha General. Thus it may be seen that the Maratha Confederacy played a major role in keeping the split personality ruler of Mysore, Tipu under check effectively.
It would be relevant to quote historian C. Hayavadan Rao on Tipu’s religious fanaticism:
“ His religious fanaticism and excesses committed in the name of religion both in Mysore and in the provinces, stand condemned for all time. His bigotry, indeed, was so great that it precluded all ideas of toleration.”