How politics reduced Tipu Sultan from a national hero to a controversial figure
The Udayavani team, August 28, 2022, 10:03 IST
bangalore: It is common in all households in South Karnataka to address their children as Tipu Sultan till this day. In Mysuru, the historical and cultural capital of Karnataka, Tipu Sultan is known to be a valiant king who faced the British with all his might.
Even though the people of the Kodagu area had reservations about Tipu Sultan’s massacre of Kodava community members, the bitterness never spilled onto the streets. However, the situation is different today.
Unlike contemporary rulers, Tipu Sultan used modern weapons such as Mysorean rockets to pound the British army. Rocket technology was the basic inspiration for the discovery of the Bangalore torpedo, which saw widespread use in both World War I and World War II.
Tipu Sultan also attempted to forge an anti-British alliance with Napoleon Bonaparte. Historical evidence has etched a special place for Tipu Sultan in the history of the country’s struggle for freedom against the British.
Things took a political turn with the Congress government led by Siddaramaiah deciding to celebrate Tipu Sultan’s birthday. The BJP, then in opposition, rallied behind the decision and challenged Congress not to allow the celebrations.
The Tipu Jayanti, however, was celebrated with fervor throughout Karnataka. In Kodagu, this led to widespread violence and the death of a BJP worker. The bitter debate began over Tipu Sultan as a tyrant, a religious fanatic who tried to convert all Hindus to Islam.
BJP leaders cited the letters allegedly written by Tipu Sultan describing how he captured and converted Hindus to Islam in the Malabar region of Kerala. The Congress and progressive leaders gave examples of how Tipu Sultan contributed to the temples and saved Sringeri Mutt from the onslaught of the Marathas.
They even maintained that the temple of Ranganatha Swamy, located near the palace of Tipu Sultan, had managed to survive. However, the BJP government came to power in 2019 and then Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa said Tipu Jayanti would not be celebrated.
Pratap Simha, BJP Lok Sabha MP from Mysore-Kodagu, argues that Tipu Sultan is misinterpreted as the tiger of Mysuru. “He never waged war and died inside the fort. Tipu Sultan engaged in religious conversion and treated Hindus with brutality.
He further states that Tipu Sultan is unnecessarily glorified by so-called progressive writers and politicians under the policy of appeasement.
Education Minister BC Nagesh maintained that although the reference to Tipu Sultan as the “Tiger of Mysore” is removed, content about Tipu Sultan will continue to remain in the school curriculum.
Nazia Kousar, author of ‘Bharatada Huli Tipu Sultan’ (Tiger of India Tipu Sultan) which has yet to be published, said Tipu Sultan’s tolerance is reflected in his annual grants to as many as 156 temples, which included land deeds and jewelry.
“His army was largely made up of Shudras. When the famous Sringeri Mutt, established by Shankaracharya, was invaded by the Maratha army, he issued a firman to provide financial assistance for the reinstallation of the holy idol and the restoration of the tradition of worship among the Mutt” , she explained.
His donation to the famous Srikanteshwara temple in Nanjangud; the donation of 10,000 gold coins to complete the work of the temple in Kanchi; settle disputes between two sects of priests at the Melkote Temple; and the gifts at the Lakshmikanta temple in Kalale are all well known.
Interestingly, Srirangapatna, a temple city, remained his permanent capital until the end of his reign. He was also instrumental in building the very first church in Mysuru. Incidentally, the famous historian BA Saletore calls him “the defender of the Hindu Dharma”, explains Nazia Kousar.
The allegation of forced conversions must be seen in the context of political demands – either they were with the colonialists as in the case of the Dakshina Kannada Christians, or waged protracted guerrilla warfare as in the Coorg case.
Here, historians have twisted the facts by reducing the political demands to Tipu’s “community ideology”, she says.
After the Ganesh festival, which is likely to create a crisis situation in the state amid the dispute over Veer Savarkar, organizations are preparing to celebrate Tipu Jayanti on November 20, challenging the ruling BJP government.
By MK Ashoka