Was Tipu Sultan against Hindus

Visit to the "Tiger of Mysore" in Sirangapatnam

Long before Mahatma Gandhi, India had a freedom fighter: Tipu Sultan, who at the end of the 18th century took the scepter from the Maharadjas of Mysore and tried with all his might to protect the Kingdom of Mysore from the colonial ambitions of the British. At that time the British had already taken large parts of the subcontinent under their wing, but bit their teeth against South India and Tipu Sultan. It took almost 40 years for Mysore to become part of the "British Raj".

Apart from the strong desire to send the British colonial rulers back to their island, Mahatma Gandhi and Tipu Sultan did not at first glance have much in common. One a pacifist and ascetic, walking barefoot and in white dhoti, the other a military man and eccentric with a jeweled doublet and tiger whimsy, which earned him the nickname "Tiger of Mysore". While Gandhi advocated the independence of India with civil disobedience and campaigned for a unification of the multi-ethnic state and reconciliation of the different religions, Tipu Sultan, son of a Muslim general, was on the warpath.

National hero and freedom fighter or despot and barbarian?

Even today, 215 years after his death, no historical figure seems to divide the Indian nation like the "Tiger of Mysore". Just recently, on Republic Day, which was celebrated with a parade in New Delhi at the end of January, Tipu Sultan once again made it into the Indian media. The fact that the state of Karnataka drove an oversized statue of the warlord on its parade float through the streets of the government capital led to a storm of indignation on Twitter. Venerated by some as a national hero, freedom fighter and skilful, well-read, tolerant scholar and enlightener, others decried as a tyrannical, fanatical despot and barbarian who not only threw the British into dungeon, tortured and killed, but also those of different faiths. The Tipu opponents were outraged that the Karnataka parade car would pay homage to a Hindu hater and “warlord”, the pro Tipu Sultan Twitteratis accused the critics of anti-Muslim agitation. A battle ensued with links to scientific articles, each intended to prove the "truth".

Scientists will probably argue for a long time about whether a villain or a martyr. Mahatma Gandhi allegedly wrote somewhere that for him Tipu Sultan was one of the greatest heroes in Indian history, who had always shown himself to be generous towards the Hindus. I'm more of a villain. In any case, Tipu Sultan seems to have had a megalomania, similar to a Napoleon, to whom he had a close relationship and to whom, according to the descriptions, he also resembled in appearance - a little too small and too broad, with a short, thick neck. His will to expand was so great that not only the British feared him, but also his immediate neighbors.

Tipu Sultan had a tiger whimsy

A certain tendency to be eccentric cannot be denied: Ever since Tipu Sultan defeated a tiger with a dagger on the hunt that wanted his leather, he had a tiger whimsy: his crown was decorated with tiger patterns, his elite troops wore tiger emblems which could also be found in his coat of arms. To top it off, his favorite toy was a mechanical tiger perched on a British officer whose contorted facial expression testifies to death. The tiger, which by the way was designed by French engineers, can be seen today in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. He also had tiger statues set up around his palace in Sirangapatnam. Probably to guard the palace from the British ...

When I arrived in Sirangapatnam with the driver from the municipal tourist agency - who, by the way, was so late at the hotel that I was still having breakfast - the tigers had all flown out. Instead, it was teeming with school classes, visiting the old summer palace, the fort, on the site of which there was also an old Hindu temple, and the mausoleum is apparently part of the school curriculum in Karnataka. It can be assumed that the “Tipu was a hero” variant is taught in the history class there. The palace, in which Tipu also welcomed foreign guests, including from friends from France, is kept quite discreet from the outside, but inside you can still guess the old splendor. Unsurprisingly, the pillars had a tiger pattern. He was also buried in the mausoleum that Tipu had built for his parents, after he finally fell victim to the British bullets in 1799.

Tipu Sultan devotional items at Sotheby’s

Tipu’s descendants were exiled to Calcutta after his death. There he had once bought the Royal Calcutta Golf Club, the income from which was supposed to give the heirs a good life. For a long time, however, they didn't see a penny. The trustees of the foundation, which was set up to ensure a monthly livelihood for the descendants, believed that the royal children could not handle money and still acted as if they were something better. After all, you also need money to maintain the mosque in Calcutta, which is named after Tipu Sultan. The heirs were poor as a church mouse, had to work as rickshaw coolies and servants of the Calcutta high society, could not send their children to school and, to top it all, had to endure the ridicule of the descendants of other Indian royal families. Five years ago they were respected and rehabilitated; they were returned to their royal status. It is to be hoped that they will now receive at least enough money to be able to give their children an education. In any case, there would theoretically be enough money: The jeweled gold sword of the "Tiger of Mysore", which was auctioned at Sotheby’s in London last year, changed hands for a whopping 500,000 pounds.

Calcutta will be the first stop on my trip to India in March, we will definitely pay a visit to the mosque and maybe stop by for a gin and tonic at the Royal Golf Club. At this point I continue with the temple of Somnathpur and my first train ride. Until next week!