Tipu had in him Italian Renaissance, German Reformation, French Revolution: Dr. B. Shaikh Ali

By Tarique Anwar and Md. Ali, TwoCircles.net,

(In an exclusive talk with TwoCircles.net Dr. B. Shaikh Ali, a renowned historian, an authority on Haider Ali and Tipu and former vice-chancellor of Mangalore and Goa universities, elaborated on neglected but shining aspects of Tipu Sultan: his personality, rule, his secular credentials and most significantly his resistance to the British expansion in India.)

“In the field of historical movements, Italy gave Renaissance, Germany gave Reformation, France gave Revolution and India gave Tipu Sultan who blended in himself all these three movements.”

This is how Dr. B. Shaikh Ali, the renowned historian and an authority on Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan describes Tipu Sultan’s multifaceted personality and his overall contribution to Modern India.

Tipu Sultan

Prof. Ali says Tipu Sultan, popularly known as the Tiger of Mysore, was a fascinating figure of Indian history who offered his blood to write the history of free India.

Modern ruler much ahead of his time

Tipu had two passions in life: one to liberate his land from foreign yoke and the other to make his state and his people prosperous.

One of the most remarkable features of his rule which, Prof. Ali says, hasn’t been appreciated yet is this: In spite of the fact that he was constantly involved in war with the British, his 17-year-old administration remained a secular rule in the Mysore state, which encompassed most of South India. It is a brilliant chapter in the history of India.

Tipu, he says, was far ahead of his time in his vision, ideas and action.

Talking about his personality Prof. Ali says that he was creative, innovative, imaginative and dynamic in all his decisions and actions.

The series of innovative measures he launched remind us of the European modernity of the Renaissance period.

While describing his contribution to modern rule and administration, Prof. Ali refers to his encouragement of agriculture and industry, promotion of trade and commerce and innovative measures in coinage and calendar, weights and measures, banking and finance, revenue and judiciary, morals and manners and more so in navy and rocket system, all of which are exemplary contributions.

Tipu’s conception of the Nation-State, the responsibilities of the government to the people, the elimination of feudalistic intermediaries, his attempt to build up a standard system of law and his creation of a civil service were modern ideas out of tune with his times and therefore unacceptable to those around him.

Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace, Dariya Daulat Bagh, Srirangpatna, Mysore

Prof. Ali refers to the very important but often ignored appreciation of Tipu’s rule by no less a profound thinker than James Mill. Mill observes:

“He [Tipu] had the discernment to perceive what is generally hidden from the eyes of the rulers in a more enlightened state of society; that it is the prosperity of those who labor with their hands which constitute the principles and the cause of the prosperity of the state…His country was accordingly the best cultivated and the population of the most flourishing in India, while under the British and their dependencies, the population of the Carnatic and Oadh, hastening to the state of deserts and the most wretched upon the face of the earth.”

Tipu the great secular ruler

Prof. B. Shaikh Ali, Editor in Chief of an Urdu daily Salar and author of many books, points out that essentially Tipu was a secular ruler but his detractors depict him as intolerant. They try to portray him on par with already demonized Muslim rulers like Aurangazeb which is historically incorrect.

Gandhiji in Young India described Tipu as an embodiment of Hindu-Muslim unity.

A close view of Tipu’s Summer Palace

Referring to the letters that Tipu wrote to Shringeri Matth, Prof. Ali points out that they speak volumes about his deep respect for the Hindu religious establishments.

There were numerous temples which were under his patronage. He furnished Shankaracharya of Shingeri with funds to reinstall the displaced deity in Sharada Temple which had been damaged by the Maratha attack under Parsaram Bhau in the third Mysore War.

Apart from Shingeri, the other holy places that received Tipu’s patronage were Lakshmikhanta Temple at Kalale in Nanjungud Taluk, the Narayanaswamy temple at Melkote, and the Ranganathaswamy temple at Shrirangapatna.

Editor of Mysore Gazettes Srikantaiah has listed 156 temples to which Tipu regularly paid annual grants.

Prof. Ali admits: True, Tipu was harsh on the Nayars of Malabar and the Raja of Coorg. This historical fact had often been manipulated by the saffron brigade in order to portray Tipu in the image of some one who is against the Hindu interests.

Ranganathaswamy temple at Shrirangapatna, Mysore

But Prof. Ali points out that the reason for Tipu’s hostility towards these rulers was that these people had aligned themselves with the British. In fact he didn’t spare the Muslim Mopillas of Malabar, the Mahadevis and the Nawabs of Cuddapah and Kurnool for the same reason.

Hindus on high positions in his rule

A historical fact about Tipu which had often been ignored is that he was friendlier with the Marathas than with the Nizams, say Prof. Ali who has written extensively on Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan including several books.

Tipu never differentiated or discriminated people on the basis of their religion or caste.

For instance Prof. Ali points out Tipu appointed a large number of Hindus in high positions, such as Puraniya, the Diwan, Krishna Rao, the treasurer, Hari Singh, the Commander, Srinivasa Rao and Appaji Ram, as ambassadors, and so on.

The Revenue and Accounts Department were entirely manned by the Hindu officials.

The misinformation about his religious intolerance had been spread by the British and those who had suffered defeats at his hands.

But Prof. Ali says that the most significant part of his work was his resistance to the British expansion and his ceaseless efforts to drive them out from India.

For this purpose he used all his energy, means and power, not sparing even his life.

It was his maxim that “life of a lion for a day was far better than the life of a jackal for a hundred years”.

Yet nation forgets Tipu

Prof. Ali rues at the continuous apathy of the state government towards the glorious legacy that Tipu Sultan left. For instance, there hasn’t been sufficient acknowledgment of his great contribution to the state and to the struggle against the British for the freedom of India in the syllabi of the state as well as that of the country.

[Photos by TwoCircles.net except the first one]