Tipu Sultan: a freedom fighter or Islamic bigot?

Tipu Sultan

Tipu Sultan is often credited in our history textbooks as a ‘secular’ ruler of Mysore who fought against the British in the late 1700s. While the latter part of the sentence does hold merit, the former is nothing but blatant propaganda planted in History textbooks by the Congress party. 

Tipu Sultan was one of the most ruthless Islamic invaders in South India. There have been several recorded instances of Tipu’s army forcefully converting, raping and kidnapping Hindus on his orders. Many temples are recorded to have been demolished under his reign. Historians such as Khan Hussain Ali Kirmani have pointed out that Tipu Sultan had animosity for the local Hindus and tribals in the area. 

Letters to army commanders ordering them to kill Hindus

(Cited from K M Panicker’s article in ‘Basha Posini magazine’ dated August 1923 and also mentioned in ‘Tipu Sultan: Villain or Hero’, by Sita Ram Goel, also cited by Rediff in their article ‘The truth about Tipu Sultan’)

Letter dated March 22, 1788, to Abdul Kadir: ‘Over 12,000 Hindus were honoured with Islam. There were many Namboodri Brahmins among them. This achievement should be widely publicised among the Hindus. Then the local Hindus should be brought before you and converted to Islam. No Namboodri Brahmin should be spared.’

The letter set a precedent and it followed several other orders by Tipu Sultan, calling for violence against Hindus. 

One of his letters to an army commander in Calicut on 14th December 1788 says- 

“I am sending two of my followers with Mir Hussain Ali. Along with them you should capture and kill all Hindus. Those below 20 years may be kept in prison and 5000 from the rest should be killed by hanging from tree tops. These are my orders.”

In a letter dated January 18, 1790 to Syed Abdul Dulai, Tipu Sultan openly condones the killing and forced conversions of Hindus, and proclaims this as a ‘Jihad’. The letter reads- 

‘… almost all Hindus in Calicut are converted to Islam. I consider this as jihad.’

In 1790, Tipu sent a letter to Syed Abdul Dulai (an army commander under his reign)- “With the grace of Prophet Mohammad 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.” (Source: Sharma, 1991, pp. 111-112)

Destruction of temples

It has been recorded that atleast 3 temples in South India were demolished by Tipu Sultan’s army, such as Harihareswara temple at Harihar, the Varahaswami temple at Srirangapatnam, and the Odakaraya temple at Hospet. (Source: Archaeological Survey of India)

Historian Roderick Mackenzie in 1793 wrote about Tipu’s campaign to Trinomaly, recording the barbarism and brutality unleashed on the Hindu population in areas he passed. 

“Here neither respect, for the grandeur and antiquity of their temples, nor veneration for the sacred rites of a religion whose origin no time records, proved any protection for the persons or property, even of the first Brahmins. Their pagodas, breached with sacrilegious cannon, were forcibly entered, their altars defiled, their valuables seized, their dwellings reduced to ashes, and the devastation was rendered still more horrible by the scattered remains of men, women and children, mangled beneath a murderous sword.” (Ref: Roderick Mackenzie’s records cited by Narasingha Sil)

The following was found inscribed onto a stone in Seringapatam- 

“Oh Almighty God! dispose the whole body of infidels! Scatter their tribe, cause their feet to stagger! Overthrow their councils, change their state, destroy their very root! Cause death to be near them, cut off from them the means of sustenance! Shorten their days! Be their bodies the constant object of their cares (i.e., infest them with diseases), deprive their eyes of sight, make black their faces (i.e., bring shame).” (Source: Mysore Gazetteer)

Like other Islamic invaders in India, Tipu Sultan was known to brutally suppress the local Hindu population and forcefully convert several Hindus. In Tamil Nadu and Malabar, Tipu was referred to as ‘Killer of Brahmins and demolisher of Temples’. 

Murdering and converting local Hindu populations of South India

Historian IM Muthanna, in his book ‘Tipu Sultan X-Rayed’ states that Tipu’s raids weren’t a compulsion for the expansion of his territory, but was simply a barbaric intent backed by religious bigotry and cultural invasion. Muthanna claims that he murdered 40,000 Hindus in Coorg, and converted an equal number to Islam in his campaigns there. 

Several European historians have also recorded the gross brutality of Tipu on Hindus. In Calicut, several men and women were found to be tied by the neck on trees, with even young children’s neck tied to their mothers on the side of roads. Often considering the Hindus and Christians as animals, Tipu tied naked Christians and Hindus to the legs of elephants and made the elephants move around. He continued to make the elephants move until the helpless Hindus and Christians were torn into pieces or squashed by the gigantic weight of the animal. (Source: A Voyage to the East Indies by Fra Bartolomeo, a Portugese traveler in India)

A French soldier named Francois Fidele Ripaud de Montaudevert who came to Mysore to aid Tipu in his fight against the British was absolutely disgusted by his barbarism. According to him, the heads of Brahmins were daily exposed (split) by Tipu’s soldiers in forts during the siege of Mangalore, to show the Hindu population the inferiority of their religion. 

The Tyrant Diaries by Outlook magazine comments on Tipu’s campaigns in Calicut: 

“Kozhikode was then a centre of Brahmins and had over 7,000 Brahmin families living there. Over 2,000 Brahmin families perished as a result of Tipu Sultan’s Islamic cruelties. He did not spare even women and children..”

Tipu Sultan himself claimed to be the direct descendant of Islamic prophet Mohammed, and even inscribed the following words on his ceremonial sword, “My victorious sabre is lightning for the destruction of the unbelievers.” (Source: Sil, Narasingha. (2013). Tipu Sultan in History Revisionism)

In 1788, Tipu had reportedly ordered his Calicut governor Sher Khan to convert the local Hindus to Islam. According to Nishan-e-Haidari, 200 Brahmins were forced to consume cow-meat by July 1788. (Source: Sil, Narasingha 2013)

Tipu Sultan’s reign ended when Mysore was defeated in the Anglo-Mysore wars, when the Marathas and Britishers squashed the brutal rule of Tipu Sultan.

There have been malicious attempts by Marxist and Islamist historians to make Tipu gain a ‘secular’ image in modern India, however such attempts have often been futile. Recently, when the Congress government of Karnataka tried to glorify this barbaric murderer, staunch opposition was seen in Coorg, where most of the barbaric acts were committed.

Even today, several villagers in Tamil Nadu call Tipu “killer of Brahmins and demolisher of temples”, in a bitter memory of his murderous regime.