Tippu Series Part 6: How did the Tiger became LAME?

In January, 1790 Tipu launched an attack against Travancore but due to certain unexpected turn of events he ended up with a humiliating defeat. Tipu & his army were camping on the banks of the Alwaye River before launching the attack on the Travancore defense lines (Nedunkotta Fort). The Travancore army was no match for the huge Mysore army & the monsoon season was 4 – 5 months away. Therefore, a temporary bund was constructed way up on the stream by a team headed by Mr. Kalikutty Nair under the guidance of Raja Kesavadas, the Prime Minister of Travancore. When the Mysore army launched its assault & Nedunkotta was penetrated, the temporary bund was breached in the midst of heavy fighting, causing an unexpected flood which drowned many Tipu’s soldiers & rendered the gunpowder wet & useless causing panic & confusion in the Mysore army. {Sadly even the valiant Kalikutty Nair was also drowned in the sudden surge of water & became a martyr}. The triumphant Nair forces of Travancore inflicted heavy casualties on the invading army. In the confusion Tipu Sultan fell down from the ramparts of the fort into the ditch below along with his palanquin. The fall made him permanently LAME.

It is recorded in Travancore history & also confirmed by the local folklore that as the wounded Tipu was lying unconscious in the battlefield he was rescued by a Nair soldier who quietly carried the unconscious Sultan to the Mysore military camp during the night & left quickly (p. 518). The brave Nair soldier could have easily killed the unconscious Tipu but unlike power hungry maniac Tipu, killing a wounded was against Nair’s ethical beliefs.

Later on, the Travancore forces recovered from the ditch, the sword, the palanquin, the dagger, the ring & many other personal effects of Tipu & presented them to the Dharma Raja. Some of Tipu’s personal weapons & ornaments were sent to the Nawab of Arcot on his request (Travancore History by P. Sankunny Menon, published by Kerala Bhasha Institute, Trivandrum, pp. 191-92).

According to Mr. Powney, who was the Resident Representative of the English Company in Travancore, Tipu’s attack was not only effectively stopped by the Travancore army, Tipu himself fell down from the rampart, was seriously wounded, & was rendered permanently lame during the counter-attack by the Travancore forces.

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Tippu Sultan – Kodavas – British : A Triangle of skepticism. Tippu Series Part 2: What other Western historians have said of Tippu

The British historian Wilks has managed to describe Tipu realistically. He criticizes Tipu as vain & arrogant, mediocre soldier & statesman, a despot to his English prisoners & Hindu subjects. Wilks declares: the leading features of his character were vanity & arrogance; no human being ever so handsome, so wise, so learned, so brave as himself. Resting on the shallow instructions of his scanty reading, he neglected the practical study of mankind. No man had ever less penetration into character, I accordingly no prince was ever so ill-served. Emphasizing Tipu’s religious fanaticism, Wilks states that Tipu promulgated his religion, by force.

Like Wilks, Bowring points out that Tipu urged on by religious bigotry, innate cruelty & despotism, though little of sacrificing thousands of lives to his ardent zeal & revengeful feelings. Various British texts, testimonies by British soldiers who had been Tipu’s prisoners, & others portray Tipu as barbaric Eastern ruler who abused his British & local prisoners, forcibly converting them to Islam, circumcising them, & enslaving them.

Mr. Sewin B. Bowring, formerly Chief Commissioner of Mysore in his work Hyder Ali & Tipu Sultan (1899) has given a number of instances of cruel treatment that was meted out to the Hindus in Mysore state. Lieutenant-Colonel William Kirkpatrick (1756-1813) also mentions the incident: In a letter written to his brother-in-law Burhanuddin Khan by Tipu during the siege of Nargund, Tipu ordered: “In the event of your being obliged to assault the place, every living creature in it, whether man or woman, old or young, child, dog, cat, or anything else must be put to the sword…” This is in stark-contrast to what Khande Rao did to Tipu himself. When Khande Rao plotted the destruction of Hyder Ali, the latter realizing that his life was in danger, escaped from the capital on the night of August 2, 1760 leaving behind Tipu & rest of the family who were placed by Khande Rao, to a guarded house near the mosque inside the fort of Srirangapatana. He however treated them kindly (within the rule of war). Later on the re-conquest of Srirangapatana, Hyder shifted his family to Bangalore palace for safety. On that day the young boy of TEN had learnt three lessons simultaneously from his father & Khande Rao. Abandonment from father (that’s why obsession with tigers); a God fearing Brahmin (Khade Rao) will not breach the trust & what is the meaning of power & wealth. The fear, guilt & scar of abandonment seem to have shaped his behavior towards humanity till his death. Also this is one of the reasons he enjoyed cruelty against other happy families & also had Purnaiya (Brahmin) as his Prime Minister!?!

Kirkpatrick (1811) writes further, “Colonel Munro [Sir Hector, 1726-1805] assures me, that it is an absolute fact that on one occasion he [Tipu] ordered all the male population of a particular village which had given him offence, to be castrated.

Professor Sir Thomas Arnold was a well-known scholar of Islam. He had taught at MAO College, Aligarh in the 19th century. He wrote: For India has often been picked out as a typical instance of a country in which Islam owes its existence & continuance in existence to the settlement in it of foreign conquering Muhammadan races, who have transmitted their faith to their descendants, & only succeeded in spreading it beyond their own circle by means of persecution & forced conversions. Thus the missionary spirit of Islam is supposed to show itself in its true light in the brutal massacres of Brahmans by Mahmud of Ghazna, in the persecution of Aurangzeb, the forcible circumcisions effected by Haider Ali, Tipu Sultan & the like. Tipu Sultan most systematically engaged in the work of forcible conversions.

In 1788, he issued the following proclamation to the people of Malabar:  From the period of the conquest until this day, during 24- years, you have been a turbulent & refractory people, & in the wars waged during your rainy season, you have caused number of our warriors to taste the draught of martyrdom. Be it so. What is past is past. Hereafter you must proceed in an opposite manner, dwell quietly & pay your dues like good subjects; & since it is the practice with you for one woman to associate with ten men, & you have your mothers & sisters unconstrained in their obscene practices, & are thence all born in adultery, & are more shameless in your connection than the beasts of the field, I hereby require you to forsake these sinful practices & to be like the rest of mankind; & if you are disobedient to these commands, I have made repeated vows to honour the whole of you with Islam & to march all the chief persons to the seat of Government.

The above proclamation led to an uprising. Tipu Sultan sent an army of more than 20-thousand to enforce the general orders that “every being in the district without distinction should be honoured with Islam, that the honour of such as fled to avoid that honour should be burned, that they should be traced to their lurking places, & that all means of truth & falsehood, force or fraud should be employed to effect their universal conversion.

Sir Thomas concludes: The history of Islam in Southern India by no means always continued to be of so peaceful a character, but it does not appear that the forcible conversions of the Hindus & others to Islam which were perpetrated when the Muhammadan power became paramount under Haider Ali (1767-1782) & Tipu Sultan (1782-1788), can be paralleled in the earlier history of this part of India. (The Preaching of Islam, London, 1913).

Today there is no harmony among people & the world peace hangs with a thin strand of thread not because of any religion but because of mushrooming barbarians like Tippu. Tippu died like a street dog & it should be lesson to every barbarian…