Many historians point to the correspondence between Sringeri Shankaracharya Paramahamsa Parivrajakacharya and Tipu Sultan during 1791-92 and 1798, and argue that Tipu was upholder of secularism and respected Hindu religious heads and places of worship. However if one goes through the letters and edicts issued by Tipu Sultan to his principal military commanders, the governors of forts and provinces, their argument falls apart.
The letter of January 19, 1790, sent to Budruz Zuman Khan by Tipu himself says: “Don”t you know I have achieved a great victory recently in Malabar and over four lakh Hindus were converted to Islam? I am determined to march against that cursed “Raman Nair” very soon (reference is to Rama Varma Raja of Travancore). Since I am overjoyed at the prospect of converting him and his subjects to Islam, I have happily abandoned the idea of going back to Srirangapatanam now”. Previously, in the letter dated March 22, 1788, to Abdul Kadir: “Over 12,000 Hindus were “honoured” with Islam. There were many Namboodiris (Brahmins) among them. This achievement should be widely publicised among the Hindus. There the local Hindus should be brought before you and then converted to Islam. No Namboodiri (Brahmin) should be spared.” In the letter dated January 18, 1790, to Syed Abdul Dulai: “With the grace of Prophet Muhammed and Allah, almost all Hindus in Calicut are converted to Islam. Only a few are still not converted on the borders of Cochin State. I am determined to convert them also very soon. I consider this as Jehad to achieve that object.”(3)
The above clearly, shows the “secularism” of Tipu Sultan. Further, these historians try to portray Tipu as a nationalist as he fought against British. But the renowned historian, Dr. I.M. Muthanna, says in his Tipu Sultan X-Rayed that Tipu was a traitor as he invited the French to invade India. The letter, dated April 21, 1797, written by Tipu and classified as No. 4 in the Persian File of Records, (4) reads: “”Since I manifested my friendship in writing to you, my messengers have arrived with the following intelligence which will not be displeasing to you….I inform these events in order to prove to you that it is now the moment for you to invade India. With little trouble we shall drive the British out of India. Rely on my friendship.” This shows the expansionist agenda of Tipu Sultan.
According to the official report of Col. Fullarton(5) of the British forces stationed in Mangalore, “(During the siege 1783) Tipu”s soldiers daily exposed the heads of many innocent Brahmins within sight from the fort for Zamorin and his Hindu followers to see. It is asserted that the Zamorin rather than witness such enormities and to avoid further killing of innocent Brahmins, chose to abandon the Palghat Fort” Further he states- “”It was not only against the Brahmins who were thus put in a state of terror of forcible circumcision and conversion; but against all sections of Hindus. In August, 1788, a Raja of the Kshatriya family of Parappanad and also Trichera Thiruppad, a chieftain of Nilamboor, and many other Hindu nobles who had been carried away earlier to Coimbatore by Tipu Sultan, were forcibly circumcised and forced to cat beef.”
The world-famous Protuguese traveller, Fr. Barthoelomeo, writes in his book Voyage to East Indies (6): “Tipu was riding on an elephant behind which another army of 30,000 soldiers followed. Most of the men and women were hanged in Calicut, first mothers were hanged with their children tied to necks of mothers. That barbarian Tipu Sultan tied the naked Christians and Hindus to the legs of elephants and made the elephants to move around till the bodies of the helpless victims were torn to pieces. Temples and churches were ordered to be burned down, desecrated and destroyed. Christian and Hindu women were forced to marry Mohammadans and similarly their men (after converting Hindu men into Islam) were forced to marry Mohammadan women. Those Christians, who refused to be honoured with Islam, were ordered to be killed by hanging immediately.”
The cruelties which Tipu Sultan committed in Coorg, has no parallel in history. On one occasion, he forcibly converted over ten thousand Hindus to Muhammadanism. On another occasion, he captured and converted to Islam more than one thousand Hindu Coorgis before imprisoning them in the Sreerangapatanam fortress. The atrocities committed by Tipu Sultan in Bidnur in North Karnataka during and after its capture by him, were most barbarous and beyond description. After the capture of Mangalore, thousands of Christians were also forcibly sent to Sreerangapatanam where all of them were circumcised and converted to Islam. Then he marched upto Kumbla on the northern borders of Kerala, forcibly converting to Islam every Hindu on the way.
In Malabar, the main targets of Tipu Sultan”s atrocities were Hindus and Hindu temples. According to Lewis B. Boury (7), the atrocities committed by Tipu Sultan against Hindus in Malabar were worse and more barbarous than those committed against the Hindus in Hindustan by the notorious Mahmud of Ghazni, Alauddin Khalji, and Nadir Shah. According to the Malabar Manual of William Logan (7) who was the District Collector for some time, Thrichambaram and Thalipparampu temples in Chirackal Taluqa, Thiruvangatu Temple (Brass Pagoda) in Tellicherry, and Ponmeri Temple near Badakara were all destroyed by Tipu Sultan. The Malabar Manual mentions that the Maniyoor mosque was once a Hindu temple. Vatakkankoor Raja Raja Varma(8) writes- “There was no limit as to the loss the Hindu temples suffered due to the military operations of Tipu Sultan(in Kerala). Burning down the temples, destruction of the idols installed therein and also cutting the heads of cattle over the temple deities were the cruel entertainments of Tipu Sultan and his equally cruel army. It was heartrending even to imagine the destruction caused by Tipu Sultan in the famous ancient temples of Thalipparampu and Thrichambaram. The devastation caused by this new Ravana”s barbarous activities has not yet been fully rectified.”
About the atrocities in Kozhikode, L.B. Boury(7) writes: “To show his ardent devotion and steadfast faith in Muhammaddan religion, Tipu Sultan found Kozhikode to be the most suitable place. Kozhikode was then a centre of Brahmins and had over 7000 Brahmin families living there. Over 2000 Brahmin families perished as a result of Tipu Sultan”s Islamic cruelties. He did not spare even women and children. Most of the men escaped to forests and foreign lands.” The propaganda that Tipu Sultan was tolerant and fair-minded towards the Hindus in Mysore is also without any foundation, as explained in “History of Mysore” written by Lewis Rice as well as M.M. Gopal Rao. According to Lewis Rice, during the rule of Tipu Sultan, only two Hindu temples inside the Sreerangapatanam Fort were having daily pujas while the assets of all other temples were confiscated. Gopal Rao says- “Muslims were exempted from all taxes. Even those who were converted to Islamic faith were also allowed the same concessions,”
The Mysore Gazetteer says that the ravaging army of Tipu Sultan had destroyed more than 8000 temples in South India. The temples of Malabar and Cochin principalities had to bear the brunt of plunder and destruction. According to the Malabar Gazetteer, the important temples in the towns of Tali, Srivaliyanatukavu, Tiruvannur, Varakkal, Puthur, Govindapuram, and Talikunnu were destroyed by Tipu”s ravaging armies.
Inspite of enormous evidences present as mentioned above which clearly show that, Tipu Sultan was no “secular” and “tolerant”, still this myth is being portrayed in academic circles. It is high time that, truth be laid down in public. It is high time to voice objection against whitewashing of history by vested interests. We, people of India should gather courage to call a spade a spade.
References and Notes:
1. Star of Mysore (January 19th, 2010)
3. K.M. Panicker, Bhasha Poshini, August, 1923
4. Cited by Dr. I.M. Muthanna, Tipu Sultan X-Rayed
5. Cited in TIPU SULTAN: AS KNOWN IN KERALA, Ravi Varma
6. Cited in Cochin History by K.P. Padmanabha Menon
7. Cited in Malayalam article by P.C.N. Raja first published in Kesari Annual of 1964
8. History of Sanskrit Literature in Kerala
TIPPU SULTAN, FRANCOIS RIPAUD & HINDUS (*)
On the 8th of December 1988, an old trunk was discovered in the attic of the house of Elaine de la Taille Trétinville, who died at age 91 in her 14th district flat in Paris. Eliane was a descendant of the family of Les Ripaud de Montaudevert. Amongst the many artefacts, an old manuscript was found, handwritten by the most famous of the Montaudeverts: François Fidèle Ripaud de Montaudevert.
The manuscript starts with these words in old French ‘moi François Ripaud, ester vieillot, mais je volere raconter le villain Tipoo”: « I am old today, but I want to tell you the true story of Tipoo Sultan »…
Born in Saffré, in France’s Britain County, into a middle class family, Ripaud enrolled at the age of 11 as a sailor on the ship Le Palmier. After many adventures, he settled in Mauritius where he marries and has two children. In 1797, having heard about “Le Grand Tippu Sultan” (the great Tippu Sultan), Ripaud sailed from Mauritius (then called L’Isle de France) to Mangalore and requested a meeting with the Sultan, promising him « to raise a large force in Mauritius and put it at Tippu’s disposal ».
Tippu, who had an early connection with the French, as he was instructed in military tactics by French officers in the employment of his father, jumped on the idea. And gave Ripaud letters of credentials. Ripaud thus arrived at Ile de France on 19 August 1798, and had a public proclamation asking for volunteers “to join an expedition to travel to Mysore to assist Tipoo in his resistance to British encroachment in South India “. It must be noted that two months earlier, Napoleon invaded Egypt and dreamt of establishing a junction with India against the British. Hence the Governor of Mauritius received instructions to collaborate and Ripaud came back to Mangalore with a shipload of French soldiers, who were welcomed like heroes.
Life in the court of Tippu was a dream for our hardy adventurer. But Francois Ripaud begins to have some misgivings about the Sultan: “I am disturbed, he writes in his diary on 14th January 1799, about Tipoo’s treatment of these most gentle souls, the Hindus. During the siege of Mangalore, Tipu”s soldiers daily exposed the heads of many innocent Brahmins within sight from the fort for Zamorin and his Hindu followers to see”.
But Ripaud casts his doubts aside, and puts up for Tippu’s benefit a demonstration of the new egalitarian French political ideals. A French paper was found in Tipu’s Palace in 1799, entitled ‘Proceedings of a Jacobin Club formed at Seringapatam by the French Soldiers in the Corps commanded by Francois Ripaud. The Paper listed by name 59 Frenchmen in the pay of ‘Citizen Tippoo’; it described the gathering of a Primary Assembly on 5th May 1797, to elect a President, Francois Ripaud, and other officers. The ‘Rights of Man’ were proclaimed, and a small delegation was formally received by Tippu.
After this lull, we find another entry in his diary where Francois was even more appalled of what he witnessed in Calicut “Most of the Hindu men and women were hanged in Calicut, first mothers were hanged with their children tied to necks of mothers. That barbarian Tipu Sultan tied the naked Christians and Hindus to the legs of elephants and made the elephants to move around till the bodies of the helpless victims were torn to pieces. Temples and churches were ordered to be burned down, desecrated and destroyed. Christian and Hindu women were forced to marry Mohammadans and similarly their men (after converting Hindu men into Islam) were forced to marry Mohammadan women. Those Christians, who refused to be honoured with Islam, were ordered to be killed by hanging immediately”. It is interesting to note that this event was cohobated by the world-famous Portuguese traveller, Father. Barthoelomeo, who wrote about it in his book “Voyage to East Indies”
Then, there were the atrocities in Kozhikode, also seen by Ripaud, who wrote: “To show his ardent devotion and steadfast faith in Muhammaddan religion, Tipu Sultan found Kozhikode to be the most suitable place. Kozhikode was then a centre of Brahmins and had over 7000 Brahmin families living there. Over 2000 Brahmin families perished as a result of Tipu Sultan”s Islamic cruelties. He did not spare even women and children”
Disgusted, Ripaud escaped from Srirangapatnam and went back to France, where he obtained the captainship of a fine fighting ship, the Shapho. But on 23 February 1814, while fighting an English frigate, a cannon ball ripped his whole arm. He died in the evening. Even the British, his archenemies, gave 21 cannon salutes to this courageous adventurer, once, Tippu’s Great White Hope.
* Based on the book : « A la mer, en guerre: vie du corsaire Ripaud de Montaudevert » by Jean Feidel, (To the sea, in war, the life of a ship ) Editions RDM, Paris 1965 & scènes de la Révolution Française à L’île Bourbon, book written in French by Louis Brunet describing Ripaud’s adventures