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Tipu Sultan

Topics Covered:

  1. Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

Tipu Sultan


What to study?

For Prelims: Contributions of Tipu.

For Mains: A critical analysis of Controversies surrounding, what is the way out?


Context: Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa has dropped hints that lessons on Tipu Sultan may be dropped from State syllabus textbooks, saying that the issue would be “reviewed.”



The “removal” of Tipu from textbooks will fundamentally alter the history of early modern India, and make invisible one of the key individuals in the society and politics of South India in the second half of the 18th century, when the East India Company was rapidly expanding Britain’s colonial footprint over the country.



The controversy surrounding Tipu Sultan, the 18th century ruler of Mysore, has emerged in Karnataka once again. Previously, it was over the celebrations of his Jayanti and now over lessons related to him in the text books.


Who was Tipu Sultan?

He was a ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore and the eldest son of Sultan Hyder Ali of Mysore.

In the wider national narrative, Tipu has so far been seen as a man of imagination and courage, a brilliant military strategist who, in a short reign of 17 years, mounted the most serious challenge the Company faced in India.


Contributions of Tipu Sultan:

  1. Fought the first Anglo-Mysore War (1767-69) at the age of 17 and subsequently, against the Marathas and in the Second Anglo-Mysore War (1780-84).
  2. He fought Company forces four times during 1767-99 and was killed defending his capital Srirangapatnam in the Fourth Anglo Mysore War.
  3. Tipu reorganised his army along European lines, using new technology, including what is considered the first war rocket.
  4. Devised a land revenue system based on detailed surveys and classification, in which the tax was imposed directly on the peasant, and collected through salaried agents in cash, widening the state’s resource base.
  5. Modernised agriculture, gave tax breaks for developing wasteland, built irrigation infrastructure and repaired old dams, and promoted agricultural manufacturing and sericulture. Built a navy to support trade.
  6. Commissioned a “state commercial corporation” to set up factories.


Why there are so many controversies surrounding him?

  1. There are concerns raised against Tipu Sultan on nearly every historical figure, perspectives differ.
  2. Haider and Tipu had strong territorial ambitions, and invaded and annexed territories outside Mysore. In doing so, they burnt down entire towns and villages, razed hundreds of temples and churches, and forcibly converted Hindus.
  3. The historical record has Tipu boasting about having forced “infidels” to convert to Islam, and of having destroyed their places of worship.
  4. The disagreement then, is between those who see the “Tiger of Mysore” as a bulwark against colonialism and a great son of Karnataka, and those who point to his destruction of temples and forced conversions of Hindus and Christians to accuse him of tyranny and fanaticism.


Conclusion and way ahead:

Placing a personality in binary terms, i.e. extreme good or bad is neither rational nor progressive.

  • Historical perspectives should be critically analysed only to study from the past so as to live in a better present and build a better tomorrow.
  • Attempts to see such narratives in political, communal or religious lines to create divisions in society should be vehemently opposed.
  • It is improper to judge figures of the past by canons of the present. History should be used to teach people about tolerance and brotherhood rather than dividing based on communal lines.


Sources: the Hindu.