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Haidar Ali and Tipu Sultan The book Confronting Colonialism: Resistance and Modernization under Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan by Irfan Habib is a compilation of essays devoted to Mysore under Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. It is part of the remembrance of the second centenary of Tipu's last stand against the British at Srirangapatnam observed by the Indian History Congress. The idea, one assumes, is to underline the need to research the historical space inhabited by the two rulers, and to make a more up to date point of rehabilitating them as commendable symbols of proto / nationalist resistance against colonialist onslaught. Tipu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore, or Tippoo Sahib as the British called him, was the Indian ruler who resisted the East India Company's conquest of southern India.
Public opinion in England considered him a vicious tyrant, while modern Indian nationalists have hailed him as a freedom fighter, but both views are the products of wishful thinking. A small, plump man with a round face and black moustache, who wore clothes glittering with jewels, Tipu was vigorous, forceful, brave, warlike and cruel; a devout Muslim ruling a mainly Hindu population. He had inherited the throne from his father Haidar Ali, who had driven out the previous Hindu dynasty. Tipu used to say it was better to live for two days like a tiger than drag out an existence like a sheep for two hundred years.
He had a special reverence for tigers. He kept six in his fortress-city of Seringapatam (now Sriringapatna), 200 miles west of Madras, where his throne was shaped and striped like a tiger. His elite troops wore tiger badges, the hilt of his sword was in the form of a snarling tiger, and his favourite toy was a mechanical tiger straddling a British officer while the victim squealed in terror (it is now in the Victoria & Albert Museum). Tipu was determined to build a rich and powerful state and he was feared with reason by his subjects, his neighbours and Other Indian princes, who joined forces with the British against him. He tried to build up an alliance to drive the British -- 'those oppressors of the human race' -- out of India and intrigued with the French in Paris and Mauritius.
In dealings with them Tipu improbably donned a cap of liberty and expressed his sympathy with French Revolutionary ideals. The British feared an invasion of India by Napoleon, and Lord Mornington, arriving in Calcutta as British Governor-General in 1798, decided to settle accounts with Citizen Tipu, An army of East India Company sepoys and cavalry was assembled in Madras under General Harris with a contingent from the Nizam of Hyderabad, and the British Thirty-Third Regiment of Foot under Mornington's younger brother, Colonel Arthur Wellesley (the future Duke of Wellington). In February 1799 the order to invade Mysore came, and the motley array toiled across the border accompanied by elephants and camels, thousands of baggage bullocks and flocks of sheep and goats to provide meat for the officers, as well as hordes of camp followers and a travelling market selling food and drink for the soldiery. Officers took along cooks, grooms, laundrymen and cleaning wallahs, and senior officers like Wellesley, who brought his silver-plated tableware with him, had thirty or more servants in their train. Moving ponderously in the burning heat, the army covered an area of eighteen square miles and on a good day managed to advance ten miles.
Tipu's initial resistance was pushed aside and the British army sat down around the lime washed walls of Seringapatam which bristled with cannon. Soldiers captured by the sultan's men were taken into the fortress and killed. Nails were driven into their heads or they were strangled by Tipu's jets, professional strongmen -- executioners. Tipu sent placatory messages to the enemy commanders, hoping to delay matters until the monsoon arrived, but they continued with their siege works and cannonades. When the morning of May 4 th came, Tipu was told that the omens were not propitious.
He tried to ward off misfortune by presenting the Hindu priests and Brahmins with a purse of gold, an elephant, a black bullock and two buffalo, a black nanny goat and a black coat and hat, but in vain. The assault was launched soon after one o'clock by troops equipped with bamboo ladders for scaling the walls. Within minutes a British flag was planted in the breach as the defenders fled. Tipu himself fought bravely, dressed in his finest, loading and firing muskets handed him by his servants as if he was at a sporting shoot, but the odds were too great. He was wounded and his staff tried to hurry him away in a palanquin, but he was killed for his jewellery by an unidentified British soldier. As night was falling a British party found the sultan's body under a heap of corpses.
He was given honourable burial in his family mausoleum in the city. The news of Tipu's defeat and death caused excitement in England and his treasure hoard provided ample prize money for the British senior officers. Harris was given a peerage and Mornington was made Marquess Wellesley. Arthur Wellesley was put in charge in Mysore and moved into Tipu's palace, while the throne was bestowed on an infant member of the previous Hindu dynasty. The tigers were shot. With an introductory essay by the noted historian of medieval India, Irfan Habib, that presents a historical analysis of 18 th century Mysore under Haidar and Tipu, the volume is a significant compendium of well-researched articles by leading historians o f the day from as early as 1935.
Though the articles deal with issues that range from a description of ship-building technology to the question of whether Haidar turned defeatist in his final days, there is a running thread through the volumes. Habib not es in his Introduction: "Whether what these writers say is right or wrong can be judged on the basis of the evidence they present in the papers. But the writers' attitude is also evidence of an anxiety to defend the memory of the two rulers, which in tur n tells us much about the sentiments that had swayed a bygone generation. " Indeed almost all the articles in this volume take as their premise Tipu's positive role in standing up to early colonialism. Within that framework they then seek to understand th e complexities and contradictions of his ideas and actions. In his Introduction Habib says that the ascent of Haidar Ali, a recruit of the Mysore state who later rose to faujdar or commandant of Dindigal and then to the throne of Mysore, was the result of the acquisition of a vastly superior military price ss - "a brilliant combination of the mobile cavalry organised on the Mughal pattern with his increasingly disciplined musket-using infantry." The adoption of the Mughal system of military organisation was extended to the internal arrangements of his poli ty. Haidar's rule, argues Habib, saw an increasing tendency towards centralisation of revenue administration.
He began eliminating intermediaries and levying land tax directly from the peasantry, a system which became the basis for Munro's ryotwari syste m later. The increased revenue helped maintain the large standing army that the new methods of warfare necessitated. According to Habib, Haidar's successes against the British were of a short-term nature because of his failure to focus on the development of technology and commerce, and because he concentrated solely on military modernisation. This in turn led to a heavy dependence on the presence of Europeans, notably the French. Under Tipu's reign statecraft took on several new dimensions.
While the centralisation of the administration proceeded apace, Tipu carved a political identity for himself quite independent of the Mughal system. His relationship with Islam was different f rom that of his father. Tipu used Islam, Habib argues, as an ideological prop and a rallying force against the British. And while there are indefensible incidents of how he justified forced conversions, there is also a large and definitive body of even ce of the extremes to which Tipu went in supporting and even nurturing Hindu religious establishments and individuals. Articles by A. Subbaraya Cheats and B.
A. Sale tore discuss Tipu's relations with Hindu establishments, notably the Sriranga Math. There was a keen correspondence between Tipu and the Swami of the Srirangam Math, and when Tipu received letters regarding the pillage of the math by the Marathas, he rushed state aid in the form of money, grain and goods for the relief of the math. The articles in the volumes fall under the broad categories of anti-British wars and campaigns, diplomacy, Tipu's policy towards other religions, his efforts to modernise industry and agriculture, his attempts to build a viable naval force, and even a di session by art historian S. P. Verma on the artistic representation of the forts of Mysore by Thomas and William Daniells, British artists who travelled through his domains in the 1790 s.
The contributors include Jadunath Sarkar and C. S. Krishnaswami, bot h eminent historians of their time, as also Mohibbul Hasan, the author of the standard biography of Tipu, Mahmud Husain who has publicised a translation of "The Dreams of Tipu Sultan", B. Sheikh Ali, Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi who has written extensively on the medieval period and who became one of Pakistan's distinguished historians, George M. Moraes who was Professor of History at Bombay University, and Bar De, the well-known historian of 18 th and 19 th century India, amongst others. Of particular interest is the set of articles on Tipu's diplomacy.
Irshad Husain Bahai in his contribution discusses a first-person account by Brigadier-General Macleod, the representative from the Bombay government, of his meeting with Tipu after the 17 94 Treaty of Mangalore between the British and Tipu which led to a temporary cessation of hostilities. Macleod, who confesses that it "would make me proud to see the warlike prince I once had the honour of fighting", records the very frank exchange of vi ews between himself and Tipu. Here Tipu is eager for an honourable agreement between the two countries, and even promises to release British prisoners of war if such an agreement is reached. A detailed article by A. P. Ibrahim Kunju, written in 1960, provides the background to Tipu's invasion of Travancore in 1790.
Commenting on an event that has resulted in much hatred for Tipu in modern times, Kunju writes: "If we look closely into the reco rds of the period, it will be clear that the activities of the king of Travancore were so provocative that it is a wonder that the Mysore an rulers actually invaded Travancore only as late as 1790. " Tipu extended the process of centralisation to building a state monopoly in trade, commerce and industry. There are contributions in the volume on his ambitious plans to build a modern navy. Habib argues that although Tipu was interested in scientific in students, he did not see as significant the understanding of the great advances Europe had made in science theory. "Tipu's intellectual horizons thus remained restricted to the old inherited learning, " writes Habib. Tipu and his Mysore thus remained .".. far away from a real opening to modern civilisation, despite his own bold and restless endeavours." Haidar Ali was not literal but took grat car to ducat his son vn as h nord that his hir would b both a man of lots and th sword. Tipu was found in Persian, Arabic, Kannada, nish, and French, and th royal library had 40, 000 books.
As a far-sight visionary who could grasp th implications of colonialism, Tipu was and of his tims, somthing his contemporaries, specially th Marathas and th Nizam, wrn't. Th last Mughal major, Bahadur Shah Zafar, of land th burn Tipu card on his should, without his neighbours' hlp. vn so, on haring of Tipu's date, his arch not Pshwa Back Rao said: "I hav lost my right arm. " Tipu was good are by his father, accompanying him to th battlefield by th tim h was 15. Both Haidar and Tipu, who xtndd th boundaries of Old Mysore, date th British at Pollilur, Taylor, and Bid nur. Much has bn written about Tipu's policy towards Hindus. Thr ar thos who tar him with th communal brush and thos lik G.
S. Sardsai, who, in his Nw History of th Marathas, writs: "H x pndd larg amounts of mony to st up nw idols in Hindu series. Forty thousand Brahmans raid alms and rations. Thus h announced to th world how, though a Muslim, h said th interests of th Hindus... " Tipu was a phone in modernising his army too.
At th Third Mysore War, as a war strategist, h nag French technicians to improv upon xi sting weaponry and develop nw ons. Although h was fundamentally an infantry soldier, h know th important of artillery ovr cavalry. H systematically usd artillery to his advantage in his wars against th Marathas and th British. H also had an impressive stock of rock. His army was wll train in using thm fictively. Som of thm had have ston's muddy in thm.
In his long and fairly prolific carr as a historian and as a political activist, Irfan Habib has did only two volum's that focus on individual / s in history. Th first of ths was on Akbar. This is not a coincide. Both Akbar and Tipu Sultan hav a historically document, (and to many slf video) potential of bing a symbol of th secular India, th might nation. Yt historiographic ally, th mughal rule and th Mysore hro ar almost lik antipodes. Akbar stands richly invited with numerous scholarly works, whr as Tipu has had no such luck.
It is from this point of view that on must mak sns of this otherwise uninspiring collection. It is a sad relation of th dspam stat of political affairs in th post Baby Masjid price of this secular nation that a historian of Irfan Habib's status should associate himself with a project that dos scant just to his scholarship. Bibliography: Irfan Habib, ed. , Confronting Colonialism: Resistance and Modernization under Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan, New Delhi: Tulika & Indian History Congress, 1999.
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