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Tipu Sultan: A Hero Or A Villain

Tipu Sultan also known as the Tier of Mysore is one of the most legendary freedom fighters and a gallant warrior about whose valour we have even studied in our textbooks. But in recent years there has been a debate about whether Tipu Sultan was A hero or A villain!

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The tales of his wars existed from about 200 years ago and he was also termed as ‘India’s First Freedom Fighter’. But certain political parties like BJP and the Sangh Parivar have called him a ‘mass rapist’ due to which a BJP minister was dragged to court by a descendant of Tipu Sultan.

But amidst this, the question or the dilemma remains of who Tipu Sultan actually was?  

In his book India, Modernity and the Great Divergence, Author Kaveh Yazdani conducts elaborate research about the transformation of Mysore before and after the British came in. It was due to Tipu’s administrative and military reforms that Mysore became a powerful state for many years. If he was more thoughtful and diplomatic in his rule and made alliance with the adjoining states he would have ruled a much longer.

There are two sides to Tipu’s image that are highlighted today. One that reflects him to be a terrorist and a jihadi. He is accused of raping women, forcing people to convert to Islam and torturing Hindus and destroying their religious places. On the other hand, the facts show that he provided jobs to thousands of Hindus and the agrarian reforms implied under his rule proved beneficial for the farmers. It is also known that he patronized several temples.

Several groups praise him for his reforms just like Akbar did and hence called him to be the Akbar of the 18th century. He is known as a military genius and an ideal of tolerance.

Seeing the facts Tipu lost as many wars as he won. He wasn’t a military genius. He did not follow the footsteps of his father and that was the reason of his defeats. He focused on expanding his infantry, neglecting the strength of his cavalry. This was a bad move against the British army.

Tipu has never been pictured as a tolerant leader; he would go to any extent to retain power, no matter how brutal his punishments were. While many say his punishments were cruel, true they were but during those time i.e. in the 18th and the 19th century this was a trend followed by almost all the rulers.

Talking about the patronization of temples it was rather a socio-economic move, rather than a religious move. It was a mutual relationship; temples that helped the ruler were helped back by him. Else were demolished. So that is what Tipu Sultan also did.

Now if we look for a clear answer as to whether Tipu Sultan was an idol or a terrorist it can never have clear answers. Though in no ways we can term him as a true hero neither can he be termed as a villain! He was a gallant warrior and strengthened his kingdom during the course of his rule. On the other hand like most of the rulers of those times, he was full of power and made use of his immense power in both good and bad ways.

In a Book by the Malayalee Samajam named Tipu Sultan: Villain or Hero? Excerpts from letters or documents from different sources have been used to portray the real face of Tipu Sultan. He is termed as a rapist, traitor, Jihadi, accused of slaughtering many Hindus but history is history and when we look into it several different pages will open. We must avoid giving it any political agenda and thrive on the facts that come our way.

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