WHO WAS TIPU SULTAN? by Ravi Visvesvaraya Sharada Prasad

  0 comments   |     by Ravi Visvesvaraya Sharada Prasad on October 29 , 2017

The blatantly false propaganda being spread by the Hindutva Sangha Parivar over Tipu Sultan is reaching outlandish proportions. A Hindutva troll is trying to teach me my own family history with regard to Tipu Sultan’s patronage of Hindu temples. She has been posting all kinds of nonsense on my timeline, disputing what I know about my own ancestors, and I have blocked her. Almost all the wars in medieval Deccan India were over territory, power, riches, gold. Almost none were over religion. Every Muslim king had Hindu ministers and Hindu generals. Every Hindu king had Muslim generals and Muslim ministers. 

Temples were looted because that is where gold and diamonds were kept. Many Hindu kings looted Hindu temples in the lands they conquered, such as the Hindu Marathas looting my family shrine of Sringeri Shree Sharada Peetham in 1791 AD. In 1759 AD, a military force of the Marathas occupied Tirupati, and took over its revenue stream. The Marathas withdrew from Tirupati only after several years, when a contingent of the East India Company approached.

Indian history is far more complex and nuanced than the simplistic version being propagated by the Hindutva Sangha Parivar of “Cruel Muslims massacring and raping innocent Hindus and destroying their temples”. My fathers family served in very senior positions in Tipu Sultans court. Several of the Shankaracharyas of Sringeri have come from my fathers family. In 1791 AD, the Hindu Marathas, led by Raghunath Rao Patwardhan, looted our family shrine of Sringeri Shree Sharada Peetham, and killed several priests. Ironically, the Marathas were worshippers of Shiva.

Tipu Sultan sent his army to expel the Maratha invaders, and helped rebuild the shrines at Sringeri Shree Sharada Peetham. Tipu Sultan also gave several expensive gifts to the Sreekantha temple at Nanjangud, where my fathers family members were priests. This Hindutva troll disputed all these on my timeline, saying that this was false propaganda spread by ” sickulars”. True that Tipu Sultan carried out brutal military conquests of Coorg, Mangalore, North Karnataka, Kerala, etc., with cruel massacres. True that Tipu Sultan tortured the Catholics of Mangalore. But that was because he suspected them of siding with the British. But within his own kingdom of Mysore, Tipu Sultan was revered as a just, benevolent, enlightened, and SECULAR king who ushered in an era of prosperity, and introduced modern agriculture, technology, and administration.

True that Tipu massacred Christians and Hindus in his invasions of Kerala. Has anyone noted how many Kerala Muslims too were massacred by Tipu during his invasions of Kerala? A more telling example from my maternal family’s history of the Vijayanagaram empire. My maternal family were the Tatacharyas, who were the hereditary ministers in the court of the Vijayanagaram empire. They were mostly massacred after the battle of Talikota in 1565 AD, when Vijayanagaram was conquered by an alliance of the kingdoms of Bahmani, Bidar, Berar, Bijapur, Golconda, Ahmednagar, all of which were ruled by Muslim dynasties.

But after 450 years, I am objective enough not to claim that my maternal family was massacred by Muslims. Although the Bahmani, Bidar, Berar, Bijapur, Golconda, Ahmednagar kingdoms were all ruled by Muslim dynasties, all their armies were led by Hindu generals, and they all had Hindu dewans and Hindu ministers. The Ghorpades and Sardesais fought on behalf of the Sultanate alliance. And while the Vijayanagaram emperors were devout Hindus, they had Muslim generals and Muslim administrators in senior positions. Rama Raya always kept a copy of the Holy Quran with him. The commander in chief of the Golconda army was a Maratha Brahmin, Murahari Rao. He personally looted the temple at Ahobilam in 1579 AD.

In fact, Tipu Sultan massacred several hundred members of my mother’s Shri Vaishnava Iyengar family, the Tatacharyas. But even though my own maternal relatives were killed by Tipu, I do not claim that this was because of religion; it was brutal realpolitik. The Wodeyar queen, Lakshmammanni, had hated Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan, and she made numerous attempts to overthrow them. Her principal advisors were Thirumalai Rao and his brother Narayana Rao. They were from my mother’s Shri Vaishnava Iyengar family, the Tatacharyas. They derived their authority from their being the direct descendants of the Rajgurus of the Vijayanagaram emperors. Thirumalai Rao and Narayana Rao were senior officials in the finance ministry and the posts ministry under the Wodeyars. After Haider Ali seized power, they continued to work for a few years in his regime, but then they migrated to the Maratha Court at Thanjavur, where they became ministers.

The Wodeyar queen Lakshmammanni asked Thirumalai Rao and Narayana Rao to organize a coup to overthrow Tipu Sultan. She promised to make Thirumalai Rao her Dewan, and offered him ten percent of the revenues of her Kingdom. Several hundred Iyengar Brahmins held middle to senior positions in Tipu Sultan’s administration, and Thirumalai Rao and Narayana Rao sent instructions to his fellow kinsmen to overthrow Tipu Sultan. However, the biggest mistake that Queen Lakshmammanni made was to involve the British in her efforts to overthrow Tipu Sultan.

As the British forces encouraged by the Wodeyar Queen Lakshmammanni closed in, a furious Tipu Sultan arrested all the seven hundred Iyengars in Mandyam and Melkote, and had them brutally put to death in Srirangapatnam. Even though it was my own maternal relatives who were massacred by Tipu Sultan, I do not view it as Muslims massacring Brahmins. They were trying to overthrow Tipu Sultan in order to restore the Wodeyar rule, in collaboration with the British. True that Aurangzeb beheaded the revered Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur when Guru Tegh Bahadur protested against Aurangzeb’s cruel treatment of Kashmiris.

But how many recall that a few years earlier, the very same Guru Tegh Bahadur was the advisor and chief military strategist of Aurangzeb’s military campaign to conquer Assam, with Aurangzeb’s army being led by the Rajput king Raja Ram Singh? Guru Tegh Bahadur personally led Aurangzeb’s troops in the battle against the Ahoms, and negotiated the peace treaty afterwards.

In fact, 148 of Aurangzeb’s top military generals were Hindus. Jaswant Singh, Jaya Singh, Raja Rajrup, Kabir Singh, Arghanath Singh, Prem Dev Singh, Dilip Roy, Rasik Lal Crory, Raja Vim Singh, Indra Singh, Achalaji, Arjuji were some of Aurangzeb’s top ministers, advisors, and generals. True that Aurangzeb demolished many Hindu Temples. But Aurangzeb also built a Balaji temple near Chitrakoot. Aurangzeb is also supposed to have given gifts to the Krishna temple at Nathdwara. In fact, even in the battles between Shivaji and Aurangzeb, many Maratha chieftains fought on the side of Aurangzeb. Indian history is much more complex and nuanced than the simplistic version being propagated by the Hindutva Sangha Parivar of “Evil Muslims massacring and raping innocent Hindus and destroying Hindu temples”.

In fact, in the Vijayanagaram empire, emperor Krishna Deva Raya’s army looted temples when they conquered Udayagiri and Pandharpur, and brought back the temple loot to be displayed at Hampi. Krishna Deva Raya’s army carried out massacres in the territories they conquered. My direct maternal ancestor, Thirumalai Tatacharya, was Krishna Deva Raya’s Rajguru and principal minister. The Cholas had destroyed the Chera empire temples at Thiruvanchikulam, even though both were Shiva worshippers. The Pandyas destroyed the Chola temples at Gangakondaicholapuram, even though both were worshippers of Shiva. The Rashtrakutas had destroyed the temples of the Pratiharas. The attempts today by illiterate fanatics to rewrite history and whip up communal sentiments has to be resisted and countered by facts.

A large part of the stereotype of Tipu Sultan as a persecutor of Hindus and Christians comes from an influential text book written in the 1920s by professor Harprasad Shastri, professor and head of the department of Sanskrit at Calcutta University. Unfortunately, Harprasad Shastri’s textbook was based entirely on hearsay, and not on any verification of facts from Mysore. In fact, eminent historians from the University of Mysore, and the editors of the Mysore Gazetteer had pointed out the falsehoods in the textbook written by Harprasad Shastri in the 1930s itself. Brijendra Nath Seal had his suspicions about Shastri’s book, and ordered an inquiry. Ashutosh Mukherjee had Shastri’s textbook withdrawn from Calcutta University.

However both Allahabad University and Benares Hindu University prescribed Shastri’s book as a textbook. In one of his books, the eminent historian BN Pande (long time member of parliament and governor of Odisha) spent several pages pointing out the falsehoods in Harprasad Shastri’s textbook. Shastri had mentioned numerous references. He confessed to Pande that he had not actually read any of the sources which he had cited as references in his textbook. But generations of students have grown up on Harprasad Shastri’s textbook.

Ravi Visvesvaraya Sharada Prasad


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