Tipu Sultan: the least understood historical personality in India.
Unlike the unlettered Hyder Ali, ruler of Mysore Kingdom, evidence shows that his son Tipu Sultan was a scholar of some repute, a polyglot as well as a skilled leader in the battlefield.
If the test of nationalism is as simple as opposition to the English, then Tipu Sultan can easily be classified as a freedom fighter.
The grand histories of nation states need icons. In the turbulent years of the late eighteenth century, when rulers in India were engaged in guarding their own selfish interests, it is undeniable that Tipu Sultan stood as a bulwark against the British East India Company’s aggressive policies. His iconic status, therefore, is easily justified, more so to strengthen the narrative of secular nationalism in modern India.
There are several examples of Tipu Sultan’s generous support to prominent Hindu temples in South India, and his letters to these temples, written in Kannada, survive till today. The close advisors of Tipu Sultan were Hindu Brahmins. In Kannada folklore, Tipu Sultan has an exalted position.
Tipu Sultan may be one of the most well-known figures from eighteenth century Indian history, but he is also the least understood historical personality in India.
There has been a tendency over the past few decades to vilify Muslim rulers in Indian history, and Tipu Sultan has been one of the victims.