Why display Tipu's Sword?

Should culture be a denial of history? And what history ought to be remembered?

When Karnataka decided to celebrate Tipu Sultan in their Republic Day tableau, the opposition did not really think about this. For them it was ‘murderer of Hindus, temple destroyer”, and the Congress government was chided for fake secularism. Some even called Tipu, “the Tiger of Mysore”, a Mughal king. This is par for the course for the Hindutva agenda. To be noted is that we never seem to have an issue with the British. Has there been any move to demolish the Gateway of India?

Having said this, the opponents of the opponents are using Tipu’s bravery against the Raj colonial rule, and his death in battle as an example. All very well, but the Indian National Congress cannot take credit for that.

I do indeed have an issue with Tipu Sultan in the January 26 float for the simple reason that India was already an independent nation when it chose to become a republic. We do not need to commemorate kings. And what is this obsession with his sword? Can we forget that it was brought back to India by business tycoon Vijay Mallya in 2003 by paying from his "personal funds" of Rs. 1.5 crore? (The second sword was auctioned in London in 2013.)

At the time it was seen as a political move, and like many political moves it was explained as "rightful legacy" by "a proud Kannadiga". If anything, this is parochialism. Which is also what the tableaux are about.

For us culture seems to be a mish-mash of song and dance from various regions. This is static. It does not convey the growth of a nation. It is as much of an anomaly as display of weapons. Who are these shown off to? What does it convey? That we are prepared to deal with any enemy attack.

It is not too different from Tipu's sword that Karnataka owes to a corporate house, which represents in some ways how we view the enemy of dislocated people today. What about other enemies within? Is it not the duty of the Republic to address these issues?

And if we want an exhibition of culture, then this is one area where we could do with fusion. Why not bring two or three regions to create something together?

History is killed by crude and ostentatious statues of dead heroes used opportunistically. Tipu Sultan is now included in the pantheon. There will be dissonant voices. Why play into them? Why not celebrate what can be instead of what was?

© Farzana Versey


Image: India Today


  1. FV,

    Deliberate obfuscation is par for course for sekulaars.

    1. Gateway of India was not built after demolishing a holy Hindu temple and was not built to drive home the subjugated status of Hindus.

    2. Tipu Sultan's hatred for Hindus and his vengeful acts that qualify as Islamic Jihad are well-documented. Forced conversions at swordpoint and abduction of women for harems was a sanctioned practice. I suggest you do not use the word hero to describe this fanatic bigot.

    3. As for your general disapproval of parades and elaborate tableaus, I agree entirely. I find the whole Republlic Day spectacle ridiculous at best and offensive at worst.

  2. F&F:

    Selective reading is par for the course for certain people. There are other important points, but they seem to not matter.

    The Gateway of India was built to commemorate King Edward V, who represented the British Raj that did kill people. Since the majority of the population was Hindu even then, I assume they were killed too. Or did you expect them to anticipate the 'war on terror'?

    Please read what I have written. I have not singled him out as a hero. In fact, I called out the attempts to prop him up and said he was added to the pantheon, with other statued heroes. Did the latter part hurt because a certain CM is spending huge sums of money for this display?

    There is no denying that Tipu did convert Hindus, and had blood on his hands.

    And there was no court to exonerate him.

  3. FV,

    Thanks for your concern about my delicate feelings. Not many care about me so much!

    But, no. I may often get touchy-feely-sobby about puppies run over by cars but I have, sadly, never burst into tears over insults hurled at politicians.

    Who was it who said "I have never murdered anyone but I have read many obituaries with great delight.."?

  4. There is nothing wrong with tipu sultan tableaux , many movies and tv serials have been made on him and many considers him hero, what is killer to some is hero to many - the war goes on ...

  5. RA,

    The war goes on indeed. Nice to see your genuine opinion come to the fore, for a change.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.