Dreams of Tipu Sultan
June 14, 2015 12:20 AM   Subscribe

One of the most intriguing items in the British Library Persian manuscripts collection is a small unexceptional looking volume which contains a personal record, written in his own hand, of 37 dreams of Tipu Sultan, Sultan of Mysore (r. 1782-1799). [Complete translation.]
A figure of continuing interest, Tipu Sultan's depiction in a 2014 parade float was the subject of a minor controversy, revisited expansively this year in a TV news report. A video history lesson for children offers a brief portrait of the ruler, sometimes remembered for his use of rockets against the British and his anti-British mechanical pipe organ (examined carefully here, but here used to play two tunes, including "Rule, Britannia!").

Tipu also features in several 19th C. novels (e.g. as an uncle of Captain Nemo), a more recent play, and a novel that formed the basis for a lengthy TV drama (subtitled in English). His mausoleum and palace at Srirangapatna and his palace at Bengaluru are open to visitors.

Incidentally, for this year's parade, Karnataka entered a tableau celebrating Channapatna toys (more from Pinterest).
posted by Monsieur Caution (15 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I have a coin from his time.

He also had a mechanical tiger. Automaton that clearly shows his opinion of the Brits ;p
posted by infini at 1:03 AM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ah, I see you have it linked as a pipe organ.
posted by infini at 1:04 AM on June 14, 2015

That dream in which he flirted with someone he thought was a man, only to discover it was a woman, is interesting -- I somehow doubt the official interpretation that it was all about the Marathas being cowardly women under their martial appearance.
posted by Aravis76 at 3:55 AM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

Tippu Sultan and the British Empire deserved each other. Two colonialist ideologies slogging it out. I feel sorry for the natives who had to bear it.
posted by Thing at 4:26 AM on June 14, 2015

the natives
posted by infini at 5:12 AM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

It was a complicated time in India, with different kingdoms having different interests and allying with different powers outside the subcontinent against each other. I don't think Muslim Ruler v British Invader v Poor Natives is a useful way of framing what was going on. That said, I would definitely not like to have been an ordinary farmer living in South India at that time.
posted by Aravis76 at 6:31 AM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

> ...his anti-British mechanical pipe organ ( ...here used to play two tunes, including "Rule, Britannia!").

...and "God Save the Queen". The Sultan must be rolling in his grave.

Vimeo-hosted versions of the performance: Part 1 (introduction, trying each note, "Rule Brittania"), Part 2 ("God Save the Queen" and a sheepish look at the camera)
posted by ardgedee at 8:15 AM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

He also figures in Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe's Tiger.
posted by BWA at 8:26 AM on June 14, 2015

the natives

"Native Indians" then. As opposed to British and Muslim invaders. My apologies if my usage was offensive.
posted by Thing at 8:26 AM on June 14, 2015

The "Muslim invaders" were easily a couple of centuries earlier, and have been coming in and out of what is known as India for hundreds of years. Tipu's father was from Karnataka, though his ancestry might be from elsewhere (though that's true of most Indians in the northern half of teh subcontinent due to our history of absorbing random invaders) Technically they are ALL native to the subcontinent. All of them. South Asia is vast and has been mixing it up way before this simplistic division making among the natives.

I'm objecting because its not the same as William the Conqueror invading the natives, but closer to the War of the Roses.

*also yes, it is an offensive term. On par with coolie. Only the Empire used it for their dominions.
posted by infini at 9:10 AM on June 14, 2015 [5 favorites]

Tipu Sultan was not, strictly speaking, an invader -- he was born in India. It is a bit problematic, and politically charged, to describe every Muslim ruler of an Indian kingdom as an "invader" as distinguished from a "native Indian". Of course, from the perspective of people in states other than Mysore, he was an invader. But he wasn't invading India from somewhere else, he was invading (eg) Travancore state from Mysore.

On preview: what infini said.
posted by Aravis76 at 9:14 AM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Politically charged is an understatement. Witness Pakistan naming their missiles after Afghanis and Uzbeks who invaded India. It's interesting to think about the line of reasoning and the kind of self-identity that would have led to those names being adopted. They caused an official complaint from Afghanistan for cultural misappropriation at one point.
posted by vanar sena at 1:21 PM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh the irony ;p
posted by infini at 2:42 PM on June 14, 2015

I myself penetrated the camp of the unbelievers, crushing them as I went, as far as the tent of Hari Pant Pharkiah, and they all fled like women.
IOW it was Tippoo Sultan's bold and martial bearing that made it hard for him to find a girlfriend.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:38 PM on June 14, 2015

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