Tipu Sultan – a History of Bigotry and Barbarities Outside Karnataka- II

Tipu Sultan – a History of Bigotry and Barbarities Outside Karnataka- II

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In the previous part of the article, we discussed the barbarities and religious bigotry of Tipu Sultan in the Malabar.  In this part, we shall discuss its effects, Tipu’s career of temple destruction in the Malabar and his atrocities Travancore, Coimbatore and other parts of the south.

Section A1: Large Scale Destruction and Migration due to Tipu’s Jihad in the Malabar

Seeing Tipu’s merciless Jihad against the Hindus, there was a large scale terrified migration from Malabar.  The richer Hindus (especially the Nairs and other richer landlords and the Brahmins fled the region in huge numbers to Travancore.  This is attested to by James Innes, who notes that Tipu not only caused the flight of the richer Hindus, but also pursued the migrants.  He writes, ``The Chirakkal Raja was killed, and the- other Rajas and the richer landowners fled to Travancore. The poorer Nayars retreated into the jungles, and were pitilessly pursued by bodies of Mysorean troops. … He made no attack upon Tellicherry; but he upbraided the factors bitterly for the protection they had afforded to refugees, and kept them by a cordon of troops in a state of virtual siege.” p. 73, [11].  Sankunni Menon, the famous historian of Travancore, also testifies to the flight of the Hindus.  He writes, “All the high caste Hindus fled from Malabar: but where could they find shelter?  In the territory of the Cochin Raja, they could not get an asylum as that potentate was a tributary of the Sultan. The Hindu portion of the population of Malabar, including the royal family of the Zamorin of Calicut, and everyone of the opulent Nambudories, resorted to Travancore and begged for protection at the hands of the Maharajah.”  p. 212, [1].  The flight of the Hindus to Travancore has also been recorded by Hamilton-Buchanan, who notes that, “All such as could flee to other countries did so: those who could not escape took refuge in the forests, from whence they waged a constant predatory war against their oppressors.’’ pp. 549-551, [25].   KP Padmanabha Menon also confirms the flight of the Hindus to Travancore, stating that “The exodus of the Malabar families to Travancore, unable any longer to suffer the persecutions of Tippu, had already begun, and the Zamorin and his family too fled and sought refuge in Travancore, like so many others.’’ p. 170, [22].  Fra. Bartolomeo further adds, “In the years 1788 and 1789, when the cruel Tippoo Sultan Bahader, son of Hayder Aly Khan, persecuted the Brahmans, and caused them either to be unmercifully beat, or circumcised according to the Mahometan manner, a great many of them fled to Vaikatta, where they received every kind of protection possible from the king of Travancor.”, pp. 122-123, [8].  This is also confirmed by KP Padmanabha Menon, who writes, “30,000 Brahmans, with their families, took refuge in Travancore.’’ pp. 266-267, [21]

The devastation caused by Tipu has been remarked by James Rice Innes, who writes that, “The whole district [of Malabar] seethed with discontent, and South Malabar in particular was in a state bordering on anarchy. Trade was at a standstill, and of the pepper vines in the south of the district Tipu had left not one in fifty standing.” p. 77,[11].  Some of the effects of Tipu’s terrible bigotry were felt nearly 20 years after his death, as recorded by Hamilton-Buchanan, “This want of cultivation is attributed to a want of people, the greater part of the inhabitants having perished in the Malabar year 964 (A. D. 1788-9); during the persecution of the Hindus by the Sultan.’’ pp. 559, [25].  The destruction caused by Tipu has been remarked by KM Panikkar too, who points out that the country of Malabar was depopulated and turned into a wilderness by Tipu. p. 418, [32].  What this shows is that the destruction and devastation caused by Tipu was not limited to his enemies, but also to the common people, who often fled to the forests and lived there like beasts to escape the terror of Tipu and his Moplah allies.

While Tipu was busy destroying the Malabar, Tipu’s French allies were constrained to warn him gently, right at the beginning.  Gen. Bussy, head of the French forces in India, wrote to Tipu in 1783 stating, “You can be sure that he [Bussy’s chief of staff, who carried the letter] and I will always support you with all our power. This is the intention of the Emperor of France, my master, who does not want to retain anything for himself of the [territories that will be] conquered and will give you everything. [However] He does not desire the abasement of the English, our common enemies.’’ pp. 341-342, [43].  The curious point here is that, at the time of the letter, Tipu had just quit the Malabar, which he had thoroughly destroyed, but he had not destroyed the British there, nor had the episode involving the British in Bednur played out, so there is no question of `abasement of the British’ at Tipu’s hands.  It is, we suspect, a reference to Tipu’s cruelties on the Hindus of Malabar.

Among the victims of Tipu’s brutality were the ancestors of the erstwhile chief minister of Tamizh Nadu, MG Ramachandran, “Recalling Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran’s autobiographical series [Naan Yen Piranthen], where the leader had said Tipu’s attacks forced his family to move to Palakkad from Coimbatore, Mr. Ramagopalan said a movie trying to present the “fanatical Muslim ruler” as a freedom fighter would be offensive to MGR’s memory.’’ [17]. Among other famous emigrants was Manorama Tampuratti, a famous poetess in Sanskrit, who was forced to flee from Killake Kovilakam and take refuge in Travancore. She returned only in 1800, when it was safe for her to return. p. 310, [20]

Tipu, in his large scale expulsion of Hindus from the Malabar, was only following the example set by the Prophet of Islam himself, who had expelled the Jews of Medina from their homes.  It is recorded that two major Jewish tribes of Medina, Banu Qaynuqa and Banu Nadir, were expelled from their homes by the Prophet of Islam; the former, because they rejected the message of Islam and the latter, on the charges of impeding the establishment of the Islamic community in Medina. p. 85, [41].

Not all Hindus, however, fled and indeed, Tipu’s bigotry produced a desperate resistance from the Hindus.  Ravi Varma, a relative of the Zamorin of Calicut led the rebellion, as narrated by Ravi Varma (a modern author of the same name), “The revolt in the South Malabar was led by Ravi Varma of the Zamorin family. Though Tipu conferred on him a jaghire (vast are of tax-free land) mainly to appease him, the Zamorin prince, after promptly taking charge of the jaghire, continued his revolt against the Mysore power, more vigorously and with wider support. He soon moved to Calicut, his traditional area of influence and authority, for better co-ordination. Tipu sent a large Mysore army under the command of M. Lally and Mir Asrali Khan to chase and drive out the Zamorin prince from Calicut. However, during the above operations, Ravi Varma assisted not less than 30,000 Brahmins to flee the country and take refuge in Travancore.” (p. 508. [6]) ch.04, [4]. The flight of the Brahmins and the resistance of Ravi Varma is confirmed by Innes too, as he writes, “The country rose in horror. Thirty thousand Brahmans fled to Travancore. The Kottayam and Kadattanad Rajas besought the factors at Tellicherry ‘ to take the Brahmans, the poor and tithe whole country’ under their protection. The Nayars of South Malabar, headed by Ravi Varma of the Zamorin’s house, turned in desperation on their oppressors.” pp.72-73, [11]

Apart from the wholesale flight of the Hindus from Malabar, many cities were demolished, among which the most prominent were Kozhikode (Calicut) and Chirakkal.  Wilks points out that for a similar reason to that which induced the `demolition of Mysoor’, Tipu ordered the entire destruction of Calicut, and the erection at a few miles distance, another fortress; with the name of Ferruckhee [today’s Faroke]’ p.8, [15].  The destruction of Calicut is also remarked by Hayavadana Rao, who remarks that “He [Tipu] also ordered the destruction of Calicut and the erection of a new fortress of the name of Furruckku (Ferkoe)’’ p. 2583, [23].  It falls to Hamilton-Buchanan to give the most precise information about Tipu’s destruction of Calicut.  He notes that, “This place [Kozhikode] continued to be the chief residence of the Tatnuri Rajas until the Mussulman invasion, and became a very flourishing city, owing to the success that its lords had in war, and the encouragement which they gave to commerce. Tippoo destroyed the town, and removed its inhabitants to Nelluru, the name of which he changed to Furruck-abad; for, like all the Mussulmans of India, he was a mighty changer of old Pagan names. Fifteen months after this forced emigration, the English conquered the province, and the inhabitants returned with great joy to their old place of residence.  The town now contains about five thousand houses, and is fast recovering. Before its destruction by Tippoo its houses amounted to between six and seven thousand. Most of its inhabitants are Moplays.’’ p. 474, [25]

Expanding further on the destruction of Calicut, Fra. Bartolomeo writes of the region of Calicut and its adjoining regions. “The fortress of Calicut, is of much greater antiquity than the city to which it has given its name.  The natives of Malabar believe that it was built by king Ceramperumal, from whom all the petty Malabar princes are descended.  This city was razed almost to the ground by Tippoo Sultan, who destroyed its flourishing trade; expelled from the country the merchant and factors (factories) of the foreign commercial houses;  caused the coconut and sandal trees to be cut and ordered the pepper plants in the whole surrounding district to be torn up by the roots, and even to be hacked to pieces, because these plants, as he said, brought riches to the Europeans, and enabled them to carry on war against the Indians.” pp. 139-140, [8].  This account is confirmed by C.A. Parkhurst also, who noted that “Almost the entire Kozhikode was razed to the ground.” ch.02, [4]

Further, PCN Raja writes “To the Malabar people, the Muslim harem, Muslim polygamy and the Islamic ritual of circumcision were equally repulsive and opposed to the ancient culture and tradition in Kerala … Kozhikode was then a centre of Brahmins and had over 7000 Brahmin families living there. Over 2000 Brahmin families perished as a result of Tipu Sultan’s Islamic cruelties. He did not spare even women and children. Most of the men escaped to forests and foreign lands.’’ ch.02, [4].  

Regarding Chirakkal, Hamilton-Buchanan points out that not only was the Raja of Chirakkal murdered and his corpse dishonoured, but also the town itself was pillaged and devastated.  Hamilton-Buchanan writes “… but on account of its. proprietor it [Chirakkal] suffered very severely in the wars with Hyder and Tippoo, and within the memory of man it has been twice completely depopulated.’’ pp. 551-552, [25]

This view of Tipu’s Jihad causing a huge demographic shift is confirmed by Elamkulam Kunjan Pillai, who wrote, “Muhammadans greatly increased in number. Hindus were forcibly circumcised in thousands. As a result of Tipu’s atrocities, strength of Nairs and Chamars (Scheduled Castes) significantly diminished in number. Namboodiris also substantially decreased in number.” [28].  The demographic collapse of the Hindus in Malabar is also mentioned by Hamilton-Buchanan, who writes, “In the interior part of the country, there are large tracts which have been overrun with high grass and trees since they have been deserted by their inhabitants, owing to the persecutions of the Hindus by the late Sultan, and the subsequent depredations committed on the Nairs by the Moplays.’’ p. 443, [25]

KP Padmanabha Menon also confirms the demographic shift in the Malabar, as he writes, “Others [Other Hindus] fled to Travancore leaving cherished hearths and homes behind, a prey to Moslem frenzy.  The Rajas and chiefs deserted their people and fled for their very lives and anarchy prevailed throughout the land.  The ancient system of government and constitution of society was gone, never to return.  The Moplas increased in number and influence, while the Nairs decreased in proportion. … [On their return after the defeat of Tippu Sultan], it was then found that the Nairs had dwindled into an inconsiderable number’’ pp.266-267, [21]   The demographic devastation caused by Tipu is also mentioned by Hamilton-Buchanan, who writes, “During this period of total anarchy the number of Moplays was greatly increased, multitudes of Hindus were circumcised by force, and many of the lower orders were converted. By these means, at the breaking out of the war conducted by Lord Cornwallis, the population of Hindus was reduced to a very inconsiderable number. The descendants of the Rajas were then invited to join the Company’s forces; and, when Tippoo’s army had been expelled from Malabar, many Nairs returned from their exile in Travancore; but their number was trifling, compared with what it had been at the commencement of the Sultan’s reign.’’ pp. 549-551, [25].

Section A2: Tipu’s Temple Destruction and Desecration in Malabar

Tipu’s zealotry for destroying temples is manifest in his own words, for he has recorded his refusal to spare the temples of Malabar for a ransom offered by the Raja of Chirakkal.  KM Panikkar points out that Tipu received the Chirakkal Raja initially with consideration, but refused his prayer to spare the temples of Malabar for a sum of 4 lakhs of rupees and plates of gold, stating he would not spare them for all the gold in the world. p.361, [32].

PCN Raja, quoting from the Malabar Manual, has written, “According to the Malabar Manual of William Logan who was the District Collector for some time, Thrichambaram and Thalipparampu temples in Chirackal Taluqa, Thiruvangatu Temple (Brass Pagoda) in Tellicherry, and Ponmeri Temple near Badakara were all destroyed by Tipu Sultan. The Malabar Manual mention that the Maniyoor mosque was once a Hindu temple. The local belief is that it was converted to a mosque during the days of Tipu Sultan.” ch.02, [4]

The damage to the temple of Tellicherry (Thalasseri) has been recorded in the Malabar and Anjengo Gazetteer by Innes, who points out, “The fine gopurams of the [Taliparamba] temple were partially blown up by the Mysoreans and now make an impressive gateway.’ p. 399, [11]

The Malabar Manual of William Logan also records, “The temple [of Taliparamba] has many sculptures and some fine gopurams (towers), which were however, destroyed by Tippu’’ Appendix 21, p. 368, [6]

PCN Raja also records the threat to the world famous Sri Krishna temple at Guruvayoor.  He points out how it escaped, writing, “Tipu Sultan reached Guruvayoor Temple only after destroying Mammiyoor Temple and Palayur Christian Church. If the destruction caused by Tipu’s army is not visible today in the Guruvayoor Temple, it is mainly because of the intervention of Hydrose Kutty, who had been converted to Islam by Hyder Ali Khan. He secured the safety of the temple and the continuation of land-tax exemption allowed by Hyder Ali earlier, besides the renovation and repairs done by the devotees later. According to available evidences, fearing the wrath of Tipu Sultan, the sacred idol of the Guruvayoor Temple was removed to the Ambalapuzha Sri Krishna Temple in Travancore State. It was only after the end of Tipu’s military regime, that the idol was ceremoniously reinstated in the Guruvayoor Temple itself. Even today, daily pujas are conducted in Ambalapuzha Sri Krishna Temple where the idol of Guruvayoor Temple was temporarily installed and worshipped.’’ ch.02, [4]

The threat to the Sri Krishna temple at Guruvayoor has also been recorded in the Ambalapuzha temple, where the inscription on the wall of the temple reads, “At the time of Tipu sultan’s invasion the Murthi of Guruvayur kshetra was transferred to Ambalapuzha kshetra because of the fear that Guruvayur kshetra would be attacked by Tipu. The Murthi was installed in northern part of Ambalapuzha with the order of Chempakassery Raja. Murthi was returned to Guruyavur at somewhere near 1800 AD. During Uchcha Puja (Puja at noon) it is believed that Guruavyoorappan (Murthi of Guruvayur) would visit Ambalapuzha kshetra every day to drink Ambalapuzha Palpayasam (the famous dish from Ambalapuzha kshetra). (Inscription on the walls of the Ambalapuzha temple).’’ [14]

The damage and dislocation at the temple of Tirunelli has been recorded by C Gopalan Nair, who writes, “The puja [at the temple of Tirunelli] was naturally neglected during the Mysore invasion but subsequently the Sannyasi known as Samiyar returned.” p. 118, [10]

Tipu’s destruction of the Devadevesan temple at Tirunelli has also been recorded by Gopalan Nair, who points out, “The idol [of Devadevesan (Vishnu) in the temple of Tirunelli] is of granite stone and is said to be of excellent workmanship.  After destruction by fire during Tippu’s invasion temple was first reconstructed with thatched roofs.  The Srikovil (central shrine) has since been roofed with copper and surmounted by a golden spire.” p.119, [10]

Gopalan Nair also records the destruction of temple of Ganapathi at Sultan’s Battery, writing, “… the sphere of the Ganapathi, covered the amsams of Kidanganad, Nulpuzha and Neiimeni and when Tippu of Mysore overran the country, his troops destroyed the temple and mutilated the granite idol.  The town then took the name of Sultan’s Battery and the Moslem town of that name sprung up at the time.” p. 128, [10]

Innes has also recorded the damage to many other temples, including the one in Wandur, about which he writes, “There [at Wandur] is … a Hindu temple with a breach in its walls said to have been caused by Tipu’s guns’’ p. 419, [11]

The world famous temple of Thirunavaya, where Rig Veda is taught to students, also suffered significant damage, as pointed out by Innes and Logan.  Innes writes, “The Srikovil dedicated to Vishnu [at Thirunavayi]  has been lately roofed with copper by the Kizhakke Kovilagam, and the venerable wall that surrounds it rises at the two gateways into massive gopurams roughly handled by the Mysoreans [under Tipu] and never since repaired.’’ p. 458, [11]

The temple of Durga Bhagavati at Thrikkavu has a painful history under Tipu Sultan.  This history has been recounted at some length by William Logan, who writes, “Tippu is said to have plundered the temple [of Durga Bhagavati at Trikkavu] during his invasion of the country, broken the idol into pieces and used the Srikovil as his powder magazine while halting at the place.  On the restoration of the peace and order in the country, a few of the former owners of the temple who had taken refuge in Travancore, returned and discovering in the temple well, the broken pieces of the original idol, repaired and repurified it; but later, unable to repair all the damage caused to the temple by Tippu, made it over to Zamorin of Calicut, who seems to have carried out the necessary repairs in 1861AD’’ Appendix 21, pp. 408-409, [6]

Tipu’s Moplah allies were equally zealous in destroying Hindu temples.  The temple of Srimuthra Kunnu is recorded by Innes, who writes, “The temple [Srimuthra Kunnu – a temple of Durga] has a melancholy interest as the scene of three Mappilla outbreaks. In 1784 it and the Karanamulpad’s palace were attacked by a large body of Tipu’s] Mappillas, and after three days’ siege were burnt to the ground. The temple was not fully restored till 1849, in April of which year a new idol was installed.’’ p. 418, [11]

Ravi Varma quotes the famous Raja Raja Varma, in his quote about the destruction of the temples of Taliparamba and Thrichambaram, writing, “ Vatakkankoor Raja Raja Varma in his famous literary work, History of Sanskrit Literature in Kerala, has written the following about the loss and destruction faced by the Hindu temples in Kerala during the military regime (Padayottam) of Tipu Sultan: “There was no limit as to the loss the Hindu temples suffered due to the military operations of Tipu Sultan. Burning down the temples, destruction of the idols installed therein and also cutting the heads of cattle over the temple deities were the cruel entertainments of Tipu Sultan and his equally cruel army. It was heartrending even to imagine the destruction caused by Tipu Sultan in the famous ancient temples of Thalipparampu and Thrichambaram. The devastation caused by this new Ravana’s barbarous activities have not yet been fully rectified.” ch.02, [4]

Ramachandra Rao Punganuri narrates how Tipu directed sipahdar Sheikh Imaum to destroy the `god in Shamanna’s pagoda’ in the Malabar.  He destroyed the Hindu temples at Ahmadnagar. Further, he narrates how Tipu ordered the destruction of the temples of Madana Katoor and Valiparamba, which followed.  Ramachandra Rao Punganuri also narrates how, summoning a Kazi, Tipu slew a cow in the pagoda.  Tipu and his troops also plundered the place of all the gold, silver, copper, brass and other metals, which Tipu sent to Srirangapattanam. p. 40, [31]. Further, Ramachandra Rao Punganuri notes that, Tipu demolished the great temple of Venkataramanayya at Coimbatore. p. 40, [31]. Punganuri points out that, at Triskeroo (Thrichuvaperoor), a few miles from Cranganore, Tipu saw the great temple of Venkaratamana and established a asaf cacheri there.  He also formulated plans to turn the temple into a fort. p. 41, [31]

Panikkar recounts how Tipu held his court in the famous temple of Thrissur.  His officers were quartered in the mutts adjoining the temple and the kine were slaughtered on the temple premises. p. 400, [32].  Further, Sitaram Goel points out that the fort of Palakkad, built by Tipu, used locally destroyed temple material for its construction.

Nor were Jain temples spared, as Hamilton-Buchanan points out, “…and in the government of Hyder, those [temples] of the Jain [at Mudabidiri] had possessions to the amount of 360 Pagodas a year. These were entirely resumed by Tippoo, who gave, in place of them, an annual pension of 90 Pagodas; but he destroyed most of the Brahmans houses, and now the whole place contains only a hundred families.’’ p. 74, [26]

Like in his other atrocities on non-Muslims, Tipu was emulating the Prophet of Islam in his temple destruction.  In this article, we just enumerate a few instances of the destruction of the temples of the Goddesses by the Prophet of Islam himself, or by his close associates.  Indeed, the destruction of pagan temples has been a noble act for the followers of Islam, as it was for Tipu, who refused a ransom for sparing temples, as has been recounted earlier in this section.  The Prophet of Islam won martial victories against pagan Arabia, and supplemented his victories with spiritual victories over the Gods and Goddesses, extinguishing their worship. While shrines of pagan Gods weren’t spared, the pejorative physical characterisations were almost exclusively reserved for the worship of the feminine form.  We narrate a few instances here verbatim from [35].

  1. “The expedition to Manat was sent under Sa’d b. Zayd al-Ashahli in the Ramzan of AH 8…. It was the idol of Ghassn, Aws and Khazraj in al-Mushallal…Sa’d started with twenty cavalrymen and reached there at a time when the priest was in attendance. The priest asked them, ‘What do you want?’ They said, ‘Destruction of Manat.’ The priest exclaimed, ‘You, and want to do this!’ Sa’d approached the idol. A black and nude and disheveled woman came out and advanced towards him, cursing and beating her breast. The priest said, ‘O Manat, manifest your might.’ Sa’d started hitting her, and she was cut down. He had asked his companions to take care of the idol in the meanwhile. They smashed it. But the treasury yielded nothing”; p. 485-486 [37].  “Other sources attribute the destruction of the sanctuary of Manat in Qudayd to Ali bin Abu Talib, still others to Abu Sufyan”; pp. 231-232, Vol. V,  [38]. “One wonders whether more than one temple of Manat was destroyed”; p. 360, [39].
  2. “Then the apostle sent Khalid to Al-Uzza which was in Nakhla. It was a temple which the tribe of Quraysh and Kinana and all Mudar used to venerate. Its guardians were B Shayban of B Sulaym, allies of B Hashim. When the Sulami guardian heard of Khalid’s coming he hung his sword on her, climbed the mountain on which she stood, and said:O’ Uzza, make an annihilating attack on Khalid,Throw aside your veil and gird up your train.

    O Uzza, if you do not kill this man Khalid

    Then bear a swift punishment or become a Christian.

When Khalid arrived he destroyed her and returned to the apostle.” p. 565, [39], p. 359 [27].  Then “He (the Prophet) asked him (Khalid), “Did you see anything?” Khalid replied, “Nothing.” He (the Prophet) said, “Go again, and smash her to pieces.” Khalid went back, demolished the building in which the idol was housed, and started smashing the idol itself. The pagan priest raised a cry, ‘O Uzza, manifest your might.’ All of a sudden a nude and disheveled black woman came out of that idol. Khalid cut her down with his sword and took possession of the jewels and ornaments she wore. He reported the proceedings to the Prophet who observed: “That was Uzza. She will be worshipped no more.” pp. 404-405, [40], p. 359, [27]

Section B: Tipu’s attack on Travancore

Tipu always harboured a desire to conquer Travancore.  This was a natural one – it would enhance the security of Mysore if he could turn the British defences in Carnatic.  Further, it would provide Mysore a stretch of unbroken coastline from Honavar to Kanyakumari and politically too, consolidate the Mysore hold on Kerala.  However, it was not the only reason why Tipu went to war with the Raja of Travancore.  Indeed, from his many manoeuvres, it is clear that he was waiting for a reason to attack Travancore.  In the letters of Vissicher, it is recorded, “It was not only the lust of conquest that instigated Tippoo to undertake hostilities against the Raja [of Travancore], but his religious bigotry, and intemperate zeal for the diffusion of his favourite creed, animated him in this, as well as many of his other expeditions.” p. 179, [2]

One of the instruments he tried to use for his attack on Travancore was the Raja of Cochin, who was loath to be that instrument.  He feared and hated Tipu, and his feelings are recorded by Sankunni Menon as, “On the receipt of Tippoo’s summons, the [Cochin] Rajah was perplexed.  He apprehended that the Sultan, who was at the zenith of his power, angry at the ill-success of his negotiations with the Maharajah of Travancore, would punish him either by imprisonment or by compelling him to renounce his religion for that of Mahomedanism.  … The Cochin Chief conveyed the Sultan’s requisition for his appearance to his allies, the Dutch and the Travancore Maharajah, both of whom considered his apprehension as justifiable and advised him to excuse himself from responding to the Sultan’s call.” p. 219, [1]

Nor was the Raja of Cochin’s fear a groundless one, as evidenced by Tipu’s threat, “After the return of Kader Khan, Tippoo threatened the Cochin Raja with forcible seizure of his person and annexation of his territory.”  p. 220, [1]

The bigotry of Tipu has been further recorded by the traveller, “In the above observations may be found one of the reasons why Hayder Aly and Tippoo Sultan could maintain their ground against the English and the king of Travancor, on the coast of Malabar. The great number of Christians residing there, whom Hayder and his son everywhere persecuted, and often compelled by violence to embrace Mahometanism, always took part with the English.” footnote, p. 207, [8]

When Tipu attacked Travancore in 1789, he let loose, both his own troops and his irregular Moplah allies, to perpetrate atrocities on the hapless civilian populace.  This has been recorded by several historians.  To begin with, we reproduce the words of the great historian of Travancore, Sankunni Menon, “After this [breach of the Travancore defensive lines], the lawless force was let loose in the villages.  They committed various atrocities and the country was laid waste with fire and sword.  Some of the inhabitants fled to the wild hills of Kunnathnaud, while many were taken captive.  Hindu temples and Christian churches were equally desecrated by the followers of Mahomet.  Towers of pagodas, houses of the rich, and the huts of the poor were all burnt to ashes and the scenes throughout the districts of Alangaud and Paravoor were heart-rending.  The ruins, which may be seen up to the present day, testify to the ferocity of the invaders.  Records of antiquity, secured in the archives of the pagodas, palaces, churches and the houses of the nobles, were all committed to the flames … All these cruelties were perpetrated with the express sanction of the sultan …. p. 233, [1]

During Tipu’s invasion of Travancore, Tipu’s attitude towards all the Hindus and Christians of the region has been recorded by Fra. Bartolomeo, who writes, “This persecution continued till the 15th of April, 1790.  I had then quitted the coast of Malabar; but I was informed by the bishop and apostolic vicar there, that, on the above day, Tippoo Sultan, having forced the king of Travancor’s lines, penetrated as far as Verapole, and had renewed the bloody scenes begun the year before.  “The troops”, said the bishop, in a letter dated May 23, 1791, “advanced to Verapole, and set some houses on fire, but did not enter the island.  We were visited only by a few marauders, who converted our church, our seminary, and our convent into real dens of thieves.  They plundered and destroyed whatever they could lay their hands on; for it had been almost impossible for us to remove any thing out of the way. By the peculiar providence of God, however, and of St. Joseph (the patron of the congregation), neither our church nor our convent fell a prey to the rapacity of the soldiery, or to the flames.” Soon after, the army of Tippoo sultan was defeated by the English under the command of Lord Cornwallis, and totally routed.  He himself was driven into the fortress of Ciringapatam, in the kingdom of Maissur, where he was obliged to enter into an engagement, to pay the expences of the war, to give back his conquests to their former possessions, and to deliver both his sons into the hands of the English as hostages.” pp. 141-142, [8]

This account of Tipu’s cruelty in Travancore has been corroborated by the Dewan of Cochin.  PCN Raja writes, “Dewan of Travancore, Madhava Rao, had written in the history of Travancore. It may be emphasized here that he had relied on the original local records, not the ones published by the European historians. He wrote: “Whatever cruelties, the local Mappilas were desirous of indulging in the land, Tipu Sultan and his army of Muslim converts did. The ancient and holy temples were heartlessly defiled or burnt down. The ruins of those temples destroyed by Tipu’s fanatic army are the existing evidences of the atrocities committed by Muslims in the country. Christian churches also had to suffer widespread destructions. However, Tipu Sultan spared only the territories of Cochin Raja who had surrendered to Hyder Ali Khan in the beginning itself. Still, when Tipu Sultan and his army entered Parur and started firing at Kodungallur, the Cochin Raja sent a letter to the Travancore Raja requesting him ‘to protect me and my family’.” ch.02, [4]

The famous traveller, Fra. Bartolomeo, has recorded many atrocities in Travancore in his chronicles.  About Paravoor, he writes, “Higher up the country, towards the east, lie Paravur, formerly a very large and considerable town, which was, however, reduced to ashes by the troops of Tippoo Sultan.”, p. 137, [8]

The town of Angamali was also destroyed by Tipu and his activities there were recorded by Fra. Bartolomeo, “On the north-east stands Angamali, a very ancient city also, where there are three Christian congregations. It was formerly the residence of the bishop of the Christians of St. Thomas; but great part of it has been burnt or destroyed by the troops of Tippoo Sultan.” p. 138, [8]

Thousands of Christians were slaughtered as part of the total mayhem let loose by Tipu in Travancore.  This has been recorded by Fra. Bartolomeo, “Ten thousand of them, I confess, lost their lives during the war against Tippoo Sultan; but still there will remain 90,000 Catholic Chriftians, who follow the Syrio-Chaldaic ritual.  They have in their possession sixty four churches, some of which however were destroyed by Tippoo.” p. 149, [8]

The destruction of Travancore, after the collapse of the Travancore lines, has also been recorded by Wilks, who wrote, “… everything north of the estuary and the and all the territory of Travancore and Cochin, was now [in 1790] open to the invader [Tipu;] …the plain country [of Travancore] was now a scene of merciless devastation; the inhabitants were hunted and sent in immense numbers to meet the usual fate of captivity and death.’’ pp. 63-64, [15]

Section C1: Tipu’s atrocities in Coimbatore, Thiruchirapally, Thanjavur and Arcot

Tipu’s destruction of Thanjavur has been well recorded in [44].  It notes that the kingdom of Thanjavur, nominally in the protection of the East India Company, was occupied (except for the capital city) for six months by Tipu’s forces, that plundered the kingdom thoroughly.  p. 64, [44].  Schwartz records the abduction of 12,000 children from Tanjore state as late as 1782.  p. 64, [44].  The revenues in 1780, after Tipu’s invasion, dropped to 1/9 of the revenues in 1781 p. 65, [44].  The stories of Haidarkalabam are still recounted in horror, according to the author. p. 65, [44].

Tipu also razed to the ground the territories of the palegars who were insubordinate.  Writing of the destruction, Wilks records, “Before leaving this quarter [Coimbatore quarter], he [Tipu Sultan] laid waste with fire and sword, the countries of such poligars dependent on Dindigul and Coimbetoor, as had recently failed in obedience, ….’’ p. 12, [15].  This is confirmed by Ramachandra Rao Punganuri too, who points out that Tipu then went to Karmapalliam where he plundered the lands of Gurva-Naick.  Other poligars were similarly plundered. p. 39, [31].

“From Coimbatore [in 1788], he visited Dindigal, and meditated, it appears, upon the conquest of Travancore.  Laying waste with fire and sword the territory of the refractory palegars, he returned to Seringapatam”, pp. 400-401, [7]

Tipu’s habitual cruelty, as part of his campaigns, has been recorded by Wilks, who writes the fates of the regions of Tiruchirapalli, Tiruvannamalai and the island of Srirangam, writing, “On leaving Trichinopoly, Tippoo had proceeded in a northern direction into the heart of Coromandel, marking his route by the accustomed trail of plunder, conflagration and ruin ..’’ p. 105, [15]

Wilks further points out that, “[Trinomalee (Thiruvannamalai) surrendered unconditionally] which was accompanied by circumstances of cruelty and outrage too horrible for description. p. 106, [15]

“Against that place [Trichinopoly], he [Tipu] made various demonstrations, but they had no material result beyond the plunder and devastation of the island of Seringham.’’ p.102, [15], p. 193, [18]

It is of some interest to point out that wherever Tipu went, he caused the flight of the Hindus.  The fear of Tipu and his terror loomed large and Fra. Bartolomeo writes, “I was assured also by Father Pavone, who for thirty rears had been superintendant of the missionary establishment at Madura, that a -great many of the Kshetrias had fled to these mountains from Madura, in order to avoid falling into the hands of Hayder Aly Khan, Tippoo Sultan, Mohamed Aly, and the English.” p. 306, [8]

Section C2: Tipu’s Temple Destruction in Arcot, Coimbatore and Other Parts of Tamizh Nadu and his Temple Land Thefts:

Tipu was infamous for extracting ransoms from temples, under threat of sacking them.  His actions at Srirangam have been recorded as, “Tipu camped in the temple for 6 days and demanded a ransom of 1L[akh] varaha for not ransacking it.  The stalathar (Hereditary temple trustees) led by Rangaraja Vadhula Deshika negotiate the ransom to save the temple from destruction’’ [19]

Sitaram Goel, in his famous book, `Hindu Temples of India – What happened to them’ has noted the destruction of the following temples.

Annamalai, Fort. Repaired by Tipu Sultan with temple materials.

Coimbatore, Large Masjid of Tipu Sultan. Temple site. [27]

All these masjids were built by Tipu using locally available temple materials.  These materials were usually either stolen or taken from destroyed temples.

Tipu’s land thefts from the Brahmins who worked for temples and the temple lands themselves have also been recorded by KP Padmanabha Menon, who writes, “Sir Charles Turner, the late Chief Justice of Madras, after reviewing all the literature available on the subject and after fully considering the nature and effect of the early documents has arrived at the following conclusion, `It appears to me impossible to resist the conclusion that whatever the origin of the title, the Jenmies were, and for centuries, before the British rule had been, owners of the soil in full proprietory right, and that their rights were recognised even by the class that would have been the most hostile to them, the Moplahs, who, owing to the persecution of Tippoo, had for some years, been the masters of the situation.’’ p. 304, [22]

Section D: Conclusion

Tipu’s bigotry has been summarised by both Lewin Bowring and Hayavadana Rao, who write, “So many instances have been given of the atrocities which he committed in the name of religion, that it would be superfluous to add to them. In this respect, he rivalled Mahmud of Ghazni, Nadir Shah, and Ala-ud-din the Pathan Emperor of Delhi surnamed the Khuni, or the Bloody, all of whom were famous for the number of infidels slaughtered by their orders.  For this very zeal for the faith, notwithstanding the cruelties which attended his persecutions, the name of Tipu Sultan was long held in reverence by his co-religionists in Southern India – a proof how readily crimes that cry to Heaven are condoned when perpetrator of them is supposed to have been animated by a sincere desire to propagate the faith which he professed.” pp. 226-227, [3] pp. 1043-1045, [24]

Even Tipu’s own court bard, Kirmani, concedes, “He had a pleasing address and manner, and was very discriminating in his estimation of the character of men of learning, and laboured sedulously in the encouragement and instruction of the people of Islam.  He had, however, a great dislike to, or rather, an abhorrence of the people of other religions … His chief aim was the protection and encouragement of the Muhammadan religion and the religious maxims or rules of the Soonni sect – and he had not only abstained from all forbidden practices, but he also strictly prohibited his servants from their commission’’ pp. 1040-1042, [24]

Tipu’s penchant for Jihads against infidels is remarkable.  KM Panikkar, paraphrasing from Tipu’s own letter to Budr-uzzuman Khan on 6th March, 1789, quotes ``Four months after this (settlement in the Malabar), these base wretches, spreading confusion around and setting sedition on foot, broke out universally into (a fresh) rebellion; and engaging in frequent hostilities with the Foujdars stationed among them, reduced the latter to great straits.  Immediately upon learning the whoreson behaviour of the infidels, our special retinue again moved in the direction of Furkhy (Calicut) with a view to fulfilling the commandments of God; and of the Messenger of God, as contained in the Koran, and delivered twelve hundred years ago.  The Jehads which (in consequence) took place at that period may be learned by reference to ancient books.  Since then no person has undertaken a Jehad, till now that we through the divine favour and with the aid of the holy prophet, have embarked in the present one, with which no other good work can compare; nor can any claim so high a reward.’’ p. 359, [32]

Paraphrasing from the letter, KM Panikkar writes, “The letter proceeds to state that the holy war now pursued had already led to the spontaneous profession of the true faith by great numbers of the infidels and their families; and it concludes with inculcating the positive duty of all Mussulmans, `to take up arms for the advancement of Islam; and by expatiating on the favour which they will by so doing, acquire with God, with his prophet and with the Mahomedan world at large.’’ p. 359, [32]

Panikkar further relates that, “The foregoing mandate was directed to be read to the whole of the Mussulman population of the place, who were to be assembled for the purpose, on the ensuing Friday after its receipt in the public mosque, a special thanksgiving was ordered to be rendered to the Almighty for the sultan’s recent successes and prayers to be offered up for the continuance of the same.  The service was appointed to be closed with a discharge of twenty one guns, and the distribution of fifty maunds of sugar among the people (i.e., the true believers).’’ pp. 359-360, [32].

Also, KM Panikkar has recorded several other instances of Tipu’s Islamist zeal in the Malabar.  He writes, “In a letter dated January 18, 1790 to Syed Abdul Dulai, Tipu writes: “With the grace of Prophet Mohammed and Allah, almost all Hindus in Calicut are converted to Islam. Only on the borders of Cochin State a few are still not converted. I am determined to convert them also very soon. I consider this as Jehad to achieve that object.’’’’ (K.M. Panicker, Bhasha Poshini). ch.03, [4], [29]

Tipu had a general disdain for Hindus and Christians and a particular solicitude for the Muslims.  It is recorded by Bowring that, “In 1786 he issued a remarkable proclamation, calling upon all true believers to ‘extract the cotton of negligence from the ears of their understanding,’ and, quitting the territories of apostates and unbelievers, to take refuge in his dominions, where, by the Divine blessing, they would be better provided for than before, and their lives, honour, and property remain under the protection of God. He was resolved that the worthless and stiff-necked infidels, who had turned aside their heads from obedience to the true and openly raised the standard of unbelief, should be chastised by the hands of the faithful, and made either to acknowledge the true religion or faith, to pay tribute.  As, owing to the imbecility of the princes of Hind, that insolent race (presumably the English) had conceived the futile opinion that true believers had become weak, mean, and contemptible, and had overrun and laid waste the territories of Musalmans, extending the hand of violence and on the property and honour of the faithful, he had resolved to prosecute a holy war against them.” p. 215, [3]

Even in policies of trade, Tipu preferred Muslims, and not to trade with the Europeans, even his French allies,“… in 1784, he [Tipu] ordered the eradication of all pepper vines in the maritime districts, and merely reserved those of inland growth to trade with the true believers from Arabia”, p. 595, [11].  Tipu’s preference for Muslim merchants has been noted by KM Panikkar too, who notes that almost all the merchants were Muslim p. 416, [32].

One of Tipu’s virtues, i.e., the ban on alcoholic, opium and other intoxicating substances, which have been lauded by many secular historians, as reformatory, must be seen in the context of the Koranic injunction.  “The large sacrifice of revenue involved in this prohibition was founded on the unforced interpretation of a text of the Koran; `every intoxicating drink is forbidden’ and on that fanatical zeal which is deemed to cover and found to accompany so many deviations from moral rectitude.’’, p. 267, [15]

And the fitting epitaph to the man who did so much to alienate his own subjects and thus dig his own grave, would also be delivered by Wilks, who wrote, “A dark and intolerant bigotry excluded from Tippoo’s choice all but the true believers; and unlimited persecution united in detestation of his rule every Hindoo in his dominions.  In the Hindoo, no degree of merit was a passport to his favour; in the Mussalman, no crime could incur his displeasure.’’ p. 464, [15].  Wilks concludes, “Tippoo, in an age when persecution only survived in history, renewed its worst terrors; and was the last Mahommedan prince, after a long period of better feeling, who propagated that religion by the edge of the sword.’’ p. 465, [15].  

Perhaps it is appropriate to end the article with the words of Col. Allen, recorded by Hayavadana Rao, ``Hyder was born to create an empire, Tippoo to lose one’’ p. 1036, [24].  His own barbarity and bigotry had laid the foundation of his ruin.


[1] “History of Travancore”, Sankunni Menon, 1879.

[2] “An Account of the Travels of Fra Bartolomeo, in Letters from Vissicher”, 1862

[3] Lewin Bowring, “Haidar Ali and Tipu Sultan and the struggle with the Mussalman powers of the South”

[4] “Tipu Sultan: Hero or Tyrant”, Collection of Articles, Voice of Dharma Publications

[5] William Kirkpatrick, “Selected Letters of Tipu Sultan”, 1811

[6] William Logan, “Malabar Manual”

[7] Lewis Rice, “Mysore Gazette, Part I”, 1897

[8] Fra Bartolomeo, “A Voyage to the East Indies 1776-1788”

[9] Richter, “Coorg Gazetteer”

[10] C Gopalan Nair, “Wynad – Its Peoples”

[11] James Innes, “Malabar and Anjengo”

[12] Lewis Rice, “Mysore Gazette, Part II”

[13] – “Tyrant Diaries: An account of Tipu provided by Ripaud’’, Francois Gautier

[14] – Inscription on the walls of the Ambalapuzha temple.

[15] – “Historical Sketches’’, Vol. 3, Wilks.

[16] – “Historical Sketches’’, Vol. 2, Wilks.

[17] – “Do Not Take Up Tipu Sultan Role – Hindu Outfit tells Rajini’’, The Hindu, 12/09/2015

[18] Mohibbul Hassan, “History of Tipu Sultan’’

[19] [Temple Chronicles of Srirangam], SriVaishnava Press

[20] Krishna Ayyar, “The Zamorins of Calicut’’.

[21] KP Padmanabha Menon, “History of Kerala’’, Vol. 1

[22] KP Padmanabha Menon, “History of Kerala’’, Vol. 2

[23] Hayavadana Rao, “Mysore Gazetteer – Historical’’, Vol. 2

[24] Hayavadana Rao, “History of Mysore’’, Vol. 3

[25] Patrick Hamilton-Buchanan, “An Account of Travels through Mysore, Canara and Malabar’’, Vol. 2.

[26] Patrick Hamilton-Buchanan, “An Account of Travels through Mysore, Canara and Malabar’’, Vol. 3.

[27] Sitaram Goel, “Hindu Temples of India – What happened to them’’, Vol. 1

[28] Sitaram Goel, “Hindu Temples of India – What happened to them’’, Vol. 2, ch. 7.

[29] Mir Ali Kirmani (translated by Col. Miles) “Nishan i Hyduri’’.

[30] B Sheik Ali, “Tipu Sultan’’

[31] Ramachandra Rao Punaganuri, “Memoirs of Hyder and Tippoo: rulers of Seringapatam’’

[32] KM Panikkar, “History of Kerala’’

[33] Shanmukh, Saswati Sarkar, and Dikgaj, “Tipu Jayanthi – a Celebration of Bigotry and Barbarities in Karnataka’’,

[34] KP Padmanabha Menon, “History of Cochin’’

[35] Shanmukh, Saswati Sarkar, and Dikgaj, “Ban on Durga Puja: An assault on the core of Hindu civilisation [Part II]’’,

[36] Koran

[37] Tabaqat-i-Ibn Sa’d, translated into Urdu by Alama Abdullah al-Ahmadi, 2 Volumes, Karachi, n.d.

[38] First Encyclopedia of Islam, 1931-1936, 9 Volumes, Leiden Reprint

[39]  Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasul Allah (The Life of Muhammad, translated by A Guillaume)

[40] Tarikh-i-Tabari, translated into Urdu by Sayyid Muhammad Ibrahim, Vol. I: Sirat-un-Nabi, Karachi, n.d.

[41] Encyclopaedia of Islam,

[42] Collection of Hadiths, Sahih Muslim,

[43] Alfred Martineau, “Bussy et L’Inde Francaise’’

[44] Subramanian, “Maratha Rajas of Tanjore’’