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Tiger ! Tiger !


Soumya Ramaswamy

THE SWORD OF TIPU SULTAN
By Bhagwan S. Gidwani
Allied Publishers, New Delhi, 1976, 372, 45.00

VOLUME II NUMBER 1 January-February 1977

Few rulers have been so maligned and misrepresented as Tipu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore, who has generally been pictured as an 'intolerant bigot' or 'the furious fanatic'—and consigned to the category of monsters. Generations of readers have accepted this view of the contemporary Englishman, writing with a sense of moral superiority over the so­-called barbarian, who felt that liquidat­ing Tipu was as desirable as beating Boney. A few recent biographies of Tipu have endeavoured to picture Tipu as he was—minus all the distortions—and the latest in the series is Bhagwan S. Gid­wani's The Sword of Tipu Sultan.            Gidwani feels a great need to ‘re-educate’ our students and he dedicates the book ‘to the country which lacks a historian’, ‘to Men whom History owes rehabilitation’ and to the ‘youth of India who must be told the truth’. Tipu certainly is a man whom history owes rehabilitation and Gidwani, after thirteen years of research delving into original Indian, English, French, Portuguese, Turkish and Persian records, sets about this task, giving not just a cold-blooded factual representation of history but ‘an artistic representation of history’ which is ‘a more scientific and serious pursuit than the exact writing of history.’ A purely historical work, Gidwani felt, would prove to be an inadequate medium to recapture all that Tipu lived and died for. The result is a vivid portrayal of the· life and legend of Tipu in the popular form of a historical novel. Tipu, as he emerges from Gidwani's pages, is a tolerant man, an enlightened ruler popular with his subjects, and above all, a man ‘with compassion for the weak, the innocent and for the help­less—countless thousands upon thousands on whom the aliens would now unleash their remorseless war machine.’ Gidwani's Tipu may be unacceptable to those fed ad nauseum on tales of Tipu's cruelty. The question arises—how is there so much discrepancy between the two versions of Tipu? It is easy to ex­plain. Englishmen were prejudiced against Tipu because they regarded him as their most formidable rival and inve­terate enemy, and because he refused to become a tributary of the English Com­pany. It was necessary to keep the fear and detestation in which he was held beaten up almost to the point of hysteria to justify their actions against him. With the years since Independence lengthen­ing, it becomes ...


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