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  3.42 Tipu Sultan, The Tiger of Mysore  

© Anne Buddle
Cartoon strip, No.187 in the Amar Chitra Katha series, Histories of Indian Heroes; 1981

Modern colour printing
24 x 18 cm


n India today, Tipu has become a marketable commodity, in politics as well as in the community. This series, published by the India Book House Education Trust, is intended to acquaint children with their own Indian history, pointing out that Tipu was the only eighteenth-century ruler who never sided with the British against his fellow countrymen. The comic strip format is a development of a much older didactic form, seen, for example, in 'improving' texts and games for the 19c nursery. The Indian text is based on the accounts of M H Khan, Denys Forrest, Fazal Hasan, T T Sharma and B S Gidwani's 'The Sword of Tipu Sultan.'

With some notable exceptions, such as Sheik Ali and Mohibbul Hasan, the recent revival of Indian interest in Tipu mainly dates from the early 1980s. Initially, research in India focussed on Tipu's achievements as an enlightened ruler; on his secular administration; his agricultural policies, his coinage and economic developments. The Tipu Sultan Research Institute and Museum, established at Seringapatam in 1983, published an excellent Journal, presenting current research in Urdu, Kannada and English. A rather different emphasis came from two British scholars, Anne Buddle and Robin Wigington, both of whom focussed on surviving objects and works of art associated with Tipu. For the first time, Tipu was discussed as a patron of artists and craftsmen, who decorated Tipu's possessions with tiger motifs and tiger stripes - elegant, ingenious and technically accomplished.

In the past three or four years, Tipu research in India has often been more sharply embroiled with politics. Alliances are as critical in Karnataka today as there were in Mysore 200 years ago, and unresolved differences delayed even the official inauguration of the bi-centennial events in 1999. Fortunately, no similar problems arose with an international seminar, The Tipu Sultan Bi-Centennary Commemoration, held in Bangalore 5/6th May 1999. The Programme Foreword seemed to offer one explanation for the delay in finalising the official bi-centennial tribute to Tipu: 'During his life Tipu Sultan evoked curiosity, admiration, jealousy, anger and hatred in all his contemporaries.' The Foreword concludes much more optimistically: 'He died only for a moment to live for ever in history, in art, in literature, in theatre, and the same curiosity about this King continues even after 200 years.'

Some indication of how widely that 'curiosity' has now spread is evident from the immense success of Sanjay Khan's dramatisation of the Life of Tipu, shown in over one hundred episodes on Indian television. Also from the wide range of academic interest in Tipu, resulting in a truly international platform of speakers at the bi-centennial meetings in Bangalore and Calcutta. In America; Australia; England; France; Scotland; Sweden and Switzerland, as well as in India, 'curiosity' about Tipu continues to encourage research and debate.

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