Taj to Tipu

…a trail of historical distortion

Dr. Javid Iqbal
Srinagar, Publish Date: Oct 23 2017 10:47PM | Updated Date: Oct 23 2017 10:47PM
Taj to Tipu

From Taj Mahal—a symbol of love to Tipu Sultan—a symbol of resistance, a trail of historical distortion is in vogue. History is being negated due to wave of intolerance and failure to digest realities. Taj is held to be not in sync with Indian heritage. Tipu is held as communally inclined, anti-Kannada as well. There are voices calling Taj ‘Tejo Mahal’ a Lord Shiva temple, converted into a mausoleum by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. Others call it ‘ek khoobsurat kabristan’ a beautiful graveyard. The monument of love does not find a place in Uttar Pradesh’s tourist manual. Chief Minister-Yogi Adityanath says that the monument was made by the blood and sweat of "Bharat Mata's sons" and its protection was the responsibility of his government. It is truly an effort of "Bharat Mata's sons" what hurts is that Shah Jehan and the dynasty, he belongs to—the Mughals are taken to be besides the pale of being named as sons of soil. As in case of Tipu Sultan, they are taken to be intruders.

India has hosted waves of immigrants, starting with Dravids, followed by Aryans. The aborigines—original Indians are few and far between, such as Adivasi tribes and some habitations on banks of river Jumna.  In spite of the historical fact, sections of earlier immigrants are calling into question the place of later day immigrants in the Indian society. The immigrants from 12th to 16th century were from a different religious hue, hence their identity is questioned. They do not fit into cultural nationalism of Sangh Parivar, where the national identity should rhyme with religious and cultural identity. The historical distortion continues, irrespective of the fact that later day immigrants came from the same parts, as the earlier Aryans, that is Central Asia. The fact is also overlooked that 12th to 16th century immigration was minimal in numbers; their religious denomination was however adopted by many earlier immigrants of Dravidian and Aryan hue. The sum-total of historical facts stands negated in the cultural nationalistic domain.           

While the historical mauling of Taj was in progress over the last few weeks, Tipu Jayanti celebrations in Karnataka stoked a fresh controversy. Karnataka state government plans to celebrate the event, as per protocol union ministers from the state are invited.  Minister of State (MoS) for Skill Development Entrepreneurship- Anantkumar Hegde taking exception to the event  declined the invitation with a terse note not to include his name in list of invitees for November 10 Tipu Jayanti celebrations. Supporting Hegde, BJP MP Shobha Karandlaje spoke against Tipu Sultan calling him ‘anti-Kannada’ and ‘anti-Hindu’. BJP brands Tipu Jayanti celebrations vote bank politics, an effort to appease Muslims. Whatever the antecedents of BJP-Congress contention,  a question mark is put on Tipu Sultan’s place in Indian history, and the slanderous negation of  his heroic resistance against British Raj. It is taken as an effort to re-assert Muslim rule in India, rather than an effort to rid India of foreign rule. Same view is taken of 1857 armed rebellion. British called it ‘Mutiny’ the negative connotation holds in post-independence Indian historical texts. Negative historical perceptions have had a field day, distortions galore.

History needs to be weighed and assessed in the times, it was made. Many of the ground rules of governance of 21st century may not hold in the systems existing in earlier centuries. Kate Brittlebank, author of ‘Tipu Sultan’s Search for Legitimacy: Islam and Kingship in a Hindu Domain’ in a column captioned ‘A Myth called Tipu’ (Published in Indian Express: November 24, 2015) notes, ‘’Tipu was acting within accepted norms of statecraft that had existed on the subcontinent for centuries.’’ Accusations of excesses, if any may thus be judged in the context of times, he lived in. Brittlebank adds, ‘’He undertook administrative reforms, made donations to religious institutions, including temples, arbitrated in disputes and cared for the welfare of his subjects. The Sri Ranganatha Swami temple, situated near Tipu’s palace on the island of Srirangapatna, continued to flourish. The Sringeri Math was another recipient of his patronage. All these gifts and many more are documented and cannot be denied.’’ In spite of historical evidence, denial and distortion continues in quarters with ulterior motives. 

 Tipu Sultan, it stands noted is commemorated even by his arch-enemies-- the British. Professor of history JNU Delhi--Janak Nair, author of ‘Mysore Modern: Rethinking the Region under Princely Rule’ in a column (Published in Indian Express: November 20, 2015) captioned ‘why the British commemorate Tipu’ notes, ‘’No one did more to commemorate Tipu Sultan than his inveterate enemies, and eventual victors, the British.’’ Janak Nair adds, ‘’the memory of Tipu nourished the British imagination in the centuries to come. His indomitable courage, eccentricities, rich invective against his enemies, as well as spectacular attempt to redefine modernity in Mysore, from the design revolution focused on the babri (tiger) stripe to the reconstitution of army and economy, have continued to fire the imaginations of British writers, curators, art collectors and historians.’’ The tribute reflects an effort to design the desired historical perspective, shorn of prejudices. 

Allama Iqbal pays the ultimate tribute to the great martyr ‘Sultan Shaheed’ in his Persian poetic treatise—Javid Nama:

Unki Guftarish Hama Kirdar Bhood

Mushriq Ander Khab-ou-Bidar Bhood!

His word displayed his character

 In his dreams lived the orient!

‘Orient’ the ‘East’ that lived in his dreams tends to demean him, while ‘Occident’ the ‘West’ he fought against commemorates him!   


Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]

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