12 April, 2021

Resurrected To Be A Pawn

Is the debate on Tipu’s secularism anything but an oversimplification of history?

Resurrected To Be A Pawn

Past Tumkur on the Bangalore-Pune National Highway (NH 4) and towards Sira in the north is the small village of Sibi, home to the Narasimha Swamy temple. Step inside this impressive temple and raise your head towards the ceiling of the Gopuram (gateway). Now slightly disfigured and slowly losing lustre, the paintings clearly show Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan prominently. In a hunting scene, Tipu, famously known as the Tiger of Mysore, is shown singlehandedly slaying a tiger with his sword!

What is Tipu, perhaps the Hindu Right’s favourite poster child for Islamic bigotry in India, doing in a temple? Kate Brittlebank, the Australian historian, calls this temple the “physical embodiment of the character of Tipu Sultan’s rule” and argues against interpreting Indian kingship as Hindu or Muslim. The builders of the Narasimha Swamy temple, Nalappa Fauzdar Karnik and his brothers, prospered sufficiently serving under Tipu and when they built this, it was but quite natural for them to voluntarily have their sultan depicted among past kings. Significantly,...

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