Sie sind auf Seite 1von 14

Sakti and Barakat: The Power of Tipu's Tiger.

An Examination of the Tiger Emblem of Tipu Sultan of Mysore Author(s): Kate Brittlebank Source: Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 29, No. 2 (May, 1995), pp. 257-269 Published by: Cambridge University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/312813 . Accessed: 01/09/2013 08:43
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp

.
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

Cambridge University Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Modern Asian Studies.

http://www.jstor.org

This content downloaded from 205.133.226.104 on Sun, 1 Sep 2013 08:43:15 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Modern Asian Studies 29, 2 (1995), pp. 257-269.

Printed in Great Britain

Sakti and Barakat: ThePowerof Tipu's Tiger


An Examination of TipuSultanof of the TigerEmblem Mysore
KATE BRITTLEBANK

Monash University A figure who walks larger than life through the pages of eighteenthcentury south-Indian history is Tipu Sultan Fath Ali Khan, who held power in Mysore from 1782 until his death at the hands of the British in 1799. In general, scholars of his reign have taken a mainly Eurocentric approach, essentially concentrating on his external relationships and activities, particularly with regard to the French and the British,' while more recently there has been some examination of his economy and administration.2 Recent research into both kingship and religion in south India raises issues which suggest that it is time this ruler was reassessed in his own terms, from the point of view of the cultural environment in which he was operating.3 Little attempt so far has been made to do this.4 One matter which merits closer attention is his use of symbols, particularly in connection with the symbolic expression of kingship. Given Tipu's somewhat ambiguous status as a parvenu, whose legitimacy as ruler was questionable, this would
I am grateful to Dr Ian Mabbett for his critical comments on this paper. i See, for example, Mohibbul Hasan, Historyof Tipu Sultan, 2nd edn (Calcutta, and Confrontation 1971); B. Sheik Ali, A Studyof Diplomacy (Mysore, 1982). 2 For StateSystemin SouthIndia: MysoreI76iexample, Nikhiles Guha, Pre-British i799 (Calcutta, 1985); Asok Sen, 'A Pre-British Economic Formation in India of the Late Eighteenth Century: Tipu Sultan's Mysore', Barun De (ed.), Perspectives in Social I (Calcutta, I977), pp. 46-I 19; Burton Stein, 'State Formation and Economy Sciences Reconsidered: Part One', Modern Asian StudiesI9, 3 (I985), pp. 387-413. 3 and ConflictUnderColonialRule: A See, for example, Arjun Appadurai, Worship SouthIndianCase(Cambridge, i98I); Susan Bayly, Saints, Goddesses andKings: Muslims and Christians in SouthIndianSocietyI7oo-90oo (Cambridge, I989); Nicholas B. Dirks, TheHollowCrown: Ethnohistory of an IndianKingdom (Cambridge, I987). Also influential has been Burton Stein's PeasantStateandSocietyin Medieval SouthIndia (Delhi, 1980). 4 While Hasan addresses the question of religion, for example, he does so only in a minor way. Stein's article is really the only work which attempts to place Tipu within his cultural context. oo26-749X/95/$5.oo+.oo ? 1995 Cambridge University Press

257

This content downloaded from 205.133.226.104 on Sun, 1 Sep 2013 08:43:15 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

258

KATE

BRITTLEBANK

appear to be a fruitful area for research.5 His most famous symbol was the tiger, yet while it has captured the imagination of scholars in other disciplines,6 it has not exercised the minds of historians to any extent.7 It is the aim of this paper to restore the balance by looking at this symbol in the light of the work of Susan Bayly, who has underlined the strongly syncretic nature of religion in south India. Drawing upon both written and oral material, Bayly has described the interaction which has taken place between Muslim, Hindu and Christian traditions, the result of which is a borrowing of symbols and ideas, a frequently shared vocabulary, and an interweaving of motifs within a common sacred landscape, at the centre of which is the imagery associated with the ammans or goddesses of the region.8 It is my contention that an examination of Tipu's tiger symbol will reveal that it is firmly rooted in this syncretic religious environment and that this should emphasize to us the importance of placing the Mysore ruler within his cultural context in order to understand his actions, particularly from the point of view of kingship. Tipu's adoption of the tiger as an emblem took two forms: the naturalistic representation of the tiger (often just the head) as decoration and the tiger stripe motif alone. The latter is commonly referred to as babri, from babr, meaning tiger, although in actual fact the term appears more properly to refer to the cloth on which the motif appeared.9 His use of this emblem seems to have almost bordered upon the obsessive.10 In one or other form it appears, inter alia, on his arms, both large and small, on the uniform of his soldiers, on his coins, as wall decoration, on his flags and, in probably the most
Tipu's status in relation to the Wodeyar Kartars, or Rajas, of Mysore is a matter and one which will be addressed elsewhere. complex 6 See, for example, Mildred Archer, Tippoo'sTiger (London, I959); Anne Buddle
et al., Tigers round the Throne: The Court of Tipu Sultan (i75o-I799)
7

(London,

1990).

Hasan, for example, pays it no attention. 8 Susan Bayly, Saints;also 'Hindu Kingship and the Origin of Community: ReliI750-1850',

pp. 177-213; 'Islam in Southern India: "Purist" or "Syncretic"?', C. A. Bayly and D. H. A. Kolff (eds), Two ColonialEmpires:Comparative Essays on the Historyof India and Indonesia in theNineteenth Century pp. 35-73. (Dordrecht, 1986), 9 William Public Functionaries Kirkpatrick, SelectLettersof TippooSultan to Various (London, I8i I), Letter CCCLIII. The term is used by Tipu. 10 This type of 'obsession' is not without precedent, however. Ibrahim Adil Shah II of Bijapur displayed a similar attachment to the word nauras.Iftikhar Ahmad Ghauri, 'Kingship in the Sultanates of Bijapur and Golconda', Islamic Culture46 (1972), pp. 43, 46. It should be noted that the tiger was not the only emblem used by Tipu. A sun motif, a not uncommon Indian royal symbol, and the initial letter of the name of his father, Haidar Ali, are also frequently found.

gion. State and Society in Kerala,

Modern Asian Studies 18, 2 (1984),

This content downloaded from 205.133.226.104 on Sun, 1 Sep 2013 08:43:15 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

THE

POWER

OF TIPU

S TIGER

259

spectacular example, on his throne, which displayed a massive gold tiger head with crystal teeth." The stripe was stamped on the bindings of his books and served as the watermark on his paper.'2 Tipu is described leaving the palace '. . . in a dress and accoutrements adorned with the tyger's head"3 and the main entrance to his private area at Seringapatam was guarded by four tigers chained within a passage.'4 A particularly well-known artefact from his reign is the mechanical man-eating tiger, now in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.15 However, the most evocative representation, I believe, and the one of most significance for this paper, is to be found on a green silk banner which is still extant. It shows a calligraphic design of a tiger's mask (see Fig. I), the words of which read 'The Lion of God is Conqueror' or, alternatively, 'The Victorious Lion of God'. 'Lion of God' (Asad Allah) is an epithet of Ali, one of the first four Caliphs of Islam and believed by the Shi'as to be the true successor to Muhammad.16 Tipu's use of the tiger motif is not as original as some have thought.'7 Within India itself tigers are clearly associated with royalty. Two contemporary writers refer to the 'royal tiger18 and a tiger skin seat is found among the royal regalia of Shivaji.'9 Tigers are also
1 A large number of illustrations of the different uses made of the tiger motif can be found in Buddle, Tigers.See also Denys Forrest, Tigerof Mysore:TheLife andDeath of TipuSultan(London, 1970) and J. R. Henderson, The Coinsof HaidarAli and Tipu Sultan (Madras, 192i). Henderson fails to identify the babristripe, which he merely refers to as an 'obliquely twisted pointed oval', but it is clear from illustrations that this is in fact what it is, p. 31. 12 Kirkpatrick, Letters,p. 395. 13 Munshi M. Qasim, 'An Account of Tipu Sultan's Court', India Office Library, MS Eur.C.io. 14 Francis the Countries Buchanan, Journey from Madrasthrough of Mysore,Canara,and Malabar,3 vols (London, 1807), I, p. 72. 15 For a description of this gruesome machine, see Archer, Tiger. 16 A photograph of the banner can be found in Buddle, Tigers,p. 18. Kirkpatrick states that this image appeared on most of Tipu's arms. Letters,p. 155. See also Victoria and Albert Museum, The Indian Heritage:CourtLife and Arts underMughal
Rule (London, 17
1982),

p. 139.

Buddle, Tigers,p. i8; Kirkpatrick, Letters,p. 138, n. I. 18 Alexander Sultaun Beatson, A Viewof the Originand Conduct of the Warwith Tippoo a Narrative the Command Comprising of the Operations of theArmyunder of Lieutenant-General Harris, and of the Siege of Seringapatam (London, 800o),p. 154; MMDLT, HaidarAli and Revolution in India (The Historyof HyderShah Alias HyderAli Khan Bahadur),first
1784 (Delhi, 1988), 19 Michael H. Fisher, A Clash of Cultures:Awadh, The British, and the Mughals (Riverdale, 1987), p. 158. See also Ronald Inden, 'Ritual, Authority, and Cyclic Time in Hindu Kingship', J. F. Richards (ed.), Kingshipand Authority in SouthAsia, 2nd edn (Madison, I98i), pp. 45, 53. It is interesting to note that in Tibet tiger published p. 28.

This content downloaded from 205.133.226.104 on Sun, 1 Sep 2013 08:43:15 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

260

KATE

BRITTLEBANK

revered in various parts of India, most notably Bengal and Rajasthan as well as the Deccan.20 This appears to have led to the use of the tiger as a symbol both on arms and standards.21 The motif, more particularly the stripe, is also found within the Islamic world. The Ottoman rulers were especially fond of this design (although it was not identical to Tipu's stripe), which they used on textiles, for example, and which was often accompanied by three dots, thought to represent leopard spots.22 Sulayman the Magnificent used the stripe to decorate the seat of his campaign throne.23 Although the Mughal emperors are known to have copied this pattern, they do not appear to have used it extensively.24 Even so, it is very possible that Tipu was familiar with this motif since the influence of Ottoman designs and fabrics had been particularly strong in the Deccani states, as opposed to the north.25 That there is a connection is also suggested by the dictionary definition of babri bayan: 'A kind of military cloak made of a leopard's skin (such as worn by Rustam)'; among its other definitions is: 'a linen garment worn by kings in battle and held ominous'.26 It does seem, therefore, that although the pattern may have been original, this type of decoration was not an invention of the ruler of Mysore. Furthermore, in the past the tiger as an emblem or crest had not been unknown in the region under Tipu's sway. Each ruling dynasty in this area had its own insignia which played an important role in the symbolism of kingship. It appeared on royal seals, copper-plate inscriptions, lithic records and flags, and when a ruler was conquered by another, the victor adopted the insignia of the vanquished.27 Maisskins were symbolic of '... wealth, power, authority, status and guardianship.' Daniel Shaffer, 'In the Forests of the Night', Hali 41 (Sept-Oct 1988), pp. 44-5. 20 Asutosh Bhattacharyya, 'The Tiger-Cult and its Literature in Lower Bengal',
21

Man in India 27 (1947), pp. 44-5. (Bombay,


22

Examples can be found in Sadashiv Gorakshkar (ed.), Animal in Indian Art


1979), p. 31; Victoria and Albert Museum, Heritage, p. I57.

Arts Council of Great Britain, TheArts of Islam (London, 1976), p. 82. Colour photographs can be found in Donald King, 'Treasures of the Topkapi Saray', Hali 34 (April-June I987), pp. 28, 3I. I am grateful to Susan Scollay for discussing with me the Ottomans' use of the stripe. 23 Viewed by the author. 24 Victoria and Albert Museum, Heritage,pp. 98-9. A Mughal girdle with this design is illustrated in Leigh Ashton, TheArt of India and Pakistan(London, I950), P1. 76. 25 Victoria and Albert Museum, Heritage,pp. 25, 92. Curiously enough, an identical stripe to Tipu's can be found on a Syrian 8th-century stone carving of a tiger. Illustrated in Claude Humbert, IslamicOrnamental Design (London, I980), P1. 995. 26 F. Steingass, A Comprehensive Persian-English Dictionary (New Delhi, 1981). 27 T. V. Mahalingam, SouthIndianPolity, 2nd edn (Madras, 1967), p. 87.

This content downloaded from 205.133.226.104 on Sun, 1 Sep 2013 08:43:15 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

THE

POWER

OF TIPU'S

TIGER

26I

tre de la Tour refers to this practice when describing the magnificent state procession of Haidar Ali, in which these 'marks of honour' were carried.28 The choice of emblem seems often to have been related to the religious affiliation of the holder. For example, the Wodeyars of Mysore, who were Vaishnavas, had among their insignia the boar, the discus (Chakra) and the garuda, all of which are associated with Vishnu.29 As for the tiger as an emblem, this was adopted by the Colas, who were Saivites, who used it on their crests and banners, as did the Hoysalas of Dvarasamudra.30 That there is an association of the tiger with rulers of Mysore is also suggested by the fact that the old city (later destroyed by Tipu) is described in the early eighteenth century as having 'tiger-faced' gates.31 The Wodeyars, however, do not appear to have used it as an emblem, which may have been significant from Tipu's point of view, since, no doubt, he would have wished to distance himself from the previous ruling dynasty. This seems to be confirmed by the design on the heel plate of one of his sporting guns, in which two tigers are depicted killing the doubleheaded eagle, or ghandabherunda,an emblem of the deposed royal line.32 From his gift of a piece of babri cloth to one of his commanders, to be used in an article of clothing,33 one can infer that he was operating within the same cultural meaning of the symbol. As an incorporative mechanism, emblems were made as gifts by south Indian rulers to their inferiors.34 Let us now turn to the central issue of this paper: why should Tipu have chosen the tiger and not some other feature as his main emblem? Why not choose something more overtly Islamic? He does not appear to have inherited it from Haidar, whose uniform, for example, is described as being mainly yellow with gold flowers.35 It has been claimed that Tipu means tiger in Kanarese but this is not the case.36
MMDLT, Haidar, p. I80. Mahalingam, Polity, pp. 87-90. C. Hayavadana Rao, Historyof Mysore(i399'799 A.D.), 3 vols (Bangalore, 1943-46), I, pp. 66, 95, 507. 30 Mahalingam, Polity, pp. 90-2. The Hoysalas had a close affiliation withJainism. 31 Rao, History,I, p. 389. 32 Victoria and Albert Museum, Heritage, p. I39. 33 Kirkpatrick, Letters,CCCLIII. 34 Dirks, Hollow Crown, p. 47. On incorporation see also Bernard S. Cohn, 'Represand Other enting Authority in Victorian India', An Anthropologist amongthe Historians andSymbols: The Essays(Delhi, I987), pp. 635-7, 641: M. N. Pearson (ed.), Legitimacy SouthAsian Writings of F. W. Buckler(Ann Arbor, 1985), pp. 177-8. 33 MMDLT, Haidar,p. 23. Haidar seems to have particularly favoured the use of yellow, a colour '. . . much affected by the emperor and the Subas'. Ibid., p. I80. 36 Archer, Tiger, p. 4. Rao, History, III, p. 914. Rao, however, later contradicts
29

28

himself. III, p. 1030.

This content downloaded from 205.133.226.104 on Sun, 1 Sep 2013 08:43:15 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

262

KATE

BRITTLEBANK

This misconception could possibly have arisen from the fact that the British called the Mysore ruler 'the Tiger of Mysore', although I have found no evidence to suggest that Tipu referred to himself in that way. British writers of the time believed the answer lay both in Tipu's reverence for Ali, who we have seen is referred to as the Lion of God, and in the coincidence of Haidar, the name of his father, also meaning 'lion' and also being a title of Ali.37 The basis for this argument is that at the linguistic level in India there is no distinction made between the lion and the tiger, the words used for each being interchangeable.38 Thus, to Tipu, Asad Allah could have meant 'Tiger of God'.39 This is an important point and one which is vital to our understanding of Tipu's choice. It is my view that the early writers were on the right track and that this is supported by the calligraphic design of the tiger mask referred to above. It is this design which I believe is the key to the issue. Before proceeding further, we need to examine the reasons for the Mysore ruler's quite obvious reverence for Ali, for here there lies another clue. First and foremost, Tipu was a warrior; as a successor to Vijayanagara traditions, the society in which he moved was a warrior society.40 Such was his son's zeal as a youth, Haidar feared for his safety.41 That he should have chosen Ali as '. .. the guardian genius, or tutelary saint, of his dominions; as the object of his veneration, and as an example to imitate'42 is not surprising. As well as being revered by the Shi'as, Ali is honoured by Muslims as a great warrior, with all Sunnis invoking his name in battle.43 The words 'God' and 'Ali' are found inscribed on the sword of Aurangzeb and the names of royal weapons listed by Manucci include 'Ali's Help'.44 The following couplet in Persian is said to have appeared on Haidar's seal: Fath Haidar was manifested, or born to conquer the world; There is no man equal to Ali and no sword like his.45 This is well demonstrated in Rao, History, III, p. 525, n. 39, wherean Indian writerstatesthat '. . . Haidarmeanstigerand that it was the title of HazratAli .. .'. In addition, in Tipu's Marine Regulationsthe word used for tiger to describea decoration on the modelof a warshipis sher and not babr. Sher is frequently translated 'lion'. Kirkpatrick, Letters, AppendixK, p, lxxix, n.6. 39 It does seem, though, that a visual distinctionis made. Tipu's choice is very the tiger;nowhereis the lion foundvisuallyrepresented. clearly 40 pp 43 ff; Bayly, Saints, Dirks,HollowCrown, p. i59. 41
42

37 Beatson, View,pp. I55-6. Kirkpatrick, Letters,p. 394. 38

MMDLT,

Haidar, p. 299.

43

Beatson, View,p. I55.

Politicsand Society in India (Canberra, I980), p. 75. 44 Abdul Aziz, ArmsandJewellery of theIndianMughals(Lahore, I947) pp. 45

S. A. A. Rizvi,ShahWali-Allah andHis Times: A Study Century Islam, of Eighteenth


21-2, 29.

Cited in Rao, History, III, p. 524, n. 39. Fath Haidarwas Tipu's grandfather.

This content downloaded from 205.133.226.104 on Sun, 1 Sep 2013 08:43:15 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

THE

POWER

OF TIPU

S TIGER

263

The sword is Ali's symbol and on the respective chases of a pair of Tipu's tiger-muzzled cannon are found the sword of Ali and a broad-bladed dagger within tiger stripes.46 The extent of Tipu's devotion is demonstrated by his wish to fund the building of a canal from the Euphrates to Ali's burial place of Najaf.47 One of his servants describes him wearing a turban wound in a plaited style known as 'Moula Alee's shield'.48 To understand the significance of the above we need to understand the nature of the world in which Tipu lived. This was a world in which forces were at work which needed to be propitiated or invoked. Long before they arrived in India, Muslims did not doubt the efficacy of magic, the influence of the stars, the mysterious qualities of precious stones, and the importance of signs and omens.49 Humayun's faith in astrology, for example, is well known. Both Haidar and Tipu consulted Brahman astrologers about the most auspicious days to carry out military manoeuvres, and their tenacious enemies, the Marathas, did the same.5? The sacred number seven also featured strongly in Tipu's life. Munshi Qasim writes that On every Saturday he unfailingly made an offering to the seven stars, of seven different kinds of grain, and of an iron pan full of sesame oil, and a blue cap and coat, and one black sheep, and some money according to the advice of the astrologers, which was bestowed on the Brahmins and others.51 The colour of the stone in the ring on his finger was changed every day, '.. . according to the course of the seven stars', and the Departments in his government numbered seven.52 These were matters which were taken very seriously and were not mere 'mumbo-jumbo' or superstition. Francis Buchanan, who interviewed many astrologers
46 Victoria and Albert Museum, Heritage, p. 140. 47 Kirkpatrick, Letters,CCXXXIII. The implementation of this plan was to be

carried out on the way by the embassy despatched in 1786 to the Ottoman Sultan at Constantinople. With his customary attention to detail, Tipu writes to the Darogha of the Tosha-Khana at Seringapatam that the chest containing the funds for this project should be labelled: 'In this chest are deposited the rupees composing the Nuzr to be appropriated to the construction of an aqueduct [from the Euphrates] to the sepulchre of holy.' Ibid., CCCC. The project never came to fruition. 49 M. Mujeeb, TheIndianMuslims(London, 1967), p. 379. 50 Narendra Krishna Sinha, HaidarAli, 4th edn (Calcutta, 1969), pp. Iio, n. 3, 184; Mir Hussein Ali Khan Kirmani, The Historyof the Reignof Tipu SultanBeing a Continuation of the NeshaniHyduri,tr. W. Miles, rpt 1844 edn (New Delhi, 1980), p. 178. On the day he was killed, Tipu had been advised by his astrologers that the day was inauspicious. To counteract this he gave gifts to Brahmans and alms to the poor, as well as carrying out certain rituals. Ibid.
31 Qasim, Account. 52 Ibid. 48 Qasim, Account.

This content downloaded from 205.133.226.104 on Sun, 1 Sep 2013 08:43:15 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

264

KATE

BRITTLEBANK

during his survey of the dominions of Tipu, was at pains to point out that astrology was '. . . looked upon as a common science, as not having anything miraculous in it . . ..53 As well as consulting daily with his astrologers, Tipu also consulted his physicians.54 The power to heal of these hakims who practised unani medicine, was believed to be closely associated with the supernatural.55 In addition, he kept a record of his dreams, writing them down as soon as he awoke and sometimes recording his interpretation of them.56 The Mysore ruler also drew upon the power of the written word. A turban, of which he was particularly fond, had woven in it the following quatrain: O God! may thy fortune be ever awake May fate ever be propitious to thee May the flower of thy greatness forever loom, And be a thorn in the sides of thy enemies.57 On his right arm when he died was found a ta'wiz or talisman. Beatson describes it thus: '. .. sewed up in pieces of fine flowered silk, an amulet of a brittle metallic substance of the colour of silver, and some manuscripts in magic, Arabic, and Persian characters ...'.58 The power of these lines in Arabic is the barakat they convey to the onlooker.59 This power, literally blessing or prosperity and sent by God, is often referred to as the 'charisma' of a Sufi saint, which is transferred to his descendants upon his death and to his tomb which becomes a shrine. The meaning of Tipu's banner now becomes clear. The barakat conveyed by the complex calligraphic design which it carried would have been a powerful protection for the warrior Tipu. Apart from the power of Ali's name, the incomprehensibility or illegibility of the design would have added to its sacred quality.60 Qasim, Account. Bayly,Saints, p. 99. MahmudHusain, (tr.), TheDreams of TipuSultan:Translated from the Original Persian withIntroduction andNotes(Karachi,nd).
34 35 36
37

33 Buchanan, Journey,I, p. 235.

Qasim, Account.

India (Princeton, 1978), p. 242. Sufisof Bijapur1300-1700:SocialRoleof Sufisin Medieval 59 Annemarie and Islamic Culture(New York and London, Schimmel, Calligraphy 1984), pp. 84, 86. Schimmel writes: 'Even seemingly meaningless, unconnected letters can convey some blessing, provided they have been written with the proper intention by a skilled amulet maker; and inscriptions on metalwork, which often consist of mere fragments of blessing formulas, may still bear the barakaof the full prayer.' 60
Ibid., p. 0o.

Beatson, View, AppendixXXXIII, p. ciii. These magic lines would no doubt have been given to Tipu by a Sufipirzada. Eaton tells the story of SultanAli II of Bijapurreceivinga piece of paperwith a prayerwrittenon it to be attachedover the muzzleof the city's cannonbeforefiringit at the Marathas.RichardM. Eaton,
38

This content downloaded from 205.133.226.104 on Sun, 1 Sep 2013 08:43:15 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

THE

POWER

OF TIPU

S TIGER

265

But does this really explain why Tipu chose the tiger as his symbol? If the key element is his reverence for Ali, why did he not choose the sword, for example? What was it that attracted Tipu to the epithet 'Lion (or tiger) of God'? Why should it have had so powerful an influence upon him that he chose the tiger as the predominant emblem in his life? Was it just the prevalence of tigers in south India which prompted this choice, or their association with royalty?6' The answer, I believe, can be found if we look at the cultural environment in which Tipu was operating. In what are almost throwaway lines, without further elaboration, two twentieth-century south-Indian writers provide the starting-point for this enquiry, their inevitable closeness to the culture perhaps giving them a better understanding of the emblem than someone more distant. Mahalingam, referring to the use of the lion as an emblem, believed it was chosen '.. . on account of its power and energy', and Rao, in his History of Mysore, wrote that 'The tiger . . . was adopted by Tipu as emblematic of himself and his power'.62What is this power to which they refer and why should it be so represented? That a ruler should be seen to be powerful was extremely important. Buchanan found that the Wodeyar family had '. . . been so long in obscurity, that it [was] no longer looked up to in awe; which among the natives in general [was] the only thing that supplie[d] the place of loyalty.'63 More significantly, there is a direct link between the power of kings and the power of gods. Bayly writes: 'Indians have long perceived the power of divine beings as a particularly awesome form of the power which was claimed and exercised by kings and would-be rulers';64 and in south India the syncretic nature of religion leads to the same perception of this sacred power being held by both the Hindu and Muslim communities.65 The most important figures within the religious landscape to all south Indians are what Bayly refers to as 'divinities of blood and power', which in the Hindu tradition are warrior goddesses, locally known as ammans, and warrior gods, both of whom are representations of activated divine power. In the Muslim tradition this power is represented by the Sufi warrior pir, who is perceived in virtually the same terms as the blood-taking
One only has to read Buchanan to realize that tigers were a constant threat in the lives of villagers and travellers in the area. Journey,I, p. 49 and passimI, II, III.
62 63 Buchanan, Journey, II, pp. 72-3. 64 Bayly, Saints, p. 2. See also pp. I84-5. 61

Mahalingam,

Polity, p. 87; Rao, History, III, p. 1030. Emphasis added.

65

Ibid., p. 147.

This content downloaded from 205.133.226.104 on Sun, 1 Sep 2013 08:43:15 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

266

KATE

BRITTLEBANK

goddesses.66 Known under various names, such as Kali or Kaliamma, Durga or Mariamma, these goddesses have 'an extra endowment' of sakti, the dangerous female energy of the gods, and are associated with Siva.67 While Bayly is writing mainly of the Tamil country, there is no doubt that these figures were (and still are) found in the Mysore dominions.68 In nearly every village which Buchanan visited he encountered what he called 'destructive spirits', named, for example, 'Marima, Pualima, Mutialima, and Gungoma', and commonly referred to by the local Brahmans as 'Saktis, or ministers of Siva'.69 The Bedars of Chitaldrug, in the north of the State, built a temple to Kali on top of their durg or fort, and propitiated the goddess with offerings of the heads of their victims in battle. As a result they believed their fortress was unassailable.70 It is claimed that the name Mysore itself is derived from Mahishasura, the buffalo-headed demon slain by Durga, who, as Chamundi or Chamundesvari, is the tutelary goddess of the Wodeyars.71 Whitehead identified seven 'Mari' deities of Mysore city, all sisters, who were associated with Siva, and in Mysore villages, Mahadeva-Amma, or the great goddess, and Huliamma, 'the tiger-goddess', were worshipped.72 These goddesses, frequently associated with sickness, like small-pox for example, are objects of great power and awe, which rather than being worshipped are propitiated. Srinivas encountered them when he carried out fieldwork in the late i940o in a village not far from Seringapatam, the site of Tipu's capital. Referring to Mari (also known as Kali), the local goddess, he wrote that she demanded blood sacrifices and '. .. killed her offspring right and left when she was angry with them',
66
67

Ibid., pp. 27-3I,

I34.

Ibid., p. 28. For a discussion of Durga-Kali as the martial deity or warrior in SaktaHinduism: A Study goddess see Wendell Charles Beane, Myth, CultandSymbols of theIndianMotherGoddess (Leiden, 1977), pp. 177-80. 68 The assumption here of cultural continuity between the area examined by Bayly and that of Mysore is based primarily upon Stein's discussion of an identifiable macro-region within southern India, which, with some regional variation, has displayed over the centuries a cultural homogeneity. Peasants, pp. 30-62; see also pp. I00-I, 366-4i6. In addition, Tipu's patronage of a Sufi shrine at Penukonda (see below), in the area examined by Bayly, reinforces this assumption. 69 Buchanan, I, pp. 242-3 and passim. Although the Brahmans claimed to abhor the worship of these divinities, they sent surreptitious offerings in times of sickness. H. Whitehead, The VillageGodsof SouthIndia, 2nd edn (Calcutta, 1921), pp. 29, 8o-i. The seven sisters are probably the 'Seven Mothers' or saptamatrikas referred to by Burton Stein in Peasant,p. 238.
72

70 Rao, History, III, p. 251. 71 Ibid., , p. 5I7; see also Henderson,

Coins, p. ii6.

This content downloaded from 205.133.226.104 on Sun, 1 Sep 2013 08:43:15 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

THE

POWER

OF TIPU'S

TIGER

267

while her devotees felt craven fear, not love.73 In addition, the villagers also worshipped Madeshvara (Siva), an awe-inspiring vegetarian deity, who also induced respect bordering on fear, whose temple, situated in dense jungle, was described by Buchanan as 'very
celebrated'.74

Fig. I. Calligraphic design of a tiger's mask. Source: Anne Buddle et al., Tigerround the Throne: The Court of TipuSultan(1750-1790)
(London, I990), p.38.

That these warrior divinities are to be found within a culture that is obviously martial is no coincidence. For example, the expansion in the worship of the goddesses was tied to the rise in power, following the decline of Vijayanagara, of the petty rulers or warrior chiefs known as poligars or nayakas.75Hindu rulers in the south, including the Vijayanagara kings, celebrated a festival in honour of their patron goddess - in the case of Vijayanagara it was Durga - which symbolized conquest of a new kingdom and called upon the blessings of the goddess for both themselves and their subjects.76 Known variously as Navaratri, Mahanavami and Dasara, this festival was instituted in Mysore by Raja Wodeyar in A.D. I6Io.77. The Muslim warrior pir,
73 M. N. Srinivas, The Remembered Village(Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1976), pp.
295, 302.

or 'men of military encampments'. Stein, Peasant,p. 50. On the rise of 'palaiyakkarar' the Wodeyar Kartars of Mysore, see Rao, History,I. 76 Bayly, Saints,p. 66; Mahalingam, Polity, p. 28. See also Dirks, Hollow Crown,p.
77 Rao, History,I, p. 68. For a detailed description of the festival as it was celebrated by Kanthirava-Narasaraja Wodeyar I in the seventeenth century, see pp.

74 Ibid., p. 302; Buchanan, Journey, II, p. I82. 73 Bayly, Saints, p. 30. 'Poligar' is a term coined by the British from the Tamil

167; Stein, Peasants, pp. 384-92.

I86-93.

This content downloaded from 205.133.226.104 on Sun, 1 Sep 2013 08:43:15 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

268

KATE

BRITTLEBANK

saint martyr, or shahid was easily accepted into this tradition, associated as he was with the world of the forest, which in Hinduism is the world of Siva.78 Bayly writes: 'The martial pir was not a divisive being in south Indian society. On the contrary, he was a figure of universal power with deep roots in the world of the Tamil goddess cults and power divinities'.79 And this leads us back to the tiger, who features strongly in Saivite tradition. As we saw earlier, the Saivite Colas took the tiger as their emblem. Madeshvara, for example, rides a tiger,80 and the link between the warrior pirs and the martial goddesses is clearly displayed when we realize that the former are often 'lion-mounted', while the vehicle or vahana of Durga-Kali is the lion or the tiger;81 the tomb of one lion-mounted warrior saint, Sultan Saiyid Baba Fakiruddin Hussain Sistani, which apparently received patronage from Tipu, was attended by a tiger.82 In addition, as noted above, the power of the warrior goddesses is sakti, '... the dynamic, awesome, and sacred power which is the goddess Durga-Kali'.83 In fact, Kali is Para-sakti, absolute power,84 and '... the fury of Devi, the Supreme Goddess may be projected as a ravenous lion or tiger'.85 The power of the pir, on the other hand, is his barakat.But in south India these two concepts have merged, so that in the biography of a Tamil pir, the word used to describe his awesome power is not barakat but sakti.86 There is no reason to doubt that Tipu was steeped in this warrior culture, that as a warrior and a ruler he wished to convey to both his subjects and his enemies the awesome power that was his, a power which in the mind of the south Indian was synonymous with the power of the gods, the sakti and the barakat of the warrior goddess
Bayly, Saints, pp. 34, i20-I. Ibid., p. I90. Tipu's close association with Sufi pirs and their descendants is unquestioned. Kirkpatrick writes that the Mysore ruler was frequently in contact with the 'priests' of shrines throughout the south, who, it seems, held him in very high regard. Letters, pp. 306, 459. Also see, for example, Letters CCCLXIX, CCCLXXXV. 80 Srinivas, p. 299. It has been suggested that the tiger was the primitRemembered, ive vehicle of Siva, prior to Nandi the bull. Bhattacharyya, 'Tiger-Cult', p. 44. 81
79
78

Bayly, Saints, p. 122; Beane, Myth, p. 52.

82 83

84
85

Bayly, Saints,pp. 122-3. Beane, Myth, p. 41.


Ibid., p. i80.

See also her 'Islam in Southern India', p. 53.

Heinrich Zimmer, Myths and Symbolsin Indian Art and Civilization(Princeton, 1946), cited ibid., p. 53. Alternatively, the tiger has been described as 'the vehicle of Sakti'. As the master of this power, Siva '.. . carries the skin of the tiger as a trophy.' Alain Danielou, HinduPolytheism (New York, 1964), p. 216. 86
Bayly, Saints, pp. 136-7.

This content downloaded from 205.133.226.104 on Sun, 1 Sep 2013 08:43:15 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

THE

POWER

OF TIPU'S

TIGER

269

and the martial pir.87 Little wonder that he surrounded himself with images of the tiger and used it as his emblem. Furthermore, this animal was associated with Ali, the archetypal Muslim warrior, whose name was invoked when going into battle. What more evocative symbol could Tipu have chosen than one which carried both the sakti of the tiger and the barakat of Ali's name: the calligraphic tiger mask which glares out from his banner at all who observe it.

87 That Tipu, following his 'martyrdom' has been given the title of 'Hazrat' and is now himself revered as a shahid,complete with an 'ursfestival on the anniversary of his death, suggests that he achieved his aim. I am grateful to Dr Sanjay Subrahmanyam for this information.

This content downloaded from 205.133.226.104 on Sun, 1 Sep 2013 08:43:15 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions