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The Sword of Tipu Sultan: A Historical Novel about the Life and Legend of Tipu Sultan of India

Bhagwan S. Gidwani

Gidwani, Bhagwan S.;

The Sword of Tipu Sultan: A Historical Novel about the Life and Legend of Tipu Sultan of India

Allied Publishers, Bombay 1976, 372 pages

topics: |  fiction | biography | india | historical | 18th-c

This is a controversial novel by the Montreal based Gidwani.  The novel was a
best-seller, having sold about 200 thousand copies, translated into many
languages and reprinted in 44 editions.  For the TV adaptation by Sanjay Khan
on Doordarshan, Gidwani wrote the screenplay and script for 60 episodes.

TV SERIAL: Petitions were filed in the Supreme Court of India against the
telecast of this serial. The petitioners argued that the serial was not based
on the real life and deeds of Tipu Sultan.[7] After hearing the arguments,
the Supreme Court gave a judgment that the serial could be telecasted but
that a notice has to be displayed along with each episode stating: No claim
is made for the accuracy or authenticity of any episode being depicted in the
serial. This serial is a fiction and has nothing to do either with the life
or rule of Tipu Sultan. The serial is a dramatised presentation of Bhagwan
Gidwani's novel.[8]

[Hindutva opposition] From Kesari (Malayalam Weekly), February 25, 1990
authors of historical novels have the moral responsibility to present
historical facts without blatant distortions.

Mr. Bhagwan Gidwani, the author of the controversial novel, The Sword of
Tipu Sultan, does not seem to be bound by any such ethical obligations; he
does not have any qualms even to deliberately falsify historical
facts. Therefore, a tele-serial based on such a novel also cannot be

Mr. Gidwani claims that his novel is the result of thirteen years of
historical research. He asserts that he has studied and scrutinized all the
historical documents available from various sources in India and
abroad. Then, why did not this researcher make any effort to visit Kerala,
particularly Malabar region, the main area of Tipu Sultan's cruel military
operations for a decade, or to scrutinize the historical evidence available
from Malabar regarding the atrocities committed by Tipu Sultan, or to study
the ruins of temples destroyed in Malabar during that period?

[According to the well-researched "Malabar Manual" by William Logan]
Hyder Ali Khan died in December, 1782. Tipu Sultan who succeeded his father,
considered it his primary duty to continue this unfinished jîhâd started by
Hyder Ali Khan. However, the Islamic fanaticism of Tipu Sultan was much worse
than that of his father. His war-cry of jîhâd was "Sword" (death) or "Cap"
(forcible conversion). The intensity and nature of sufferings
which the Hindu population had to bear during the nightmarish days of
Padayottakkalam (military regime) were vividly described in many historical
records preserved in the royal houses of Zamorin and Kottayam (Pazhassi),
Palghat Fort and East India Company's office.

During the cruel days of Islamic operations from 1783 to 1791, thousands
of Nairs besides about 30,000 Brahmins had fled Malabar, leaving behind their
entire wealth, and sought refuge in Travancore State (according to the
commission of enquiry appointed by the British soon after Tipu Sultan's

Barbara Crossette: [Singularly source-less, airy remarks]
Sultan Died a Hero. Now Hindus Sully His Name.
Srirangapatna Journal:

Tipu Sultan, the swashbuckling 18th-century hero who died here on the
ramparts of his fort, trying to stop the British advance across South India,
would seem an ideal subject for a television documentary in a land proud of
its staunch anticolonialism. But no, not in India in 1990. Tipu Sultan was a

In Srirangapatna, Hindus tell a visitor that the mosque, the Jammu
Masjid, was built on Hindu temple land, and they show carvings in the outer
wall as evidence. A similar controversy over a mosque in the northern Indian
town of Ayodhya has left hundreds dead. How Tolerant Was He? Standing on the
Jammu Masjid's rooftop terrace overlooking the battlements of the fort where
Tipu Sultan died in 1799, Mr. Gulzar described how much more strongly
ecumenical India seemed to be two centuries ago. He showed how Hindu elements
were incorporated in the design of the Jammu Masjid's minarets, and he told
of Tipu Sultan's generosity to nearby Hindu temples.

Indian scholars and the documents they work with are pretty much on
Mr. Gulzar's - and Tipu Sultan's -side in the debate over the 18th-century
ruler's reputation. But the dispute has delayed the screening of the
serialized film, "The Sword of Tipu Sultan," based on a historical novel by
Bhagwan S. Gidwani, a retired Indian civil servant living in Montreal who
devoted 13 years to part-time research on his book in the archives of half a
dozen countries. Mr. Gidwani, a Hindu, dedicated the book "to the country
which lacks a historian; to men whom history owes rehabilitation." [DETAILS?]

At the heart of the debate is the question of how tolerant or not Tipu
Sultan, a fervent Muslim, was of other religions or ethnic communities living
in and around the kingdom of Mysore, which he ruled from 1782 to his death in

Several leading Hindu organizations assert that he forcibly converted
non-Muslims and ruled with terror and torture. [later Names Kerala BJP]

Tipu Sultan became a legendary figure inspiring stories that he could
wrestle down tigers with his bare hands. He later adopted a tiger-skin motif
on his war banners, a design reproduced on the cloth that covers his stone
coffin in a mausoleum here.

Murals on the walls of his summer palace outside the fort show his army
of elephants, cavalry and foot soldiers marching into battle in great
splendor, bristling with swords, against the British in their familiar red

The defenders of Tipu Sultan say that when he was not fighting the
British, he busied himself improving irrigation and agriculture and making
just laws. The 1988 Annual Journal of the Tipu Sultan Research Institute and
Museum, based in a small office in the compound of his tomb, called the
Gumbaz, reprinted parts of a 1786 proclamation that abolished flogging and

amitabha mukerjee (mukerjee [at] 17 Feb 2009