Tipu Sultan
Rockets used duringTipu Sultan's reign discovered.Wikimedia Commons

King Tipu Sultan who died in 1799 remains a hot button topic in the state of Karnataka almost 220 years after his death. Tomorrow, November 10 is Tipu Jayanti—his birth anniversary and the ruler, who held his throne only for 17 years, between 1782 -1799 was a man known for many things, some good and some ugly. Here are a few things about the Tiger of Mysore.

Led a brutal campaign of massacres

Tipu Sultan was a man known to be quite brutal, notes a report by Indiatimes. His march into the hilly regions of Coorg was particularly deadly, his own biographer said. In 1788, Sultan and his army of 30,000 soldiers laid waste to the lands, burning and killing everyone along the way.

Thousands of men, women, and their children were hanged from trees, or so the stories go. His killing of non-Muslims is one of the reasons why he is hated in some parts of the state till date.

Not known to be a tolerant or reasonable man, Tipu Sultan, apart from his Coorg campaign where thousands of Kodava people died, there are stories of Sultan forcibly converting people of other religions, especially the Catholics of Mangalore to Islam.

Victim of fake news?

But was he really as brutal as he is portrayed to be? Historians seem to think otherwise. Quoting academic Michael Soracoe, a report by The Hindu notes that Tipu Sultan might have been a victim of propaganda that demonised his legacy.

A lot of material from the time made by the British was unearthed where multiple painters, cartoonists and writers paint a picture of the warrior in hyperbole. This material, dating from the end of the 18 century, around the time that the Sultan started his military campaign against the British, seem to portray him as a tyrant who killed innocents and pillaged and burned down villages as well as demolished temples and desecrated churches.

This seemed to justify the British invasion of Mysore, "saving" the populace from a ruthless king. These are tactics that are used till date by a number of invading countries to justify their actions.

Historian Kate Brittlebank said that his violent attitude toward the people of Coorg and Mangalore Christians is said to have stemmed out of his "expansionist" military-based strategy. Both regions—Coorg and Mangalore—bordered his fast-growing Mysore kingdom and at the same time, was almost continuously at war with the British between 1780 to his death at their hands in 1799.

It is possible, says Brittlebank, that the support the invading English forces received and Coorg and Mangalore moved him to violently shut them down.

The legend of Tipu Sultan

In any case, Tipu Sultan is a folk hero whose praises are still sung in song and poetry till date. He is often touted as one of the finest military strategists to have walked this country. His sharp eye and political acumen was able to identify the British as a political rival early on, as evidenced in his letters to the Maratha warriors.