Saturday, 24 March 2018

Was Tipu Sultan supertitious and secular?

Tipu Sultan (1750-1799) of Mysore, India, Alamy
Tipu's gem-set gold Navratna PendantPinterest
Above image: Important gem-set gold Navratna Pendant from the Treasury of Tipu Sultan, (1750-99), Mysore (Seringapatam), late 18th Century.  The gold pendant is set with a 38 carat Colombian emerald surrounded by nine precious stones including topaz, blue sapphire, zircon, Cat's eye, ruby, coral diamond and pearl.  The Navratna  pendant 4.6 cm. high; 4.1 cm. wide; 0.9 cm. deep; the emerald  weighs about  38 carats...................................
It is among the valuable lots in the sale of the contents of Lord Glenconner's St Lucian home at Bonhams in London on September 28. It's estimate was £80,000 and 120,000. ( Source: Bonham's). But it   was sold for  £217,250 inclusive of Buyer’s Premium.

Stories keep surfacing once in a while in the British media that  the aristocratic descendants of  those ex- senior officials of the East India company such as Governors, Viceroys, military Generals, Majors, et al who had a long stint in India during the Raj,  in order to tide over their financial difficulties, put up the old artifacts, gold jewels, gemstones, and other valuable collections (once plundered by their great great grand fathers in India) for auction and invariably they get a bundle out of their hoardings!! Glad the valuable Indians treasures, once owned by the fabulously rich Maharajahs and Nawabs looted by their forefathers centuries ago, became so handy as to save their face during their hardscrabble days.

Tipu Sultan of Mysore who gave jitters to the British Army under the East India company that was bent on taking over the rich and fertile land of Mysore, still remains a controversial ruler  with respect  to his policy toward the Hindus. In reality, he  was a secular king and  being a devout Sunni Muslim, he also gave importance to  Shiaism and named his kingdom Saltanat-i Khudadad (God-Given State). Only 10% of his subjects were Muslims, the rest were Hindus of various casts, creed and denominations.  Among the Muslims,  there were both  Sunni and Shia. Sufism  was and is quite popular in India and there lived a large number of Sufi saints who never gave room to violence and greed. Tipu also had strong leanings toward Sufism  and encouraged religious discussion and texts on this unique offshoot of Islam.  Despite being a man of valor and wisdom,  he was, believe it or  not, superstitious and often took the advice of  his Hindu astrologers in the court.
Satish Acharya
Daily Mail
Tipu, who was  brought up among the Hindus, mostly Kannadigas,  took to the Indian (in particular, Hindus) custom of wearing  Navratna (nav means nine and ratna means gems) ring or nine gem-studded ring daily  in accordance with birth star and position of  planets at that time. This is fundamentally based on the wear's birth star and his horoscope. Surprisingly in many cases, this custom does bring in good results.  Both Hindus and Muslims in India believe that wearing a particular combination of gemstone in the ring  will negate the bad effects of  certain planetary positions on that person and  will help him succeed in his endeavor or any undertaking.  Tipu  is said to have worn a ruby ring which he regarded as the most valuable one in his treasury.  He was very particular about wearing an appropriate ring or navratna ornament while on a war expedition. Though, he had some setbacks, he had a string of many war victories as a ruler.

The form of this pendant in the image posted here is a standard and widely acceptable one in the Indian subcontinent as a powerful amulet. The navaratna ornament (ring or armlets) has nine  precious  stones (nava means nine; ratna means gemstones) each representing  one of the planets of the Hindu cosmology: ruby for Surya (Sun), pearl for Chandra (Moon), coral for Mangala (Mars), emerald for Budha (Mercury), topaz for Bhaspati (Jupiter), diamond for Shukra (Venus), blue sapphire for Shani (Saturn), zircon for Rahu (the ascending node of the Moon) and cat’s eye for Ketu (the descending node of the Moon). It is symbolic of the relationship between humans and the universe- a sort of divine dispensation and its signature is recognizable in a person's horoscope. it is cast based on a person's correct time of birth, location latitude and longitude. The  positions of planets at that particular time are vital for calculation.  From this evolves set of  periods both good and bad  for a man as he advances in age, depending on the changing planetary positions. High mathematical skill is required to cast such horoscopes. Indian Astrology is dependent on the Astronomy with special reference to our Solar System.

Besides, to have successful war expeditions, especially against the British he had the Brahmans close to the royal court perform ceremonies (a sort of Homams).  Despite the controversy about his being partial toward Muslims, many records point out that when it came to ruling the country, religious considerations had no influence on Tipu, a trait he inherited from his father Hyder Ali. In the midst of his struggle against many of his enemies, in particular, the East India company and their  alleys the Nawab of Arcot and the Nizam,  his preoccupation was economic and political advancement of his  (Hasan 2006, pp. 378-79). Among several temples to which Tipu made liberal donations, Shri Ranganathswamy temple at Srirangapatnam  was the foremost one. It is just 100 yards from his fort's entrance, and daily he could hear the chiming of the temple bells  and the musical vedic chants by the temple pundits. He encouraged many Hindu temples to carry on their  temple festivals. The Sri Ranganatha temple, Srirangapatna still boasts of  it’s inventory - a big silver bowl, three silver cups, a silver pancharati and a silver kettle.His father Hyder Ali made a wooden chariot (rath) for this temple which is still being used. Yet another fact worthy of our attention is that he had close contact with then Archarya of the Sringeri Mutt, Karnataka and the Mutt has  a series of correspondence between the Muslim ruler and the Hindu holy saint.
As for complaints about religious conversions in Kerala (he converted the Nairs and Nambootheri Brahmins to Islam), destruction of Hindu temples and Syrian churches there and elsewhere, the historians point out that Tipu never believed in forced conversion of people of other faith to Islam. However, he did convert those people who vehemently rebelled against him. With respect to Indian Christians, Tipu was under the misconception that they supported the British rule and would betray him. Considering his vast good deeds,  the unfortunate atrocities he committed here and there may be aberrations in his otherwise  short, but successful reign. (The Seringapatam Times)

Ipu Sultan and Gold ring.
Above image: Gold ring worn by Tipu at the time of his death in 1799 in the battlefield, Srirangapatnam, India. Commander Wellesley had the heavy gold ring removed from the slain body of Tipu and kept it as a war trophy over the defeat of Tipu under his command.............................
To defeat Tipu the British sought the help of while-blowers in his kingdom. Yet another strategic move made by Wellesley was a well trained battalion stealthy entered the fort through the Water Gate on the banks of the river Cauvery around noon when the gate keeper was asleep. Besides the British commander had an enforcement troupe hide in the trench for additional support.  At last
Lord Wellesley
Lord Wellesley (June 1760 - September 1760)  defeated Tipu Sultan, in the decisive battle at Srirangapatnam, near Mysore, Karnataka in May1799. Tipu died till his last drop of blood fell on the soil of his land, wearing his most cherished possession of a heavy, oval shaped 41.2 gm gold ring with the name RAMA (Hindu God's name) in raised Devanagari inscribed on it. Wellesley had the ring removed from the slain king and kept it as a token of his big victory in Southern India. Later back in England, he gave the ring as a wedding gift to his favorite niece Emily with Fritz Roy Somerset, Wellesley's military officer and close confidant. Wellesley had a close and personal relationship with him for several years and they together fought wars in Crimea and Waterloo.

 The estimate of the ring was 10,000.00 to 15,000.00 pounds; this gold ring is one of the items put up for auction on May 24, 2014 by Somerset's great grand son Baron Raglan! The well attended auction fetched 140,500 pounds – a fabulous sum for the owners.  The heavy  ring was sold to an undisclosed bidder for 10 times above the actual rate.

At the Victoria and Albert museum in London are an emerald and diamond set along with another Ruby and diamond set. They are  from the booty taken at Seringapatam. The descendants of Lord Harris have loaned another splendid diamond and ruby bracelet composed of square cut diamond collets, alternating with brilliant cut ruby and emerald collets, to the V&A collection.

Tipu’s pink silk turban discovered from him at his death had three  fine diamonds and ruby flowers. His gold brooch at the V&A was set with diamonds and turquoise. The brooch was originally part of Captain Cochrane’s share of jewels.