Revisiting the life of Tipu Sultan

History books give us an idea of Tipu Sultan and several accounts of this Mysore ruler’s valiance and bravery

author_img Anjani Chadha Published :  26th July 2022 04:08 PM   |   Published :   |  26th July 2022 04:08 PM
Gallery view

Gallery view of the exhibition

History books give us an idea of Tipu Sultan and several accounts of this Mysore ruler’s valiance and bravery. However, the 18th Century ruler, who is credited as the hero of colonial resistance, is often deemed as a tyrant who fought for his personal gains and not for the country. In fact, in March this year, officials of the Karnataka government suggested alterations in school textbooks with a focus on chapters that glorified the ruler who is popularly called the Tiger of Mysore. Amid these two extremes, Tipu Sultan continues to be a controversial figure.

Offering novel perspectives to the ongoing debate of Sultan’s credibility as a ruler and a freedom fighter, DAG has put together a book titled Tipu Sultan: Image & Distance that was launched by Shashi Tharoor, Member of Parliament and author, at The Claridges on Monday evening. Edited by Giles Tillotson, Senior VP (Exhibitions and Publications), DAG, this book was unveiled at a thoughtfully put-together eponymous exhibition—it is open to the public till August 31. Curated by Tillotson, the exhibition comprises paintings, maps, postcards, sculptures as well as newspapers, all of which capture instances from the life and death of Sultan, allowing us to revisit this controversial figure. 

A walk through history
On display in this exhibition are artworks—along with newspapers and maps—that were created by the British, usually soldiers who were deployed in India. Addressing the intent behind the exhibition, Tillotson shared, “[With this exhibition] We are trying something different—to show the Indian audience the British representation of Tipu Sultan as it was 220 years ago, to see what you make of it. These works of art were not made for this audience. These were propagandist artworks, made for the British audience to persuade the Brits that we [the British] were doing the right thing.” A closer look at the exhibition would help the viewer ruminate about ‘what does Tipu Sultan mean to us today?’.

Obadiah Sherratt’s ‘The Death of Munrow’.

The compilation of paintings gives the viewer an idea of the wars fought by the Sultan’s war against the British, the imprisonment of the Sultan’s sons, as well as his last attempt to wage war against the British that eventually led to his fall during the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War. The highlight of the exhibition is the print of Scottish painter Robert Ker Porter’s 120ft-long painting ‘The Storming of Seringapatam’ that depicts a combat scene between British and Indian troops on a bridge, with the fortress of Seringapatam in the background.

A glimpse of everyday life during the 1800s can be seen in British artist James Hunter’s—he served as a lieutenant in the Royal Artillery in British India—sketches of forts, palaces, and gateways. There is also a display of sketches of forts in Bengaluru and Srirangaptna by portrait painter Robert Home. While most of the works exhibited here have been made by British artists, there are paintings made by artists from the Kingdom of Thanjavur as well.

WHAT:  ‘Tipu Sultan: Image & Distance’
WHEN: Till August 31
WHERE: The Claridges, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Road