In December 8, 1988, an old trunk was discovered in the attic of the house of Elaine de la Taille Tretinville, who died at 91 in her 14th arrondissement flat in Paris. She was a descendant of the family of Les Ripaud Montaudeverts. Among the contents was a manuscript in the hand of the most famous of the Montaudeverts—Francois Fidele Ripaud de Montaudevert. It starts with these words (in old French): “I, Francois Ripaud, am old today, but I want to tell you the true story of Tipu Sultan.”
Born in Saffre, northwestern France, in a middle-class family, Ripaud enrolled as a sailor, aged 11, on the Le Palmier. After many adventures, he settled in Mauritius, where he married and had two children. In 1797, hearing of Le Grand Tipu Sultan, he sailed from Mauritius (then called Ile de France) to Mangalore and sought a meeting with the sultan, promising “to raise a large force in Mauritius and put it at Tipu’s disposal”. Tipu, who had an early connection with the French, having been instructed in warfare by French officers in the employ of his father, jumped at the idea and gave Ripaud letters of credential. On August 19, 1798, Ripaud came back to Mauritius and made a proclamation seeking volunteers for an “expedition to travel to Mysore to assist Tipu in his resistance to British encroachment in south India”. It must be noted that, two months earlier, Napoleon had invaded Egypt and dreamt of establishing a junction with India against the British, so the governor of Mauritius received instructions to collaborate and Ripaud was able to sail to Mangalore with a shipload of French soldiers who were welcomed there like heroes.
Life at Tipu’s court was a dream for our hardy adventurer, but he began to have some misgivings. In his diary entry of January 14, 1799, he writes: “I’m disturbed by Tipu Sultan’s treatment of these most gentle souls, the Hindus. During the siege of Mangalore, Tipu’s soldiers daily exposed the heads of many innocent Brahmins within sight from the fort for the Zamorin and his Hindu followers to see.” Even so, he cast his doubts aside and put up for Tipu’s benefit a demonstration of the egalitarian political ideas of France: in 1799, a French paper entitled ‘Proceedings of a Jacobin Club formed at Seringapatnam by the French Soldiers in the Corps Commanded by Francois Ripaud’ was found in Tipu’s palace. It listed 59 Frenchmen in the pay of “citizen Tipu” and described a “primary assembly” of May 5, 1797, to elect a president (Ripaud) and other office-bearers. The ‘Rights of Man’ were proclaimed and the sultan formally received a small delegation from the club.
After this interval, we find another diary entry in which Ripaud is appalled at what he witnessed in Calicut (Kozhikode): “Most of the Hindu men and women were hanged...first mothers were hanged with their children tied to their necks. That barbarian Tipu Sultan tied the naked Christians and Hindus to the legs of elephants and made the elephants move around till the bodies of the helpless victims were torn to pieces. Temples and churches were ordered to be burned down, desecrated and destroyed. Christian and Hindu women were forced to marry Mohammedans, and similarly, their men (after conversion to Islam) were forced to marry Mohammedan women. Christians who refused to be honoured with Islam were ordered to be killed by hanging immediately.” These events were corroborated by Father Bartholomew, a famous Portuguese traveller, in his memoir, Voyage to East Indies.
Another diary entry of Ripaud says: “To show his ardent devotion and steadfast faith in the Mohammedan religion, Tipu Sultan found Kozhikode to be the most suitable place. Kozhikode was then a centre of Brahmins and had over 7,000 Brahmin families living there. Over 2,000 Brahmin families perished as a result of Tipu Sultan’s Islamic cruelties. He did not spare even women and children.”
A disgusted Ripaud left Seringapatnam and went back to France, where he obtained captainship of a fine fighting ship, the Shapho. On February 23, 1814, fighting an English frigate, Ripaud had his arm ripped off by a cannon ball. He died the same evening. Even the British, his arch enemies, gave a 21-cannon salute to this brave adventurer, once Tipu Sultan’s ‘Great White Hope’.
(The writer is editor-in-chief of La Revue de l’Inde. This piece is based on two books: Jean Feildel’s A la Mer, en Guerre: Vie du Corsaire Ripaud de Montaudevert and Louis Brunet’s Ripaud de Montaudevert: Scenes de la Revolution Francaise a L’ile Bourbon.)
Francois Gautier claims his column The Tyrant Diaries (April 15) is based on two French books. And the diary entries of Ripaud. But the diary entries, I note, are taken from articles in a few old Sanghi publications in which somewhat different sources are cited for the same quotes. Something is amiss.
Oommen, on e-mail
(For the full letter and hyperlinks to the diary extracts and claimed sources, read the letter online.)
Apropos Francois Gautier’s column on Tipu (The Tyrant Diaries, Apr 15), the siege of Mangalore was in 1783-84. Tipu finally ceded Malabar to the East India Company in 1792. Gautier says Ripaud first sailed from Mauritius to Mangalore in 1797. Tipu was killed in 1799. How did Ripaud then “witness” the cruelties of Tipu in Mangalore and Calicut? Has Gautier even read the books in French he claims the piece is based on? He seems to be quite ignorant of Mysore’s history, in any case.
Bharat M.S., Bangalore
So Ripaud visited Mangalore in 1799 and witnessed the 1783 siege in his bloody dreams, including the decapitation of those most gentle souls. Then he penned down the wild dreams on Jan 14, 1799, including a chronology of executions.
Vikas Rathe, Delhi
Tipu’s sacking of Coorg (Kodagu) was so murderous that even today Coorgis turn crimson at a mere mention of him. As great a poet and proponent of Pakistan as Allama Iqbal has observed that in the battle between din (religion) and kafirs (infidels), Tipu was the last missile in their armoury.
Subhash Rege, Mumbai
Gautier is a professional hate merchant working for the RSS. At his highly biased exhibition on Aurangzeb, when asked whether he had no positive exhibit at all on the Mughal king, he admitted they had not been put up for lack of space
Cursory readings of history show that Tipu listened to fanatics whenever it suited him or benefited him personally. At other times, he fended them off and released grants to Hindu maths.
B.V.G. Rao, Warangal
Well, at the request of these same French, Tipu built the first church in Mysore. The children of those discourteous, unthankful French have somehow forgotten the benevolence of the sultan to come up with this biased piece.
Imran Ahmed Khan, Bangalore
The Hindutva forces simply can’t stomach a Muslim ruler being honoured. They’d like to erase Tipu’s role much like they do of the thousands of Muslim leaders—rulers, maulvis, peasants and soldiers—in the revolt of 1857.
Shyamal Barua, Calcutta
Religion was of secondary importance to Tipu; he was severe to both the Muslim Nizam and the Hindu Marathas. The church never supported him or anyone fighting the British because, for it, the latter were their real masters. Ripaud writing against Tipu after deserting him could have been more due to his sense of treachery and his alignment to the church.
Jaleel M.N., Chennai
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
Francois Ripaud's account of abominable cruelty displayed by Tippu against Barhmins of Kozhikode etc in Kerala is credible enough to me as the dark side/face of that tyrant.
I belong to the brahmin community of mandayam iyengars. Even today we follow the yearly tradition of NOT celebrating the Naraka Chaturdashi Day the first day of Diwali festival in memory of over 700 men, women and children of my community ancestors who were brutally killed as an act of genocide by an angry Tippu right in front of the Srirangapattanam Temple grounds on the same Narak Chaturdashi day of 1783. History says that they were all brutally killed by being hanged under the Tamarind trees in front of that temple and also partly in Mandya and Mysore cities.
Among the reasons for this act of unlimited cruelty is that two Mandyam Iyengar individuals Tirumala Iyengar and Narayana Iyengar were serving the mysore palace as Pradhans (Diwans) and totally devoted to the Wodeyar rulers for many decades (these two are known as Tirumal Row and Narayan Row in Mysore history books). Both Hyderali and Tippu were waging a secret war against the hindu rulers attempting to totally destroy the wodeyar ruling dynasty and convert Mysore into a moslem sultanate. The wodeyars suffered continuing trials and tribulations of various kinds under these two usurping moslems. So the Pradhans worked as secret emissaries of Mysore ruling family to the East India company officials in the then Madras city inviting them to defeat /remove Tippu in some way before Tippu returned from his warfare at Mangalore during late 1783.
This became known to Tippu and he began to capture the Pradhans. But sensing this they escaped to Madras. So all their known relatives/families numbering over700 were captured and put to gruesome death in Srirangapattanam, Mysore and Mandya in a fit of extreme anger. But this seems to be a natural reaction of Tippu against all brahmins which he freely displayed in Kozhikode etc. While my community ancestors were brutally killed in Mysore province itself as a result of his dark face his other benign face made him treat Sgringeri Math brahmins and some others well as history records.
I am proud that my family ancestors made their ultimate sacrifice in 1783 in trying to protect Mysore Ruling family (Wodeyars) from total destruction although some non-hindu readers might feel otherwise. But what I report here is absolute historical truth and have stopped short of giving more details here.
Anyway we mysore hindus are relieved that the controversial Tippu era came to a close in 1799 and this saved Mysore from being converted into an islamic state by him.
We can not change the history.. why should we still bother whether Tipu, Aurangazeeb and other Muslim rules were communla or not.
Lets live in the present and think about the future.
To me Narendra Modi is a secular person. And so are Maya kodnani and Babu Bajrangi..
And so will be the future Bajrangis of India. All of them will be secular.
[[Poor Varun and his one-track mind!]]
Poor Anwaar and his no-mind!
>> "Your posting earlier on Tipu Sultan was very well reasoned".
Poor Varun and his one-track mind!
"But talking to you is like engaging a stairmaster - exhausting, with no enlightenment at the end. I refuse to participate in your little dog-and-pony show."
Good one, Francis. Yes, readers should be careful to put some content in their messages.Your posting earlier on Tipu Sultan was very well reasoned and presented, and the arguments have not been countered, probably because they cannot be!
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