The Sword of Tipu Sultan just sold for Rs 142 crore: Looking back at the book, the series and the controversies

Sushim Mukul
Sushim MukulMay 26, 2023 | 15:48

The Sword of Tipu Sultan just sold for Rs 142 crore: Looking back at the book, the series and the controversies

Tipu ruled the kingdom of Mysore  between 1782 and 1799, earning the title “Tiger of Mysore”. (Photo Credit: V&A Museum and Bonhams)

A personal sword from the bedchamber of the last Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan was sold at an auction for a whopping GBP 14 million (approx Rs 142 crore) at Bonham's Islamic and Indian Art sale in London on Tuesday (May 23).

  • The 18th-century sword thus became the most expensive sale of any Indian antique ever.

The sword attracted the high price because of its traceable close connection to Tipu, exceptional gold koftgari (the art of inlaying steel with gold by beating the metals) on the hilt (handle); and an inscription saying 'The Sword of the Ruler'.


The Sword of Tipu Sultan

After his death and British siege of Srirangapatna (Tipu's capital) in 1799, the sword was found in Tipu's bedchamber and presented to Major General David Baird by the East India Company soldiers as a token of courage and conduct during the attack.

For a little while, the sword was with fugitive Kingfisher boss Vijay Mallya before he gave it away in 2016 owing to bad luck.

The presentation of the sword is inscribed on the sword itself. (Photo: Bonhams)

Tipu Sultan and the narratives

Tipu Sultan has been a matter of debate due to conflicting views on his reign: some see him as a progressive patriot who resisted British colonisation, while others criticise his military aggression and treatment of religious and ethnic minorities. While both views have their share of valid arguments, the acceptance of Tipu being a bit of both is far from coming.

A book and a tele-series in question

Much has been written and spoken about Tipu including the 1976 controversial best-selling book by Bhangwan S Gidwani, The Sword of Tipu Sultan: A Historical Novel about the life and legend of Tipu Sultan, and the subsequent Doordarshan TV adaptation, The Sword of Tipu Sultan. The screenplay of the Sanjay Khan-starrer series was written by Bhagwan S Gidwani himself.

The series starred Sanjay Khan, Malvika Tiwari, Firoz Ali, and Shahbaaz Khan in the lead roles. (Photo Credit: IMDB)
  • First the book, then the tele-series became a matter of dispute for overlooking various incidents and facets of Tipu's life. Tipu was portrayed as a great patriot, a tolerant and secular ruler, and a great freedom fighter. The book and the tele-series both came under fire for glossing over Tipu's flaws and other documented realities.
  • The book allegedly lacked proper research, as Canada-based Gidwani didn't travel to Malabar, which faced decade-long atrocities and temple destructions under Tipu's occupation. However, Gidwani claimed to have spent 13 months researching for the book.
  • Records from royal houses of Zamorin, Kottayam, Palghat Fort and the East India Company, with clear mentions of Tipu's horrific occupation of the region, somehow didn't make their way to the tele-series.
  • The labelling of Coorg's Kodavas as British agents, brutality against Nairs and Roman Catholics and abductions of Mangalorean Christian women in Mangalore and their alleged forced conversion are all documented; but were curiously missing from both the book and the tele-series.
The cover of the later edition of the book resembles the series poster. (Photo Credit: Rupa Publication)
  • The Supreme Court asked the creators to put a note before each episode saying, "No claim is made for the accuracy or authenticity of the episode being depicted in the serial. This serial is fiction and has nothing to do either with the life or rule of Tipu Sultan."
  • The apex court, while delivering the judgement, observed that the serial was not based on the real life and deeds of Tipu and is a dramatised presentation of Gidwani's book.
Last updated: May 26, 2023 | 15:48
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