Historical novels are usually an admixture of historical facts and imagination. As such they are not expected to truthfully portray all the historical events. However, authors of historical novels have the moral responsibility to present historical facts without blatant distortions.
Mr. Bhagwan Gidwani, the author of the controversial novel, The Sword of Tipu Sultan, does not seem to be bound by any such ethical obligations; he does not have any qualms even to deliberately falsify historical facts. Therefore, a tele-serial based on such a novel also cannot be otherwise.
Mounting opposition to this controversial serial also stems from this basic reason.
Mr. Gidwani claims that his novel is the result of thirteen years of historical research. He asserts that he has studied and scrutinized all the historical documents available from various sources in India and abroad. Then, why did not this researcher make any effort to visit Kerala, particularly Malabar region, the main area of Tipu Sultan’s cruel military operations for a decade, or to scrutinize the historical evidence available from Malabar regarding the atrocities committed by Tipu Sultan, or to study the ruins of temples destroyed in Malabar during that period?
When a serious author is collecting historical data for writing a historical novel on Tipu Sultan, does he not have ail obligation or responsibility to at least visit the Malabar region, the main area of the operations of Tipu Sultan, and try to understand the significance of his activities there? The mere fact that Mr. Gidwani did not bother to do so, is itself sufficient reason for suspecting the credibility and credentials of the author.
IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF HIS FATHER
The major part of Tipu Sultan’s rule was spent in conducting military operations for subjugating Malabar. Wars of territorial conquest waged in Malabar by Hyder Ali Khan, with the assistance of Ali Raja of Arackal and his Mappila followers of Cannanore, were intended more for spreading the Islamic faith by killing and forcible conversion of Hindus coupled with widespread destruction of Hindu temples, than for expanding his kingdom.
Hyder Ali Khan had expressed his satisfaction for these cruel achievements. A broad picture of atrocities committed against the Hindu population of Malabar by the army of Hyder Ali Khan along with the local Mappilas can be had from the diary notings of a Muslim officer of the Mysore army as edited and published by the then surviving son of Tipu Sultan, Prince Ghulam Muhammed (Cited in Malabar Manual, William Logan).
Before his efforts to conquer the entire Malabar region could succeed, Hyder Ali Khan died in December, 1782. Tipu Sultan who succeeded his father, considered it his primary duty to continue this unfinished jîhâd started by Hyder Ali Khan. However, the Islamic fanaticism of Tipu Sultan was much worse than that of his father. His war-cry of jîhâd was “Sword” (death) or “Cap” (forcible conversion). This makes very clear the character of Tipu Sultan’s military operations started in 1783. The intensity and nature of sufferings which the Hindu population had to bear during the nightmarish days of Padayottakkalam (military regime) were vividly described in many historical records preserved in the royal houses of Zamorin and Kottayam (Pazhassi), Palghat Fort and East India Company’s office. There is no apparent reason to disbelieve them. It is absurd and against reason to describe all this evidence as being forged for the purpose of creating enmity between Hindus and Muslims (as presumed by Dr. C.K. Kareem and others).
During the cruel days of Islamic operations from 1783 to 1791, thousands of Nairs besides about 30,000 Brahmins had fled Malabar, leaving behind their entire wealth, and sought refuge in Travancore State (according to the commission of enquiry appointed by the British soon after Tipu Sultan’s death).
This report was prepared exclusively for the information of the British authorities and not for writing a book, or for discrediting or defaming Tipu Sultan. Therefore, according to the learned historian, Dr. M. Gangadharan, there is no point in disbelieving the validity of this report (Mathrubhoomi Weekly, January, 14-20, 1990): “Besides, there is enough evidence that a few members of Zamorin family and many Nairs were forcibly circumcised and converted into Muhammadan faith as well as compelled to eat beef.”
So far as the history of Malabar region is concerned, the most dependable book for basic historical facts is definitely the Malabar Manual written by William Logan. Serving in various administrative positions including that of a Collector for 20 years upto 1886, he had gone through and extensively researched a variety of documents for preparing his well-acclaimed book. The present edition has been scrutinized, edited and published by the reputed Muslim historian, Dr. C.K. Kareem, with the support of Cochin and Kerala universities. Therefore, the authenticity of its contents cannot be doubted.
There are plenty of references in the Malabar Manual about the cruel military operations and Islamic atrocities of Tipu Sultan in Malabar-forcible mass circumcision and conversion, large-scale killings, looting and destruction of hundreds of Hindu temples, and other barbarities.
If one accepts even a small portion of the Islamic atrocities described in this monumental work of history, then Tipu Sultan can be depicted only as a fanatic Muslim bigot. The historical works of Col. Wilks (Historical Sketches), K.P. Padmanabha Menon and Sardar K.M. Panicker (Kerala History), Elamkulam Kunjan Pillai (research articles) and others, also do not project Tipu Sultan in any better light. One of the leading Congressman of pre-independence days, K. Madhava Nair, observes on page 14 of his famous book, Malabar Kalapam(Mappila outrage):
“The communal Mappila outrage of 1921 in Malabar could be easily traced to the forcible mass conversion and related Islamic atrocities of Tipu Sultan during his cruel military regime from 1783 to 1792. It is doubtful whether the Hindus of Kerala had ever suffered so much devastation and atrocities since the reclamation of Kerala by the mythological Lord Parasurama in a previous Era. Many thousands of Hindus were forcibly converted into Muhammadan faith.”
Since the same Congressman admitted that Tipu had not discriminated between Hindus and Muslims in Mysore and administered his country well, his observations about Kerala could be accepted as impartial comments.
In 1789, Tipu Sultan marched to Kozhikode with an army of 60,000, destroyed the fort, and razed the town to the ground. Gunddart says in his Kerala Pazhamathat it is just not possible to describe the cruel atrocities perpetrated by the barbarian Tipu Sultan in Kozhikode.
William Logan gives in his Malabar Manual a long list of temples destroyed by Tipu Sultan and his army.
Elankulam Kunjan Pillai has recorded the situation in Malabar as follows:
“Kozhikode was then a centre of Brahmins. There were around 7000 Namboodiri houses of which more than 2000 houses were destroyed by Tipu Sultan in Kozhikode alone. Sultan did not spare even children and women. Menfolk escaped to forests and neighbouring principalities. Mappilas increased many fold (due to forcible conversion).
“During the military regime of Tipu Sultan, Hindus were forcibly circumcised and converted to Muhammadan faith. As a result the number of Nairs and Brahmins declined substantially.”
Atrocities committed in Malabar during the days of Tipu Sultan’s cruel military regime have been described in great detail in the famous works of many reputed authors-Travancore State Manual of T.K. Velu Pillai and Kerala Sahitya Charitam of Ulloor Parameshwara Iyer.
Is it not absurd to condemn what all these respected authors have written about the atrocities of Tipu Sultan and label it as a deliberate attempt to defame him? All the historical documents of that period clearly indicate that Tipu Sultan’s attack on Malabar had some purpose other than simple territorial conquest. That purpose was to Islamicise the whole of Malabar by forcibly converting all the Hindus there.
THIS WAS AN ISLAMIC WAR
Even if we concede, for the sake of argument, that all those who call Tipu Sultan a fanatic Muslim are pro-British and all the historical data is meant only to create hatred between Muslims and Hindus, the letters written by Tipu Sultan himself help us to understand his real character. Some of these letters, obtained from India Office Library, London, were published in Bhasha Poshini magazine of Chingam 1099 (corresponding to August, 1923) by Sardar K.M. Panicker.
The letter dated March 22, 1788, to Kantancheri Abdul Kadir, and the letter dated December 14, 1788 to his army commander in Kozhikode, do not require further explanation about Tipu’s real intentions in Malabar.
Still, if some people want to describe Tipu Sultan as an apostle of peace and religious tolerance, let us leave them alone – those large-hearted admirers of Tipu! However, there is quite a large number of people who are not that large-hearted, especially the descendants of those Hindus who were killed by the sword of the bloodthirsty Tipu while resisting forcible conversion and humiliation.
TIPU’S RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE – A POLITICAL GIMMICK
Tipu had committed a variety of atrocities on the Hindus in Malabar – barbarous mass-killing, wholesale forcible circumcision and conversion, and widespread destruction and plunder of Hindu temples. Being fully aware of this background, if Tipu is projected as a lover of Hindu religion and traditions and not as an intolerant Muslim fanatic, by citing some “new evidences’ obtained by certain motivated historians and apologists of Islam such as the alleged land-grants to a few Hindu temples and Sringeri Mutt and protection of Sree Ranganatha Swami temple near the palace, then at the most they could be treated only as scandalous exceptions. Even this was part of a political strategy. Writing in Mathrubhoomi Weekly (January 14-20, 1990), Dr. M. Gangadharan says. “In the socio-religious-political conditions prevailing in Mysore of Tipu’s days, such things could not be avoided. The financial assistance to Sringeri Mutt meant for conducting religious rites to ward off evil spirits, was clearly specified in the letter sent by Tipu Sultan. As such, these cannot be accepted as evidence of Tipu’s respect for Hindu religion.”
SAME SITUATION IN MYSORE ALSO
The orchestrated propaganda that Tipu Sultan was tolerant and fair-minded towards the Hindus in Mysore is also without any foundation, as explained in history of Mysore written by Lewis Rice as well as M.M. Gopalrao. According to Lewis Rice, during the rule of Tipu Sultan, only two Hindu temples inside the Sreerangapatanam Fort were having daily pujas while the assets of all other temples were confiscated. Even in administrative matters,
Muslim bias was blatantly evident, especially in the matter of taxation policy. “Muslims were exempted from all taxes. Even those who were converted to Islamic faith were also allowed the same concessions,” says Gopal Rao. In the case of employment, Hindus were eliminated to the maximum extent possible. During the entire period of 16 years of Tipu Sultan’s rule, the only Hindu who had occupied any important official position was Purnaiyya.
NIGHTMARISH DAYS OF PADAYOTTAM (MILITARY REGIME)
However, Tipu and his Padayottam were a nightmare, especially for the Hindus of Malabar, whatever may be the arguments provided by Gidwani or the secularist historians who have specialized in proving a wolf to be a goat. There is no point in making it dark by closing one’s eyes.
Under these circumstances, a TV serial glorifying Tipu Sultan as a magnanimous person can only remind the Hindus of Malabar about the nightmare experienced by their forefathers during the cruel military regime of Tipu Sultan. That can, in turn, shatter the prevailing communal harmony and peace in Kerala.
Opposition to the proposed TV serial on Tipu Sultan is not inspired by religious sentiments alone. It is also not against anybody’s freedom to make a tele-serial based on a novel. It is the people’s objection and anger against the Government’s attempts to project a historical personality by suppressing, distorting and falsifying authentic historical evidence about his life and deeds. The official media like television and radio networks have certain basic obligations towards the public. Not to misguide the people, especially by falsification and distortion of recorded history, is the most important obligation. Therefore, projection of a tele-serial based on Gidwani’s scandalous novel is outside the broad framework of basic guidelines and objectives. That should not be allowed.
Courtesy: – V.M. KORATH (Former Editor of Mathrubhoomi) & Kesari (Malayalam Weekly), February 25, 1990
Snakes and Ladders, Originated in Ancient India called Mokshapat or Moksha Patamu
The board game, today called Snakes and Ladders, originated in ancient India, where it was known with the name Mokshapat or Moksha Patamu.
It’s not exactly known when or who invented it, though it’s believed the game was played at a time as early as 2nd century BC. According to some historians, the game was invented by Saint Gyandev.
Originally, the game was used as a part of moral instruction to children. The squares in which ladders start were each supposed to stand for a virtue, and those housing the head of a snake were supposed to stand for an evil. The snakes outnumbered the ladders in the original Hindu game. The game was transported to England by the colonial rulers in the latter part of the 19th century, with some modifications.
Through its several modifications over the decades, however, the meaning of the game has remained the same — ‘that good deeds will take people to heaven (Moksha) while evil deeds will lead to a cycle of rebirths in lower form of life (Patamu).
The modified game was named Snakes and Ladders and stripped of its moral and religious aspects and the number of ladders and snakes were equalized. In 1943, the game was introduced in the US under the name Chutes and Ladders.
The Game of Knowledge
Originally, the game of Snakes and Ladders was known variously as Gyan Chaupar (meaning ‘Game of Knowledge), Mokshapat, and Moksha Patamu, and was originally a Hindu game. Nobody knows for sure as to who invented this game, or when it was created.
It may be said that whilst the gameplay of Gyan Chaupar is the same as today’s Snakes and Ladders, the board and higher objective of the game may be said to be quite different. Like the modern Snakes and Ladders board, the number of squares in that of Gyan Chaupar may vary. One version of this board, for instance, contains 72 squares, whilst another has 100. A major difference between the traditional and modern versions is the fact that in the former, a virtue or a vice and the effects of these virtues and vices, or something neutral is placed within each box.
For instance, in an Indian Gyan Chaupar board of 72 boxes, squares number 24, 44, and 55 have the vices of bad company, false knowledge, and ego respectively. As the game places great emphasis on karma, the Hindu principle of cause and effect, each vice (the snakes’ heads) has a corresponding effect. Thus, for the vices mentioned above, the corresponding effects are conceit or vanity, plane of sensuality, and illusion. On the other hand, the virtues of purification, true faith, and conscience are contained in squares number 10, 28, and 46, and these lead to heavenly plane, plane of truth, and happiness respectively. In this version of the board, the goal is to reach box number 68, which is the plane of Shiva.
Religious Teaching Tool
This game was so popular that it was also adopted and adapted by other religions that existed in the Indian subcontinent. It is known that Jain, Buddhist, and Muslim adaptations of the game exist, as the concepts of cause and effect, and reward and punishment, are common to them. For devout followers of these religions, the game may be played as a form of meditation, as a communal exercise, and even as part of one’s religious studies without the use of more conventional books or sermons.
It may be added that many of the surviving game boards are works of art in their own right, as they contain elaborate illustrations of human figures, architecture, flora and fauna, etc. These boards were commonly made of painted cloth, and most of the extant ones date from after the middle of the18th century AD.
The Modern Game
The game of Gyan Chaupar became Snakes and Ladders towards the end of the 19 th century, when it was introduced to Great Britain by India’s colonial rulers. Whilst the original gameplay was maintained, its underlying philosophical message was greatly diminished. The religious virtues and vices were replaced by two-part cartoon dramas connected either by a snake or a ladder. Additionally, the number of snakes and ladders were equalized, whilst in the original ones, there were usually more snakes than ladders, which symbolizes the belief that it is far easier to fall prey to vice than to uphold virtue. From Great Britain, the game traveled to the United States, where it was introduced in 1943 by Milton Bradley as Chutes and Ladders.
Telhara University – Older than Nalanda, Vikramshila Universities
It was a useful mound, no doubt. A good vantage point where villagers occasionally relieved themselves.
But who would have thought that deep beneath its golden brown earth would be stories of dynasties and empires that now suggest that this — Telhara, a village 33 km from the ruins of the more famous Nalanda University — could be ‘Tilas-akiya’ or ‘Tiladhak’, the place Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang visited and wrote about during his travels through India in 7th century AD? So far, there were only vague references but recent excavations at the mound suggest that Telhara was indeed an ancient university or seat of learning with seven monasteries.
The Bihar government has been calling the Telhara project one of its biggest after the excavations that unearthed Nalanda and Vikramshila universities. The excavation at Telhara should have happened earlier, say experts, but the site lost out to the more famous Nalanda.
The Telhara project that started on December 26, 2009, has so far come across over 1,000 priceless finds from 30-odd trenches — seals and sealing, red sandstone, black stone or blue basalt statues of Buddha and several Hindu deities, miniature bronze and terracotta stupas and statues and figurines that go back to the Gupta (320-550 AD) and Pala (750-1174 AD) empires. But the 2.6-acre mound has now thrown up the most tantalising find yet — evidence of a three-storied structure, prayer hall and a platform to seat over 1,000 monks or students of Mahayana Buddhism.
The terracotta monastery seals — a chakra flanked by two deers — unearthed at Telhara are similar to those at Nalanda, suggesting Telhara or Tiladhak was another great seat of learning besides Nalanda and Odantpuri during the Gupta and Pala reigns. It was the discovery of a similar monastery seal that clinched it for Nalanda University.
Former Archaeological Survey of India director B S Verma, who between 1971 and ’81 supervised the excavation at the site of the ancient Vikramshila university, says, “Telhara or Tiladhak has much more convincing epigraphical proofs — monastery inscriptions — than Vikramshila. The findings that match Hiuen Tsang’s account do more to convince that the place was a university or mahavihara similar to Nalanda.”
In his book, The Antiquarian Remains in Bihar, historian D R Patil writes about Hiuen Tsang’s description of Telhara. “Hiuen Tsang describes Telhara or Tilas-akiya as containing a number of monasteries or viharas, about seven in number, accommodating about 1,000 monks studying in Mahayan. These buildings, he says, had courtyards, three-storied pavilions, towers, gates and were crowned by cupolas with hanging bells. The doors and windows, pillars and beams have bas relieves (sculptures in guilded copper). In the middle vihara is a statue of Tara Bodhisatva and to the right (is) one of Avlokiteshwar”.
Other history books too talk of Tiladhak monastery, on the western side of Nalanda, as having four big halls and three staircases. It is said the mahavihara or university was built by one of the descendants of Magadha ruler Bimbisara. The monastery was decorated with copper and also had small copper bells that gently chimed in the breeze.
For months now, the excavation has been unearthing these stories. Apart from the mound that is now being dug up, Telhara has six other mounds — five of which have settlements and one which is partially elevated.
Atul Kumar Verma, director (archaeology) of the Bihar government’s Department of Art and Culture, says, “Since the excavations suggest that Telhara might have been a contemporary of Nalanda, it is quite possible that it was either an independent university for specialized education or that students graduating from Nalanda University would come here for specialized study. It is a great feeling to see the place emerging as the next big find after Nalanda. It has also aroused great curiosity and attracted even the likes of Nobel laureate Amartya Sen.” Sen wrote in the visitors’ book: “What a wonderful site, really thrilling! And so skillfully excavated and restored.”
“We have found the courtyard that might have been an extension of the platform Hiuen Tsang had described,” Nand Gopal, camp in-charge at the Telhara site, says, peering into his optical line meter that’s mounted on a tripod.
In more recent times, it was A M Broadley, then magistrate of Nalanda, who in 1872 wrote about “Tilas-akiya” as a university and site of learning. British army officer and archaeologist Sir Alexander Cunningham, who visited the place between 1872 and 1878, wrote about inscriptions describing “Teliyadhak” as a place that had seven monasteries and which matched Hiuen Tsang’s account. A statue of the 12-armed Avlokiteshwar Buddha found from a Tiladhak site is at the Indian Museum in Kolkata. Perhaps the best known Pala sculpture from Telhara is now in Rietberg Muzeum, Zurich.
Though there was this and more proof that Telhara could be sitting on a glorious past, it wasn’t until December 2009 that the excavations finally began. Telhara panchayat head Awadhesh Gupta claims to have been the one who got things started.
“We all knew Telhara was once a great seat of learning, but nobody did anything to prove it. In 1995, I approached the Congress government requesting that the place be excavated but got no assurance. When Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar visited the site in 2007, I put up this demand once again. The villagers were not happy with me. They thought I should have demanded something more concrete than just the digging of a mound.”
But the mukhiya may have had the last laugh. Villagers now talk about Telhara being part of the Nalanda-Rajgir circuit and how that could bring them jobs and better opportunities. “We hope the site is conserved and clubbed with Nalanda to attract tourists. The site has already given temporary jobs to 70 villagers,” says Anil Kumar, a villager.
It was a useful mound, no doubt.
Experts associated with its excavation are now claiming that the university originated in the Kushan period.
Atul Kumar Verma said that in the recent excavation, archaeologists have found some bricks of very large size (42x36x6.5cm) substantiating that the university belonged to the Kushan period. “Bricks of the Kushan period were quite large from other dynasties, including the Gupta and Pala periods,” said Verma.
While the Kushan period is considered to be 1st century AD, the Gupta dynasty ruled from 3rd to 6th century AD.
SEALS AND SEALING
The recovery of over 100 terracotta seals and sealings from the Gupta and Pala periods provides strong evidence of this being a Buddhist university. Besides seals of the chakra flanked by two deers, other seals have inscription of Buddhist mantras. Seals of Gaj-Lakshmi and flying birds were also found. Some inscriptions that have not yet been deciphered would be sent to Mysore for deciphering.
Just above the ashen layer — said to be proof of Turkish general Bakhtiyar Khilji having destroyed the monastery — is the sanctum sanctorum of three Buddhist shrines, each measuring 3.15 square metres. A big platform, found just below this ashen layer, is said to have accommodated over 1,000 monks.
CELLS FOR TEACHERS
The excavation has so far revealed 11 cells of 4 square meters each. It is believed that these were faculty quarters. There is evidence of bricks from the Gupta and Pala periods.
COPPER BELL CHIMES
The excavation revealed several broken pieces of small bells. Parts of molten copper also suggest that the monastery was well-decorated.
A stone inscription in Sanskrit (early Nagari script), probably written just before the destruction of the Tiladhak mahavihara, says, “He who tries to destroy this monastery is either a donkey or a bull”. Below the stone inscription are images of the two animals.
FASTING BUDDHA AND VOTIVE STUPA
A miniature terracotta image of a fasting Buddha from the Pala period is a rare find. A six-foot-tall votive stupa from the Pala period suggests the prevalence of Buddhism.
Bone tools and pottery shards of Northern Black Polished Ware points to this being a settlement in the Mauryan period.
Among the over 15 stone sculptures found at the site are a red sandstone sculpture of Bodhisatva, Avlokiteshwar, Manjusri and the Buddha in his ‘earth witness’ mudra. A black stone statue of Buddha in abhay mudra (fearless mode) from the Pala period has been found. The red sandstone Bodhisatva sculpture is believed to be from the Gupta period. Some sculptures of Hindu deities such as Uma Maheshwar and Ganesh and Vishnu from the later Pala period were also found. The presence of a Yamantaka sculpture is evidence of Tantric Buddhism at the monastery.
India’s first Islamic Mausoleum Was Built on Top of Ancient Hindu Temple
About 6 km west of Qutab Minar in Delhi, there lies a tomb called Sultan Ghari which is believed to be the final resting place of Prince Nasir’ud-Din Mahmud, the uncrowned eldest son of Sultan Shamsuddin Iltutmish of the Slave Dynasty built in 1231 AD. It was the first Islamic Mausoleum built in India.
However, engraved symbols of animals, Shiva Linga and the Sanskrit inscriptions on ceiling tell a different tale altogether. The beams of the octagonal crypt bear figures of Kamadhenu, the celestial cow and Varaha, the wild boar reincarnation of Lord Vishnu. These two animals were a royal Hindu insignia and considering the ideology of Islam against idols and the immense hatred towards pigs, it is very unlikely that such statues would adorn the inside of a Muslim tomb.
Iltutmish invaded eastern part of India in 1225 AD which resulted in signing of a treaty between him and Iwaz Khalji, the ruler of Eastern India. After a few successive battles, Prince Nasiru’d-Din Mahmud was appointed governor of Lakhnauti province who later merged the province of Oudh with Bengal and Bihar, gaining him the title of “Malik-us-Sharq” (King of the East) by his father.
The Prince was killed in 1229 AD after a very short rule of 18 months. Grieved by the death of his favourite son, Iltutmish commissioned the Sultan Ghari Tomb. After Iltutmish’s death in 1236, his daughter, Razia Sultana ruled the kingdom until her defeat and death in 1240 AD.
While ASI is pretty much silent on this matter, historians and archaeologists justify these carvings as new buildings being fashioned out of the debris of some Hindu buildings or that the workmen may have been Hindus and would have built the tomb in Hindu style. Their arguments in favor of the tomb fail here because no building worth its name can be build out of old debris and no workman would even dare to fashion a building for which he is hired according to his taste rather than that of the owner’s.
The building is also of an octagonal shape which is another Hindu specialty.
Due to indifference or perhaps purposeful negligence by the government and ASI, we may never know the reality and history of this ancient Hindu temple.
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