Thursday, November 18, 2010

Did Tipu massacre 700 Iyengar men, women & kids?

Deepavali, the festival of lights, is observed as Dark Day even now by their descendants

Less than three weeks from now will occur Naraka Chaturdashi, the famous festival of lights, but Mandyam Iyengars don't celebrate it; they observe it as a Dark Day. It was on this day over 200 years ago that Tipu Sultan herded nearly 700 men and women belonging to this community and put them to a cruel death, according to two Mysore-based scholars who have more than academic interest in this particular aspect of history.

Dr MA Jayashree and MA narasimhan, whose close relation with the Wadiyars of Mysore goes back to more than 150 years, have brought out this fact in a paper they jointly presented at a seminar of significance at Dhvanyaloka, Mysore, not too long ago. Their all-important observations went unrecorded in the main due to poor media coverage of the seminar what was essentially academic in character. The ongoing animated debate on Tipu, set off by Minister Shankara Murthy, who has
since apologised for what he said, provides an opportunity to highlight what the two scholars describe as "the forgotten chapter in the history of Mysore".

In their detailed account of the event, the couple says that the mass killing of Mandyam Iyengars, related to Tirumaliengar, the Pradhan of Mysore (referred to by the British as Tirumala Row) and living between Mandya and Srirangapatna, is very much a fact of history, not fiction created by the
enemies of Tipu. Iyengars who belong to to Bharadwaja gotra, the lineage of the Pradhan, stay away from Deepavali celebrations because it was on the same day that Tipu Sultan killed their ancestors.
Every child of those families is told about the bloody event that day, the paper points out.

The heroic role that dowager queen Rani Lakshammanni and her relentless battle for the restoration of the throne during the period of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, is not adequately mentioned (except in the three-volume History of Mysore by Hayavadana Rao). "It is a pity that her persistent effort and courage despite being confined behind the curtains of the royal palace and constantly thratened by the mercurial temper of Tipu Sultan in bringing about the promise that she had made to her husband Immadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar, finds scant mention by the historians. We do not even have an authentic biography of this grand dame of Mysore who lived most of her life under house arrest," it says.

Historians have not done justice to the pradhans of Mysore either, Dr Jayashree and Nrasimhan complain, adding that Without Tirumalaiengar and his brother Narayan Row, Lakshmmanni could not have achieved her cheirshed goal. "The history of the pradhans is all the more endearing to us for we belong to Tirumalaiengar's family.

What was the provocation for Tipu to put the 700 members of this family to sword? Though Lakshammanni begins her quest for the restoration of the throne from the ascension of Hyder Ali to the throne, she started negotiating with the British in the 1760's withthe help of Tirumala Row and Narayana Row. She had assured the two brothers of the pradhanship of Mysore and one-tenth of the income of the state as their salary in perpetuity, should they succeed in their endeavour. On coming to know of this, Hyder imprisoned all their relatives.

It was in 1790's that Tipu Sultan, on coming to know of the agreement  between Gen. Harris, the then Governor of Madras, and Tirumaliyengar, herded the latter's relatives for decimation. "There is no mention of this in any history book, but 200 years after the horror, the Mandyam  Iyengars do not celebrate the festival. This itself is a strong indication how true the event is and how strongly they feel about the cruel end their ancestors met with for no fault of theirs," the couple points out.

Narasimhan, who is the superintendent of Jaganmohan Art Gallery, and his wife Jayashree identify themselves a a "group of people who are trying to set down the norms for re-writing of the hisotry of India with an Indian perspective" as from the Moghul historians downwards to the historians of the colonial and modern period, there seems to be a gradual polarisation of presentation, which is "glaringly biased".

"It somehow slips in to a mode where the conquerors are heaped with all the encomiums and the vanquished is made to shouler all the opprobrium the histoirans see and create," the couple says. Questioning the stand of noted historian Romilla Thapar that history has to be read in between the lines (of inscriptions), it depcrecates the tendency to brush aside folklore and tradition, "the backbone of Indian history".

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