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Four Centuries of Paintings and Manuscripts from the Indian Subcontinent

CAT. NO. 67

Nishan-e Haidari (A History of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan) Southern Indian (Vellore), 1805

Manuscript written in nasta’liq script in 12 lines on European paper, watermarked with Britannia and crown; brown gilt-stamped and painted morocco binding with flap | 312 fols; 30.8 × 18.3 cm | RCIN 1005027

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This manuscript contains biographies of Tipu Sultan and his father Hyder Ali written in Persian after Tipu’s death by an Iranian, Mir Husayn Ali Khan Kermani, who had served at Tipu’s court from 1781 to 1786. After the fall of Seringapatam in 1799, Tipu’s sons and daughters and many courtiers were sent to the nearby city of Vellore where they lived under custody of the East India Company. It was in Vellore that Mir Husayn Ali Khan, also a pensioner of the British, penned  his history. Although not produced as a commission, the author confidently asserted his ‘hope and trust’ that Tipu’s sons would reward his scholarly labours.[216] This volume, dated 17 July 1805 in Vellore, was bound in brown leather with gold tooling for Tipu’s son Jami al-Din Muhammad.

Although the author gives a sympathetic portrayal of Tipu Sultan, the text conveys the impression that each of his actions was based on religious intolerance. Mir Husayn Ali Khan only spent five years at Tipu’s court and was evidently not well informed as many of the dates are wrong, events anachronistic and he provides little information on the state of Mysore, its administration or army.[217] This manuscript of his text was used by H.S. Reid to prepare an English translation for the Oriental Translation Fund, published in 1834.[218] A second and better known translation by Colonel W. Miles was published in two parts, History of Hydur Naik (1842) and History of Tipu Sultan (1864). Their representation of Tipu not as the shahid (‘martyr’) venerated by his followers, but as ‘a bigoted Musalman’ and ‘a great tyrant’[219] helped to shape the subsequent portrayal of him in histories of South Asia as a cruel Islamic fundamentalist, one which is now being reassessed by scholars.[220]

  • [216] Miles 1958, p. 136.

    [217] Hasan 1975, p. 401.

    [218] See Waley 1992, p. 13 and Storey 1927, p. 774.

    [219] Miles 1958, p. ix. 220 See Moienuddin 2000. 

  • Presented to William IV by Jami al-Din Muhammad (c.1792–1842), 12th son of Tipu Sultan, c.1832–4