He was called the Tiger of Mysore and true to the adage he was a tiger in real sense of the word. The British feared him and the Nizam of
never felt secure with him. The Marathas too were wary of him. Hyderabad
Having killed a tiger during his youth, he was known for his bravery and patriotism. One of his everlasting ambition was to throw out the British from
. No wonder, he was the most discussed personality of the India British Empire in the late 1700s.
Tipu Sultan, as he was called, was perhaps one of the most illustrious rulers of
. During a hunting expedition when he was young he had singlehandedly fought a tiger. The people had conferred on him the title Tiger. Mysore
Tipu and his father Hyder Ali had instinctively sensed that the British and not native rulers of
were the main enemy. Both fought long and hard to throw the British out of India . India
Soon after Hyder Ali’s death, the mantel of the
kingdom had fallen on Tipu Sultan. Tipu had tried to stitch together an alliance against the British but he failed. Mysore
His request to the French Emperor, Napoleon, for help to oust the British from
too did not bear any fruit though Napolean had promised him help. When the final war of India took place in 1799, Tipu was alone and he was betrayed by one of his own men and he met a heroic death in his capital Srirangapatna on May 4, 1799. Mysore
Tipu had such a deep hatred of the British that he had got a special mechanical contraption made in which a tiger sat on a fallen British soldier and roared. It was made of wood and painted in several colours. There was small keyboard with 18 notes and when pressed, it created the roar of a tiger.
This contraption and several other personal articles had the motif of a tiger which was Tipu’s favourite symbol.
When Srirangapatna fell, the British and their allies went on a looting spree. They first ran to the palaces of Tipu and his Treasury and picked up whatever items they could lay their hands on.
The British discovered this contraption in Tipu’s summer palace,
The then Governor General of the East India Company at Madras, Lord Mornington, sent this device to Britain where it was initially to be exhibited at the Tower of London.
When it arrived in Britian, the device was shown to the people who were led to believe that this was the extent of hatred that one of the Indian Kings had for
. In 1808 it came to be exhibited at the Britain . Subsequently, it was placed at the office of the East India Company in Tower of London where it became a prized exhibit. London
In 1880, the exhibit, which by then had been drawing crowds, was shifted to the
Victoria and . It is now placed in the section called Imperial courts of south Albert Museum . India
The device has drawn the curiosity of several authors and painters. The first description of the device is given by an aide of the Governor General. He says. “In a room appropriated for musical instruments was found an article which merits particular notice, as another proof of the deep hate, and extreme loathing of Tippoo Saib towards the English. This piece of mechanism represents a royal Tyger in the act of devouring a prostrate European. There are some barrels in imitation of an Organ, within the body of the Tyger. The sounds produced by the Organ are intended to resemble the cries of a person in distress intermixed with the roar of a Tyger. The machinery is so contrived that while the Organ is playing, the hand of the European is often lifted up, to express his helpless and deplorable condition. The whole of this design was executed by Order of Tippoo Sultaun. It is imagined that this memorial of the arrogance and barbarous cruelty of Tippoo Sultan may be thought deserving of a place in the
.” Tower of London
James Salmond was the first person to paint this device in 1800. This painting was for his book “A Review of the Origin, Progress and Result, of the Late Decisive War in
with Notes.” Mysore
When the device was kept for public viewing in India House on
Leanden Hall Street, London, visitors frequently turned the crank handle of the device so that the arm of the European would rise and the tiger would roar. Even the French writer Gustave Flaubert saw the exhibit and was impressed. By them this device came to be called The Tiger and the Thistle>
Sometime after 1843, the crank handle disappeared and the tiger stopped roaring. In 1858,
formally took over the East India Company and all its assets. In 1874, the tiger then found its den at the Britain India Museum in South Kensington, . London
India Museum came to an end in 1879 and several exhibits, including the tiger, was moved to the Victoria and . During World War 2, a German bomb fell on the roof of the museum and the wooden casing of the devoice was shattered. Albert Museum
When the World War ended, the wooden pieces were put back together and the tiger was being to being exhibited. In 1955, it was exhibited at the
Museum of Modern Art in . New York
The device is believed to have suffered irreparable damage when it was dropped ion the floor by a person incharge of cleaning it. Since then , the tiger has stopped roaring.
Today, the entire device is kept in a glass enclosure in the
Victoria and . A replica, albeit a smaller one, is kept in the museum in Albert Museum . Bangalore
It is a sad day for all Indians that a device that symbolised Tipu’s ambition is still lying in the heart of the country he so assiduously sought to expel from his homeland. Is is not time for the Government to get its act together and get back the Tiger. Meanwhile, the tiger contiunes to be conficned in a glass cage. What an irony.