Sunday 10 November 2013

The dreams of a Sultan

The dreams of Tipu Sultan or Tippuvina Kanasugalu is a Kannada  play written by playwright Girish Karnad. The play traces the story of Tipu and follows the last days of the Tiger of Mysore.
However, this post is not about this play. It is about the dreams of Tipu Sultan and it is these dreams that Tipu compiled in the form of a book.
The book, as can be expected, is not in India. It was looted from Srirangapatna along with other books, artifacts and other items by the British when they killed Tipu and overran Srirangapatna his capital on May 4, 1799.
The book, -dreams of Tipu-was not in the library or the royal library in Srirangapatna. It was discovered hidden in the bed chamber of the Sultan in his palace Lal Mahal the ruins of which can be seen today in front of the Sri Ranganatha Swamy Temple.
Tipu has recorded 38 dreams in this book. He was always careful t ensure that nobody saw the book or had an occasion to read it. He kept it so well hidden that even his personal servants and body guards could not locate it.
What makes this book unique is that it can give us a clear and umambiguous portrait of the man that Tipu was, his inner conflict and his ambition.
The dreams are recorded in flawless Persian, a tribute to the language skills of the Sultan. Most of the dreams are about his conflict with the British and the volatile political situation of the times.
The dreams tell us that Tipu was as human as anyone like us and that the hectic life he lived was reflected in his dreams too. The dreams are the inner reflection of his personality and a mirror to his unconscious self.
The dreams are in his won handwriting and reflect his inner most thoughts. It was discovered in his bed chamber after a thorough search  by none other than Col. Kirkpatirck who was assigned the task of  indexing Tipu’s library.
Habibullah, the Munshi of Tipu Sultan, was present at the
time the manuscript was discovered. But he too had only heard of the dreams and never seen it.
Kirkpatrick, in his letters and book on Tipu’s Library, acknowledges the fact that Habibullah knew of the manuscript but Tipu had concealed it even from him as he did not want anyone to read it.
Habibullah told Kirkpatrick that Tipu Sultan was always anxious to hide the book from the view of anyone who happened to approach him while he was either
reading or writing in it.
Later, on April 23, 1805 this book was presented in
the name of the Marquis Wellesley to Hugh Inglis, Chairman of the Court of  Directors of the East India Company, by Major Alexander Beatson.
This was how the book was first taken to the library of the India office in London and subsequently it became a part of the collection of the British Museum. A copy of this is available in the Bibliotheque Nationale of Paris which was made for it in 1822
The dreams and other notes in the book are recorded on the first thirty- two pages and again on eleven pages towards the end of it. In between, a large number of pages are left blank. The size of the register is 7 inches by 5I inches.
The first of the recorded dreams is dated 1785 and  the last 1798, just a year before he was killed in the fourth and final war with the British. The dreams cover thirteen years of his reign. By the way, Tipu has himself given his own
interpretations to some dreams.
Six of these dreams (Nos. 12, 13, 14, 17, 24 and 28) have
been translated by Beatson and given in the form of an
appendix to his book.
Beatson notes in his “ A View of the Origin and Conduct of War with Tippoo Sultauny London, 1800, p. 196”,  that “...the destruction of Caufirs (English) were subjects of a sleeping (no less than) that of his waking thoughts.” 
The language is good but on some places defective and even ungrammatical. But what has astonished its readers is that it has some spelling mistakes. Was this because Tipu woke himself forcefully from his sleep after his dreams and immediately recorded them without caring for either language or spelling. He himself agrees that he has recorded some of the dreams as soon as he woke up.
There are several dreams which give Tipu tidings of general success and victory in war such as dreams II, IV, V, VI, IX, XVI, XVII, XVIII, XIX, XX, XXII,
XXIII, XXVII, XXVIII, and XXXIII. Many dreams show us Tipu’s intense love and veneration for the Prophet,
Hazrat Ali, other Muslim saints and even sufis. This can be seen in dreams VIII, X, XII, XXXI XXXIV and
In some of the dreams, Tipu says he write them down almost immediately after he woke up. The Sultan also  interpreted some of his dreams as in dreams  
XIII, XVII, XXVIII and XXXI. Some of the interpretations are highly interesting and they show us the interpretative ability of the Sultan. For example, in dream XIII Tipu
interprets the woman in man's dress as the Marhattas, against whom he was waging a war at that time. In
dream XXVIII the three silver trays of  fresh dates are seen as the dominions of his three enemies, the British, the Marhattas and the Nizam, which he hoped, would fall into his hands.

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