Thread: Tipu Sword
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Old 10th January 2005, 03:06 PM   #3
Jim McDougall
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Hi Brian,
Thank you so much for posting this fascinating news item on one of the most prominant of the Mughal rulers, Tipu Sultan Shah Bahadur. It is outstanding to imagine a genuine example of one of the number of weapons attributed to Tipu being returned to its rightful home, and most interesting to know this particular sword was found in his bedchamber.

It is noted that the blade is unusually long, and likely an imported German blade. Tipu's father, Haider Ali, was known to have used German mercenaries, and many sabres of form interpreting European examples are termed in India 'Alamani' noting the German influence. Much of the training of troops and the manufacture of weaponry in Mysore in the time of Tipu was assisted by French advisors, which also may account for imported German blades as these trade blades were highly available.

Returning to the longer than usually seen blade on a sword found in the bedchamber of Tipu, the following note from Egerton (p.122) may offer some insight:
"...Tippoo lived in constant fear of assassination, and lest any person should fall upon him in bed, slept in a hammock which was suspended from the roof by chains in such a situation as to be invisible through the windows. After the capture of Seringapatam there were found in the hammock a sword and a pair of pistols".

Could it be that the unusually long sword blade (which seems awfully uncomfortable to sleep with!) may have been as with cavalry blades of the 18th century, for longer reach?

It is further noted by Egerton that, " the capture of Seringpatam a great variety of arms were tken. These were sent home by the East India Company, and many of them presented as trophies to distinguished persons".

The sword that is said to have been taken from Tipu at the time of his death at Seringpatam is shown in "Indian Arms & Armour", Dr.G.N.Pant, New Delhi, 1980,p.117 where it is stated that it is held in Her Majesties Collection at Windsor. A note concerning this sword in "Islamic Arms and Armour of Muslim India" by Dr. Syed Zafer Haider (Lahore, 1991, p.1991) describes the Persian distich inscribed in its blade: " blade that lays down the foundations of victory, is the lightning that flashes through the lives of infidels".

Another of his swords which is inscribed with his name and verses from the Holy Quran is displayed at the National Museum in New Delhi, and illustrated in Pant (op.cit. plate LXXIV). It is not stated when this particular sword was collected so it is unclear on its actual association with Tipu.

Dr. Haider in his book (p.143) notes that Tipu Sultan is buried beside his father at Seringapatam, and his epitaph reads:
"...the Light of Islam and Faith left this world; Tipu on account of the Faith of Mohammed became a martyr.
The sword was lost; the decendant of Haider received highest martyrdom".

It is important to recognize the profound reverence afforded to these very esteemed swords, not only of India, but such as those of Japan and many others, and it is good to see them find thier way home, with proper circumstances. Hopefully this sword will eventually find a successful outcome without being improperly exploited.

Best regards,
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