Friday, 18 October 2013

When Tipu's mother laughed at him

It was a rather difficult period for Tipu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore. Tipu had succeeded his father, Hyder Ali, and he was hemmed in by enemies on all sides.
The Mysore Kingdom that Tipu ruled was surrounded by the Peshwas, the Nizam of Hyderabad, the British and several smaller palegars who were enemies of the Sultan.
The fighter that he was, Tipu never once thought of entering into a peace treaty with his enemies. He was fiercely anti-British and he did his best to oust them from South India.
To this end, he tried to string together an alliance against the English but failed in the endeavour as neither the Peshwas nor the Nizam backed him. If the Nizam was afraid of the growing power of Tipu, the Peshwas were embroiled in a bitter internal war and  they had little time or thought of taking on the English.
While Hyder Ali had maintained the pretence of  paying nominal obscience to the Wodeyar, Tipu had thrown aside all these pretences and openly taken over power. He had forced the Maharaja and his retinue to come from Mysore to Srirangapatna where he kept them imprisoned in a palace. The only time the Maharaja was allowed to meet the subjects was during Dasara.
Since Mumadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar (1794-1868) was a child, his mother, Maharani Lakshmi Ammani, worked desperately to protect the royal family from the gaze of  Tipu. He also corresponded with the British and urged them to overthrow Tipu.
Tipu thus had a hard time in dealing with his enemies. He trusted only a few people and among them was a Madhwa Brahmin. This Brahmin was later to become  first Dewan of  the Wodeyars after the death of Tipu Sultan.
Hailing from a village near Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, he was regarded as the Chanakya of Karnataka.
He was respected by everybody who came across him. A scholar and linguist, he was staunchly loyal to the people he served be it Hyder Ali, Tipu or the Wodeyars.
He participated in many military campaigns and he was a shrewd strategist. He defeated Wellesley in the Battle of Sultanpet in 1799 and this was just a month before the British overran Srirangapatna and killed Tipu Sultan.
He was a multifaceted personality with extraordinary administrative skills. He had a prodigious memory and was a master of accounts. He was such an able hand that people instinctly trusted him.
Born in 1746, he lost his father at the age of eleven. However, this did not deter him and he took up job as an accountant with a grocer to support his family. The grocer was impressed with the skill of the young boy and he soon introduced him to his friend, Annadana Shetty, who supplied groceries to the palace establishment of Hyder Ali and also his Army.
Shetty introduced Purnaiah to Hyder and soon Hyder realised that he had a rare gem at hand. He employed Purnaiah who soon rose to become the head of Hyder’s Accounts Office.
Hyder was deeply impressed by Purnaiah’s neat and beautiful handwriting and his compact accounting methods. A master of several languages, Purnaiah was proficient in Kannada, Persian and Sanskrit. He understood English but could not read and write it.
When Hyder Ali died, this an kept his death a secret and sent for Tipu and crowned him the King of the Mysore Kingdom. No wonder, Tipu had deep and abiding respect to this man and he trusted him to the last.
This man is none other than Purnaiah, better known as Dewan Purnaiah. (1746 - 1812). His earlier name was Krishnacharya Purniya and Tipu fondly called him Mir Miran Purniya.
He ably served Hyder Ali, Tipu Sultan and Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar.
A very little known fact about Purnaiah is that he was an excellent diplomat. His skills of diplomacy was renown and Hyder and Tipu often depended on it for resolving tricky affairs of the State.  
He deftly handled the affairs of the State and he was tactful, sincere, honest and a man of  his word.
One day, Tipu was particularly worried over a matter of statecraft and after discussing it with his council of ministers, he turned to Purnaiah.
Tipu discussed the subject with Purnaiah and then told him that this matter could be sorted only through diplomacy and not by might. He stressed on the importance of diplomacy and asked Purnaiah to ensure that the issue was amicably resolved.
Purnaiah then discussed the issue threadbare with Tipu who once again requested him to take to diplomacy. Purnaiah then gently told Tipu that diplomacy could not help sort out the issue.
When a puzzled Tipu asked Purnaiah why, he replied, “I never lie and you will never tell the truth. So how can this issue be resolved with diplomacy.”
Abashed by the reply, Tipu quickly beat a hasty retreat into his private quarters. When news of this reached Fatima Fakhr-ud-Nisa, she burst into uncontrollable laughter. She marveled at the diplomatic manner in which Purnaiah had pointed out the Sultan’s faults.

She would recount this episode several times and burst into laughter. As far as Tipu was concerned, he was never out of  step while dealing with Purnaiah.


  1. Did Purnaiah also assist in handing of his fellow brahmins in broad daylight on Divali?

  2. please ask Mr. purnaiah himself the question.