250 years ago, Tipu Sultan and his father Hyder Ali were not just fighting the British in India. They were also inspiring America’s independence movement.

In the Cesspool of Conspicuous Communalism that India is lapping around, is there anything more ridiculous than the sight of pusillanimous pygmies—who ducked the Quit India movement; grovelled before the British; disrespected free India’s national flag, anthem and the Constitution—throwing pebbles at the ‘Tiger of Mysore’, Tipu Sultan?

But this is how the Indian Peoples’ Party has discoloured, disfigured and distorted the eyes and minds of 31% of 80% of Indians.

By selectively repeating lies about a genuine 18th century hero—one of only four rulers in the history of all mankind to die on the battlefield—#TipuSultan has been turned into a thinly disguised stick to beat Muslims, using the backhand, in the 21st.

The 156 temples that flourished from #Srirangapatna to Srirangam; the 30 letters he wrote to the Shankaracharya of Shringeri; the Brahmins who were his key administrative associates, etc, all speak for Tipu’s secularism, benevolence and integrity.

Tipu’s connections with the French are well known. But a fine 2016 essay by Blake Smith in the online magazine Aeon throws light on how the “Americans’ rebellion against Britain in part grew out of the connections between America and the Subcontinent”.

In other words:

Tipu was not just the bulwark of the fight against the British for India’s independence—he and his father Hyder Ali were also the inspiration for America’s independence movement.

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# Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of America, sent a copy of the ‘Declaration of Independence’ to Tipu Sultan who, in return, sent money to the American freedom fighters.

# In 1781, the Pennsylvania legislature commissioned a warship named the ‘Hyder-Ally’ as a tribute to Tipu’s father, #HyderAli, demonstrating the affinity American elites felt for Mysore’s cause.

# In 1793, in a lawsuit (Williams vs Cabarrus) brought before a court in North Carolina, the two parties disputed a wager made on a horse race. One of the horses was named ‘Hyder Ali’ in tribute to the Sultan of Mysore.

# Between 1770-1800, both Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan were household name in American. Textbooks, including Jedidiah Morse’s influential ‘The American Universal Geography’ (1793), included sections on Mysore.

# Even after the US made peace with Britain in 1783, the American fascination with Hyder and Tipu lived on. Mysore’s rulers became familiar references in American newspapers, poems and everyday conversation.

The poet Philip Freneau, an ally of Thomas Jefferson, another of America’s Founding Fathers, wrote a poem in honour of Hyder Ali:

From an Eastern prince she takes her name,/Who, smit with freedom’s sacred flame,/ Usurping Britons brought to shame, / His country’s wrongs avenging.

In fact, writes Blake Smith: “If the sultan of Mysore had had a bit more luck, George Washington might be known as the Hyder Ali of North America.”

Photograph: courtesy Aeon

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