Currently reading : Tipu’s Tiger
Tipu’s tiger currently resides in London’s V and A museum where I went to visit it last week. This strange wooden object was the handmade toy for Tipu Sultan the 18th century ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore in India (which today is in the Indian state of Karnataka). Made in 1790 this mechanical toy shows a tiger savaging a life sized British man. The mechanics of the toy lets out groans from the English man and makes his arm move. The tiger lets out grunts. Additionally a flap on the side of the tiger turns up to reveal a keyboard of a small pipe organ with 18 notes.
This toy represents Tipu’s hostility towards the British of the East India Company, a commercial enterprise with its own armies and civil administration, which during the late 18th century was engaged in extending British dominion in India.
Tipu also used the image of the tiger throughout his emblem, applying tiger motifs on the uniforms of his soldiers, on weapons and decorated his palace with them. His throne was supposed to have rested upon a similar life sized tiger covered in gold.
Tipu was brought up with extremely anti British feelings. Murals throughout his palace and the streets of his City Seringapatam were commissioned by him of European but mainly British men being attacked, executed, tortured and humiliated by humans, tigers and elephants.