Crime and Punishment: The Tipu way…

Tipu’s times were barbarous, and that the most atrocious punishments were frequently inflicted on malefactors. Even impaling was occasionally resorted to and Levin Bowring who narrated these punishments was shown at Bednur the Shila Battery Hill, where he saw the hole in the ground in which was inserted the stake (shula) for impaling victims, who were then hoisted and held up in terror as a warning to other criminals.

This punishment was inflicted in the time of the Ikkeri Rajas, shortly before Haidar captured the town. So this means that harsh punishments like these were the normal for those times and Tipu only carried on those traditions.

It has been mentioned that those who conspired against him were put in a cage. This was an imitation of Haidar’s treatment of Khande Rao. The unhappy victims were allowed half a pound of rice a day, with salt, but no water, so they soon expired under this frightful ordeal.

There were other punishments nearly equally dreadful, such as making men bestride a wooden horse on a saddle studded with sharp spikes. On a spring being touched the horse of torture reared, and the spikes penetrated the unfortunate wretches. A more common mode of punishment was to bind tightly the hands and feet of condemned men, and then to attach them by a rope to the foot of an elephant, which, being urged forwards, dragged them after it on the rough ground, and painfully terminated their existence.

Some again were ruthlessly thrown into the dens of tigers to be devoured, and it is said that three of Tipu’s high officials met with this fate. Cutting off of ears and noses was a general practice, and was frequently inflicted on defaulters, thieves, and peccant subordinates.

Tipu was equally harsh on the erring staff in his government. An interesting letter of his has come down to us that was sent by him as an answer to Mirza Muhammad Ali, keeper of the elephant stables at Nagar, who complained that the accountants attached to him had become lazy and were not performing their duties effectively.

Tipu writes – “…..This [representation] has caused [us] the utmost surprise. Whenever the Mutusaddies(accountants) ¬†belonging to your department cease to yield you proper obediance, you must give them a severe flogging……”


About Olikara

An engineer, history buff, collector of South Indian antiques.
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