Tipu’s adoption of the tiger emblem took several forms. The most well known are the natural representation of the Tiger as decoration(usually the head) and the tiger stripe alone. The tiger stripe is commonly called the babri (or bubri/bubris) from babur meaning tiger.
Two calligraphic designs bearing the tiger head were also used, one a tughra, a design in alphabets, made of the name ‘Tipu Sultan’ used as his seal, and the other a tiger mask made of the words ‘asad allah ul-Ghalib’ meaning ‘the victorious Lion of God’. Tipu was obsessed with Tigers and the tiger stripe appeared on his coins, walls, tent hangings, flags and even on his betel nut container. The bubri was stamped on his book bindings and even appeared as the royal watermark on his paper. He wore dresses on bubri patterned cloth. A well known artefact from his palace is the mechanical man eating tiger, now in the V&A museum in london.
Kate Brittlebank in ‘Tipu Sultan’s search for legitimacy’ concludes that Tipu would have aspired to convey both to his subjects as well as his enemies his enormous power, a power which in the mind of the South Indian both Hindu and Muslim was synonymous with the power of the Gods, the sakti of the warrior Goddess Chamundi and the barakat of Ali, the archetypal Muslim warrior, whose name is invoked by the devout in battle.
Several paintings of Tipu fighting a tiger barehanded are seen, and almost all these paintings are post Tipu. We do not know for sure if Tipu fought a Tiger barehanded but oral tradition recounts an encounter between himself and a tiger in the forests around Hyderabad when he was sent there by Haidar Ali to negotiate a treaty with Hyderabad. However this legend was prevalent in Tipu’s lifetime itself as can be observed from a mural seen painted on the ceiling of the Narasimha temple at Sibi, Tumkur constructed between 1795 – 1798 A.D. depicting a hunting scene with Tipu shown in the heat of action slaying a tiger with his sword single handedly.
The tiger motif is thus most powerully symbolic of the syncretic religious environment of those days and Tipu’s projection as a Muslim ruler in a predominantly Hindu domain.