Saturday, February 23, 2008

Tipoo's Tiger

There's this remarkable toy made for Tipoo Sultan popularly called as Tipu's Tiger and currently housed at Victoria and Albert Musuem.Its memoranda when it reached London read:

This piece of mechanism represents a royal Tyger in the act of devouring a prostrate European. There are some barrels in imitation of an Organ, within the body of the Tyger. The sounds produced by the Organ are intended to resemble the cries of a person in distress intermixed with the roar of a Tyger. The machinery is so contrived that while the Organ is playing, the hand of the European is often lifted up, to express his helpless and deplorable condition. The whole of this design was executed by Order of Tippoo Sultaun.
The object is in fact not a merely a wooden effigy but also a musical instrument and it confronts us with a number of intriguing possibilities:
(a ) Is it the memento of an actual occurence- the relic of a ghastly incident in early history
(b) Is it a royal toy designed to boost some morale in war?
(c) Only a curiosity of art-history?
(d) or does it symbolise the long-cherised hopes and national asiprations?
Given how much I like clerical language I shall go with the logbook of the library when they received this piece: "July 29th,1808. Recd. Tipoo's Musical Tiger"

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