Organized Panel Session
Tipu Sultan occupies an almost mythical place in the English East India Company's memory and its attempts to conquer different parts of the Indian subcontinent at the end of the 18th century. Political historians, examining Mysore's relations with the French, the Ottomans, and its immediate neighbors within India, have produced a bipolar narrative of Tipu, as a modernizer or as a despot or something in between. Through an engagement with unexamined Persianate versified histories from Tipu Sultan's Mysore, this article considers the techniques and conventions of memorializing affinity in late eighteenth-century South Asia, when new political regimes across the globe were compelled to reinvent themselves. Moving beyond Tipu's political biographies that often rely on the dominant, Persian chronicle form, or affirm Tipu's genius in state-making through European-language archives, this article recasts Mysore and the Karnatak region within broader literary histories of the Persianate in the Deccan. Rather than dismissing vernacular versified histories as 'untrue' representations of Tipu's political encounters, I will argue that this irreverent mode of expression made a claim to historicity. This article examines the form and content of these versified histories, turning to narrations of specific battles, diplomatic missions, and courtly gatherings in and around Mysore. I will close by tracing these conventions to older templates of memorializing political relationships in the sixteenth century Deccan and conclude by placing Mysore's literati, not as an anomaly, but as inheritors and innovators in a temporally long, and spatially broad tradition of literary practices in southern India.