#BBCtrending: Was India's Tipu Sultan a hero or a despot?

A drawing of Tipu Sultan Image copyright Thinkstock

Tipu Sultan - ruler of the historical Indian kingdom of Mysore - has been trending on Twitter in India. He is famous for fighting the British - but was he a hero, or a villain?

He died more than 200 years ago, but you'd hardly know it. Since the country's annual Republic Day celebrations on Sunday, Tipu Sultan has been trending on Twitter in India, with more than 10,000 tweets and a heated debate about how he should be remembered. It was sparked by a Republic Day parade float from Karnataka - the modern state which includes his old kingdom - which featured a large sculpture of Tipu Sultan brandishing his trademark sword, together with his other trademark - a tiger.

"The majority of Indians look at him as a hero, but his legacy remains controversial," says BBC Monitoring's Vikas Pandey in Delhi. Indian school students learn about Tipu Sultan as a brave ruler who courageously fought the British colonialists at the end of the 18th Century. This image was reinforced by a popular drama series, The Sword of Tipu Sultan, which aired on national TV in the 1990s. It showed dramatic scenes - like Tipu Sultan fighting tigers - lending him a kind of "cult status", says Pandey.

Image copyright AP
Image caption It was this float of Tipu Sultan that got the debate started on Twitter

Many of the comments on Twitter since Sunday refer to Tipu Sultan as a "patriot", and a "hero". But others are highly critical, calling him a "barbarian" and a "murderer". The standard view of Tipu Sultan is "a blatant distortion of history", says Sandeep Balakrishna, who tweeted a number of times on the issue, and is author of a new revisionist history Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore. He, and others, argue that Tipu Sultan - who was a Muslim - was a brutal ruler who razed villages, destroyed Hindu temples and Christian churches, and forced tens of thousands to convert to Islam.

Others dismiss this kind of talk as "Tipu bashing" by Hindu nationalists - who are highly active on Twitter in India. There are plans to name a new university in Karnataka after Tipu Sultan - as well as an online campaign to stop it - meaning this is a controversy that is likely to run.

Reporting by Cordelia Hebblethwaite

You can read the BBC Hindi version of this story here. All our stories are at BBC.com/trending

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