Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Gory Mauling Immortalized in Tippoo's Tiger Automata - Circa 1795

This life size automata is no mere tiger-mauling-soldier effigy as it is also a musical instrument. While the tiger roars, the curious onlooker can play a song on the tiger's belly keyboard as the soldier raises his hand in futile defense and internal bellows emit his death wail. Tippoo's Tiger is almost too good to believe!

Do you think the people of India were trying to send a message to the colonial Scots?

The note which accompanied this remarkable object to England described it as a 'Man Tyger Organ,' a life-size, painted wooden effigy of a tiger (emblem of Tipu Sultan) mauling a European soldier. The design is said to have been inspired by the death of a young Scotsman, the son of General Sir Hector Munro, who had vanquished Haidar Ali and his son, Tipu, in 1781.

It contains a pipe and bellows mechanism, operated by turning a handle on the tiger's left side. Air is pumped into the bellows within its body and expelled as a wailing shriek and a loud roar. The victim's hand moves up and down and tunes may be played on the button keys in the tiger's side. It has been suggested that a Frenchman at Tipu's court may have assisted in assembling the mechanism. The internal mechanism has been much restored, and may originally have been
operated by pulling cords attached to the crank shaft inside.