‘Tipu’s Tiger’ is an awesome, life-size beast of carved and painted wood, seen in the act of devouring a prostrate European in the costume of the 1790s. It has cast a spell over generations of admirers since 1808, when it was first displayed in the East India Company’s museum. Concealed in the bodywork is a mechanical pipe-organ with several parts, all operated simultaneously by a crank-handle emerging from the tiger’s shoulder. Turning the handle pumps … bellows and controls the air-flow to simulate the growls of the tiger and cries of the victim.
Tipu Sultan, the ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore in India for whom the automaton was built, identified himself with tigers; his personal epithet was ‘The Tiger of Mysore,’ his soldiers were dressed in ‘tyger’ jackets, his personal symbol invoked a tiger’s face through clever use of calligraphy and the tiger motif is visible on his throne, and other objects in his personal possession [Source]. The death of a young Englishman named Munro carried off by a man-eating tiger in 1792 was the inspiration … Munro was the son of Sir Hector Munro, one of the East India Company’s generals. His death was seen by [Tipu] … as divine retribution against the British invaders [Source - see also documentary].