Tipu Sultan (20 November 1750 – 4 May 1799), (Sultan Fateh Ali Khan Shahab ) also known as the Tiger of Mysore, and Tipu Sahib, was a ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore. He was the eldest son of Sultan Hyder Ali of Mysore.
Tipu introduced a number of administrative innovations during his rule, including his coinage, a new Mauludi lunisolar calendar, and a new land revenue system which initiated the growth of Mysore silk industry. Tipu expanded the iron-cased Mysorean rockets and wrote the military manual Fathul Mujahidin, considered a pioneer in the use of rocket artillery.
He deployed the rockets against advances of British forces and their allies in their 1792 and 1799 Siege of Srirangapatna.
Napoleon, the French commander-in-chief who later became emperor, sought an alliance with Tipu. In alliance with the French in their struggle with the British, and in Mysore’s struggles with other surrounding powers, both Tipu and his father used their French trained army against the Marathas, Sira, and rulers of Malabar, Kodagu, Bednore, Carnatic, and Travancore.
During Tipu’s childhood, his father rose to take power in Mysore, and upon his father’s death in 1782, Tipu succeeded to a large kingdom bordered by the Krishna River in the north, the Eastern Ghats in the east, and the Arabian Sea in the west.
He won important victories against the British in the Second Anglo-Mysore War, and negotiated the 1784 Treaty of Mangalore with them after his father Hyder Ali suddenly died from cancer in December 1782 during the Second Anglo-Mysore War.
Tipu engaged in expansionist attacks against his neighbours. He remained an implacable enemy of the British East India Company, bringing them into renewed conflict with his attack on British-allied Travancore in 1789.
In the Third Anglo-Mysore War, Tipu was forced into the humiliating Treaty of Seringapatam, losing a number of previously conquered territories, including Malabar and Mangalore. He sent emissaries to foreign states, including the Ottoman Turkey, Afghanistan, and France, in an attempt to rally opposition to the British.
In the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War, the forces of the British East India Company, supported by the Marathas and the Nizam of Hyderabad, defeated Tipu and he was killed on 4 May 1799 while defending his fort of Srirangapatna. Tipu Sultan’s image in India is complicated where he is regarded both as a secular ruler who fought against British colonialism as well as an anti-Hindu tyrant.
Tipu Sultan was born on 20 November 1750 (Friday, 20th Dhu al-Hijjah, 1163 AH) at Devanahalli, in present-day Bengaluru Rural district, about 33 km (21 mi) north of Bengaluru city. He was named “Tipu Sultan” after the saint Tipu Mastan Aulia of Arcot. Tipu was also called “Fath Ali” after his grandfather Fatah Muhammad. Tipu was born at Devanhalli, the son of Haidar Ali.
Himself illiterate, Haidar was very particular in giving his eldest son a prince’s education and a very early exposure to military and political affairs. From the age of 17 Tipu was given independent charge of important diplomatic and military missions. He was his father’s right arm in the wars from which Haidar emerged as the most powerful ruler of southern India.
Tipu’s father, Hyder Ali, was a military officer in service to the Kingdom of Mysore; he rapidly rose in power, and became the de facto ruler of Mysore in 1761. Hyder himself claimed descent from the Quraysh tribe of Arabs, the tribe of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad.
Hyder’s father, Fatah Muhammad, was born in Kolar, and served as a commander of 50 men in the bamboo rocket artillery (mainly used for signalling) in the army of the Nawab of Carnatic. Fatah Muhammad eventually entered the service of the Wodeyar Rajas of the Kingdom of Mysore.
Tipu’s mother Fatima Fakhr-un-Nisa was the daughter of Mir Muin-ud-Din, the governor of the fort of Kadapa. Hyder Ali appointed able teachers to give Tipu an early education in subjects like Hindustani language (Hindi-Urdu), Persian, Arabic, Kannada, Quran, Islamic jurisprudence, riding, shooting and fencing.
Tipu’s wife was Sindh Sultan and grandson was Sahib sindh Sultan.
Tipu Sultan was instructed in military tactics by French officers in the employment of his father. At age 15, he accompanied his father against the British in the First Mysore War in 1766. He commanded a corps of cavalry in the invasion of Carnatic in 1767 at age 16. He also distinguished himself in the First Anglo-Maratha War of 1775–1779.
Alexander Beatson, who published a volume on the Fourth Mysore War entitled View of the Origin and Conduct of the War with Tippoo Sultaun, described Tipu Sultan as follows: “His stature was about five feet eight inches; he had a short neck, square shoulders, and was rather corpulent: his limbs were small, particularly his feet and hands; he had large full eyes, small arched eyebrows, and an aquiline nose; his complexion was fair, and the general expression of his countenance, not void of dignity”.
In 1779, the British captured the French-controlled port of Mahé, which Tipu had placed under his protection, providing some troops for its defence. In response, Hyder launched an invasion of the Carnatic, with the aim of driving the British out of Madras.
During this campaign in September 1780, Tipu Sultan was dispatched by Hyder Ali with 10,000 men and 18 guns to intercept Colonel Baillie who was on his way to join Sir Hector Munro. In the Battle of Pollilur, Tipu decisively defeated Baillie. Out of 360 Europeans, about 200 were captured alive, and the sepoys, who were about 3800 men, suffered very high casualties. Munro was moving south with a separate force to join Baillie, but on hearing the news of the defeat he was forced to retreat to Madras, abandoning his artillery in a water tank at Kanchipuram.
Tipu Sultan defeated Colonel Braithwaite at Annagudi near Tanjore on 18 February 1782. Braithwaite’s forces, consisting of 100 Europeans, 300 cavalry, 1400 sepoys and 10 field pieces, was the standard size of the colonial armies. Tipu Sultan seized all the guns and took the entire detachment prisoner. In December 1781 Tipu Sultan successfully seized Chittur from the British.
Tipu Sultan had thus gained sufficient military experience by the time Hyder Ali died on Friday, 6 December 1782 – some historians put it at 2 or 3 days later or before, (Hijri date being 1 Muharram, 1197 as per some records in Persian – there may be a difference of 1 to 3 days due to the Lunar Calendar).
Tipu Sultan realised that the British were a new kind of threat in India. He became the ruler of Mysore on Sunday, 22 December 1782 (The inscriptions in some of Tipu’s regalia showing it as 20 Muharram, 1197 Hijri – Sunday), in a simple coronation ceremony. He then worked to check the advances of the British by making alliances with the Marathas and the Mughals.
The Second Mysore War came to an end with the 1784 Treaty of Mangalore. It was the last occasion when an Indian king dictated terms to the British, and the treaty is a prestigious document in the history of India.
The war is also remembered for alleged excesses committed by Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan in Tanjore. During the period of occupation which lasted six months, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan are believed to have impoverished the country, destroying crops and cattle.
As late as 1785, the Dutch missionary Christian Friedrich Schwarz describes Tipu’s alleged abduction of 12,000 children from the region. The economic output of Tanjore is estimated to have fallen by 90% between 1780 and 1782.
The ravages of Hyder and Tipu were followed by alleged expeditions of plunder launched by the Kallars. The economic devastation wrought by these attacks was so severe that Tanjore’s economy did not recover until the start of the 19th century; the era is referred to in local folklore as the Hyderakalam.
Muhammad Falak Ali taught Tipu how to fight. While leading a predominantly Hindu country, Tipu remained strong in his Muslim faith, going daily to say his prayers and paying special attention to mosques in the area.
During his rule, he completed the project of Lal Bagh started by his father Hyder Ali, and built roads, public buildings, and ports in his kingdom.
His dominion extended throughout North Bangalore including the Nandi Hills and Chickballapur. His trade extended to countries such as Sri Lanka, Oman, Durrani Afghanistan, France, Ottoman Turkey and Iran. Under his leadership, the Mysore army proved to be a school of military science to Indian princes.
The serious blows that Tipu Sultan inflicted on the British in the First and Second Mysore Wars affected their reputation as an invincible power.
Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, the former President of India, in his Tipu Sultan Shaheed Memorial Lecture in Bangalore (30 November 1991), called Tipu Sultan the innovator of the world’s first war rocket.
Two of these rockets, captured by the British at Srirangapatna, are displayed in the Royal Artillery Museum in London. According to historian Dr Dulari Qureshi Tipu Sultan was a fierce warrior king and was so quick in his movement that it seemed to the enemy that he was fighting on many fronts at the same time. Tipu managed to subdue all the petty kingdoms in the south.
He defeated the Nizams and was also one of the few Indian rulers to have defeated British armies. He is said to have started a new coinage, calendar, and a new system of weights and measures mainly based on the methods introduced by French technicians.
He was well versed in Kannada, Urdu, Persian, Arabic, English and French. Tipu was supposed to become a Sufi, but his father Hyder Ali insisted he become a capable soldier and leader.
Both Hyder Ali ismaael and Tipu Sultan were independent rulers of Mysore, but claimed some degree of loyalty to the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II. Both of them are known to have maintained correspondence with the Mughal emperor. Unlike the Nawab of Carnatic, neither owed any allegiance to the Nizam of Hyderabad and often instead chose direct contact and relations with the Mughal emperor.
Immediately after his coronation, Tipu Sultan sought the investiture of the Mughal emperor. Nizam Ali Khan, the Nizam of Hyderabad, clearly expressed his hostility by dissuading the Mughal emperor and laying false claims onto Mysore. Disheartened but not disappointed, Tipu Sultan began to establish contacts with other Muslim rulers of that period.
After the eunuch Ghulam Qadir had Shah Alam II blinded on 10 August 1788, Tipu Sultan is believed to have broken into tears. After facing substantial threats from the Marathas, Tipu Sultan began to correspond with Zaman Shah Durrani, the ruler of the Afghan Durrani Empire, so they could defeat the British and Marathas. Initially, Zaman Shah agreed to help Tipu, but the Persian attack on Afghanistan’s Western border diverted its forces, and hence no help could be provided to Tipu.
In the year 1787, Tipu Sultan sent an embassy to the Ottoman capital Istanbul, to the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid I requesting urgent assistance against the British East India Company and had proposed an offensive and defensive consortium. Tipu Sultan requested the Ottoman Sultan to send him troops and military experts. Furthermore, Tipu Sultan also requested permission from the Ottomans to contribute to the maintenance of the Islamic shrines in Mecca, Medina, Najaf and Karbala.
However, the Ottomans were themselves at crisis and still recuperating from the devastating Austro-Ottoman War and a new conflict with the Russian Empire had begun, for which Ottoman Turkey needed British alliance to keep off the Russians, hence it could not risk being hostile to the British in the Indian theatre. Due to the Ottoman-inability to organise a fleet in the Indian Ocean, Tipu Sultan’s ambassadors returned home only with gifts from their Ottoman allies, this event caused his defeat and loss of much territory by the year 1792.
Nevertheless, Tipu Sultan’s correspondence with the Ottoman Turkish Empire and particularly it’s new Sultan Selim III continued till his final battle in the year 1799.
Tipu sought support from the French, who had been his traditional allies, aimed at driving his main rivals, the British East India Company, out of the subcontinent. But back in France, the French revolution had broken out, the ruling Bourbon family was executed and the country was in chaos, hence the French did not support him. Napoleon, while still not the Emperor of France, sought an alliance with Tipu Sultan.
Napoleon came as far as conquering Egypt in an attempt to link with Tipu Sultan against the British, their common enemy. In February 1798, Napoleon wrote a letter to Tipu Sultan appreciating his efforts of resisting the British annexation and plans, but this letter never reached Tipu and was seized by a British spy in Muscat. The idea of a possible Tipu-Napoleon alliance alarmed the British Governor General Sir Richard Wellesley (also known as Lord Wellesley) so much that he immediately started large scale preparations for a final battle against Tipu Sultan.
Both Tipu Sultan and Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte were defeated by the same person. In the Final siege and fall of Srirangapatna in 1799, General Arthur Wellesley led the British army into the City after the fall of Tipu Sultan. Arthur was the younger brother of Richard Wellesley, and was one of the British Generals in the Fourth Mysore War. Several years later in Europe, the same Arthur Wellesley, now the Duke of Wellington, led the armies of the Seventh Coalition and defeated the Imperial French army led by Napoleon Bonaparte in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
Like his father before him, Tipu Sultan maintained many embassies and made several contacts with Mohammad Ali Khan, ruler of the Zand Dynasty in Persia. Tipu Sultan also maintained correspondence with Hamad bin Said, the ruler of the Sultanate of Oman.
Regional interests and clever British diplomacy left Tipu with more enemies and betrayers, but no allies when he needed them the most – the final showdown with the British in the Fourth Mysore War.
The Maratha Empire, under its new Peshwa Madhavrao I, regained most of Indian subcontinent, twice defeating Tipu’s father, who was forced to accept Maratha Empire as the supreme power in 1764 and then in 1767. In 1767 Maratha Peshwa Madhavrao defeated both Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan and entered Srirangapatna, the capital of Mysore. Hyder Ali accepted the authority of Madhavrao who gave him the title of Nawab of Mysore.
However Tipu Sultan wanted to escape from the treaty of Marathas and therefore tried to take some Maratha forts in southern India. This brought Tipu in direct conflict with the Marathas, who sent an army towards Mysore under leadership of General Nana Phadnavis. The Marathas took many forts of Tipu Sultan in the Mysore region Badami, Kittur, and Gajendragad in June 1786. By the victory in this war, the border of the Maratha territory was extended to the Tungabhadra river. This forced Tipu to open negotiations with the Maratha leadership.
He sent two of his agents to the Maratha capital of Pune. The deal that was finalised resulted in the Marathas recovering their territories which had been invaded by Mysore. Furthermore, the Nizam of Hyderabad received Adoni and Mysore was obligated to pay 4.8 million rupees as a war cost to the Marathas, and an annual tribute of 1.2 million rupees; in return the Marathas recognised the rule of Tipu in the Mysore region.
In 1766, when Tipu Sultan was just 15 years old, he got the chance to apply his military training in battle for the first time, when he accompanied his father on an invasion of Malabar. After the incident- Siege of Tellicherry in Thalassery in North Malabar, Hyder Ali started losing his territories in Malabar.
Tipu came from Mysore to reinstate the authority over Malabar. After the Battle of the Nedumkotta (1789), due to the monsoon flood, the stiff resistance of the Travancore forces and news about the attack of British in Srirangapatnam he went back.
In 1789 Tipu Sultan disputed the acquisition by Dharma Raja of Travancore of two Dutch-held fortresses in Cochin. In December 1789 he massed troops at Coimbatore, and on 28 December made an attack on the lines of Travancore, knowing that Travancore was (according to the Treaty of Mangalore) an ally of the British East India Company. On account of the staunch resistance by the Travancore army, Tipu was unable to break through the Tranvancore lines and the Maharajah of Travancore appealed to the East India Company for help.
In response, Lord Cornwallis mobilised company and British military forces, and formed alliances with the Marathas and the Nizam of Hyderabad to oppose Tipu.
In 1790 the company forces advanced, taking control of much of the Coimbatore district. Tipu counterattacked, regaining much of the territory, although the British continued to hold Coimbatore itself. He then descended into the Carnatic, eventually reaching Pondicherry, where he attempted without success to draw the French into the conflict.
In 1791 his opponents advanced on all fronts, with the main British force under Cornwallis taking Bangalore and threatening Srirangapatna. Tipu harassed the British supply and communication and embarked on a “scorched earth” policy of denying local resources to the invaders.
In this last effort he was successful, as the lack of provisions forced Cornwallis to withdraw to Bangalore rather than attempt a siege of Srirangapatna. Following the withdrawal, Tipu sent forces to Coimbatore, which they retook after a lengthy siege.
The 1792 campaign was a failure for Tipu. The allied army was well-supplied, and Tipu was unable to prevent the junction of forces from Bangalore and Bombay before Srirangapatna. After about two weeks of siege, Tipu opened negotiations for terms of surrender.
In the ensuing treaty, he was forced to cede half his territories to the allies, and deliver two of his sons as hostages until he paid in full three crores and thirty lakhs rupees fixed as war indemnity to the British for the campaign against him. He paid the amount in two instalments and got back his sons from Madras.
In 1794, with the support of French Republican officers, Tipu helped found the Jacobin Club of Mysore for ‘framing laws comfortable with the laws of the Republic’ He planted a Liberty Tree and declared himself Citizen Tipoo.
One of the motivations of Napoleon’s Invasion of Egypt was to establish a junction with India against the British. Bonaparte wished to establish a French presence in the Middle East, with the ultimate dream of linking with Tippoo Sahib.
Napoleon assured to the French Directory that “as soon as he had conquered Egypt, he will establish relations with the Indian princes and, together with them, attack the English in their possessions.” According to a 13 February 1798 report by Talleyrand: “Having occupied and fortified Egypt, we shall send a force of 15,000 men from Suez to India, to join the forces of Tipu-Sahib and drive away the English.” Napoleon was unsuccessful in this strategy, losing the Siege of Acre in 1799, and at the Battle of Abukir in 1801.
After Horatio Nelson had defeated François-Paul Brueys D’Aigalliers at the Battle of the Nile in Egypt in 1798, three armies, one from Bombay, and two British (one of which included Arthur Wellesley), marched into Mysore in 1799 and besieged the capital Srirangapatna in the Fourth Mysore War.
There were over 26,000 soldiers of the British East India Company comprising about 4000 Europeans and the rest Indians. A column was supplied by the Nizam of Hyderabad consisting of ten battalions and over 16,000 cavalry, and many soldiers were sent by the Marathas. Thus the soldiers in the British force numbered over 50,000 soldiers whereas Tipu Sultan had only about 30,000 soldiers.
The British broke through the city walls, French Military advisers advised Tipu Sultan to escape from secret passages and live to fight another day but to their astonishment Tipu replied “One day of life as a Tiger is far better than thousand years of living as a Sheep”. Tipu Sultan died defending his capital on 4 May.
When the fallen Tipu was identified, Wellesley felt his pulse and confirmed that he was dead. Next to him, underneath his palankeen, was one of his most confidential servants, Rajah Cawn. Rajah was able to identify Tipu for the soldiers.
Tipu Sultan was killed at the Hoally (Diddy) Gateway, which was located 300 yards (270 m) from the N.E. Angle of the Srirangapatna Fort. Tipu was buried the next afternoon, at the Gumaz, next to the grave of his father. In the midst of his burial, a great storm struck, with massive winds and rains.
As Lieutenant Richard Bayly of the British 12th regiment wrote, “I have experienced hurricanes, typhoons, and gales of wind at sea, but never in the whole course of my existence had I seen anything comparable to this desolating visitation”.
Immediately after the death of Tipu Sultan many members of the British East India Company believed that Umdat Ul-Umra, the Nawab of Carnatic, secretly provided assistance to Tipu Sultan during the war and immediately sought his deposition after the year 1799.
Tipu Sultan’s father had expanded on Mysore’s use of rocketry, making critical innovations in the rockets themselves and the military logistics of their use.
He deployed as many as 1,200 specialised troops in his army to operate rocket launchers. These men were skilled in operating the weapons and were trained to launch their rockets at an angle calculated from the diameter of the cylinder and the distance to the target. The rockets had blades mounted on them, and could wreak significant damage when fired en masse against a large army.
Tipu greatly expanded the use of rockets after Hyder’s death, deploying as many as 5,000 rocketeers at a time. The rockets deployed by Tipu during the Battle of Pollilur were much more advanced than those the British East India Company had previously seen, chiefly because of the use of iron tubes for holding the propellant; this enabled higher thrust and longer range for the missiles (up to 2 km range).
British accounts describe the use of the rockets during the third and fourth wars. During the climactic battle at Srirangapatna in 1799, British shells struck a magazine containing rockets, causing it to explode and send a towering cloud of black smoke with cascades of exploding white light rising up from the battlements. After Tipu’s defeat in the fourth war the British captured a number of the Mysorean rockets. These became influential in British rocket development, inspiring the Congreve rocket, which was soon put into use in the Napoleonic Wars.
In 1786 Tipu Sultan, again following the lead of his father, decided to build a navy consisting of 20 battleships of 72 cannons and 20 frigates of 62 cannons.
In the year 1790 he appointed Kamaluddin as his Mir Bahar and established massive dockyards at Jamalabad and Majidabad. Tipu Sultan’s board of admiralty consisted of 11 commanders in service of a Mir Yam. A Mir Yam led 30 admirals and each one of them had two ships. By the year 1789 most of Tipu Sultan’s ships had copper-bottoms, an idea that increased the longevity of the ships and was introduced to Tipu by Admiral Suffren.
As a Muslim ruler in a largely Hindu domain, Tipu Sultan faced problems in establishing the legitimacy of his rule, and in reconciling his desire to be seen as a devout Islamic ruler with the need to be pragmatic to avoid antagonising the majority of his subjects.
His religious legacy has become a source of considerable controversy in the subcontinent. Some groups proclaim him a great warrior for the faith or Ghazi, while others revile him as a bigot who massacred Hindus.
In 1780, he declared himself to be the Badshah or Emperor of Mysore, and struck coinage in his own name without reference to the reigning Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II. H. D. Sharma writes that, in his correspondence with other Islamic rulers such as Zaman Shah of the Afghan Durrani Empire, Tipu Sultan used this title and declared that he intended to establish an Islamic empire in the entire country, along the lines of the Mughal Empire, which was at its decline during the period in question.
He even invited Zaman Shah to invade India to help achieve this mission. His alliance with the French was supposedly aimed at achieving this goal by driving his main rivals, the British, out of the subcontinent.
During the early period of Tipu Sultan’s reign in particular, he appears to have been as strict as his father against any non-Muslim accused of collaboration with the British East India Company or the Maratha.