Tipu Sultan 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.
Early years of Tipu Sultan
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.
Ruler of the Mysore State
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.
War against the Maratha Confederacy
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.
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.
Leadership, policy, and innovations
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).
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.
Tipu Sultan was one of the first Indian kings to be martyred on the battlefield while defending his Kingdom against the Colonial British. In India, While many historians generally take a favourable view of his reign, others portray him as a Muslim fanatic. Tipu has been officially recognized by the Government of India as a freedom fighter. The 1990 Television Series The Sword of Tipu Sultan directed by Sanjay Khan was based on the Life and events of Tipu Sultan.
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