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Tipu Sultan, the ruler of the southern Indian kingdom of Mysore, was renowned for his military prowess. He adeptly blended Western military tactics, such as artillery and rockets, with traditional Indian weapons like war elephants, ensuring his army’s formidable strength against both Indian rivals and British forces.

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Tipu Sultan: The Tiger of Mysore

The British, particularly the East India Company, which controlled vast territories in the subcontinent, viewed Tipu’s powerful army as a significant obstacle to their expansion in India. This led to three wars between the British and Tipu Sultan, as well as his father, Hyder Ali, from 1767 to 1792.

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The culmination of this conflict came on 4 May 1799 when, bolstered by their Indian ally, the Nizam of Hyderabad, the British successfully stormed and captured Seringapatam, Tipu’s capital, following a month-long siege.

In the ensuing battle, Tipu Sultan was killed, marking the end of the Fourth Mysore War (1799). Subsequently, the East India Company and its allies partitioned the state of Mysore.

Information Details
Name Tipu Sultan Tipu Sultan: The Tiger of Mysore
Full Name Sultan Fateh Ali Sahab Tipu
Birth 1 December 1751
Birthplace Devanahalli, Kingdom of Mysore
(Modern-Day Karnataka, India)
Jubilee 1 December
Father Hyder Ali
Mother  Fatima Fakhr-un-Nisa
Wives Khadija Zaman Begum and 2 or 3 others
Religion Shia Islam
Dynasty Kingdom of Mysore
Coronation 29 December 1782
Reign 29 December 1782 – 4 May 1799
Titles Sultan of Mysore, Sher-e-Mysore (Tiger of Mysore), Fateh Ali Sahab Tipu
State Kingdom of Mysore
Death 4 May 1799 (aged 47)
Place of Death Seringapatam, Kingdom of Mysore
Burial  Srirangapatna, present-day Mandya, Karnataka

Tipu Sultan: The Tiger of Mysore

Tipu Sultan (Sultan Fateh Ali Sahab Tipu; 1 December 1751 – 4 May 1799), commonly referred to as Sher-e-Mysore or “Tiger of Mysore”, was a prominent Indian Muslim ruler who governed the Kingdom of Mysore in South India during the late 18th century. Renowned for his military prowess and administrative reforms, Tipu Sultan played a significant role in shaping the history of the region.

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Military Innovations

One of Tipu Sultan’s notable contributions was his pioneering use of rocket artillery, which transformed the nature of warfare during his time. He introduced iron-cased Mysorean rockets and authored the military manual Fathul Mujahidin, showcasing his strategic ingenuity. Tipu Sultan effectively employed these rockets against British forces and their allies in key battles such as the Battle of Pollilur and the Siege of Srirangapatna.

Administrative Reforms

Tipu Sultan implemented various administrative reforms aimed at modernizing the governance of Mysore. He introduced a new coinage system and calendar, along with a progressive land revenue system that stimulated the growth of industries like silk production in the region. Additionally, Tipu Sultan played a pivotal role in promoting cultural heritage by endorsing Channapatna toys, highlighting his commitment to both economic and cultural development.

Military Campaigns

Tipu Sultan and his father, Hyder Ali, strategically utilized their French-trained army to resist British expansionism and confront neighboring powers. Their military campaigns against the Marathas, Sira, and rulers of Malabar, Kodagu, Bednore, Carnatic, and Travancore underscored their determination to safeguard Mysorean sovereignty. Tipu Sultan’s victories in the Second Anglo-Mysore War and subsequent diplomatic negotiations, exemplified by the Treaty of Mangalore in 1784, demonstrated his adeptness in both military and diplomatic spheres.

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Conflict with the British

Tipu Sultan remained a steadfast opponent of the British East India Company, consistently challenging their hegemony in the region. His aggressive actions, including the attack on British-allied Travancore in 1789, escalated tensions and precipitated the Third Anglo-Mysore War. Despite suffering territorial losses in the subsequent Treaty of Seringapatam, Tipu Sultan continued to resist British imperialism, seeking alliances with foreign powers like the Ottoman Empire, Afghanistan, and France to counter British influence.

Legacy and Demise

In the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War, Tipu Sultan faced a formidable coalition of British East India Company troops, supported by the Marathas and the Nizam of Hyderabad. Despite his valiant defense of Seringapatam, Tipu Sultan was ultimately defeated and killed on 4 May 1799. His legacy as a courageous military leader and visionary administrator endures, leaving an indelible mark on the history of India.

Tipu Sultan- Childhood and Early Education

Tipu Sultan, born on 1 December 1751 in Devanahalli, located about 33 km (21 mi) north of Bangalore in present-day Bangalore Rural district, was named after the saint Tipu Mastan Aulia of Arcot. His father, Hyder Ali, a military officer in the service of the Kingdom of Mysore, rose to become the de facto ruler of Mysore in 1761. Tipu’s mother, Fatima Fakhr-un-Nisa, hailed from a distinguished lineage, being the daughter of Mir Muin-ud-Din, the governor of the fort of Kadapa.

Despite being illiterate himself, Hyder Ali was keen on providing his eldest son with a princely education and early exposure to military and political affairs. From the tender age of 17, Tipu was entrusted with significant diplomatic and military responsibilities, becoming his father’s right-hand man in various wars that solidified Hyder’s dominance in southern India.

Under Hyder Ali’s guidance, Tipu received a comprehensive education, encompassing a wide array of subjects. He was taught Urdu, Persian, Arabic, Kannada, Beary, Quranic studies, Islamic jurisprudence, as well as practical skills like riding, shooting, and fencing. Hyder Ali ensured that Tipu received instruction from capable tutors, laying the foundation for his son’s intellectual and martial prowess.

Language and Cultural Background

Tipu Sultan’s mother tongue was Urdu, reflecting his diverse cultural heritage. Contemporary accounts from the French noted that while Urdu was predominant, Tipu and his associates were also proficient in Persian. The designation “Moorish” referred to Urdu in European contexts, indicating the linguistic complexity of Tipu’s milieu.

In summary, Tipu Sultan’s upbringing was marked by a rich tapestry of languages and cultures, reflecting the multicultural landscape of 18th-century India. His early education and exposure to military affairs under his father’s tutelage played a crucial role in shaping his future as a formidable leader and warrior.

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Early Conflicts with the British

During the formative years of Tipu Sultan, he underwent rigorous military training under the guidance of French officers, a testament to his father’s foresight in grooming him for future leadership. At the tender age of 15, Tipu Sultan found himself thrust into the tumultuous world of warfare as he joined his father’s forces in the First Mysore War against the British in 1766.

Despite his youth, he displayed remarkable courage and strategic insight during this campaign. The following year, at just 16 years old, Tipu Sultan assumed command of a cavalry unit during the invasion of Carnatic in 1767, demonstrating his early prowess on the battlefield. These early engagements with the British not only shaped Tipu Sultan’s military skills but also laid the foundation for his future leadership as a formidable ruler.

The First Anglo-Maratha War of 1775–1779

further showcased Tipu Sultan’s capabilities as a military tactician. Despite the challenges posed by seasoned adversaries, Tipu Sultan proved himself to be a worthy opponent, earning respect for his bravery and astute decision-making.

Alexander Beatson, in his comprehensive account titled “View of the Origin and Conduct of the War with Tippoo Sultan,” meticulously describes Tipu Sultan’s physical attributes, offering a glimpse into the persona of this remarkable leader. From his stature to his facial features, Beatson’s portrayal captures the essence of Tipu Sultan’s presence on the battlefield and beyond.

Second Conflict with the British

The political landscape of South India was fraught with tensions as the British seized the French-controlled port of Mahé in 1779, a move that directly impacted Tipu Sultan’s domain. In response, his father, Hyder Ali, launched a decisive invasion of the Carnatic with the explicit aim of expelling the British from Madras. It was during this critical juncture that Tipu Sultan, now a seasoned warrior, emerged as a key figure in the ongoing conflict.

In September 1780, under the orders of Hyder Ali, Tipu Sultan led a formidable force comprising 10,000 men and 18 guns in a daring attempt to intercept Colonel William Baillie. The ensuing Battle of Pollilur would become a defining moment in Tipu Sultan’s military career, as he masterfully orchestrated a decisive victory, capturing a significant number of British soldiers alive and inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy forces.

Continuing his streak of triumphs, Tipu Sultan achieved notable successes in subsequent engagements, including the defeat of Colonel Braithwaite at Annagudi and the capture of Chittur from the British by December 1781. These victories not only bolstered Tipu Sultan’s reputation as a formidable military leader but also solidified his position as a key player in the regional power dynamics of South India.

However, the untimely demise of his father, Hyder Ali, in December 1782 marked a pivotal moment in Tipu Sultan’s life, as he ascended to the throne of Mysore, inheriting a legacy of conflict and diplomatic intrigue.

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Tipu Sultan’s Reign in Mysore

With his newfound authority as the ruler of Mysore, Tipu Sultan wasted no time in consolidating his position and charting a course for the future. In 1780, he boldly declared himself Badshah, or Emperor, of Mysore, a symbolic gesture that underscored his aspirations for greater autonomy and sovereignty. This proclamation was accompanied by the introduction of his coinage system, a tangible expression of Tipu Sultan’s vision for an independent Mysore that stood apart from external influences.

Clashes with the Maratha Confederacy

Despite his efforts to assert Mysore’s autonomy, Tipu Sultan found himself embroiled in conflicts with neighboring powers, particularly the Maratha Confederacy. The Marathas, under the leadership of the new Peshwa Madhavrao I, sought to reclaim their dominance over the Indian subcontinent, posing a formidable challenge to Tipu Sultan’s authority.

Historical records attest to Tipu Sultan’s attempts to evade the Maratha treaty and reclaim territories held by the Marathas in Southern India. The resulting Maratha–Mysore War saw a series of intense engagements, including the Siege of Nargund and the Battle of Gajendragad, each characterized by fierce fighting and strategic maneuvering.

The conflict reached its climax with the signing of the Treaty of Gajendragad in March 1787, which marked a temporary cessation of hostilities between Tipu Sultan’s forces and the Marathas. Under the terms of the treaty, Tipu Sultan agreed to return all territories captured by his father, Hyder Ali, to the Maratha Empire, while also relinquishing control of strategic forts and territories. In return, Tipu Sultan regained control of territories captured during the war, reaffirming his authority as the ruler of Mysore.

However, the fragile peace that followed would soon be shattered by the shifting alliances and power struggles that defined the political landscape of 18th-century India.

The Invasion of Malabar (1766–1790)

In 1766, at the age of 15, Tipu Sultan had his first opportunity to put his military training into practice when he accompanied his father on an invasion of Malabar. Following the Siege of Tellicherry in Thalassery in North Malabar, Hyder Ali began to lose control over his territories in the region. Tipu Sultan intervened, arriving from Mysore to assert authority over Malabar.

The culmination of this campaign was the Battle of the Nedumkotta (1789–90). However, due to factors such as the monsoon flood, staunch resistance from Travancore forces, and news of the British attack on Srirangapatnam, Tipu Sultan was compelled to retreat.

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Third Anglo-Mysore War

In 1789, Tipu Sultan contested the acquisition of two Dutch-held fortresses in Cochin by Dharma Raja of Travancore. He amassed troops at Coimbatore in December 1789 and launched an attack on the lines of Travancore on 28 December, aware of Travancore’s alliance with the British East India Company according to the Treaty of Mangalore. However, due to the strong resistance from the Travancore army, Tipu Sultan failed to break through their lines, prompting the Maharajah of Travancore to seek assistance from the East India Company.

In response, Lord Cornwallis mobilized company and British military forces, forming alliances with the Marathas and the Nizam of Hyderabad to oppose Tipu Sultan. In 1790, company forces advanced, gaining control of much of the Coimbatore district. Despite Tipu Sultan’s counter-attack and the subsequent regaining of territory, the British maintained control over Coimbatore itself. Tipu Sultan then moved into the Carnatic, reaching Pondicherry in an unsuccessful attempt to involve the French in the conflict.

By 1791, Tipu Sultan faced advances on all fronts, with the main British force under Cornwallis capturing Bangalore and threatening Srirangapatna. Tipu Sultan employed a “scorched earth” policy to deprive the British of local resources and harassed their supply lines and communication. This tactic forced Cornwallis to withdraw to Bangalore instead of attempting a siege of Srirangapatna.

In 1792, Tipu Sultan’s campaign suffered a setback. The allied army, well-supplied, prevented Tipu Sultan from preventing the junction of forces from Bangalore and Bombay before Srirangapatna. After about two weeks of siege, Tipu Sultan initiated negotiations for surrender terms.

As a result of the ensuing treaty, he was compelled to cede half of his territories to the allies and deliver two of his sons as hostages until he paid the full war indemnity of three crores and thirty lakhs rupees to the British. Tipu Sultan paid the amount in two installments and retrieved his sons from Madras.

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Napoleon’s Attempt at a Junction

In 1794, purportedly with the support of French Republican officers, Tipu Sultan was said to have played a role in founding the Jacobin Club of Mysore, aiming to establish laws aligned with those of the French Republic. He symbolically planted a Liberty Tree and declared himself Citizen Tipoo. However, some historians, like Jean Boutier, have argued that the club’s existence and Tipu’s involvement were possibly fabricated by the East India Company to justify British military intervention against Tipu Sultan.

Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion of Egypt in 1798 was partly motivated by the desire to establish a connection with India against the British. Napoleon envisioned creating a French presence in the Middle East with the ultimate goal of linking forces with Tipu Sultan.

He assured the French Directory that upon conquering Egypt, he would establish relations with Indian princes and, in collaboration with them, launch an attack against the British in their Indian possessions. Talleyrand’s report of 13 February 1798 outlined Napoleon’s plan to send 15,000 troops from Suez to India to join forces with Tipu Sultan and expel the English.

However, Napoleon’s strategy failed to materialize as he faced setbacks, including the Siege of Acre in 1799 and the Battle of Abukir in 1801. Despite Napoleon’s ambitions, his attempts to establish a junction with Tipu Sultan ultimately faltered.

In reflecting on Napoleon’s fate, Sir Walter Scott compared his actions unfavorably to the steadfastness displayed by Tipu Sultan, who chose to die courageously defending his capital city with his saber in hand.

The Death of Tipu Sultan-Fourth Mysore War 1799

In 1798, Horatio Nelson’s victory over François-Paul Brueys D’Aigalliers at the Battle of the Nile in Egypt marked a significant turning point in European military history. However, it also had repercussions thousands of miles away in the Indian subcontinent. In 1799, three formidable armies descended upon Mysore—one from Bombay and two British, one of which boasted the participation of Arthur Wellesley. Their primary target was the capital city of Srirangapatna, as part of the Fourth Mysore War.

The disparity in numbers between the British forces and those of Tipu Sultan was staggering. While the British East India Company amassed over 60,000 soldiers, including approximately 4,000 Europeans and the rest Indian troops, Tipu Sultan could muster only around 30,000 soldiers. Despite this numerical disadvantage, Tipu Sultan’s resolve remained steadfast, bolstered by his belief in the righteousness of his cause.

However, internal betrayal dealt a devastating blow to Tipu Sultan’s defense efforts. His ministers collaborated with the British, weakening the city’s walls and paving the way for the invaders. This treachery proved to be a decisive factor in the fall of Srirangapatna.

As the British breached the city walls, French military advisers urged Tipu Sultan to escape via secret passages and continue the fight from other forts. Yet, Tipu Sultan, embodying the spirit of a warrior, steadfastly refused, declaring, “Better to live one day as a tiger than a thousand years as a sheep.” His decision to remain and face his fate head-on epitomized his unwavering courage and determination.

The fateful moment came at the Hoally (Diddy) Gateway, situated 300 yards from the northeastern angle of the Srirangapatna Fort. It was here that Tipu Sultan met his end, bravely defending his capital until his last breath. His body was laid to rest the following afternoon at the Gumaz, next to the grave of his father, Hyder Ali.

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In the aftermath of Tipu Sultan’s demise, jubilant celebrations erupted in Britain. Authors, playwrights, and painters commemorated the event through various works of art, highlighting the significance of his defeat to the British Empire. The death of Tipu Sultan was even commemorated with a public holiday in Britain, underscoring the magnitude of its impact on the colonial power’s imperial ambitions in India.

The Death of Tipu Sultan-Fourth Mysore War 1799

Administration of Tipu Sultan

Introduction of Reforms

During his reign, Tipu Sultan implemented significant administrative reforms aimed at modernizing and centralizing the governance of Mysore. Among his notable initiatives were the introduction of a new calendar, the issuance of new coinage, and the establishment of seven new government departments. These reforms were instrumental in streamlining the administration of the kingdom and enhancing its efficiency.

Innovations in Military Tactics

Tipu Sultan was a pioneer in military innovations, particularly in the realm of rocketry. Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, former President of India, hailed Tipu Sultan as the innovator of the world’s first war rocket during his Tipu Sultan Shaheed Memorial Lecture in Bangalore in 1991. Under Tipu Sultan’s leadership, Mysore made significant advancements in the development and deployment of rockets in warfare.

These rockets, equipped with twin side-mounted blades, were operated by specialized troops trained to launch them with precision. Tipu Sultan’s strategic use of rocketry proved instrumental in his military campaigns, enabling him to subdue numerous adversaries and emerge victorious in battles against British armies.

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Mysorean Rockets

Tipu Sultan’s father, Hyder Ali, had laid the groundwork for the use of rockets in Mysorean warfare, refining their design and tactical application. Tipu Sultan expanded upon his father’s innovations, deploying as many as 5,000 rocketeers at a time and enhancing the rockets’ capabilities. The rockets utilized during the Battle of Pollilur demonstrated significant advancements, particularly in the use of iron tubes for propellant storage, which resulted in increased thrust and extended range.

The devastating impact of Mysorean rockets on British forces during battles left a lasting impression, inspiring advancements in British rocket technology, including the development of the Congreve rocket, which saw use in subsequent conflicts such as the Napoleonic Wars.

Expansion of the Navy

Following in his father’s footsteps, Tipu Sultan embarked on the ambitious project of building a formidable navy for Mysore. His plans included the construction of 20 battleships equipped with 72 cannons each and 20 frigates armed with 65 cannons. To oversee this endeavor, Tipu Sultan appointed Kamaluddin as his Mir Bahar and established extensive dockyards at Jamalabad and Majidabad. The implementation of copper-bottomed ships, a concept introduced by Admiral Suffren, further enhanced the durability and longevity of the navy, ensuring its effectiveness in maritime engagements.

Transformation of the Army

Recognizing the need for a disciplined and professional army, both Haidar and Tipu Sultan instituted significant reforms within the Mysorean military. They replaced the local militia with a standing army composed of Rajputs, Muslims, and tribal recruits. This shift from a militia-based system to a professional army led to the implementation of the Ryotwari system and contributed to the decline of slavery in Mysore, as former slaves were conscripted into military service.

These reforms not only strengthened the military capabilities of Mysore but also had far-reaching socio-economic implications within the kingdom.

Economy Reforms

During the late 18th century, under the leadership of Tipu Sultan, Mysore experienced the zenith of its economic power. Collaborating with his father, Hyder Ali, Tipu embarked on an ambitious economic development program aimed at enhancing the wealth and revenue of Mysore. Their efforts bore fruit as Mysore surpassed Bengal Subah to become India’s dominant economic powerhouse.

The region boasted highly productive agriculture and flourishing textile manufacturing industries, contributing to an average income that was five times higher than the subsistence level of the time.

Tipu Sultan’s economic vision extended to infrastructure development as well. He laid the groundwork for the construction of the Kannambadi dam, known today as the Krishna Raja Sagara or KRS dam, on the Kaveri River. Although Tipu Sultan initiated the project, construction did not commence until much later, with the dam being completed and inaugurated in 1938. This monumental structure continues to serve as a vital source of drinking water for the people of Mysore and Bangalore.

Under Tipu Sultan’s patronage, the Mysore silk industry flourished. He sent experts to Bengal Subah to study silk cultivation and processing techniques, leading to the development of polyproline silk production in Mysore. Additionally, Tipu Sultan’s support for the Channapatna toy industry elevated its prominence. These intricately crafted wooden toys, historically exchanged as gifts during Dusshera celebrations, gained greater recognition and popularity under his rule, reflecting his appreciation for the arts and craftsmanship.

Road Development

Recognized as a pioneer of road construction, particularly in the Malabar region, Tipu Sultan prioritized infrastructure development as part of his military campaigns. His efforts aimed to enhance connectivity and facilitate troop movements between cities, contributing to the strategic advantage of Mysorean forces during conflicts.

Foreign Relations

Relation With the Mughal Empire

Despite owing nominal allegiance to the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II, both Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan operated independently, not acknowledging the overlordship of the Nizam of Hyderabad. Tipu Sultan sought investiture from the Mughal emperor upon his coronation as Badshah, earning the title “Nasib-ud-Daula” despite opposition from loyalists to Shah Alam II. However, his actions drew hostility from the Nizam of Hyderabad, who harbored territorial ambitions over Mysore.

Relation With Afghanistan

Faced with threats from the Marathas, Tipu Sultan sought alliances beyond the Indian subcontinent. Correspondence with Zaman Shah Durrani, the ruler of the Afghan Durrani Empire, aimed at forming a coalition against the British and Marathas. While initially receptive, the Persian attack on Afghanistan’s Western border diverted Zaman Shah’s forces, preventing substantial assistance to Tipu Sultan.

Relation With the Ottoman Empire

In 1787, Tipu Sultan dispatched an embassy to the Ottoman capital, Constantinople, appealing to Sultan Abdul Hamid I for urgent assistance against the British East India Company. Tipu Sultan requested military support and expertise from the Ottoman Empire, along with permission to contribute to the maintenance of Islamic shrines in Mecca, Medina, Najaf, and Karbala. However, the Ottoman Empire was grappling with internal crises and conflicts, including the Austro-Ottoman War and tensions with the Russian Empire.

With an imperative need for a British alliance to counter Russian threats, the Ottomans were unable to extend significant aid to Tipu Sultan. Consequently, Tipu Sultan’s ambassadors returned home empty-handed, receiving only symbolic gifts from the Ottoman leadership. Despite these challenges, Tipu Sultan’s correspondence with the Ottoman Empire, particularly with Sultan Selim III, persisted until his final battle in 1799.

Relation With Persia and Oman

Continuing the diplomatic traditions of his father, Tipu Sultan maintained friendly relations with Mohammad Ali Khan of the Zand Dynasty in Persia and Hamad bin Said, the ruler of the Sultanate of Oman.

Relation With Qing China

Tipu Sultan’s engagement with silk production began in the early 1780s when he received an ambassador from the Qing dynasty of China. Enthralled by the gift of silk cloth, Tipu Sultan resolved to introduce silk production in Mysore. He dispatched an envoy to China, who returned after twelve years, marking the inception of silk cultivation in the region.

Relation With France

Aligning with his father’s policies, Tipu Sultan sought alliances with France, the primary European power capable of challenging the British East India Company in the subcontinent. French initiatives included treaties with Peshwa Madhu Rao Narayan and ceremonial gestures such as presenting a portrait of Louis XVI to Hyder Ali. Napoleon’s conquest of Egypt was viewed as a potential opportunity for alliance, although British interception of diplomatic correspondence thwarted direct communication between Tipu Sultan and Napoleon.

Social System

Judicial System

Tipu Sultan implemented a judicial system that appointed judges from both Hindu and Muslim communities to oversee legal matters. Each province had a Qadi for Muslims and a Pandit for Hindus, ensuring representation and fairness in the legal system.

Moral Administration

Under Tipu Sultan’s rule, the consumption of liquor, prostitution, and the cultivation of psychedelics like Cannabis were strictly prohibited. Additionally, Tipu Sultan enacted measures to discourage practices like polyandry, emphasizing moral conduct and social order.

Religious Policy

While personally devout, Tipu Sultan demonstrated religious tolerance through his patronage of mosques and temples. He made regular endowments to Hindu temples and appointed Hindu officers in his administration. However, his religious policies remain controversial, with accounts of religious persecution and forced conversions by Tipu Sultan cited by some historians. These narratives, largely propagated by early British authors, are viewed with skepticism by modern scholars who question their reliability and potential bias.

British Accounts

Historians such as Brittlebank, Hasan, Chetty, Habib, and Saletare contend that much of the contentious narratives surrounding Tipu Sultan’s alleged religious persecution of Hindus and Christians stem from the writings of early British authors who held biases against Tipu Sultan and sought to discredit his rule. Figures like James Kirkpatrick and Mark Wilks, whose accounts are frequently cited, are deemed unreliable and potentially fabricated by these scholars. A. S. Chetty specifically criticizes Wilks’ narrative, casting doubt on its veracity.

Irfan Habib and Mohibbul Hasan assert that these early British authors had vested interests in portraying Tipu Sultan as a tyrant who needed to be overthrown by the British to liberate Mysore. They argue that the British sought to justify their intervention and annexation of Mysore by vilifying Tipu Sultan.

Brittlebank also warns against uncritical acceptance of Wilks and Kirkpatrick’s accounts, emphasizing their active involvement in conflicts against Tipu Sultan and their close ties to the British administrations of Lord Cornwallis and Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley. Therefore, scholars advocate for scrutiny and contextualization of these accounts when assessing Tipu Sultan’s reign and policies.

Relations with Hindus

Tipu Sultan’s administration included prominent Hindu officials in key positions, highlighting his inclusive approach towards governance. Krishna Rao served as his treasurer, Shamaiya Iyengar held the position of Minister of Post and Police, and his brother Ranga Iyengar also held an officer’s role. Additionally, Purnaiya was appointed as “Mir Asaf,” a crucial administrative post. Notably, Moolchand and Sujan Rai represented him at the Mughal court, while Suba Rao served as his chief “Peshkar.”

Historical records indicate Tipu Sultan’s engagement with Hindu temples, including correspondence with temple authorities and generous donations. He issued numerous “Sanads” (deeds) of the endowment to temples between 1782 and 1799, alongside presenting them with valuable gifts of silver and gold plates. Notable examples include the jeweled cup presented to the Srikanteswara Temple in Nanjangud and the donation of silver cups and a camphor burner to the Ranganatha Temple at Srirangapatna.

During the Maratha–Mysore War in 1791, Tipu Sultan responded to a plea for help from the Shankaracharya of Sringeri after the temple was raided by Maratha horsemen. Expressing his indignation, Tipu Sultan provided financial assistance and other gifts to the Swami, demonstrating his commitment to protecting Hindu religious institutions.

Historian B. A. Saletare characterizes Tipu Sultan as a defender of Hindu dharma, citing his patronage of various temples, including the one at Melkote. Tipu Sultan’s actions suggest a policy of respecting Hindu traditions and institutions, despite his efforts to reclaim unauthorized grants of land made to Brahmins and temples, a practice common among rulers of his time regardless of religious affiliation.

Persecution of Kodavas outside Mysore

During Tipu Sultan’s reign, he orchestrated a brutal campaign against the Kodava people, a community residing outside Mysore, particularly in the Coorg region. In collaboration with Runmust Khan, the Nawab of Kurnool, Tipu Sultan launched a surprise attack on the Kodavas, who found themselves besieged by the invading Muslim army. This attack resulted in the deaths of 500 Kodavas, while over 40,000 others fled to the forests and mountains to escape the onslaught.

Many Kodavas who were unable to evade capture were seized, including their Raja, and held captive at Seringapatam, Tipu Sultan’s capital.

However, historians such as Mohibbul Hasan and Prof. Sheikh Ali question the accuracy of the reported scale of deportations and forced conversions in Coorg. They argue that estimating the actual number of Kodavas captured by Tipu Sultan is challenging and that the extent of the events may have been exaggerated.

In a letter addressed to Runmust Khan, Tipu Sultan himself described the capture of the Kodavas:

“We proceeded with the utmost speed, and, at once, made prisoners of 40,000 occasion-seeking and sedition-exciting Kodavas, who alarmed at the approach of our victorious army, had slunk into woods, and concealed themselves in lofty mountains, inaccessible even to birds. Then carrying them away from their native country (the native place of sedition) we raised them to the honour of Islam, and incorporated them into our Ahmedy corps.”

This statement highlights Tipu Sultan’s ruthless tactics of capturing and forcibly converting Kodavas to Islam, reflecting the religious persecution and forced assimilation experienced by the Kodava community during his reign.

The Coinage System of Tipu Sultan

Tipu Sultan’s coinage system represents a remarkable and intricate series minted in India during the 18th century. The local coinage in South India has a long history, with gold coinage, such as the elephant pagoda, dating back to the 11th century, along with other types of pagodas. Haidar Ali, Tipu Sultan’s predecessor (1761–1782), introduced pagodas with Persian inscriptions, as well as rare gold mohurs and silver rupees, all issued in the name of the Mughal emperor Shah Alam II. However, Tipu Sultan brought significant changes to the coinage system.

The Coinage System of Tipu Sultan

Gold Coinage:

During Tipu Sultan’s reign, gold coinage included the pagoda, referred to as “Faruqi,” honoring Umar al-Faruq, the second caliph. The double-pagoda was called “Sadîqi,” named after Abu Bakr al-Sadiq, the first caliph, while the four-pagoda was known as “Ahmadi,” signifying “most praised,” one of the names of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Initially, the large gold coin was the mohur, but it was later replaced with the four-pagoda with the calendar change to the Mauludi system.

Silver Coinage:

Tipu Sultan introduced various denominations of silver coins, each with a unique Persian name. These included “Khizri” for the 1/32 rupee, honoring Khizr the prophet, and “Kazimi” for the 1/16 rupee, symbolizing Musa, the seventh Shi’ite Imam. Other denominations included “Ja’fari,” “Bâqiri,” and “Abidi,” representing different Shi’ite Imams.

Copper Coinage:

In the copper coinage, Tipu Sultan introduced a range of denominations, each with a distinct Persian name. These included “Qutb,” “Akhtar,” “Bahram,” “Zohra,” “Othmani” or “Mushtari,” representing celestial bodies or historical figures.

Tipu Sultan’s coinage system reflected his innovative approach, with new Persian names for denominations and unique designs, contributing to the complexity and richness of India’s numismatic history during the 18th century.

Coinage Dating System

Tipu Sultan implemented a unique dating system for his coinage, shifting from the traditional Hijri calendar to the Mauludi system. The Mauludi system, derived from the Arabic word “Walad,” meaning “Birth,” was based on the solar year and the birth year of Muhammad. Interestingly, Tipu Sultan reckoned Muhammad’s birth year as 572, deviating from the standard 571.

In his coinage, the denomination was absent on the Hijri-dated gold coins but was added to all the Mauludi-dated pieces. Each coin bore the name of the Indian cyclic year along with Tipu Sultan’s regnal year, both expressed in Persian. The cyclic years had specific meanings in Indian culture, although these often differed from their Iranian counterparts.

For instance, the cyclic year “Zaki” denoted purity and corresponded to his first year, while “Azâl” signified eternity and represented his second year. Other cyclic years included “Jalal” for splendor, “Dalv” for the sign of Aquarius, “Shâ” for king, “Sârâ” for fragrance, “Sarâb” for mirage, “Shitâ” for winter, “Zabarjad” for topaz, “Sahar” for dawn, and “Sâher” for magician, each symbolizing different aspects or qualities.

Assessment and Legacy

Tipu Sultan’s legacy has evoked strong and divided opinions. While successive Indian National Congress governments have celebrated his memory, monuments, and relics, the Bharatiya Janata Party has been critical of him. He is officially recognized as a “freedom fighter” in Indian school and college textbooks, alongside other 18th-century rulers who resisted European powers.

In 2017, former Indian President Ram Nath Kovind praised Tipu Sultan’s heroism and technological innovations, particularly his pioneering use of Mysore rockets in warfare, which later influenced European military tactics.

Beyond India, Tipu Sultan is admired as a hero in Pakistan, with former Prime Minister Imran Khan expressing admiration for him as a freedom fighter.

Additionally, Tipu Sultan’s patronage extended to art forms such as Ganjifa cards, contributing to the preservation of this cultural heritage. Today, Ganjifa cards of Mysore hold a Geographical Indication (GI) Tag, showcasing their historical significance and cultural value.

Tipu Sultan’s Sword and Tiger

Loss of Tipu Sultan’s Sword

During the Battle of the Nedumkotta in 1789, Tipu Sultan lost his sword to the Nairs of Travancore, compelling him to retreat. Raja Kesavadas of Travancore led the victorious Nair army, which again defeated Tipu’s forces near Aluva. The sword, famously known as the Tiger of Mysore, was gifted to the Nawab of Arcot by Maharaja Dharma Raja. Eventually, the British annexed Arcot and claimed the sword as a war trophy, displaying it at the Wallace Collection in London.

Tipu Sultan's Sword

Symbolism of the Tiger

Tipu Sultan, often referred to as the Tiger of Mysore, embraced the tiger as the symbol of his reign. Legend has it that during a hunting expedition, Tipu encountered a tiger that attacked and killed his French companion. Despite his gun malfunctioning, Tipu defended himself by using his dagger to slay the tiger, earning him the moniker “the Tiger of Mysore.”

He incorporated the tiger motif extensively, including having French engineers construct a mechanical tiger for his palace. Tipu’s fascination with tigers extended to his banners, arms, and weapons, where the tiger emblem symbolized power and strength.

Fate of Tipu’s Swords

The last sword wielded by Tipu Sultan in his final battle at Sri Rangapatnam, along with his ring, became war trophies for the British forces. Initially displayed at the British Museum in London, they were later acquired by Vijay Mallya in April 2004 through an auction and brought back to India. Another sword attributed to Tipu Sultan surfaced in October 2013, adorned with his tiger stripe motif, and was auctioned by Sotheby’s.

Tipu Sultan Jayanti-1 December

In 2015, the Government of Karnataka initiated the celebration of Tipu Sultan’s birth anniversary as “Tipu Sultan Jayanti.” However, the event sparked controversy, leading to its cancellation by the subsequent Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in 2019, citing instances of violence during the celebrations. While supporters lauded Tipu Sultan as a freedom fighter who contributed to advancements in various sectors, critics argued against glorifying his legacy, citing historical grievances.

In Fiction

Tipu Sultan’s life and exploits have been depicted in various forms of fiction, including literature, television series, and video games. He has been portrayed as a heroic figure in some narratives, while others have depicted him as cunning and ruthless. His character has appeared in works by renowned authors such as G. A. Henty, Jules Verne, and Wilkie Collins, as well as in popular television series and video games, leaving behind a diverse legacy in fiction.

Portrayals in Fiction

Tipu Sultan’s character and historical significance have been featured in various works of fiction, spanning literature, television, and even video games, contributing to his enduring legacy.

  • G. A. Henty’s Novels: Tipu Sultan plays a role in G. A. Henty’s books The Tiger of Mysore (1896) and At the Point of the Bayonet (1902), offering fictionalized accounts of his life and exploits during the period.
  • Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island: In this novel, Captain Nemo is described as Tipu Sultan’s nephew, adding a fictional connection between the legendary character and the historical figure.
  • 1959 Film “Tipu Sultan”: Paidi Jairaj portrayed Tipu Sultan in this Indian historical drama film directed by Jagdish Gautam, bringing his character to life on the silver screen.
  • Bharat Ek Khoj: This 1988 Indian television series, based on Jawaharlal Nehru’s The Discovery of India, dedicated an episode to Tipu Sultan, with Salim Ghouse portraying the king, providing a visual portrayal of his life and times.
  • Television Series: Both The Adventures of Tipu Sultan, a South Indian television series, and The Sword of Tipu Sultan, a national television series, explored Tipu Sultan’s life and adventures, bringing his story to a wider audience.
  • The Dreams of Tipu Sultan: This 1997 play written in Kannada by Girish Karnad delves into the last days and historic moments of Tipu Sultan’s life, offering a dramatic interpretation through the perspectives of an Indian court historian and a British Oriental scholar.
  • Tipu Sultan: The Tiger Lord: A Pakistani television series aired on PTV in 1997, focusing on Tipu Sultan’s life and legacy, contributing to his portrayal beyond national borders.
  • Literary Works: Authors like Naseem Hijazi and Wilkie Collins incorporated Tipu Sultan into their novels, such as Muazam Ali and Aur Talvar Ṭūṭ Gaye by Hijazi, and The Moonstone by Collins, expanding his presence in literary fiction.
  • Video Game Appearances: Tipu Sultan appears as a “Great Person” in the video games Sid Meier’s Civilization: Revolution and Sid Meier’s Civilization IV, showcasing his influence and impact on history.
  • Konkani-language Novels: Indian littérateur V. J. P. Saldanha portrayed Tipu Sultan in his historical Konkani-language novels, depicting him as a complex character with traits of cunning, haughtiness, and revengefulness, yet also possessing self-control, adding depth to his fictional representations.

Family Background

Tipu Sultan’s family claimed descent from Prophet Muhammad, which is reflected in their names containing titles like Sayyid and Wal Sharif, indicating their noble lineage.

Marital Relationships

Tipu Sultan had multiple wives, among whom Sindh Sahiba stood out for her renowned beauty and intelligence. Their union produced a grandson named Sahib Sindh Sultan, also known as His Highness Shahzada Sayyid walShareef Ahmed Halim-az-Zaman Khan Sultan Sahib.

Descendants and Legacy

Tipu Sultan’s family faced exile to Calcutta by the British. Many of his descendants still reside in Kolkata, where they have expressed reservations about the politicization of Tipu Sultan’s name for electoral purposes, highlighting their desire to preserve the family’s legacy without being drawn into contemporary political agendas.

List of Tipu Sultan’s Sons

Son’s Name Year
Shahzada Sayyid Shareef Hyder Ali Khan Sultan 1771 – 30 July 1815
Shahzada Sayyid walShareef Abdul Khaliq Khan Sultan 1782 – 12 September 1806
Shahzada Sayyid walShareef Muhi-ud-din Ali Khan Sultan 1782 – 30 September 1811
Shahzada Sayyid walShareef Mu’izz-ud-din Ali Khan Sultan 1783 – 30 March 1818
Shahzada Sayyid walShareef Mi’raj-ud-din Ali Khan Sultan 1784? –?
Shahzada Sayyid walShareef Mu’in-ud-din Ali Khan Sultan 1784? –?
Shahzada Sayyid walShareef Muhammad Yasin Khan Sultan 1784 – 15 March 1849
Shahzada Sayyid walShareef Muhammad Subhan Khan Sultan 1785 – 27 September 1845
Shahzada Sayyid walShareef Muhammad Shukrullah Khan Sultan 1785 – 25 September 1830
Shahzada Sayyid walShareef Sarwar-ud-din Khan Sultan 1790 – 20 October 1833
Shahzada Sayyid walShareef Muhammad Nizam-ud-din Khan Sultan 1791 – 20 October 1791
Shahzada Sayyid walShareef Muhammad Jamal-ud-din Khan Sultan 1795 – 13 November 1842
Shahzada Sayyid walShareef Munir-ud-din Khan Sultan 1795 – 1 December 1837
Shahzada Sir Sayyid walShareef Ghulam Muhammad Sultan Sahib, KCSI March 1795 – 11 August 1872
Shahzada Sayyid walShareef Ghulam Ahmad Khan Sultan 1796 – 11 April 1824
Shahzada Sayyid walShareef Hashmath Ali Khan Sultan died at birth

FAQs about Tipu Sultan

Question 1- Who was Tipu Sultan?

Answer: – Tipu Sultan, also known as Sultan Fateh Ali Sahab Tipu, was a ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore in southern India. He was born on November 20, 1751, and died on May 4, 1799. Tipu Sultan was known for his resistance against British expansionism in India during the late 18th century.

Question 2- How many wives did Tipu Sultan have?

Answer: – Tipu Sultan had several wives. The exact number is not precisely documented, but historical records indicate that he had multiple wives during his lifetime.

Question 3- Was Tipu Sultan a Mughal?

Answer: No, Tipu Sultan was not a Mughal. He was the ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore, which was located in present-day Karnataka, India. However, Tipu Sultan maintained diplomatic relations with the Mughal Empire and acknowledged nominal allegiance to the Mughal emperor.

Question 4- What language did Tipu Sultan speak?

Answer:  Tipu Sultan was fluent in multiple languages. He primarily spoke Kannada, the native language of the region where Mysore was located. Additionally, he was proficient in Urdu, Persian, and Arabic, which were commonly used in administrative and diplomatic affairs during his time.

Question 5: Which war did Tipu Sultan die in?

Answer: Tipu Sultan died in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War, where a combined force of British East India Company troops, supported by the Marathas and the Nizam of Hyderabad, defeated him. He was killed on 4 May 1799 while defending his stronghold of Seringapatam.

Question 6: How many wars did Tipu Sultan fight?

Answer: Tipu Sultan, along with his father Hyder Ali, fought four wars against the British during the freedom struggle. They were formidable leaders and recognized as key figures in resisting British expansion in India.

Question 7: How did Tipu Sultan die?

Answer: Tipu Sultan met his demise in battle. The threat from Mysore was ultimately eliminated on 4 May 1799, when the British, supported by the army of their Indian ally, the Nizam of Hyderabad, stormed and captured Tipu’s capital, Seringapatam, following a month-long siege. Tipu was killed in the fighting, marking the end of the Fourth Mysore War (1799).

Question 8: Who defeated Tipu Sultan?

Question Tipu Sultan was defeated by Lord Wellesley in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War (1799). Despite Tipu Sultan’s formidable resistance, the British, under the leadership of Lord Wellesley, emerged victorious in this conflict.


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