Saringapattam, the capital of Mysore, was surrounded on
all sides by the formidable invading forces, comprising the British, the
Marhattas and the Nizam. This triple alliance strengthened by the subversive
activities of the state traitors had compelled the "Lion of Mysore", as he was
called, to make a strategic retreat and fall back to defend his capital. The
alien generals had conspired with some of the highest dignitaries of the state
to storm the capital on an appointed day when, as pre-planned, one of the
principal traitors, Mir Sadiq, started distributing salaries to the state
soldiers. Just at that moment, the alien forces stormed the opening in the front
wall guarded by zealous soldiers, many of whom had been summoned to receive
their pay, and entered the fort without much resistance.
The Sultan was taking his lunch, when he was informed of
the treachery of his trusted officers and the entry of the alien forces. Leaving
his meals aside and with sword in hand, he rushed forth towards the danger spot.
He gallantly fought a hand to hand fight. In the heat of the battle, he was
advised to accept the British offer of subsidiary alliance. But the reply which
the lion-hearted Tipu gave will go down as the most chivalrous recorded in
history. He said: `One days's life of a lion is preferable to hundred years'
existence of a jackal'. With these words he fought heroically to the last drop
of his blood and became a martyr to the cause of national freedom.
Tipū Sultān, one of the most talented, valiant and
enlightened monarchs that India has produced, was destined to struggle against
heavy odds at a time when the British power had, to a great extent, established
its supremacy over the major pat of the subcontinent and had successfully
conspired with the Marhattas and the Nizam to overcome the only formidable
hurdle in the south--- the Muslim state of Mysore. Tipū Sultān put up a gallant
fight against much superior forces. But, for the treachery of his own men, the
history of the subcontinent would have been different from what it has been
during the last 150 years.
Sultan Fateh Ali Khan Padshah, populary known as Tipū
Sultān, was born on November 21, 1750 at Devanhali, a small town near Bangalore.
He was the eldest son of Haider Ali, the ruler of Mysore. He was named Tipu
after the name of Tipu Mastan, a saint of Arcot, whose tomb Haider Ali and his
wife had visited a few months before Tipu's birth and prayed for the birth of a
Young Tipu was given the best possible education by his
father, who employed competent teachers for the purpose. He soon became well
versed in different branches of learning and could speak Urdu, Persian and
Arabic very fluently. He received excellent coaching in the art of war from
Ghazi Khan, an experienced warrior. Even in his young age, the prince used to
attend military parades and reviews along with his father.
Tipū Sultān married three wives one after another. After
the death in 1797 of his last and favourite wife Khadija Zamani Begum, a lady of
great culture and scholarship, he remained a widower for the rest of his life.
He was an affectionate father and an obdeient son of his mother, who exercised
tremendous influence over him.
Tipu, during the time when he was a prince, made no mean
contribution to the victories of his father over the British and the Marhattas
on several occasions. In fact, he was the right hand man of his father in almost
all the campaigns which he fought during his last days. The swift movements of
Tipū Sultān surprised the enemy in several sectors and led to his victories. He
was a terror for the English army. English mothers used to silence their naughty
children by terrorizing them: `Tipu has come; be silent'.
Even during his teens, Tipū Sultān exhibited dauntless
courage and great military skill in wars waged by his father, who was proud of
him and conferred on him the command of 200 horses, later increased to 500, and
also gave him several districts as `Jagir'.
On June 19, 1767, Tipū Sultān was given his first military
assignment. He joined his father, who was in a precarious position. By his swift
movements, he dodged the British Generals who tried their best to intercept him.
This resulted in the conquest of the forts of Tirppatur and Vaniyambadi.
Later, he was ordered to rush to the help of Lutf Ali Beg
who was fighting against the British forces on the Malabar coast. The prince
captured the Mangalore fort from the English who retreated towards Madras, in
During Haider Ali's compaigns against the Mahrattas
(1769-78), Tipu played a heroic role in harassing, defeating and recapturing a
ceded property from the enemy. In July 1780, when Haider Ali with his 80,000 men
came down like an avalanche on the plains of Carnatic, Tipū Sultān was deputed
to intercept Colonel Baillie's forces that had made a bold bid to join the main
British forces and inflicted on them a crushing defeat. Colonel Baillie, along
with 150 soldiers, was taken prisoner. Sir Thomas Munroe described the disaster
of Colonel Baillie's army as `the severest blow that the English ever sustained
in India'. `Had Haider Ali followed up his success at that time to the gates of
Madras', writes Sir Eyre Coote, `he would have been in possession of the most
important fortress', and the history of southern India would have taken a
different turn. But, instead, he hurried to capture Arcot and, thus, let slip
from his hands the prospects of dominating southern India.
Another notable achievement of prince Tipū Sultān was his
victory over the British Commander, Colonel Braithwaite, on February 18, 1782 at Tanjore which seriously foiled British designs in this area.
Tipū Sultān was
engaged in the seige of Ponnani, when he received the news of his father's
death. He hurried to Chittoor, the place where his father, Haider Ali, had died
and reached there on December 26, 1782. There, at the age of 32, he ascended the
throne and succeeded to a large principality bordered by river Krishna in the
north, by the Arabian Sea in the west, by the Eastern Ghats in the east and by
the state of Travancore in the south.
Tipu's life mission was to save his country from the
machinations and political domination of a foreign power, which, with its
political intrigues, had established its supremacy over the major part of India
and was now threatening his own state of Mysore. His whole life and his entire
efforts were directed towards the fulfilment of this mission of saving his
motherland from being dominated by a foreign power. He had seen with his own
eyes how this foreign power had step by step established its power over
different states of India by entangling them into a Subsidiary System. Tipū
Sultān was made of a different metal. He was a farsighted ruler, who could
foresee the danger ahead and like a true patriot he waged war against the evil
forces which had conspired against the freedom of his country and even
sacrificed his life at last. He implored other Indian states, the Mahrattas and
the Nizam to sink their differences and unitedly face the common danger against
their country. He even sought the help of foreign powers like Turkey and France
for driving out the British from India, as he rightly considered them the
greatest Imperialist Power in the world which, later, proved to be the greatest
threat to the unity and glory of Islam in the world.
Practically, the whole life of Tipū Sultān was spent in
warfare. He was a real "Mujahid" and a true patriot, who fought against the
enemies of his state and his country. Despite his troubled life, the extent of
reforms introduced by him in different departments of his government and the
social life of his people, is simply amazing. This places him at par with the
most enlightened and progressive monarchs of the world. Despite the heavy drain
on the national exchequer due to his incessant warfare, his people passed a
happy and prosperous life. Being a true Muslim, he was not only just but
generous towards the minorities. His subjects both Muslims and non-Muslims were
happy and contented.
Tipū Sultān was a great warrior and an outstanding
general. He was the hero of hundreds of battles in which he had inflicted
crushing defeats on his enemies. The British forces had suffered some of their
worst military disasters in India at his hands. He successfully adopted the
military strategy of swift movement and sudden surprise blitzkrieg against his
enemies who would either surrender or retreat in panic.
On his accession, he found formidable forces arrayed
against him. The Marhattas tied up with the British by subsidiary alliance, were
jealous of their machinations. The Nizam, on the other hand, was won over by the
clever Lord Cornwallis on the promise of being granted the conquered territory
of Tipū Sultān.
Thus the triple alliance of the Mahrattas, the Nizam and
the British formed against the rising power of Mysore, was, in reality, aimed at
achieving British supremacy in India, which the two shortsighted Indian partners
could not foresee. Among the Indian chiefs, Tipū Sultān alone had the vision to
foresee the danger of foreign domination and he staked his all to expel it from
Earlier, the British Governor-General Warren Hastings had
concluded treaties with the Mahratta chief and the Treaty of Salbai in May 1782,
brought to an end the Anglo-Mahratta hostilities. Then his entire diplomacy was
directed against the rising Muslim power of Mysore which led to the second
Soon after his accession, Tipu's territories on the
Malabar coast were threatened by British forces under the command of General
Matthews. The treachery of the Mysore Governor Ayaz led to the surrender of
Badnur on January 28, 1783. Luft Ali Beg, who was sent by Tipū Sultān for the defence of Badnur reached there too late. Before he could reach Mangalore, he
heard of the sack of this port by the British forces on March 9, 1783 in which
even women, children and old men were not spared. According to Mill `orders were
given to shed blood of everyman who was taken under arms: and some of the
officers were reprimanded for not seeing those orders rigidly executed'.
The Sutlan was much distressed by the atrocities committed
by the British soldiers on helpless citizens. He hurried to Badnur and after
making a dangerous thrust in the enemy ranks defeated General Matthews who
retreated into the fort. The British forces shut up into the fort were besieged
by the Sultan's army.
At last, the British General was forced to capitulate on
terms dictated by the Sultan. But on search, the British soldiers were found in
possession of about 40,000 pagodas, which being a clear violation of surrender
terms the British General and his men were placed under arrest. The Sultan
arrived at Mangalore on May 20, 1783 and in the very first engagement, the
British army was defeated with heavy losses. The remaining British forces shut
themselves in the fort which was besieged by Tipū Sultān himself. Their
commander Campbell disheartened by the hardships which he had endured for
several months, capitualated on January 29, 1784. He delivered the fort to Tipū
Sultān; `under articles', says Campbell, `the most beneficial I could ask for
the garrison, and which the Nawab has most honourably and strictly adhered to.'
His primary aim was the expulsion of the British from
India and for this purpose he sought assistance wherever he could. But the two
other important powers of southern India, namely, the Mahrattas and the Nizam,
had shut their eyes to the impending danger of foreign domination and the
British used them as tools to achieve their objects.
The British were not happy with the treaty of Mangalore
concluded with Tipū Sultān. Ever since then, they were planning against him. The
British Governor-General, Loard Cornwallis, started preparations against Mysore
which was the greatest stumbling block in the realization of his dream of
dominating India. After organizing the East India Company's army and finances on
a sound basis he started negotiations for an alliance with the Mahrattas and the
Nizam directed against Tipū Sultān. He promised them the distribution of the
conquered territories of Tipū Sultān. Having achieved this triple alliance, Lord
Cornwallis sought some excuse of waging war agianst Mysore. This was soon
forthcoming. Tipū Sultān wanted to punish the Raja of Travancore for his
misdeeds. The British decided to intervene as, according to the text of the
letter by Cornwallis to the Governor of Mardras, they had every prospect of aid
from the country powers, whilst he (Tipū Sultān) could expect no assistance from
France. The British Governor-General was not content with the triple alliance.
He even tried to win the support of the tributaries and refractory subjects of
Tipū Sultān. He also bribed and conspired with the state dignitaries to work
against their own ruler.
Having achieved all this, he started the Third Mysore War
through an assault made by General Meadows on May 26, 1790. He advanced towards
Coimbatore and occupied it on July 21st. The first encounter of Tipū Sultān was
victorious. This was followed by rapid blows inflicted on the British forces by
him in different sectors. The swift movements of Tipū Sultān was a problem for
the enemy forces. The Sultan was preparing for a final attack on the main
British forces when the treachery of Krishna Rao foiled his designs. His
treachery led to the fall of Bangalore into the hands of Lord Cornwallis who was
commanding the British forces. The Sultan was shocked at the fall of Bangalore.
The allied forces made a final assault on Saringapattam, the capital of Mysore,
but they were badly beaten by Tipū Sultān and, therefore, retired to Bangalore.
The assault was put off for the next year.
The war was renewed next year and a treaty was signed in
which Tipū Sultān lost much of his territory. But the gallant Sultan, though
hard hit by this treaty, did not lose his heart. He had fought against
overwhelming odds. His continuous warfare had been a heavy drain on his
finances. But he was not a man who could be unnerved or disheartened by
misfortunes. He reorganized his finances and army, improved his agriculture and
industry to a great extent and regained his past glory. He again rose to be a
formidable power which could meet the challenge from any quarter.
Lord Wellesely, who had become the Governor-General of
British India, reached Madras in January 1799. Here he conspired with the
Mahrattas, the Nizam and the highest dignitaries of Mysore state to wipe out
Tipū Sultān, the only serious obstacle in his way of domination over India. In
utter disregard of the treaty concluded after the third Mysore War, Lord
Wellesley made an unprovoked attack on Mysore. On February 3rd, 1799 General
Harris marched from Vellore and General Stuart from Cannanore. The Mahrattas and
the Nizam too moved their forces into Mysore territory. Arthur Wellesley was in
command of an army from Hyderabad. Tipū Sultān, who was surprised by this
unexpected as well as unprovoked attack, fought valiantly, displaying brilliant
strategy. But the treachery of his own generals foiled his efforts and the
allied forces appeared before Seringapattam on April 17, 1799.
A siege was laid to the capital of Mysore. High
dignitaries of the Mysore Government, including Dewan Purnia, Prime Minister Mir
Sadiq, and Mir Ghulam Ali, were in secret league with the British. The final
assault on the city was fixed for May 4th. On that day, according to the plan,
Mir Sadiq started distributing salaries to the army. The soldiers left their
posts and hurried to receive their pays. At that moment, the British troops in
conjunction with the treacherous elements in the fort, crossed the Kaveri,
stormed the opening guarded by Syed Abdul Ghaffar together with his few gallant
soldiers, and entered the fort. Syed Abdul Ghaffar was killed in action. The
Sultan was taking his meals and when informed of this disaster, he hurried to
the spot and gallantly fighting a hand to hand battle fell a martyr to the cause
of national freedom. Thus perished on May 4th, 1799, Tipū Sultān, one of the
most chivalrous and enlightened monarchs that India has produced. He preferred
an honourable death to a life of humiliation and subjugation to a foreign power.
Tipū Sultān was an embodiment of nobility, chivalry and
magnanimity. His life was a constant struggle for a noble cause against heavy
odds. He sacrificed his life for the realization of his ideal of freeing his
country from foreign domination and thus set an example for future generations.
He was a true patriot, and a true Muslim who practised what he preached. He was
a farsighted ruler who foresaw the danger which loomed on the Indian horizon and
staked his all to remove it.
Tipū Sultān was an outstanding administrator and a great
reformer, endowed with great vision and calibre. Despite his troubled life, he
introduced great reforms in almost all departments of the state administration
which brought unprecedented peace and prosperity to his people. He highly
developed agriculture and industry in his dominion and initiated progressive
agricultural reforms beneficial to the peasantry. Mill, the celebrated English
historian, considers his territories to be `the best and its population the most
flourishing in India' and Tipū Sultān a ruler who `sustains an advantageous
comparison with the greatest princes of the east.' He kept a watch over his
people and received reports to make annual tours of their districts for this
purpose. The `patels' could not subject the poor cultivators to forced labour.
The Sultan took effective steps towards the promotion of
trade and industry in his country. He established several factories and built an
Armada to protect his marine commerce from pirates. This led to the development
of international trade with several countries, specially of the east. He set up
trading agencies in several coastal towns and established large factories for
manufacturing watches, ammunition, cutlery and paper. Cottage industries also
thrived. His state was surplus in foodgrains, sugar, glassware, paper, silk and
cotton cloth. Buchanan who visited his state acknowledges that `Tipu was born
with a commercial mind'.
He set up his military machine on a sound footing and
divided the army administration into eleven different departments. He adopted
modern weapons of war and divided his dominion into 22 military districts. His
reforms, both in civil and military spheres, were far in advance of those of his
predecessors and contemporaries. He was a well-wisher of his people and
considered them as a `unique trust held for God, the real Master'. He was
generous towards his non-Muslim subjects and bequeathed to them rich grants for
the maintenance of their sacred places. He held the Swami of Sringri Temple in
high esteem and protected him when the temple was raided by the Mahrattas. In a
leter to the Swami, he stated: `People who have sinned against such a holy place
are sure to suffer the consequences of their misdeeds'.
Being himself a very learned man, well versed in Persian,
Arabic and Urdu, he immensely promoted learning. During his short troubled
reign, he popularized education. The Imperial Library of Saringapattam was the
finest of its kind in the east. He was also a writer of repute. He wrote "Fath
ul Mujahidin", an army manual and "Muwaa`iz ul Mujahidin", the collection of his
The enlightened and good administration of Tipū Sultān
made Mysore the most prosperous state of the east and him as unquestionably the
most powerful of all native princes of India. He was rightly considered as the
greatest stumbling block in the way of foreign domination over the subcontinent.
The real greatness of Tipū Sultān, therefore, lies in his
struggle against heavy odds and in ultimately laying down his life for a noble
cause. This has earned for him an immortal place among the great men of the
(Extracted from "The Hundred Great Muslims")