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.
Tipu Sultan, 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. Tipu Sultan 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 Tipu Sultan, 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 son.
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.
Tipu Sultan 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 Tipu Sultan 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, Tipu Sultan 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, Tipu Sultan 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 great panic.
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, Tipu Sultan 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 Tipu Sultan was his victory over the British Commander, Colonel Braithwaite, on February 18, 1782 at Tanjore which seriously foiled British designs in this area. Tipu Sultan 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. Tipu Sultan 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 Tipu Sultan 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.
Tipu Sultan 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 Tipu Sultan.
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, Tipu Sultan alone had the vision to foresee the danger of foreign domination and he staked his all to expel it from India.
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 Anglo-Mysore war.
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 Tipu Sultan 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 Tipu Sultan 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 Tipu Sultan; `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 Tipu Sultan. 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 Tipu Sultan. He promised them the distribution of the conquered territories of Tipu Sultan. Having achieved this triple alliance, Lord Cornwallis sought some excuse of waging war agianst Mysore. This was soon forthcoming. Tipu Sultan 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 (Tipu Sultan) 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 Tipu Sultan. 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 Tipu Sultan was victorious. This was followed by rapid blows inflicted on the British forces by him in different sectors. The swift movements of Tipu Sultan 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 Tipu Sultan 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 Tipu Sultan 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 Tipu Sultan, 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. Tipu Sultan, 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, Tipu Sultan, 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.
Tipu Sultan 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.
Tipu Sultan 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 Tipu Sultan 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 Friday Sermons.
The enlightened and good administration of Tipu Sultan 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 Tipu Sultan, 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 world.