Once an Emperor Now centre of Controversy : Tipu Sultan

Once an Emperor Now centre of Controversy : Tipu Sultan

Tipu Sultan (born Sultan Fateh Ali Sahab Tipu, 10 November 1750 – 4 May 1799), also known as Tipu Sahab or the Tiger of Mysore, was the ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore based in South India and a pioneer of rocket artillery. He introduced a number of administrative innovations during his rule, including a new coinage system and calendar, and a new land revenue system which initiated the growth of the Mysore silk industry. He expanded the iron-cased Mysorean rockets and commissioned the military manual Fathul Mujahidin. He deployed the rockets against advances of British forces and their allies during the Anglo-Mysore Wars, including the Battle of Pollilur and the Siege of Seringapatam.

Napoleon Bonaparte, the French commander-in-chief, sought an alliance with Tipu Sultan. Both Tipu Sultan and his father used their French-trained army in alliance with the French in their struggle with the British. And in Mysore's struggles with other surrounding powers, against the Marathas, Sira, and rulers of Malabar, Kodagu, Bednore, Carnatic, and Travancore.

Tipu's father, Hyder Ali, rose to power and Tipu succeeded him as the ruler of Mysore upon his father's death in 1782. 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 died from cancer in December 1782 during the Second Anglo-Mysore War.

Tipu's conflicts with his neighbours included the Maratha–Mysore War, which ended with the signing of the Treaty of Gajendragad. The treaty required that Tipu Sultan pay 4.8 million rupees as a one-time war cost to the Marathas, and an annual tribute of 1.2 million rupees in addition to returning all the territory captured by Hyder Ali.

Tipu remained an implacable enemy of the British East India Company, sparking conflict with his attack on British-allied Travancore in 1789. In the Third Anglo-Mysore War, he was forced into the Treaty of Seringapatam, losing a number of previously conquered territories, including Malabar and Mangalore. He sent emissaries to foreign states, including the Ottoman Empire, Afghanistan, and France, in an attempt to rally opposition to the British.

In the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War, a combined force of British East India Company troops supported by the Marathas & the Nizam of Hyderabad defeated Tipu. He was killed on 4 May 1799 while defending his stronghold of Seringapatam.

Despite preserving the image of a devout Muslim throughout his life, in the post-colonial Indian subcontinent, he is applauded not only as a ruler who fought against British colonialism but also for his progressive attitude towards religious diversity, although he has also been criticised for the repression of Hindus of Malabar and Christians of Mangalore for both religious and political reasons.

Childhood of Tipu Sultan

Tippu's birthplace, Devanahalli.

Tippu's birthplace, Devanahalli.

Tipu Sultan was born on 20 November 1750 (Friday, 20th Dhu al-Hijjah, 1163 AH) at Devanahalli, in present-day Bangalore Rural district, about 33 km (21 mi) north of Bangalore city. He was named "Tipu Sultan" after the saint Tipu Mastan Aulia of Arcot. Being illiterate, Hyder was very particular in giving his eldest son a prince's education and 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 Hyder emerged as the most powerful ruler of southern India.

Tipu's father, Hyder Ali, was a military officer in service to the Kingdom of Mysore who had become the de facto ruler of Mysore in 1761 while his mother Fatima Fakhr-un-Nisa was the daughter of Mir Muin-ud-Din, the governor of the fort of Kadapa. Hyder Ali appointed able teachers to give Tipu an early education in subjects like Urdu, Persian, Arabic, Kannada, Quran, Islamic jurisprudence, riding, shooting and fencing

Early military service

Tipu Sultan was instructed in military tactics by French officers in the employment of his father. At age 15, he accompanied his father against the British in the First Mysore War in 1766. He commanded a corps of cavalry in the invasion of Carnatic in 1767 at age 16. He also distinguished himself in the First Anglo-Maratha War of 1775–1779.

Alexander Beatson, who published a volume on the Fourth Mysore War entitled View of the Origin and Conduct of the War with Tipu Sultan, described Tipu Sultan as follows: "His stature was about five feet eight inches; he had a short neck, square shoulders, and was rather corpulent: his limbs were small, particularly his feet and hands; he had large full eyes, small arched eyebrows, and an aquiline nose; his complexion was fair, and the general expression of his countenance, not void of dignity".

Second Anglo-Mysore War and Tipu Sultan

In 1779, the British captured the French-controlled port of Mahé, which Tipu had placed under his protection, providing some troops for its defence. In response, Hyder launched an invasion of the Carnatic, with the aim of driving the British out of Madras.

During this campaign in September 1780, Tipu Sultan was dispatched by Hyder Ali with 10,000 men and 18 guns to intercept Colonel Baillie who was on his way to join Sir Hector Munro. In the Battle of Pollilur, Tipu decisively defeated Baillie. Out of 360 Europeans, about 200 were captured alive, and the sepoys, who were about 3800 men, suffered very high casualties. Munro was moving south with a separate force to join Baillie, but on hearing the news of the defeat he was forced to retreat to Madras, abandoning his artillery in a water tank at Kanchipuram.

Tipu Sultan defeated Colonel Braithwaite at Annagudi near Tanjore on 18 February 1782. Braithwaite's forces, consisting of 100 Europeans, 300 cavalries, 1400 sepoys and 10 field pieces, was the standard size of the colonial armies. Tipu Sultan seized all the guns and took the entire detachment prisoner. In December 1781 Tipu Sultan successfully seized Chittur from the British.

Tipu Sultan had thus gained sufficient military experience by the time Hyder Ali died on Friday, 6 December 1782 – some historians put it at 2 or 3 days later or before, (Hijri date being 1 Muharram, 1197 as per some records in Persian – there may be a difference of 1 to 3 days due to the Lunar Calendar). Tipu Sultan realised that the British were a new kind of threat in India.

He became the ruler of Mysore on Sunday, 22 December 1782 (The inscriptions in some of Tipu's regalia showing it as 20 Muharram, 1197 Hijri – Sunday), in a simple coronation ceremony. He then worked to check the advances of the British by making alliances with the Marathas and the Mughals. The Second Mysore War came to an end with the 1784 Treaty of Mangalore.

Ruler of the Mysore

Conflicts with Maratha Confederacy

The Maratha Empire, under its new Peshwa Madhavrao I, regained most of the 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, which were captured by Marathas in the previous war. Tipu also stopped the tribute to Marathas which was promised by Hyder Ali. This brought Tipu in direct conflict with the Marathas, leading to Maratha–Mysore War[38] Conflicts between Mysore (under Tipu) and Marathas:

Siege of Nargund during February 1785 won by Mysore

Siege of Badami during May 1786 in which Mysore surrendered

Siege of Adoni during June 1786 won by Mysore

Battle of Gajendragad, June 1786 won by Marathas

Battle of Savanur during October 1786 won by Mysore

Siege of Bahadur Benda during January 1787 won by Mysore

Conflict ended with Treaty of Gajendragad in March 1787, as per which Tipu returned all the territory captured by Hyder Ali to Maratha Empire. Tipu agreed to pay four year arrears of tribute which his father Hyder Ali had agreed to pay to Maratha Empire (4.8 million rupees), The Marathas agreed to address Tipu sultan as "Nabob Tipu Sultan Futteh Ally Khan".

In 1766, when Tipu Sultan was just 15 years old, he got the chance to apply his military training in battle for the first time, when he accompanied his father on an invasion of Malabar. After the incident- Siege of Tellicherry in Thalassery in North Malabar, Hyder Ali started losing his territories in Malabar. Tipu came from Mysore to reinstate the authority over Malabar. After the Battle of the Nedumkotta (1789–90), due to the monsoon flood, the stiff resistance of the Travancore forces and news about the attack of the British in Srirangapatnam he went back.

Third Anglo-Mysore War

In 1789, Tipu Sultan disputed the acquisition by Dharma Raja of Travancore of two Dutch-held fortresses in Cochin. In December 1789 he massed troops at Coimbatore, and on 28 December made an attack on the lines of Travancore, knowing that Travancore was (according to the Treaty of Mangalore) an ally of the British East India Company. On account of the staunch resistance by the Travancore army, Tipu was unable to break through the Travancore lines and the Maharajah of Travancore appealed to the East India Company for help.

In response, Lord Cornwallis mobilised company and British military forces, and formed alliances with the Marathas and the Nizam of Hyderabad to oppose Tipu. In 1790 the company forces advanced, taking control of much of the Coimbatore district.Tipu counter-attacked, regaining much of the territory, although the British continued to hold Coimbatore itself. He then descended into the Carnatic, eventually reaching Pondicherry, where he attempted without success to draw the French into the conflict.

In 1791 his opponents advanced on all fronts, with the main British force under Cornwallis taking Bangalore and threatening Srirangapatna. Tipu harassed the British supply and communication and embarked on a "scorched earth" policy of denying local resources to the British. In this last effort he was successful, as the lack of provisions forced Cornwallis to withdraw to Bangalore rather than attempt a siege of Srirangapatna. Following the withdrawal, Tipu sent forces to Coimbatore, which they retook after a lengthy siege.

The 1792 campaign was a failure for Tipu. The allied army was well-supplied, and Tipu was unable to prevent the junction of forces from Bangalore and Bombay before Srirangapatna. After about two weeks of siege, Tipu opened negotiations for terms of surrender. In the ensuing treaty, he was forced to cede half his territories to the allies, and deliver two of his sons as hostages until he paid in full three crores and thirty lakhs rupees fixed as war indemnity to the British for the campaign against him. He paid the amount in two instalments and got back his sons from Madras.

Fourth Anglo-Mysore War - The Death Of Tipu Sultan

The spot in Srirangapatana where Tipu's body was found

The spot in Srirangapatana where Tipu's body was found

Horatio Nelson defeated François-Paul Brueys D'Aigalliers at the Battle of the Nile in Egypt in 1798. Three armies marched into Mysore in 1799—one from Bombay and two British, one of which included Arthur Wellesley. They besieged the capital Srirangapatna in the Fourth Mysore War.

There were more than 26,000 soldiers of the British East India Company, approximately 4,000 Europeans and the rest Indians; while Tipu Sultan's forces numbered only 30,000. The betrayal by Tipu Sultan's ministers in working with the British and weakening the walls to make an easy path for the British.

When the British broke through the city walls, French military advisers told Tipu Sultan to escape via secret passages and to fight the rest of the wars from other forts, but he refused.

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. He was buried the next afternoon at the Gumaz, next to the grave of his father. Many members of the British East India Company believed that Nawab of Carnatic Umdat Ul-Umra secretly provided assistance to Tipu Sultan during the war and sought his deposition after 1799.

Social system under Tipu Sultan Rule

Judicial system

Tipu Sultan appoints Judges from both communities for Hindu and Muslim subjects. Qadi for Muslims and Pandit for Hindu in each province. Upper courts also having similar system.

Moral Administration

Usage of liquor and prostitution were strictly prohibited in his administration. Usage and agriculture of psychedelics, such as Cannabis, were also prohibited. Polyandry in Kerala was prohibited by Tipu Sultan. He passed a decree for all women to cover their breasts, which was not practised in Kerala in previous era.The decree is as follows: In the whole of the territories of the Balaghat (i.e., in the country below the ghats) most of the Hindu women go about with their breasts and heads uncovered. This is animal-like. No one of these women should hereafter go out without a fuller robe and a veil.

Religious policy

On a personal level, Tipu was a devout Muslim, saying his prayers daily and paying special attention to mosques in the area. As a Muslim ruler of a predominantly Hindu country, some of his policies have evoked controversy. The mainstream view considers Tipu's administration to have been tolerant. Regular endowments were made during this period to about 156 Hindu temples, including the famed Ranganathaswami Temple at Srirangapatna.

His religious legacy has become a source of considerable controversy in India, with some groups (including Christians and even Muslims) proclaiming him a great warrior for the faith or Ghazi for both religious and political reasons.

On one hand, many sources mention the appointment of Hindu officers in Tipu's administration and his land grants and endowments to Hindu temples, which are cited as evidence for his religious tolerance. On the other hand, various sources describe the massacres, imprisonment and forced conversion of Hindus (Kodavas of Coorg, Nairs of Malabar) and Christians (Catholics of Mangalore), the destruction of churches and temples, and the clamping down on Muslims (Mappila of Kerala, the Mahdavia Muslims, the rulers of Savanur and the people of Hyderabad State), which are sometimes cited as evidence for his intolerance.

British accounts

Historians such as Brittlebank, Hasan, Chetty, Habib, and Saletare, amongst others, argue that controversial stories of Tipu Sultan's religious persecution of Hindus and Christians are largely derived from the work of early British authors (who were very much against Tipu Sultan's independence and harboured prejudice against the Sultan) such as James Kirkpatrick[99] and Mark Wilks, whom they do not consider to be entirely reliable and likely fabricated. A. S. Chetty argues that Wilks' account in particular cannot be trusted.

Irfan Habib and Mohibbul Hasan argue that these early British authors had a strong vested interest in presenting Tipu Sultan as a tyrant from whom the British had liberated Mysore.

This assessment is echoed by Brittlebank in her recent work where she writes that Wilks and Kirkpatrick must be used with particular care as both authors had taken part in the wars against Tipu Sultan and were closely connected to the administrations of Lord Cornwallis and Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley.

The French were allies of the Tipu Sultan. Francois Fidele Ripaud de Montaudevert, a French soldier who fought for Tippu, in his diary entry of 14 January 1799 writes: "I'm disturbed by Tipu Sultan's treatment of these most gentle souls, the Hindus. During the siege of Mangalore, Tipu's soldiers daily exposed the heads of many innocent Brahmins within sight from the fort for the Zamorin and his Hindu followers to see."

Tipu sultan Relations with Muslims

During his campaigns of clamping down on groups that helped the British, Tipu Sultan targeted several Muslim groups, including the Mappila Muslims of Malabar, the Mahadevi Muslims, and the Nawab of Savanur and Nizam.

Tipu sultan Relations with Hindus

Hindu officers under Tipu Sultan Empire Tipu Sultan's treasurer was Krishna Rao, Shamaiya Iyengar was his Minister of Post and Police, his brother Ranga Iyengar was also an officer, and Purnaiya held the very important post of "Mir Asaf". Moolchand and Sujan Rai were his chief agents at the Mughal court, and his chief "Peshkar", Suba Rao, was also a Hindu.

Regular endowments to 156 Hindu temples in Tipu sultan Empire

The Editor of Mysore Gazette reports of correspondence between his court and temples, and his having donated jewellery and deeded land grants to several temples, which he was compelled to for forming alliances with Hindu rulers. Between 1782 and 1799 Tipu Sultan issued 34 "Sanads" (deeds) of the endowment to temples in his domain, while also presenting many of them with gifts of silver and gold plate.

The Srikanteswara Temple in Nanjangud still possesses a jewelled cup presented by the Sultan.He also gave a greenish linga; to the Ranganatha temple at Srirangapatna, he donated seven silver cups and a silver camphor burner. This temple was hardly a stone's throw from his palace from where he would listen with equal respect to the ringing of temple bells and the muezzin's call from the mosque; to the Lakshmikanta Temple at Kalale he gifted four cups, a plate and Spitoon in silver.

Sringeri incident, Maratha sacking, and rebuilding temple

During the Maratha–Mysore War in 1791, a group of Maratha horsemen under Raghunath Rao Patwardhan raided the temple and matha of Sringeri Shankaracharya. The wounded and killed many people, including Brahmins, plundered the monastery of all its valuable possessions, and desecrated the temple by displacing the image of goddess Sarada.

The incumbent Shankaracharya petitioned Tipu Sultan for help. About 30 letters written in Kannada, which were exchanged between Tipu Sultan's court and the Sringeri Shankaracharya, were discovered in 1916 by the Director of Archaeology in Mysore.

Tipu Sultan expressed his indignation and grief at the news of the raid: "People who have sinned against such a holy place are sure to suffer the consequences of their misdeeds at no distant date in this Kali age in accordance with the verse: "Hasadbhih kriyate karma rudadbhir-anubhuyate" (People do [evil] deeds smilingly but suffer the consequences crying)."

He immediately ordered the Asaf of Bednur to supply the Swami with 200 rahatis (fanams) in cash and other gifts and articles. Tipu Sultan's interest in the Sringeri temple continued for many years, and he was still writing to the Swami in the 1790s.

Controversial figure

In light of this and other events, historian B. A. Saletare has described Tipu Sultan as a defender of the Hindu dharma, who also patronised other temples including one at Melkote, for which he issued a Kannada decree that the Shrivaishnava invocatory verses there should be recited in the traditional form.

The temple at Melkote still has gold and silver vessels with inscriptions indicating that they were presented by the Sultan. Tipu Sultan also presented four silver cups to the Lakshmikanta Temple at Kalale.[109] Tipu Sultan does seem to have repossessed unauthorised grants of land made to Brahmins and temples, but those which had proper sanads (certificates) were not. It was a normal practice for any ruler, Muslim or Hindu, on his accession or on the conquest of new territory.

Noted for his persecution of Christians, historian Thomas Paul notes that Tipu had shifted his hatred for the British to Catholics of Mangalore and other Christian communities of South India. According to historian Praxy Fernandes, Tipu Sultan was "an enlightened monarch who followed a secular policy towards his subjects."

C. Hayavadana Rao wrote about Tipu in his encyclopaedic court history of Mysore. He asserted that Tipu's "religious fanaticism and the excesses committed in the name of religion, both in Mysore and in the provinces, stand condemned for all time. His bigotry, indeed, was so great that it precluded all ideas of toleration". He further asserts that the acts of Tipu that were constructive towards Hindus were largely political and ostentatious rather than an indication of genuine tolerance.

In Contrary to the writings of Historian B.A. Saletare, an article published by the New Indian Express in Nov 2016, mentions the mass murdering of the Mandyam Iyengars. it states as "On the evening of Deepavali that more than 700 Mandyam Iyengars who congregated at Narasimhaswamy temple on the banks of Cauvery at Srirangapatna town, capital of Tipu Sultan, were killed by Tipu's army on charges of colluding with British while supporting Maharani Lakshmammanni, according to Lakshmi Thatchar, a Sanskrit scholar and a researcher.


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