Who was Tipu Sultan?
Tipu Sultan was a ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore renowned for his bravery in the wars against the British East India Company. Well known for his valor and courage, he is regarded as the first freedom fighter of India for his fierce battles against the British who tried to conquer the territories under the sultan’s rule. The Treaty of Mangalore, which he signed with the British East India Company to bring an end to the Second Anglo-Mysore War, was the last occasion when an Indian king dictated terms to the British. As the eldest son of Sultan Hyder Ali of Mysore, Tipu Sultan ascended to the throne after the death of his father in 1782. As ruler, he implemented several innovations in his administration and also expanded the iron-cased Mysorean rockets which he would later deploy against the advances of the British forces. His father had diplomatic political relations with the French and thus Tipu Sultan had received military training from French officers as a young man. After becoming the ruler, he continued his father’s policy of aligning with the French in their struggle against the British. He fought several wars against the British and tried his best to defend his kingdom from falling into the hands of the British East India Company. Committed to his country till the very end, he died while fighting in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War.
Childhood & Early Life
Tipu Sultan was born on 20 November 1750 in present-day Bengaluru Rural district to Hyder Ali. His father was a military officer in service to the Kingdom of Mysore in southern India who rapidly rose in power to become the de facto ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore in 1761.
Hyder Ali, who himself was illiterate, was very particular about giving his eldest son a good education befitting a prince. Tipu Sultan received education in subjects like Hindustani language (Hindi-Urdu), Persian, Arabic, Kannada, Quran, Islamic jurisprudence, riding, shooting and fencing.
His father had political relations with the French and thus the young prince was trained in military and political affairs by highly efficient French officers. He was just 15 when he accompanied his father against the British in the First Mysore War in 1766.
Over the years Hyder went on to become the most powerful ruler in the entire southern India and Tipu Sultan played significant roles in his father’s successful military campaigns.
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Accession & Reign
In 1779, the British captured the French-controlled port of Mahé, which was under Tipu’s protection. Hyder Ali opened hostilities against the British in retaliation in 1780, and achieved significant success in early campaigns of what became known as Second Anglo-Mysore War. However as the war progressed, Hyder Ali became ill with cancer and died in December 1782.
Following the death of his father, Tipu Sultan was made the ruler of Mysore on 22 December 1782. He immediately started working on military strategies to check the advances of the British by making alliances with the Marathas and the Mughals. Eventually he was successful in signing the Treaty of Mangalore with the British in 1784, bringing an end to the Second Mysore War.
As a ruler, Tipu Sultan proved to be an efficient one. He completed the projects left behind by his father, built roads, bridges, public buildings, ports, etc. and also made numerous military innovations in the use of rocketry in wars. Through his determined efforts, he built a formidable military force that inflicted serious damages to the British forces.
More ambitious by now, he planned to expand his territories and set his eyes upon Travancore, which according to the Treaty of Mangalore, was an ally of the British East India Company. He launched an attack on the lines of Travancore in December 1789 but was met with resistance from the army of the Maharajah of Travancore. This marked the beginning of the Third Anglo–Mysore War.
The Maharajah of Travancore appealed to the East India Company for help, and in response, Lord Cornwallis formed alliances with the Marathas and the Nizam of Hyderabad to oppose Tipu and built a strong military force.
The company forces attacked Tipu Sultan in 1790 and soon took control over much of the Coimbatore district. Tipu counterattacked, but was not much successful in his campaigns. The conflicts continued for over two years and ended only after he signed the Treaty of Seringapatam in 1792 which resulted in his losing a number of territories, including Malabar and Mangalore.
Even though he had lost many of his territories, the courageous Tipu Sultan was still considered a formidable enemy by the British. In 1799, The East India Company, in alliances with the Marathas and the Nizam attacked Mysore in what became known as the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War, and captured Srirangapatna, the capital of Mysore. Tipu Sultan was killed in the war.
He was a brave warrior and proved his mettle in the Second Anglo-Mysore War. Dispatched by his father to fight the British forces, he displayed great courage in the initial conflicts. His father died in the middle of the war and he succeeded him as the ruler of Mysore in 1782 and successfully ended the war with the Treaty of Mangalore in 1784.
The Third Anglo-Mysore War was another major war he fought against the British forces. This war, however, proved to be a major failure and cost the sultan dearly. The war ended with the Treaty of Seringapatam according to which he had to give up about one-half of his territories to the other signatories which included the British East India Company, representatives of the Nizam of Hyderabad and the Mahratta Empire.
Personal Life & Legacy
Tipu Sultan had several wives and numerous children including Shahzada Hyder Ali Sultan, Shahzada Abdul Khaliq Sultan, Shahzada Muhi-ud-din Sultan, and Shahzada Mu'izz-ud-din Sultan.
A brave warrior, he died on 4 May 1799 while fighting the British forces in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War. As one of the first Indian kings to have died on the battlefield while defending his kingdom against the Colonial British, he was officially recognized by the Government of India as a freedom fighter.
While he is revered as a hero of the Indian independence movement in several regions in India and Pakistan, he is also regarded as a tyrannical ruler in certain regions in India.
The British Army's National Army Museum ranked Tipu Sultan among the greatest enemy commanders the British Army ever faced.
Tipu was commonly known as the Tiger of Mysore and he adopted this animal as the symbol (bubri/ babri) of his rule.
Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, the former President of India, called Tipu Sultan the innovator of the world's first war rocket.