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Modern India

Tipu Sultan of Mysore

by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha, 1 April 2012

Tipu Sultan was born in Devanhalli, Karnataka, on 10 December 1750. His parents were Hyder Ali and his second wife, Fatima.

His father had usurped the throne of the royal Wadiyar (or Wodeyar) family of Mysore in 1761 and had declared himself sultan of Mysore, completely controlling the kingdom.

Tipu was trained to be a warrior from his early teens, and he accompanied his father on campaigns against rivals such as the British East India Company, the Marathas, and the Nizam of Hyderabad.

Tipu was a man of learning and was proficient in multiple languages. He was also a proficient war strategist as is evident from his early victories in battle.


His primary rivals continued to be the British. He fought several successful wars against the East India Company, starting in 1766 when he participated in a campaign at the age of fifteen, accompanying his father.

Another war in 1779 saw Tipu dispatched by Hyder to fight the British after their capture of the French fort of Mahe, which was under the protection of Mysore.

In 1780, Tipu defeated Colonel Baille of the East India Company at the Battle of Pollilur. The following year he seized Chittur from the British, and in 1782 he defeated Colonel Braithwaite at the Battle of Annagudi, near Tanjore.

Tipu was able to force forced the Treaty of Mangalore on the British in 1784, with the help of the French. The French were also able to convert Tipu's army into a modern fighting force, equipped with artillery and rockets. To his enemies, Tipu Sultan was a ruthless foe, but to his loyalists and subjects he was a benevolent king.

Tipu also introduced a new coinage, a new calendar, and a new system of weights and measures based on the French methods. After the death of his father in 1782, Tipu became sultan of Mysore.

Final campaigns

In 1789, Tipu invaded Travancore, an ally of the British. They had taken over two forts belonging to the king of Cochin who was a vassal of Mysore. This final act, which was a defeat, resulted in an alliance between all of his old rivals; the British, the Marathas, and the Nizam of Hyderabad, whose collective strength inflicted a crushing defeat on Tipu. His allies, the French, failed to support him in his hour of need, distracted as they were by the pre-Revolutionary crisis at home in the same year.

Tipu Sultan's tomb
Tipu's mausoleum is an excellent example of Islamic architecture in India

Tipu died on 4 May 1799, fighting valiantly in battle at Seringapatam, facing British forces commanded by Sir Arthur Wellesley, the future duke of Wellington.

Tipu Sultan was not just famous as a great general, but also as a good administrator. He built several buildings, roads, etc, and improved the infrastructure of his city.

He left behind sixteen sons and eight daughters from his four wives. They, along with the rest of Tipu's family, were exiled to Calcutta after his death.


Main Sources

Islamic Voice website (see links in sidebar)



Text copyright © Abhijit Rajadhyaksha. An original feature for the History Files.