Tipu Sultan was the son of Hyder Ali, who established the Mysore sultanate. The two ruled over the Mysore region and offered stiff resistance to British expansion during their lifetime.
His Early Years
Tipu Sultan was born in Devanahalli, located currently in the Kolar district, on November 20, 1750. He was the eldest son of Hyder Ali and Fakhr-Un-Nissa or Fatima.
While Tipu was still a child, Hyder Ali seized power from the ruler of Mysore and established the Mysore Sultanate. Tipu, besides being skilled in the art of warfare from a young age, was also a scholar and proficient in many languages.
His Military Exploits
At the age of 15, Tipu took part in the First Anglo Mysore War in 1766 during his father’s reign. He also commanded a cavalry corps during the Carnatic invasion in 1767. The French had entered into an alliance with Mysore rulers and Tipu stationed some troupes at Mahe, a French port.
When the British captured this fort, Hyder Ali dispatched an army under Tipu, who advanced against Colonel Baillie. At Pollilur, Tipu encountered Baillie and defeated him in a decisive battle. Tipu then defeated Colonel Braithwaite near Tanjore and then seized Chittoor from the British. At the time of Hyder Ali’s death in December 1782, Tipu had consolidated his position, and the British forces had been driven back.
Tipu Sultan assumed power on December 22, 1782.
The Third Anglo Mysore War
In 1789, Tipu Sultan launched an attack against the Raja of Travancore in a dispute over two forts in Cochin, but he met with stiff resistance from the Travancore troops. The British, along with the Nizam of Hyderabad and the Marathas, came to the aid of Travancore.
Later, British East India Company forces under Lord Cornwallis seized Coimbatore, but they were prevented from advancing further by Tipu Sultan.
In 1791, British troops took Bangalore and tried to advance on Srirangapatnam. But Tipu, following the scorched earth policy, destroyed local resources, denying access to supplies for the British forces in this way. However, the next year, the well supplied British troops laid siege to Srirangapatnam. Tipu was forced to enter into a humiliating treaty ceding half of his territory and two of his sons as hostages.
The Fourth Anglo Mysore War
In 1799, the British again laid siege to Srirangapatnam, aided by the Hyderabad Nawab and the Marathas. Tipu was killed during this siege and he was buried next to his father.
Tipu was known for his innovative use of rocketry in his military tactics. These rockets, fitted with swords and spears were fired at the enemy from long distances. These weapons were used very skillfully by Tipu Sultan during the Anglo Mysore wars.
Tipu introduced a new currency (coin) and a new calendar. He was a good administrator and set up seven new departments in his government.
Some Controversial Incidents
Tipu Sultan was a devout Muslim, but he was generally reputed to have treated people of other religions well. He even built a church at the request of the French and is said to have made many grants to Hindu temples.
But his treatment of people belonging to other religions in conquered regions was not always so benevolent. His treatments of Hindus and Syrian Christians in Malabar, South Canara and Kodagu are the subject of still raging controversies.
The famous Krishna Idol of Guruvayoor was shifted to Amabalapuzha fearing an attack from Tipu Sultan. It is said that there was a mass migration of Hindus to Travancore from Malabar fearing Tipu’s persecution.
Despite the controversies, Tipu Sultan is still viewed as a patriot who played a huge part, along with his father, in delaying the British from taking over the whole of Deccan. He fully understood the threat posed by the British and resisted their advance till his last breath.