1750 Born at Devanahalli, District Bangalore in Karnataka to Fakhr-un-Nissa and Haider Ali on November 20. 1767 Young Tipu surprises the English during the first Mysore war. 1780 Defeats the British near Plilur. 1782 Tipu’s father, Haider Ali dies in a camp near Chittor at the age of 60. 1783 Tipu Sultan is enthroned as ruler of Mysore in a simple ceremony at Bednur on May 4. 1784 Signs the Mangalore Treaty after defeating the British. 1790-92 Third Mysore war. 1792 Signs peace treaty dictated by Lord Cornwallis on Feb 23. His two sons, Abdul Khaliq and Maiz-Uddin are taken away as hostages by the British. 1799 Fourth Mysore War. 1799 Embraces martyrdom, May 4.
The British who managed to undo the Muslim empire ruled the subcontinent with unease, except for a period of less than a century after the failure of the 1857 war of independence. Among the most formidable foes they confronted was Tipu Sultan of Mysore. Tipu’s short but stormy reign began and ended in the midst of war against the English. More significant than his patriotism was his creative vision that aimed at bringing about a social change, in the improvement of economic life, and in the enhancement of the prestige and prosperity of his state.
His reforming zeal touched almost every department of life, including coinage and calendar, weights and measures, banking and finance, trade and commerce, agriculture and industry, morals and manners and social and cultural life. If he had not been engrossed in the exasperating wars, he would surely have ushered his state into a revolutionary era. He built up an efficient system of administration and was almost the first Indian ruler to apply modern techniques of government. His innovative measures and dynamic policies made Mysore gain almost international importance in his times.
His 1786 proclamation read: “No man shall be punished save in accordance with law. The law of immemorial custom and as enshrined in our traditions shall be honored by us. So that people may know the extent and the rigor of the law, as also their rights, duties, obligations and responsibilities. We have decided that codification of law be undertaken …[and for this, we have] established a committee of ministers …” LEADING BY EXAMPLE Tipu, born to Haider Ali and his wife Fakhr-un-Nissa on November 20, 1750 at Devanahalli, named after a mystic Tipu Mastan Aulia, was also called Fateh Ali. Haider’s ancestors came to India during the 14th and 15th centuries, seeking their fortune. His great grandfather, Shaikh Wali Mohammed migrated from Delhi to Gulbarga in the middle of the 17th century, and his son, Mohammed Ali who served in the Bijapur army migrated to Kolar in the service of Nawab Mohammed Shah after Bijapur fell to the Moghuls. One of his four sons—Fateh Mohammed—had a son named Haider Ali who entered the service of the ministers of Mysore, signified himself by his bravery, initiative and qualities of leadership. Although illiterate himself, Haider gave his son Tipu a good education. In fact, this was not his original intent because he wanted Tipu to be a warrior. It was only after the birth of a second son, Abdul-Karim, five years later, that Haider changed his focus, putting Tipu through a regimen of learning and waiting for his younger son to take up his father’s mantle. Besides the arts, Tipu received military education from Ghazi-Khan, a respected general in Haider’s army, and of course field training in wars fought by his father, especially the First and the Second Mysore Wars. After his father’s death in the course of the Second Mysore War, Tipu was enthroned as ruler of Mysore on May 4, 1783 in a simple ceremony at Bednur.
He inherited a powerful empire that extended from Malabar in the west to the Eastern Ghats, about 300 miles in width, the Krishna in the north to Dindigal in the south, about 400 miles in length. Tipu continued the campaign and eventually defeated the English, ending the war with the treaty of Mangalore signed on March 11, 1784. Tipu, who believed in leading by example, told his men: “By what right do I commend my men to die for my cause if I should be afraid to lay down my own life? In the face of a common calamity, is the King to escape sacrifice and suffering? And why should I prolong the hours then there is no more profit in them? I should only make myself ridiculous in the eyes of others and of my own—if I cling to life needlessly. Would you advice a tiger to follow the life-style of a jackal; would you?” Even though fighting a despised alien power, Tipu repeatedly advised his army to observe the Islamic code of war. His decrees issued in 1783, repeated in 1785, 1787 and possibly more often, said: “…Looting a conquered enemy enriches a few; impoverishes the nations and dishonors the entire army.
War must be linked to battlefields. Do not carry it to innocent civilians. Honor their children and the infirm.” A TOLERANT RULER In the tradition of Islamic tolerance, Tipu advised that “… Religious tolerance is the fundamental tenet of the Qur’an,” adding, “The Qur’an calls upon you not to revile the idols of another religion for it says: revile not those unto whom they pray beside Allah lest they wrongfully revile Allah through ignorance.” In a declaration issued in 1787, Tipu also informed his subjects: “The Qur’an expects you to vie with each other in good works and says for each we have appointed a divine law and a traced out way. Had Allah willed he could have made you one community...so vie one with another in good works.” Some Hindu fundamentalist writers have attempted to force the mantle of ‘fanaticism’ on Tipu. However, such claims are refuted by facts such as that both his prime minister Purnea and commander-in-chief Krishna Rao were Brahmins, and that scores of Hindu temples used to receive annual grants from the Sultan’s treasury. An impartial Hindu scholar and historian, Dr. Bishambhar Nath Pande, who died in June 1998, has noted that history was compiled by European writers whose main objective was to produce histories that would serve their policy of divide and rule.
Pande ranks among the very few Indians and fewer still Hindu historians who tried to be honest when dealing with the Muslim rule in India that lasted for almost 1,000 years. Pande was shocked to read in a college textbook the accusation that “Three thousand Brahmins committed suicide as Tipu wanted to convert them forcibly into the fold of Islam.” However, upon research this was disproved and the book was removed but years later, Pande found that it had appeared again as a textbook in other states. In his famous Khuda Bakhsh Annual Lecture (1985), Pande said: “Thus under a definite policy the Indian history textbooks were so falsified and distorted as to give an impression that the medieval [Muslim] period of Indian history was full of atrocities committed by Muslim rulers on their Hindu subjects and the Hindus had to suffer terrible indignities under Muslim rule. And there were no common factors [between Hindus and Muslims] in social, political and economic life.” Pande noted that in the January 23, 1930, issue of Young India, a magazine edited by M.K. Gandhi, it is stated on page 31 that: “Fatehali Tipu Sultan of Mysore is represented by foreign historians as a fanatic who oppressed his Hindu subjects and converted them to Islam by force. But he was nothing of the kind. On the other hand his relations with his Hindu subjects were of a perfectly cordial nature.”
AN INNOVATOR Tipu was quick in applying the western techniques of warfare. Under his leadership, the Mysore army proved to be a school of military science to Indian princes. The serious blows that Tipu inflicted on the English in the First and Second Mysore wars affected their reputation as an invincible power. Dr. APJ Abul Kalam, the father of modern Indian rocket technology, in his Tipu Sultan Shaheed Memorial Lecture in Bangalore (Nov. 30, 1991), called Tipu the innovator of the world’s first war rocket. In fact, two of these rockets, captured by British at Srirangapatana, are displayed in the Woolwich Museum Artillery in London. Their motor casing is made of steel with multi-nozzle holes and the sword blade as warhead. The 50mm diameter, 250mm long rocket weighs about 2kg, with about 1kg packed gunpowder as propellant, and its range performance is reported 900meters to 1.5 km. Tipu also established a navy, and his own shipbuilding facility. He is attributed with devising a non-magnetic alloy for shipbuilding. A SINGLE-MINDED CAMPAIGNER In the First Mysore war, the 17-year old Tipu surprised the English when he appeared at the gates of Madras in September 1767. His martial training started as early as 1763, when as a 13 year-old he fought alongside his father against Malabar. Tipu was present when his father negotiated with the Nizam in the First Mysore war. The tact and resourcefulness of the young prince impressed the Nizam and won him over to Haider’s side. It was Tipu who negotiated the treaty with the Nizam in 1767, arriving at the Nizam’s camp at the head of 6,000 troops. This was his first diplomatic assignment and the Nizam was pleased to confer on him the titles of “Nasib-ud-daula” (fortune of the state) and “Fateh Ali Khan”.
Tipu’s entire focus was the expulsion of the British colonists, and anyone who was seen as a collaborator deserved equal punishment. He soon realized that his weak neighbors, the Marathas and the Nizam had fallen prey to British intrigue and aligned themselves in a confederacy against Mysore. Another cause for the continuous warfare was the need to suppress the squabbling feudal lords and minor rulers whose rivalries and ambitions had caused great confusion in Karnataka. Such upheaval digressed with Tipu’s aim of establishing a strong central authority that would serve the people better. In an age where treason was rife and self-serving rulers and courtiers, both Muslims and Hindus, were giving India away, Tipu stood like an epitome of integrity struggling to free the homeland from under alien rule. The reality is that the struggle for freedom from colonialism emanated from Tipu long before the war of 1857. Tipu had taken great interest in the Mysore-Marhatha war of 1769-72. After the death of Peshwa Madhava Rao in 1772, he was sent to northern Mysore to recover the territories that the Marathas had occupied. By the time of Second Mysore war he had gained experience both in warfare and diplomacy. In September 1780 he inflicted a crushing defeat on the British near Polilur, the first and the most serious blow they had suffered in India. On Feb.18, 1782, he inflicted another serious setback to the British at Annagudi near Tanjore, following his December 1781 successful seizure of Chittor. The Treaty of Mangalore that concluded the Second Mysore war is an important document in the history of India, because it was the last occasion when an Indian power dictated terms to the English. The colonists were made to play the role of humble supplicants for peace. At the same time, Tipu frustrated the Marhatha designs to seize his northern possessions. BETRAYED BY NEIGHBORS Prof. Sheik Ali, former vice chancellor of Goa and Mangalore universities, says that the Treaty of Mangalore carried the seeds of strife with the Marhathas and the Nizam. The Marhathas were disappointed in their expectation of acting as the mediators and of recovering their losses in the north of Mysore.
The Nizam, never friendly towards Mysore, since ascending to power in 1761, regarded himself as the overlord of the entire south and expected Haider and Tipu to be his tributaries. Tipu was disappointed that instead of joining him to expel the English, the two had joined them in a powerful confederacy against him in the Third Mysore war. Some argue that the Nizam was upset because Tipu did not side with him when the Marhathas fought against him in 1796. Three years later, the British finished him off, with the help of the Nizam. The confederates struggled hard against Tipu for nearly two years from 1790 to 1792. Finally, Lord Cornwallis, who had surrendered to the Americans at Saratoga in the New World, assumed command, and in a surprise night raid entered the island of Srirangapatna on Feb. 6, 1792. This forced Tipu to make peace, surrendering half of his kingdom, and agreeing to pay a huge indemnity, apart from sending two of his sons as hostages to Madras. TIPU’S LAST STAND Once Tipu was able to recoup, pay the indemnity, and recover his sons, he intensified his contacts with the French, the Turks and the Afghans, and even the Nizam became friendly. The then Ottoman caliph embroiled in his own regional issues responded by suggesting that Tipu make peace with the British.
Napoleon not only agreed to help but also on way to India, invited Zaman Shah of Afghanistan to rally against the English. When all these plans were about to mature, destiny willed otherwise. Napoleon was defeated at Acre in Syria and forced back to France, and Zaman was made to beat a hasty retreat to Kabul when British machinations brought about a rear action from Iran on Afghanistan. The British forced the Nizam to disband the French troops and accept a British detachment under the subsidiary system. Having finished this task they declared war on Tipu, sending the largest English army ever assembled in India. The Fourth Mysore war was a short affair. Tipu refused to accept British terms and was martyred on May 4, 1799, defending his homeland. The last hope for the freedom of the land was thus extinguished. Announcing this event, Richard Wellesley, the Governor General of India, declared: “Ladies and gentlemen, I drink to the corpse of India.” Once Tipu was out of their path, the British dug into the innards of India for a stay that lasted some 150 years, altering the face of India forever.
Courtesy --- SHAHUL HAMEED