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Tipu Sultan: The Great Warrior and Ruler of India
Wednesday May 4, 2016 0:08 AM, Prof. Shakeel Samdani,


Tipu Sultan prominently called as Tiger of Mysore was a legendary ruler of Mysore kingdom. He did not only oppose British in south India but also effectively challenged them in their a1dvancement towards capturing south Indian states. Till whole of his life he succeeded in keeping them away from whole south India . At that time of history he was the only Indian ruler who had courage and conviction to face mighty British.He defeated British army in first and second Anglo- Mysore wars during the times of his father Hyder Ali. He was so much dreaded to British that he dictated terms to the British in Treaty of Madras and Mangalore respectively. Born on 20 November 1750 at Devanahalli (Bangalore), Tipu Sultan remained loyal to Indian soil and never tried to bargain his freedom from British as some of the rulers did in those times. Tipu Sultan was not only a warrior, commander, fighter and man of words but was also an effective administrator and reformer. He died fighting British at Srirangapattanam on 04 May 1799. His 217th death anniversary is falling on 04 May 2016 and it is time when we should not only pay him lip services but honestly analyse his whole life span and struggles to save the honour of his motherland. The befitting tribute to the legendary ruler will be to judge him by his services and deeds as unfortunately myths have over ran on history as far as this great ruler is concerned.

Tipu Sultan had developed such a modern war technology which has been discussed and recognized by his adversaries like his enemies Britishers. He was the first Indian king who had organised Rocket Artillery Brigade which was known at that time as Cushoon. He increased number of servicemen in the various cushoon`s from 1500 to 5000. It is well documented how his rocket technology was later on developed by the British who successfully used it during the war with Napoleon. Tipu Sultan expanded use of rockets making critical innovations in the rocket themselves and the military logistics of their use. He deployed as many as 1200 troops in his army to operate rocket launchers who were skilled in operating the weapons and were trained to launch their rockets at an angle from the diameter of the cylinder and the distance to the target. The rockets had blades attached to them and could wreck damage when fired against a large army. The rockets deployed by Tipu Sultan during the battle of Pollilur were much more advanced from those the British East India Company had ever seen.

In 1786 , Tipu Sultan decided to build a navy consisting of 20 battleships of 72 cannons and 20 frigates of 62 canons. In 1790, he appointed Kamaluddin as his Mir Bahr and established massive dockyards at Jamalabad and Majidabad. The board of admiralty of Tipu Sultan consisted 11 Commanders under service of Mirs Yam. A Mirs Yam led 30 commanders and each one of them had two ships under him. Most of the ships of Tipu Sultan had copper bottoms, a modern innovation later on developed by Admiral Suffren.

Tipu Sultan was following an advance foreign policy. It should be kept in mind that both Tipu Sultan and his father Hyder Ali were independent rulers of Mysore but they were following some degree of loyalty to then Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II. It indicate that both Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan were much more interested in a centralized governance and following customs. History records that just after his coronation, Tipu Sultan approached Mughal emperor for recognition but as Nizam Ali Khan, the then Nizam of Hyderabad was hostile towards him, Tipu Sultan failed to receive favours from Mughal Court. On the other hand Nizam of Hyderabad claimed on Mysore. So Tipu Sultan disappointed and he began establishing contacts with other rulers.

Just imagine the loyalty of Tipu Sultan to his country at large, India, that when eunuch Ghulam Qadir blinded Shah Alam II on 10 August 1788, Tipu Sultan was broken into tears . Tipu Sultan also established contacts with Afghan ruler Zaman Shah Durrani for defeating British and the talks were handed towards positive direction but due to Persian attack on western borders of Afghanistan, army of Zaman Shah were diverted and so the plan of joint Tipu -Afghan operation against British collapsed .

History indicates that Tipu Sultan was following all established norms of his time. Perhaps due to that he sent an ambassador to Ottoman capital Istanbul requesting Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid - I to sent an urgent assistance against the British East India Company. His religious sentiments may be also understood from the facts that he sought permission from Ottoman Sultan to maintain Islamic holy religious places like Mecca, Madina, Najaf and Karbala. But at that time Ottoman were themselves under crisis and had just overcoming the fall out of Austro-Ottoman War. So that plan went into dustbin .

Tipu Sultan was standing on a cross road of history. Wherever he approached to defend India to anybody, roadblocks came . He sought support from French but at that time French Revolution broke out and the ruling French family Bourbon was executed and the country went into chaos. So here also he failed to get any support. His foreign policy may be understood by the fact that in February 1798, Napoleon himself wrote a letter to him appropriating his efforts resisting British attempts of annexation of Mysore. It is another story that this letter never reached on doors of Tipu Sulatn as a British spy seized it Muscat. The idea of Napoleon - Tipu Sultan alliance alarmed the British Governor General Sir Richard Wellesley and so he decided for the final war with Mysore kingdom. On the other hand just imagine the socio-political map of Indian sub continent, if Tipu Sultan - Napoleon alliance may have became a reality?

Tipu Sultan was also a lover of academics and languages. He launched massive educational campaigns in Urdu and Persian in Mysore region. It is very interesting to note that Muslims of North Karnataka speak Nawayathi while of South region speak Beary and Muslims of Kodagu speak Kodava. The main aim of Tipu Sultan was to unite his masses under one or two languages that is Urdu and Persian. It is also well documented that he declared Persian as his official language of Mysore Kingdom.

Tipu Sultan was a great administrator too. His correspondence with his officials indicate that he had full grip upon the administration of Mysore kingdom. He used to send detailed instructions to them. He even borrowed good points of administration from west which was a rarity in those times. During his reign he considerably increased trade and commerce. Some of the analysts believe that Tipu Sultan was the first Indian king who abolished feudal system in Mysore. History records his novel methods of revenue collection and judicial system and his many innovations like new scales of weights and measures, reforms in coinage and calendars, banking and finance.

Tipu Sultan was a secular ruler. His administration was running on the Judicial systems which was most modern in those days. Though there are some historians who have tried to communalise him but in fact the realty is otherwise. Every ruler, under kingship or democracy, confronts those who oppose him or try to de-throne him. Tipu Sultan never fought against his own people but it is true that he crushed those elements who tried to disturb his administration and break Mysore kingdom.

The attempts of a few British historians to depict Tipu as communal are highly erroneous. Tipu was just and fair to all. His appointment of numerous Hindus to high offices and his grants and gifts to Hindu temples and Brahmins falsify the wrong accusation that Tipu as intolerant.

Tipu Sultan not only gave grants and money to the temples owned by the Hindus but he also granted them complete religious freedom. All non-Muslims, Hindus and Christians alike, were free to follow their own religion.

But like a modern enlighten ruler he was not in favour of inhuman and unnatural rites and ritual. He introduced social reforms both among Hindus and Muslims. In the words of Mohd Iliyas Nadvi: “In this direction on the one hand where he imposed strict ban on the non sensible and anti Islamic practices among the Muslims, he also sternly abolished all such ridiculous practices among the Hindus. In those days some Hindu women in Sultanate Khudadad used to have four or more husbands and they had a matriarchal society which was strictly banned by him. The women folk from Malabar used to roam topless in the market. He opposed it. In some temples, particularly the temple of Kali of Mysore human sacrifices was made to please God and deities. He imposed a blanket ban on it. Slavery was prevented among Hindus. Hindu women were auctioned in markets in big cities. Maids used to be kept in houses to satisfy their sexual lusts. A royal decree was passed which made slavery unlawful. Custom was prevalent among the Hindu women in Coorg that only the eldest son of the family was permitted to marry a women who used to become the wife of his brothers. He imposed a ban on it also.”

These were reasons that Hindu majority stood by his side until his martyrdom on 4th May 1799. The day Sultan met his martyrdom; several bodies of Hindu women including young girls were found lying around the Sultan’s body. Even the British officers were stupefied to observe such dedication and intense affection of the Hindu populace towards a Muslim ruler. When the Sultan’s funeral procession was being taken along, Hindu women were weeping bitterly and smearing their heads with mud. When the capital was besieged, several Brahmins observed a day long fast according to their religious rites seeking the Sultan’s victory.

Tipu Sultan had built up a different administrative system which was accountable to deliver justice to masses. He was first Indian ruler who combined eastern and western administrative systems. Even his adversaries have admitted that Edward More, the British Captain who invaded Mysore in the Third Mysore War observed, " when a person travelling through a strange country finds it well cultivated, populous with industrious inhabitants, cities, expanding commerce and everything flourishing so as to indicate happiness he will naturally conclude to be under a form of governance which is pro- public ". If this is view of his bitter enemy then there is no iota of doubt that Tipu Sultan was delivering justice to his people by his able administration. Just glance over what famous economist, James Miller has said, " He (Tipu Sultan) had the discernment to perceive what is so generally hidden from eyes of rulers in a more enlightened state of society, that it is prosperity of those who labour with their hands which constitutes the principal cause of the prosperity of the state of Mysore."

But Tipu Sultan has not received due recognition in Indian history because he was die hard British enemy and the Britisher tried every trick to damage his personality. Unfortunately, in post independent India also the Democratic governments failed to take up corrective steps.

Have we forgotten that our own missile man, former President of India APJ Abul Kalam had said that ," Tipu Sultan is founder of missile technology in India." In fact he meant that India has developed its missile technology on the basis of rocket technology of Tipu Sultan which was unknown in those days.

It is high time when our present rulers should recognize the importance and greatness of Tipu Sultan and give him his due place. The government should not only name some important buildings and roads after him but also establish research institutes or Tipu Sultan Chairs in central universities to study and conduct research on the contribution. Tipu Sultan has enhanced India`s technology and loved country and its masses. Since he had established very effective naval force and used missiles also, big naval ships and some missiles should also be named after him. It is also required that historians should pursue the studies relating to him more seriously and honestly, so that the British propaganda against him is properly countered.

[Prof. Shakeel Samdani is a senior faculty at the Dept. of Law, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, India. He may be contacted at]

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