What was the court language of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan?

What was the court language of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan?

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Administrative language of Muslim rulers was usually Persian. But I doubt Tipu's courts used Persian. Was it Persian or Kannada? Even the Nizams started using Urdu instead of Persian after the 1800s.

According to the Wikipedia page on Tipu Sultan, he made Persian the official language throughout his kingdom.

This seems to be confirmed in Language in South Asia, by Braj B. Kachru, Yamuna Kachru, & S. N. Sridhar:

Parts of South India came under Muslim rule in various periods, especially during the reign of the Bahamani kings in Andrha Pradesh and north Karnataka, and that of Hyder Ali and Tippu Sultan [sic] in south Karnataka. During the Latter period (eighteenth century), Persian was the official language of the princely state of Mysore, with official records being kept in that language.

Tipu Sultan: The Voice of Anti-Colonialism

Tipu Sultan was the ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore, which was located in southern India. He is known for his bravery in the wars against the British East India Company.

The Treaty of Mangalore, which he signed with the British East India Company to end the Second Anglo-Mysore War, was the last document in which the Indian ruler dictated terms to the British. As the eldest son of Hyder Ali, Tipu Sultan ascended to the throne after the death of his father in 1782. As a ruler, he implemented several innovations, namely, using Mysore missiles, which were soon used in battles. His father had diplomatic political relations with France. Thus Tipu Sultan received military training from French officers as a young man. After he became ruler, his father’s policy regarding the struggle of the French with the English was continued. Tipu Sultan was desperate to protect his kingdom from falling into the hands of the British East India Company.

The Enigma of Tipu Sultan

Towards the middle of the 18th century, the political situation in India was in a state of flux. In the north, the Mughal Emperor was reduced to a mere figurehead after Nader Shah’s sack of Delhi. Roving bands of Maratha horsemen were collecting Chauth and Sardeshmukhi tributes (types of tax) from the numerous chieftains who had declared themselves quasi-independent of the Mughals. They were even raiding states down south, where one of the smaller kingdoms, Mysore, had emerged from the ruins of the Vijayanagara empire and moulded itself into a small, dynamic Hindu state. The Wodeyar kings, who had been ruling Mysore for over 300 years, were only nominal rulers by this time and actual power was wielded by their prime minister, or ‘dalavai’.

By 1760, Tipu’s father, Haidar Ali had eased himself into the title of Sarvadhikari or ‘regent of the kingdom’ by taking advantage of his close connection with Mysore’s then dalavai, as well as using prudence, tact and bravery in battling the Marathas and the British. After Haider’s death in 1782, Tipu took over his father’s position with the fait accompli of his father’s closest friends in court as well as the acquiescence of the local populace, who had by then come to see a stronger and more prosperous Mysore under Haider and Tipu. The series of four Anglo-Mysore wars, which began in 1767, had propelled the hitherto unknown kingdom of Mysore into the notice of the powder rooms of Europe and America. The first war saw Mysore dictating terms to England at the gates of Madras with a 17-year-old Tipu scaring the British Governor of Madras into fleeing his country house on a boat the second war was Tipu’s brightest moment. At the battle of Pollilur in 1780, the sun shone brightly from the flag of Tipu’s Mysore and visited the worst disaster ever to befall an English army in India. Out of 3,000 men in the British army, only about 400 survived.

Battle plan from the book ‘A Narrative of the Military Operations on the Coromandel Coast Against the Combined Forces of the French, Dutch and Haider Ali’

By 1785, one in seven Englishmen in India was Tipu’s prisoner. With the last two defeats fresh in their minds, the English began a vicious diplomatic campaign against Mysore, which stood as a bulwark against Britain’s expansionist drive across India. What rankled them even more than the defeats was that here was a native ruler — or ‘despot’, as they branded all of them — who was different from the others. He did not while away his time in pleasure, nor leave the management of state to some palace coterie and not once did he ask the British for help against his neighbours. And they failed to acknowledge that if Britain, a small ‘island of shopkeepers’ as Napoleon once termed it, could come to be seen as the birthplace of the world’s largest empire, then so did Tipu have the moral right to attempt to catapult his Mysore onto the global stage.

He took advantage of the enmities being played out in Europe, recruited the French as willing allies and drilled his army in modern European maneuvers. He was so successful that once in Istanbul, the Ottoman sultan went incognito to study a troop of Mysorean infantryman at their drill. Mysore was the first state to demonstrate the efficacy of rockets in war by modifying what was until then a mere firecracker into something that could carry a sword or wooden blade. Tipu once sent back French weapons to Pondicherry with a letter stating they were substandard compared to the indigenous ones in his arsenal. After Tipu’s fall in 1799, armaments that carried his tiger-stripe or ‘bubri’ seal were eagerly sought by European collectors as well as the English King for their beauty and power.

Gold fanam by Tipu Sultan, Calicut Mint

Working almost 18 hours a day, he kept meticulous records of revenue and personnel across his kingdom. Tipu created a set of revenue regulations that rationalised land taxes and even offered subsidies to farmers if they brought more land under cultivation. Tenant farmers were well taken care of and their rights respected landowners with excess land were asked to surrender them to their tenants. He created a navy that sent ships with his diplomats to meet the Ottoman sultan in Constantinople and the French emperor in Paris. An elite group of Brahmin civil servants was nurtured during his early rule to make sure revenue was properly collected. His forts were among the strongest in south India and his currency so beautifully minted that the Mughal Emperor felt slighted at receiving coins more beautiful than his own. He even minted coins with Hindu deities on them. Even in the midst of war he wrote of receiving silkworms to create the silk factories of Mysore. Sugar and paper factories were established for the first time under him. He was also liberal with gifts to Hindu religious establishments in Mysore and Malabar too, once he’d subdued it.

The third Anglo-Mysore war in 1792, with Cornwallis at the helm of the British army, did not go well for Tipu. He was hard-pressed by the British-Maratha-Nizam allied powers to surrender half his kingdom, submit to a war indemnity of ₹3.3 crore and deliver two of his sons as hostages to the British. Thanks to his financial prudence, he managed to pay the British their ransom and have his sons released a year earlier than the stipulated three years. But the period between 1792 and the fourth war in 1799 was one of great tribulation for Mysore. Rebellions raged and finances were tight, thanks to the indemnity paid. However, to Tipu’s credit not once during his rule, and even in the midst of almost incessant war, did his subjects suffer from famine or pestilence. At the same time in British Bengal, millions of Indians perished in a famine. Tipu’s fiscal prudence was far ahead of his time and worthy of admiration and emulation.

The Death of Colonel Moorhouse during the third Anglo-Mysore war, an engraving by Robert Home

But he had another, darker side, one that not only plagues his legacy but, in my opinion, also hastened his downfall. Tipu was a man who pushed his ideas faster than his people could digest. He considered his kingdom to be ruled by ‘sarkar-e-khudadad’ or a ‘god-given government’. He envisioned Mysore along the lines of a benevolent Islamic state, with Muslims being first among equals.

During the second half of his reign, Tipu suffered constant dread that the Hindu elite would support the Wodeyar dynasty and oust him from power. This led to him favouring Muslim subjects when it came to filling government positions. The largely Brahmin clerical cadre that worked hard to create a successor state to the mighty Vijayanagara started feeling sidelined. Though the middle and lower administrative hierarchy as well as his army was largely Hindu, an observation of the civil lists showed a preponderance of Muslims in all the higher positions. Apologists of this policy liken it to the affirmative reservation policies being practiced in modern India, but the fact remains that Tipu caused many to lose their traditional jobs.

Not only that, Muslim householders also paid less tax compared to Hindus. Muslim schools were subsidised and active efforts were made to induce non-Muslim householders and farmers to embrace Islam. While it is true that he did not interfere in the rare instances when a Muslim embraced another religions, his own attempts at proselytisation led to him being seen as a ‘Muslim’ ruler, especially towards the ends of his reign.

The Mosque of Tipu Sultan at Srirangapatna, a photograph by William J Johnson and William Henderson

Persian was made compulsory in Tipu’s Srirangapatna court, even though Kannada was also retained at all secondary levels. Names of towns in Mysore were Persianised as well. All this naturally led to a sense of alienation among the scribes and courtiers who were not conversant with Persian, which was then the lingua franca of the elite through most of the subcontinent. That the Wodeyars who followed Tipu also continued to use Persian as one of the languages of court does not take away from the fact that the mother tongue of the large majority of the people Tipu ruled was not given administrative precedence and was relegated behind a foreign language.

Campaigns in Malabar and Coorg were called, in Tipu’s own words, ‘jihad’ and prisoners taken in battle converted en masse to Islam. Coorg was left virtually desolate in the period of Tipu’s rule. One may argue that the times were different, and that the forced conversions happened only outside Mysore, in Malabar and Coorg, and then only in cases of treason so the rebels would become sympathetic to the views of their new rulers. But one would expect that for someone with his worldview, Tipu would inculcate a similar modernity in his theological thoughts too. It was, after all, the age of Enlightenment. Tipu’s friend and contemporary Napoleon had already emancipated the French Jews, even at the risk of discord with his church.

Tomb of Tipu Sultan and Hyder Ali, Mysore, engraving after an original photograph by Bourne and Shepherd

It will be unwise to measure Tipu’s shortcomings by holding the candle of 21st century morals to his face. British propaganda after his fall ensured that the period of his reign got an adverse mention in the history books they wrote and this was later lapped up by future historians. The enigmatic personality of Tipu can only be understood if we are ready to discuss him honestly. It must not be lost upon us that Tipu was a symbol of exemplary bravery and strove to bring together the Marathas and Nizam against the British, who were here not for trade alone but to expand their empire—a fact that Tipu alone among Indian kings understood. While we must admire Tipu for his dogged resistance to foreign rule, his belief that all inhabitants of this country had a common destiny and for elevating a state to the level of an empire, we must also accept that some of his imprudent policies played a part in depriving his beloved Mysore of her independence.


Hamsageethe was made into a singularly unwatchable movie in Kannada starring the talented Anant Nag in a wasted role. If the brutal truth is told brutally, it is a cinematic mockery of a novel written with great feeling on a truly elevating subject.

The episode of Venktasubbayya’s defiance of Tipu was straight-off adapted in the blockbuster Telugu movie, Annamayya.

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Early years of Tipu Sultan


Tipu Sultan confronts his opponents during the Siege of Srirangapatna.

Tipu Sultan was born on 20 November 1750 (Friday, 20th Dhu al-Hijjah, 1163 AH) at Devanahalli, [1] in present-day Bengaluru Rural district, about 33 km (21 mi) north of Bengaluru city. He was named “Tipu Sultan” after the saint Tipu Mastan Aulia of Arcot. Tipu was also called “Fath Ali” after his grandfather Fatah Muhammad. Tipu was born at Devanhalli, the son of Haidar Ali. Himself illiterate, Haidar was very particular in giving his eldest son a prince’s education and a very early exposure to military and political affairs. From the age of 17 Tipu was given independent charge of important diplomatic and military missions. He was his father’s right arm in the wars from which Haidar emerged as the most powerful ruler of southern India.

Tipu’s father, Hyder Ali, was a military officer in service to the Kingdom of Mysore he rapidly rose in power, and became the de facto ruler of Mysore in 1761. Hyder himself claimed descent from the Quraysh tribe of Arabs [ citation needed ] , the tribe of the Islamic prophet,Muhammad. Hyder’s father, Fatah Muhammad, was born in Kolar, and served as a commander of 50 men in the bamboo rocket artillery (mainly used for signalling) in the army of the Nawab of Carnatic. Fatah Muhammad eventually entered the service of the Wodeyar Rajas of the Kingdom of Mysore. Tipu’s mother Fatima Fakhr-un-Nisa was the daughter of Mir Muin-ud-Din, the governor of the fort of Kadapa. Hyder Ali appointed able teachers to give Tipu an early education in subjects like Hindustani language (Hindi-Urdu), Persian, Arabic, Kannada, Quran, Islamic jurisprudence, riding, shooting and fencing. Tipu’s wife was Sindh Sultan and grandson was Sahib sindh Sultan. [1]

Early military service

A flintlock blunderbuss, built for Tipu Sultan in Srirangapatna, 1793–94. Tipu Sultan used many Western craftsmen, and this gun reflects the most up-to-date technologies of the time. [17]

Tipu Sultan was instructed in military tactics by French officers in the employment of his father. At age 15, he accompanied his father against the British in the First Mysore War in 1766. He commanded a corps of cavalry in the invasion of Carnatic in 1767 at age 16. He also distinguished himself in the First Anglo-Maratha War of 1775–1779. [ citation needed ]

Alexander Beatson, who published a volume on the Fourth Mysore War entitled View of the Origin and Conduct of the War with Tippoo Sultaun, described Tipu Sultan as follows: “His stature was about five feet eight inches he had a short neck, square shoulders, and was rather corpulent: his limbs were small, particularly his feet and hands he had large full eyes, small arched eyebrows, and an aquiline nose his complexion was fair, and the general expression of his countenance, not void of dignity”. [18]

Second Anglo-Mysore War

In 1779, the British captured the French-controlled port of Mahé, which Tipu had placed under his protection, providing some troops for its defence. In response, Hyder launched an invasion of the Carnatic, with the aim of driving the British out of Madras. [19] During this campaign in September 1780, Tipu Sultan was dispatched by Hyder Ali with 10,000 men and 18 guns to intercept Colonel Baillie who was on his way to join Sir Hector Munro. In the Battle of Pollilur, Tipu decisively defeated Baillie. Out of 360 Europeans, about 200 were captured alive, and the sepoys, who were about 3800 men, suffered very high casualties. Munro was moving south with a separate force to join Baillie, but on hearing the news of the defeat he was forced to retreat to Madras, abandoning his artillery in a water tank at Kanchipuram. [20]

Mural of the Battle of Pollilur on the walls of Tipu’s summer palace, painted to celebrate his triumph over the British.

Tipu Sultan defeated Colonel Braithwaite at Annagudi near Tanjore on 18 February 1782. Braithwaite’s forces, consisting of 100 Europeans, 300 cavalry, 1400 sepoys and 10 field pieces, was the standard size of the colonial armies. Tipu Sultan seized all the guns and took the entire detachment prisoner. In December 1781 Tipu Sultan successfully seized Chittur from the British. Tipu Sultan had thus gained sufficient military experience by the time Hyder Ali died on Friday, 6 December 1782 – some historians put it at 2 or 3 days later or before, (Hijri date being 1 Muharram, 1197 as per some records in Persian – there may be a difference of 1 to 3 days due to the Lunar Calendar). Tipu Sultan realised that the British were a new kind of threat in India. He became the ruler of Mysore on Sunday, 22 December 1782 (The inscriptions in some of Tipu’s regalia showing it as 20 Muharram, 1197 Hijri – Sunday), in a simple coronation ceremony. He then worked to check the advances of the British by making alliances with the Marathas and the Mughals.

The Second Mysore War came to an end with the 1784 Treaty of Mangalore. It was the last occasion when an Indian king dictated terms to the British, and the treaty is a prestigious document in the history of India. [ citation needed ]

Tanjore abductions

The war is also remembered for alleged excesses committed by Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan in Tanjore. [21] During the period of occupation which lasted six months, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan are believed to have impoverished the country, destroying crops and cattle. [21] As late as 1785, the Dutch missionary Christian Friedrich Schwarz describes Tipu’s alleged abduction of 12,000 children from the region. [21] The economic output of Tanjore is estimated to have fallen by 90% between 1780 and 1782. [22] The ravages of Hyder and Tipu were followed by alleged expeditions of plunder launched by the Kallars. The economic devastation wrought by these attacks was so severe that Tanjore’s economy did not recover until the start of the 19th century the era is referred to in local folklore as the Hyderakalam. [21]

But he wasn’t always ‘anti-Hindu’

At the same time, there’s substantial evidence of Tipu according selective treatment to people of other faiths who favoured him and his actions. Several soldiers and local chieftains belonging to the upper-caste Nair community found a place in his army, and were rewarded with land pouches.

There are also Inam (gift) registers in the archives in Kozhikode, which document Tipu signing off on large land grants to several temples, including the famous Krishna shrine at Guruvayoor. Similarly, land belonging to several temples in the region were returned by Tipu when he came to know that they were annexed as part of his conquests.

Tipu Sultan’s complex personality: liberty and secularism mixed with significant brutality

There was a small discussion on Tipu Sultan here.

I am no history expert nor history buff, but for some reason I have the impression that Tipu Sultan was at least somewhat inclined towards the principles of liberty. I've done a quick google search. Here's some food for thought.

There is significant evidence of extreme violence. But there is also significant evidence of a commitment to liberty and respect for other religions.

It is important not to judge the actions of someone who lived in the late 1700s in India with what we would expect today. Political, religious and numerous other imperatives (including sheer survival) surely would explain the complex personalities of people like Tipu.

Tipu Sultan had a fascination for learning. His personal library consisted of more than 2,000 books in different languages. He embraced the French ideals to a certain extent that he had planted a "Republican" tree out side his palace.

His short but stormy rule is significant because of his view that only that life was worth living which would unfold the drama of human freedom, not only political freedom, but also social freedom, economic freedom, cultural freedom , and freedom from want, hunger, apathy, ignorance and superstition. His definition of State itself was organized energy for freedom. [Source]

In 1794, with the support of French Republican officers, Tipu helped found the Jacobin Club of Mysore for 'framing laws comfortable with the laws of the Republic' He planted a Liberty Tree and declared himself Citizen Tipoo [Source]

Tipu Sultan was one of the first three sovereigns to recognise USA upon its declaration of independence. [Source]

Srirangapatnam draws it's name from the famous temple of Sriranganathaswamy. This temple is intact and signs of 'restoration' are few and far between. It seems to have survived in its original state. As further evidence of this, there are several small rock cut idols scattered throughout the temple. These are not defaced or broken. They are intact in their original positions, varying from walls to ceremonial gateways etc. According to temple priests, the traditional practices of the shrine have continued uninterrupted for centuries, through the rule of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. There is no record of any disruption.

In another, less popular part of the fortress is a small shrine dedicated to the worship of snakes. Here, several clearly ancient idols of snakes are kept in an enclosure. Would an Islamic fanatic ever have tolerated this? A few kms away from Srirangapatnam lies the small village of Kere Thonnur (read more about this place here: The place is less than an hour's drive from Tipu's capital. Here, in a state of near-perfect preservation is a group of 12th century temples, mostly dedicated to Vishnu. Oral traditions have survived in the village and they speak of the place as having been visited by Tipu during his reign. He is also believed to have visited a nearby lake, called the Moti Talab. [Source]

There is Actual proof of Sultan Tippu being a liberal and Secular. In the Nanjungud town in Mysore district, there is an ancient temple dedicated to lord Shiva as Nanjundeshwara. In that temple the shrine of Parvathi devi also houses an Emrald-Linga called "Hakeem-Nanjunda" as installed and named by Tipu sultan and his father Sultan Hyder Ali . The story is well known in the temple as the work Hakeem is the Persian word for Doctor. [Source]

There are 30 reverential letters written by Tipu in Kannada to the then Shankaracharya of Sringeri . Incidentally, while the Maratha rulers are the icons of Hindu nationalism today, during the Third Anglo-Mysore War, in 1791, Parashuram Bhau ravaged Mysore and damaged the very seat of Hinduism&mdashthe Shankaracharya&rsquos temple in Sringeri&mdashand looted its property. It was Tipu who supposedly renovated the temple. [Source]

There are lots of evidence to prove that Tipu was a liberal ruler with a secular outlook. Even his palace overlooks a grand hindu temple which he could have razed to the ground. [Source]

Dr. A.K. Shastry has published the contents of 47 letters from Tipu sent to the Sringeri Shankaracharya Sri Sacchidananda Bharati III who presided over the affairs of the mutt from 1753-1799 A.D. These letters range from Tipu Sultan enquiring after the Shankaracharya&rsquos welfare to requesting him to pray for Mysore&rsquos prosperity and even requesting his Holiness to cast a horoscope for Tipu. Tipu&rsquos letters breathe an honest spirit of veneration for the Sringeri Guru.

For over 10 years Tipu remained in constant touch with the Shankaracharya and even the last recorded letter written in 1798 request the Swami to offer worship , three times a day to Lord Isvara and perform the Chandihavana, a special oblation, for the destruction of enemies and the prosperity of the government. The Sringeri Shankaracharya was not the only Hindu leader who received Tipu&rsquos patronage, but he was surely Tipu&rsquos most important Hindu spiritual guide.

Tipu was tolerant and had great regard for his Hindu subjects. He donated profusely to temples all over his vast dominions. Yet, he was an orthodox muslim who tradition has it never missed his daily prayers and was an avid reader of religious texts. A good majority of the books in his library was on Islam and Sufism. That being said, the library also had in it Persian translations of the Mahabharata and other Hindu texts. [Source]

Sanjeev Sabhlok

One thought on &ldquo Tipu Sultan’s complex personality: liberty and secularism mixed with significant brutality &rdquo

Thanks for the note – Tipu was a defender of all faiths, some of his generals in Mangalore and in Kerala forced conversions on Christian and Hindus, which Tipu was no aware of. However, he donated lands to build temple and the Ranganath Temple was restored by him. He restored the Sringeri Mutt and defended it from the Marhattas. He is the first ruler in India to begin the land reforms – those who tilled the land for more than ten years, he decreed ownership to them. Schools were open to the untouchables then. Girish Karnad, Dr. Range Gowda and almost all Hindu admirers of Tipu have done a lot to demystify some of the myths created around him. I’ve been to all the places and met both Karnad and Gowda – we hope to make a documentary on him in the next few years.

Tipu was a secular king, his Chief of Staff was Hindu Purnayya and so many other confidants were Hindus and Muslims. He did not discriminate any.

Thanks for this post and I appreciate the note about me.

Let me know if there is anything I can do.

Hope you saw the condemnation of Baghdadi and defending freedom of speech both are at and

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List of Famous Kings of India across History

13. Maharana Pratap (1540-1597)

The name of Maharana Pratap comes on the top of the list when it comes to the Hindu kings name list. He was born in a Rajput family. You can see a glimpse of him in Zee TV serial Jodha Akhbar.

Reign Period- 1572-1597

Dynasty- Chahamana or Chauhan Dynasty

  • Pratap won the famous battle of Haldighati against a huge army of Akbar.
  • Interesting conquest of Mewar made Maharana Pratap a patron of the Hindu king against Mughals. You can see these wars in ‘Bharat Ka Veer Putra – Maharana Pratap’, which is a Sony TV serial.

14. Sher Shah Suri (1486-1545)

Sher Shah Suri had a very short period of reign in India, yet he was an influential king. He came victorious over the Mughal dynasty and ruled a huge kingdom from Bihar. He was known for systematic administration and planning.

Reign Period- 1538-1545

Dynasty- Sur Dynasty

  • Sher Shah Suri built grand Trunk Road as a concentrate highway of medieval India.
  • He started the use of currency called the Rupee, which is still in use.
  • He also built Rohtas Fort and Purana Quila.

15. Shivaji Bhonsle (1630-1680)

Shivaji is one of the Indian kings who fought against the Mughals even if there was a huge difference in the resources. He was a valorous warrior who was crowned as Chhatrapati. He pioneered guerrilla warfare tactics. Even today, Mumbai Airport and Railway station are named after him.

Reign Period- 1674-1680

House- Bhonsle

  • He pioneered Guerrilla war practices.
  • He fought a fierce battle with Afzal Khan.
  • Shivaji faced multiple conquests with Mughals.

16. Hyder Ali (1720-1782)

Hyder Ali was the ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore. He was mapped on the national politics when he raised the sword against British conquest. While the British were approaching to conquer Deccan, Hyder Ali was the toughest warrior king to defeat. He was among the courageous kings of India in Deccan.

Reign Period- 1761-1782

House- Sultan (Mysore)

  • He participated in the Mughal-Maratha war and Carnatic wars.
  • Hyder Ali fought the first and second Anglo-Mysore war.
  • He made Mysore a stronghold of a firm Indian kingdom.

17. Tipu Sultan (1750-1799)

Tipu Sultan was named Tiger of Mysore among other Indian kings. He was the son of Hyder Ali and grew strong than him. Tipu Sultan was credited for the excellent administration of the army and navy. He was encouraged the coinage dating system. He fought with Marathas and Mughals. So it is not wrong to say he was one of the greatest warriors in India.

Reign Period- 1782-1799

House- Sultan (Mysore)

  • He contributed to planned road development.
  • King emphasized the judicial system and moral administration.
  • He maintained sober relationships with Hindu and Muslim subjects.

18. Rana Sanga(1482-1528)

Maharana Sangram Singh Sisodia is famously known as Rana Sanga. In the life span of 45 years, he achieved fame and victories, which many Indian kings could not. He was born to a Rajput family and succeeded in becoming the ruler of Mewar. It is said that Sanga fought more than 100 battles and in the way lost one eye, one arm, and leg still never succumbed to the enemies.

Reign Period- 1782-1799

House- Sisodia

  • He was a military strategist and credible warrior.
  • He fought with Ibrahim Lodi and Mughals.
  • His own chef apparently poisoned him.

19. Jahangir (1569-1627)

The fourth Mughal King was Jahangir, who is still known for his justice. He was one of those Indian kings who loved to take part in literature and art. He was counted as a weak and incapable ruler.

Reign Period- 1605-1627

House- Mughal

  • Jahangir had good relations with foreign countries.
  • He married Nur Jahan, who was known for incomparable beauty.

20. Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839)

Maharaja Ranjit Singh is called Sher-e-Punjab, and he is also the 1 st Maharaja of the Sikh Empire. He is listed as one of the few Indian kings who took the Sikh empire to the heights. Maharaja took advantage of the vacuum created after the death of Aurangzeb. He expanded to entire North India, especially Punjab.

Reign Period- 1801-1839

Dynasty- Sandhawalia

  • He was a secular king yet walked in the path of Sikhism.
  • Khalsa army welcomed warriors outside his community.
  • Maharaja Ranjit Singh built the famous Golden Temple (Harminder Sahib).
  • He encouraged skilled metal crafters.

Tipu Sultan: Diverse Narratives

From couple of years around 10 th November, BJP has been undertaking the smearing campaign against Tipu Sultan. Incidentally from last 3 years Government of Karnataka has been celebrating the anniversary of Tipu. As such he is the only King, who laid down his life while fighting against the British. This year around as November 10 approached, Mr. Anantkumar, the Union Minister and a major BJP leader from Karnataka, turned down the invitation of Karnataka Government to be part of the Tipu anniversary celebration. His argument was that Tipu was a mass murderer, wretched fanatic and rapist. At places there were protests organized by BJP.

Certain sections of the society also consider him a tyrant who engaged in forced conversions. He is also accused of promoting Persian at the cost of Kannada. It is also alleged that his letters to his Generals, claimed to be in British possession now, show that he believed that kafirs should be decimated. There is no dearth of such periodic controversies being raked up around his name. What is being propagated on the basis of some flimsy sources is that he destroyed hundreds of temples and killed thousands of Brahmins!

Incidentally just a month ago, Ramnath Kovind, the President of India, who has a RSS background, was on a different trip. He praised Tipu by saying that “Tipu Sultan died a heroic death fighting the British. He was also a pioneer in the development and use of Mysore rockets in warfare.” Many BJP spokespersons, uncomfortable with this statement, undermined the President by saying that false inputs were provided to Rashtrapati Bhavan by Karnataka Government.

As such there are diverse attitude towards Tipu from within RSS-BJP stable itself. In 2010, B.S. Yeddyyurappa, the BJP leader adorned Tipu’s headgear and held a mock sword, on the eve of elections. In 1970s RSS had published a book praising Tipu, calling him patriotic, this book was part of Bharat Bharati series.

On the other side noted Kannada playwright Girish Karnad is all praise for Tipu to the extent that he supported the demand to name Bangaluru airport in his name. Karnad has also been stating that had Tipu been Hindu, he would have been accorded the same status in Karnataka, which Shivaji has in Maharashtra.

One recalls that Tipu has been made popular through the 60 episode serial based on Bhagwan Gidwani’s script, the ‘Sword of Tipu Sultan’, which also focuses on the fight of Tipu against East India Company. Tipu had corresponded with the Marathas and Nizam of Hyderabad to dissociate themselves from the British forces, the intrusion of which he saw particularly harmful for this region. This policy of his led to various battles against British. It was in the fourth Anglo Mysore war of 1799 battle that he lost his life. He has been immortalized in the popular memory of Karnataka people through folk songs. This is very much akin to iconization of Shivaji in popular memory in Maharashtra.

Why did Tipu use Persian as the Court language? It is important to recognize that Persian was the court language in the sub-continent at that time. Even Shivaji of Maharashtra was using Persian in his correspondence and had had Maulana Hyder Ali as his Chief Secretary, for doing this. Tipu was not a religious fanatic as he is being projected by them today. Tipu’s policies were not driven by religion. In fact, in his letter to Shankaracharya of Kamkoti Peetham, he refers to the Acharya as Jagatguru (World Teacher). He also donated rich offerings to his shrine.

When the Maratha army of Patwardhan plundered the Sringeri monastery, Tipu Sultan respectfully restored the monastery to its glory. During his reign, ten-day Dushehara celebrations were an integral part of the social life of Mysore. Sarfaraz Shaikh in his book ‘Sultan-E-Khudad’ has reproduced the ‘Manifesto of Tipu Sultan’. In it, he declares that he would not discriminate on religious grounds and would protect his empire until his last breath.

There is a charge that he persecuted certain communities. It is true. The reason for this persecution was purely political not religious. About these persecutions historian Kate Brittlebank comments, “This was not a religious policy but one of chastisement”. The communities targeted by him were seen as disloyal to the state. The communities he targeted did not just belong to Hindu stream he also acted against some Muslim communities like the Mahdavis. The reason was that these communities were in support of British and were employed as horsemen in the East India Company’s armies. Another historian Susan Bayly says that his attacking Hindus and Christians outside his state is to be seen on political grounds as he at the same time had developed close relations with these communities within Mysore.

As such the alleged letters in possession of British, where he is supposed to have talked of killing Kafirs and converting them, needs to be seen rationally, their genuineness apart. We have to see the person in his totality. When he has Purnaiyya, a Hindu Brahmin, as his Chief Advisor, when he is all respectful to Shankaracharya of Kanchi Kamkotipeetham, it is unlikely that he could have been on a murderous spree of Hindus. British have been harsh against Tipu on purpose as he was the one to oppose the advance of British in India and wrote to Marathas and Nizam that we should settle things among ourselves and keep British out. Due to this he was singled out by British who vehemently demonized their opponents. There is a need to have a balanced picture of this warrior king, who took on the might of British and could foresee that British are a different power, different cup of tea so to say, to be shunned at all the cost. In that sense he is the pioneer in Anti British resistance on this soil.

The vacillations of communalists, from praising him to presenting him as an evil character are motivated attempts to uphold their communal ideology, nothing else!

The last Roar: Death of Tipu Sultan- The Tiger of Mysore.

On the 4th of May 1799 the British army assembled around the fort of Seringapatnam, capital of the Kingdom of Mysore. The British army was supported by Nizam and Maratha infantry. The French intelligence, an ally of Tipu gave him a tip of ‘an eminent British attack’, they advised Tipu Sultan to escape the capital and live to fight for another day, Tipu replied, ‘Better to live one day as a tiger than a thousand years as a sheep’.

Tipu Sultan was not feeling well. He had severe pain in his lower leg due to injury he suffered during his previous expeditions. His court astrologers conveyed to him that omen is not good. Being a spiritual person, he called Hindu and Muslim priest and gave a generous donations to both Hindu temple and to Muslim. He was not expecting any attack during the day light. He took morning bath, when he was taking his meal his spy informed him, ‘Syed Ghafur (his commander) has been killed’. He ordered ‘Mohammed Qasim to take the command’, washed his hand and left the palace. He moved towards the most dangerous part of his fort. It was near one o’clock when the Sultan reached the Northern part of the fort. The English army was moving more closely to the weakest wall of the fort. Suddenly there was a breach of the wall. He was running high temperature however decided not to move to the safe place but to fight the enemy. Pitched battle started, Sultan was fighting with his sword and gun, he felt pain in his another leg. The Sultan having told his personal retainer Rajah Khan that he was wounded, this faithful servant proposed to him to reveal himself to the British but the Sultan said, “Are you mad ? Be silent”. One English soldier without knowing Tipu Sultan’s status move forward to pull his beautiful gilded sword. The Sultan moved backward to protect himself and than forward to attack the enemy. He injured two British soldiers, another one from the distance opened his musket. Sultan of Mysore was fatally injured by two fire from the musket, which went through his temple. He received multiple wounds and passed away holding sword tight in his hand. It was only in the evening when English army found his body on the pile of dead. They gave him full honour and buried him next to his father.

Tipu Sultan son of a finest general Haider Ali, was a brave soldier. ‘The tiger’ was so dangerous for the British that they decided to finish him first. Because the Tiger was challenging the British lion. The tiger was the lone opponent of British hegemony in Indian Subcontinent but he was dangerous enough to bite, maul and kill the lion.

On the life and times of Tipu Sultan

PROFESSOR B. Sheik Ali, 93, is a well-known authority on Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. His work on aspects of their reigns began in 1949 in Aligarh when he was encouraged to take up research on the theme by Mohammed Habib, a well-known historian of medieval India at the time. He followed up his PhD from Aligarh with a second PhD from the University of London in 1960. Fluent in English, Kannada, Persian and Urdu and with a working knowledge of French, this Mysore-based historian has published more than 30 books on various aspects of the history of Karnataka and India. He was the president of the 47th session of the Indian History Congress in 1986 and also established the Karnataka History Conference. His academic career saw him take up administrative duties, and he has served as the Vice Chancellor of the universities of Mangalore and Goa. This nonagenarian and indefatigable scholar is currently working on translating Maulana Abul Kalam Azad’s works. Excerpts from an interview he gave Frontline:

There seems to be some confusion about Tipu Sultan’s birthdate. There are various dates mentioned in November and December 1750. Why is this so?

There are variations in the birthdate of Tipu Sultan as it has been mentioned differently in various sources. One must remember that in those days, Muslims, especially those who did not belong to the nobility, were not very particular about noting down the exact birthdate. When Tipu Sultan was born, Hyder Ali had not yet become the ruler of Mysore and had not yet acquired distinction. He was an ordinary soldier and only a local commander. There is also the problem of aligning the dates of the Hijri calendar with the Gregorian calendar. However, we have the exact date of Tipu’s death.

What were the social origins of Hyder Ali? Did he descend from nobility?

Hyder Ali did not belong to the nobility. He had descended from a family of saints. He was a self-made man. He was a shrewd politician who established his kingdom. Tipu went a step ahead compared with Hyder as he also saw himself as a social reformer.

Can you discuss some of the crucial aspects of Tipu’s personality?

Tipu was not happy with the social conditions of the day. There was wide disparity between different castes. The rigidity of the caste system was intensely high at the time. As far as land relations were concerned, the jagirdari system was prevalent. In Kerala, for example, there were communities where women did not cover the upper part of their bodies. Tipu was concerned about the inequalities in society. Tipu was in contact with the French during the time of the French Revolution. He was aware of events in Europe and was attracted to the maxims of the revolution, which called for equal rights for everyone in the world: liberty, equality and fraternity. He referred to himself as “Citizen Tipu” and saw himself as a revolutionist. In Srirangapatnam, he had a club consisting of 59 French soldiers and himself. In this club, everyone was equal, including the king. Through his friends among the French, he was aware of social movements in Europe. He was influenced by three European movements: Renaissance [Italy], Reformation [Germany] and Revolution [France]. He wanted to blend the salient features of these movements in his reign.

You mentioned that Tipu was close to the French. If he was a freedom fighter and was opposed to foreign rule, why did he ally with the French? Are these not double standards?

Tipu was aware of the role of the French in the American War of Independence [1775-1783]. The French offered crucial support to the Americans. They went to America, fought the war for American independence and came back. Likewise, Tipu was under the assumption that Napoleon would drive the British out of India and go back. That did not happen. That was the reason for his embassy to Louis XVI in 1787 and the invitation to Napoleon in 1798.

Tipu also invited Muslim monarchs from places like Afghanistan to come to India. What do you have to say about this?

Yes, there is correspondence between Tipu and Zaman Shah, the grandson of Ahmed Shah Abdali. He felt that a certain balance of power could be restored in the subcontinent, which would act as a check to the growing influence of the East India Company. However, Zaman Shah had to beat a retreat when his kingdom in Herat was attacked by Iran. There was a British hand in this as well.

What were some of the contributions of Tipu to the political economy of Mysore?

Well, there are too many to name. He was the first Indian ruler to envisage state control of trade and industry. He established manufacturing and trade centres in several parts of his kingdom and also in Muscat, Jeddah, Basrah and Pegu (now Bago).

He conceptualised a system of state capitalism that was far ahead of his times. Mysore silk, which has become a recognised industry in Karnataka, had its roots in Tipu’s success in introducing sericulture. Tipu’s army also had iron-cased rockets that were far more advanced than what the East India Company was equipped with at the time. He is also credited with forming a navy with the intention of fighting sea battles as opposed to the merchant navies that other rulers had. He undertook a series of reforms such as the abolition of the jagirdari system.

Why was there such a campaign of hatred against Tipu by the English?

The English saw Tipu as an impediment to their plans of conquering India. The early British sources on Tipu were the ones written by soldiers who had been imprisoned by him during the Anglo-Mysore Wars. This formed the basis for prejudiced accounts of Tipu’s reign that cast him as a despot.

There was a constant campaign against Tipu by the English. No one in India had humiliated and dictated terms to the English as Tipu and Hyder had done. The intensity and hostility had gone to such a level that the English regretted that their language was not copious enough to find sufficient epithets to condemn him with.

There are allegations of forced conversion and massacres of Hindus by Tipu Sultan. What do you have to say about this?

Tipu’s actions must be seen in the context of his role as a ruler. His actions must not be seen as being motivated by the religious or the communal, but the political. Minor rulers opposed Tipu and allied with the English, and hence Tipu had to establish his power in the wake of constant provocations. The number of conversions has been vastly exaggerated. If he was harsh on Hindu rulers, he was even more so on Muslim rulers like the Nawabs of Savanur, Cuddapah and Kurnool, and the Muslims of Malabar and the Mahdavis. Tipu had an eclectic and liberal religious policy, which has been distorted by colonial historians. He raised Hindus to a high position in his government. Tipu gave liberal grants to temples. Records show as many as 156 temples received grants. The letters written by Tipu to the Swamiji of Sringeri express such sentiments of respect for Hinduism as to disprove any charge of religious intolerance levelled against him. He went to the extent of furnishing the mutt with funds for reinstalling the displaced idol after the temple had been desecrated by Maratha troops.

How would you assess Tipu’s role against the English?

He was a person who offered his life to write the history of free India. It was his maxim to live like a lion for a day rather than live like a jackal for a hundred years. His life’s goal was to eliminate the English, and he used all the means he could for this. He never deviated from his goal, never compromised on this principle and never submitted himself to the paramountcy of a foreign power. Tipu’s short reign witnessed momentous changes. India was fast becoming a land for European exploitation. He attempted to prevent it and was shot dead in the process. Apparently, he failed in his efforts but he left a mark on the pages of history.

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