biography of Tipu Sultan


Tipu Sultan, a proud and able ruler, who succeeded Haider Padshah, was in many respects striking figure in the history of India. The British Government expected a war of succession in Mysore and decided to utilise the time thus gained for securing more strategic places. Bidnur surrendered to the English troops in January 1783 with firings shot; Mangalore was also captured without much efforts.

But the fruits of this victory soon fell through; English hopes were dashed to pieces when Tipu re-conquered Bidnur, Mangalore and Palghat during March-May 1783. An armistice was, however, concluded on the 2nd August, 1783. In October 1783 the English stormed Cannanore and compelled its ruler, the Bibi, to enter into a treaty of friendship.

Nevertheless, by the Treaty of Mangalore concluded on the 11th March, 1784, Second Mysore War was brought to an end and the English company gave up all claims over Malabar to Tipu and declared the rulers of Kerala to be friends and allies of Tipu. This was a tacit recognition of Mysorean authority over Kerala.

Realizing the importance of Malabar to guard the interests of Mysore, Tipu deputed Arshad Beg Khan , “a Mussalman of rare talents, humanity and integrity” for organizing an efficient administration in Malabar. “The administration of Arshad Beg Khan”, the Joint Commissioners recorded in 1793, “appears to have proved conciliatory to the natives and is still spoken of with respect.” By the reduction of the revenue demand and strict administration Arshad Beg Khan was able to maintain peace and tranquility in the southern district until 1785-86.

But on account of his alleged corruption and “undignified commerce with a courtesan”, Arshad was removed from his office of Civil Governor and Mir Ibrahim was appointed in his place. Later Tipu found that the policy of Mir Ibrahim had really brought the province on the verge of total rebellion. Hence Tipu came down to Malabar early in 1788, summoned all the chiefs and made known to them his desire, “to procure and effect” the conversion for the Hindus of Malabar to the faith of Islam.

Joint Commissioners had recorded in 1793 that, “it does not appear that his invitation to the Hindus to embrace Islam produced any immediate effect either of conversion on their part or direct violence on his”. But practically, there broke out a series of revolts and Tipu came to Malabar again in February 1789 to save his possessions in that area. He sent out detachments in all directions to suppress the uprisings.

A large number of the insurgents were either killed or captured. Immediately after quelling the disturbances in south Malabar, Tipu marched to north Malabar, but before his arrival the Rajas of Kadatthanad and Kottayam had fled the country and took shelter in Travancore. Now Tipu’s attention turned to Travancore.

Tipu forced the Raja of Cochin, Saktan Tampuran to approach the Maharaja of Travancore with the proposal that he should become a feudatory of Mysore. This diplo matic endeavour though the mediation of the Cochin Raja brought no fruitful result. He then sent his own envoys to bring the Maharaja to terms, but Rama Varma proved obdurate. This was taken as an insult by the Sultan who was already infuriated by the policy of Travancore in affording asylum to the Malabar chiefs.

To meet all possible dangers, the Raja of Travancore entered into an agreement with the English Company for mutual assistance and perpetual friendship. In 1789 Raja Kesava Das, the Dewan of Travancore purchased two forts, Cranganore and Ayacotta from the Dutch. This served as the actual and immediate cause of the war with Tipu.

Both these forts Situated in the territories of the Cochin King, Strategically important for the security of Tipu in Malabar he was negotiating for their purchase. But without referring to him the Dutch sold them la Travancore was admittedly a collusive one as the correspondence between the Dutch and the Raja of Travancore clearly indicates.

The Dutch were reluctant to sell these forts to Tipu for fear of danger to their ally Cochin. Even the English authorities at Madras disapproved of this purchase, and advised the Raja of Travancore to return the forts to the Dutch company so as to restore status quo.

The English after the Treaty of Mangalore (1784) with Tipu were making concentrated preparations to strike hard at the power of Mysore. Warren Hastings called it “a humili ating pacification” and as Grand Duff put it, “he was only prevented from disavowing and annulling it by the confusion which must have resulted to the Company’s affairs in consequence of the fulfillment of a part of the terms, before it could have been possible to obtain their ratification.”

A close study of documents shows that the military defeats and financial stringency were the reasons that forced the English to accept the humiliating terms for the Treaty of Mangalore. But soon after the conclusion of the treaty the Company authorities took steps to retrieve their tarnished reputation.

Richard Johnson wrote from Madras to Henry Dundas, the President of the Board of Control in England, “I consider the war itself under the present circumstances the most fortunate thing that could happen for British interests in India.”

Tipu served an ultimatum on the Maharaja of Travancore to demolish the Travancore Lines and to return the two forts of Cranganore and Ayacotta. The demand contained in the ultimatum was rejected by the Raja on the plea that the Lines, “erected more than 25 years ago was in return for an assistance of troops which he gave to him (Cochin Raja) to repel the Zamorin, who had possessed himself of the greatest part of the Cochin country. This happened long before Cochin became a tributary of Tipu”. This reply precipitated war between Tipu and Travancore.

By marching to the boundaries of Travancore, Tipu seems to have hoped that the Raja of Travancore would change his attitude and agree to demolish the Travancore Lines and give back the two forts to the Dutch. But Tipu’s hopes were in vain as Travancore Maharaja once again strongly rejected his claims.

Lord Cornwallis had given advance notice to Tipu as early as August 1789, through Madras government that any invasion of Travancore by him would be followed by an immediate declaration of war on their part. The purchase of Cranganore and Ayacotta by Travancore was followed by violent diplomatic missives between the Government of Tipu and English Company.

Cornwallis was concerned with “the pledged word of Britain and the honour of British name”. The Revolution in France in July 1789 also made Lord Cornwallis to take more intensive measures to fight Tipu, an ally of the French.

His attack on Travancore was therefore taken as a cause’s belli. Tipu attacked Travancore on the night of the December 28; Tipu was saved by the exertions of some steady and active chelas who raised Travancore forces.

Though Tipu attacked Travancore Lines with an army of 7000 men, it was difficult for him to affect a breach in the “contemptible wall” and continue his southward advance. But before next morning, he was in possession of a considerable portion of the rampart on the ditch so as to make his road clear for advance. However a small party of Travancoreans under close cover opened a brisk fire on their flank. The whole Mysorean army was thrown into hopeless confusion as the Commanding Officer fell. Tipu himself was borne away in the crowd, the rear became the front and the front turning rear started dissolving.

Wilks Makes us understand that Tipu was saved by the exertions of some steady and active chelas who raised him on their shoulders and enabled him to ascend the counterscarp after having twice fallen back in the attempt to clamper up, and the lameness which continued until his death was occasioned by the severe contusions he received. His palanquin remained in the ditch, the bearers having been trodden to death, his seals, rings and personal ornaments fell as trophies into the hands of the Travancoreans. According to T.K. Value Pillai, author of Travancore State Manual, this battle ‘”as not attracted that attention of the general historian of India, which it deserves.

But the heroism of the handful of Travancoreans is not less glorious than that of the 300 Spartans who kept the vast hordes of Xerxes at day in the pass of Thermopylae. The Spartans won everlasting fame by allowing themselves to be cut down by the enemy while the Travancoreans by their courage turned what appeared to be the success of Tipu and his overwhelming force into a disastrous defeat.

This is all the more creditable when it is remembered that Tipu was not an ordinary foe, but one whose indomitable courage and command of resources in men and money appeared at one time to shake the very foundations of British dominion in India. Being attacked from two sides the forces of Tipu fled pell-mell from the field. But he swore in a paroxysm of shame and disappointment that he would not quit the place until he carried the “contemptible wall”.

In early March, he made another advance towards the Travancore Lines. Border clashes occurred on the 1st of April ended in a fiasco. On the 12th of April a regular cannonade of the Lines was started by the Mysoreans. The Travancore troops became panic-stricken. The Mysore army razed a considerable portion of the Lines to the ground and occupied the Cranganore fort which was evacuated by the army of Travancore.

The forts at Kuriappalli and Ayacotta fell in quick succession to Tipu. The Mysore troops, before long, subdued Alangad and Parur. Very soon Tipu’s forces reached as far as Always on the northern back of the river Periyar. At this time, Lord Cornwallis, the Governor-General, declared war on Tipu on 24th May, 1790. Hence Tipu retreated to Mysore without pursuing the siege of Travancore further.

The strategy of the British authorities was to attack Tipu the side of Palghat who commanded the only entrance from the east coast. Treaties were made with the Marathas and the Nizam by the English on the 1st of June and 4th of July 1790 respectively. Lord Cornwallis sent a large force under Col. Hartley to co-operate with the Travancore forces.

The declaration of war by Lord Cornwallis arrested Tipu’s further progression Kerala and his retreat to his capital was followed by the destruction of Mysore authority all over Kerala. The Zamorin and the Raja of Cochin declared themselves to be in favour of the English Company and Travancore. On September 22, 1790 the strategic fort of Palghat surrendered to Col. Stuart, the British Commander.

Soon the English regained Chowghat and further north upto Cannanore. The siege of Cannanore started on 14th December 1790. Though, for sometime, the Bibi of Arakkal family tried to resist, later she surrendered to the English. Tipu’s forces were routed and the Cannanore fort was occupied by the English. Thus practically the whole of Malabar was now brought under the English East India Company.

As Logan said, Cannanore, the first place in India to welcome Europeans to Indian shores, was the last of the important places in Malabar to pass into the conquering hands of the English from the Mysoreans.

The fighting in Seringapatam at first brought no decisive results. And on the 29th January, 1791, Lord Cornwallis assumed command of the forces there. Under him fighting continued with much vigour that Seringapatam was besieged in February 1792. A Travancore contingent under Dewan Kesava Das assisted the English army in the siege.

On the 22nd of February 1792, Tipu sued for peace. By the preliminary treaty, “one half of his dominions which were in his possession at the commencement of the present war was to be ceded to the Allies”, and a war indemnity of three crores and thirty lakhs of rupees to be paid.

By the Definitive Treaty of Perpetual Friendship concluded on the 1st of March, 1792, all the possessions of Tipu in Malabar passed to the rule of the English Company. This marked the end of the Mysore-Kerala relations under Haider Ali and his son Tipu.

The Mysore invasions sounded the death-knell of the old social order and inaugurated a new era of social change in the history of Kerala. In general, the conquest produced important and far reaching political, social and economic consequences. It may not be wrong to regard the Mappilla rebellions for the 19th and 20th centuries as the final upshot of the Mysorean invasions. The attempts of Mysore sultans to establish their authority over Kerala failed miserably, and it paved the way for the British to establish the supremacy.


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