“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a politician in search of a war is not over-scrupulous with matters of fact. Until recently, the British propaganda offensive against Tipu has determined the way that we – and many Indians – remember him. But, as with more recent dossiers produced to justify pre-emptive military action against mineral-rich Muslim states, the evidence reveals far more about the desires of the attacker than it does about the reality of the attacked.” 

–William Dalrymple                                                                                                                     

In the second half of the 18th century Mysore was considered to be the major power center in South India. Mysore was not under direct control of the Mughals, but it was transformed from a viceroyalty of the Vijayanagar Empire into an autonomous state by the Wodeyar dynasty. Hyder Ali was an ample army man with charismatic leadership who became the ruler of Mysore.

As a brilliant commander he realized the importance of modern army and accordingly he tried to modernize the Mysore army. With the help of the French he strengthened organizational discipline in the army. He extended the boundaries of the Mysore state and he witnessed the hostilities of the Marathas, Hyderabad Nizams and the English.The greatest driving motive of Tipu was to drive the British off India. For this he sacrificed his life and Kingdom, very precisely these actions brought all defamation to the account of Tipu as a fanatical bigot.

Tipu was one of the most innovative and far-sighted rulers of the pre-colonial period. He tried to warn other Indian rulers about the dangers of an increasingly arrogant and aggressive West. He had a universal vision and understanding of the ongoing political condition.

Tomb of Tipu Sultan, his father Hyder Ali and mother Fathima. Srirangapatana

Tipu was very clear about British policies and the justice; and he made a direct encounter with the Wellesley who colored Tipu as a fanatical bigot. Soon after his landing, in April 1798, Wellesley deeply learned the alliance that was being negotiated between Tipu Sultan and the French republic. It has threatened the very existence of British power in India.

One of the major criticisms on Tipu was his violence towards the Kodavas and the Mangalore Christians. Even the Indian historians also blindly followed these criticisms on Tipu Sultan as Western historians did. But the critics were not ready to look at him as an Army man who followed the military strategy. Since Coorge and Mangalore which were borders of the Mysore state, Tipu crushed the two when they joined hands with the British. That tended him to stop pro-British forces violently.

Throughout his life Tipu held the anti-British approach as a ruler and he perpetuated some priorities against the British power. For instance, the concept of ‘harem’ was an important part of royal household of medieval Indian history. It is seen as the epitome of kingly pleasure and time pass. But Tipu abandoned this system as he considered harem system as a matter of self-decline.

British propaganda might portray Tipu as a savage barbarian, but he was more of connoisseur, with a library of about 2,000 volumes in several languages. He had a vision to establish a world class library and university at Shrirangapattanam.

However, Tipu was an unfortunate ruler in Indian history, a great ruler equipped with enough requirements to combat the heavy British tide. Even Napoleon also had written to him from Egypt and promised his arrival, but destiny had her own plans.


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