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Birth Anniversary of Tipu Sultan


The birth anniversary of Tipu Sultan was observed recently, bringing his contested legacy to the forefront of political discourse once again.


GS I: Modern History

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Tipu Sultan
  2. Was Tipu Sultan a tyrant and a religious bigot?
  3. Some of the reforms Tipu Sultan introduced
  4. How did Tipu die?

About Tipu Sultan

  • Tipu Sultan was born Sultan Fateh Ali Sahab Tipu on November 10, 1750 in Devanahalli, present-day Bangalore.
  • He was born to Hyder Ali, who rose through the ranks of the army of the Wodeyars, the then Hindu rulers of Mysore.
    • Hyder Ali ceased power in 1761 with Tipu succeeding his father in 1782.
  • Tipu was an educated ruler, having studied the Quran, Islamic jurisprudence, languages, philosophy and science.
  • He was also adept in the art of warfare, having been involved in his first battle at the age of 15.
  • While fighting the British in 1767, Tipu first came in contact with European culture and lifestyle, something that would fascinate him.
  • This fascination would be reflected in his rule of Mysore: Tipu undertook various policies and reforms which would modernise the princely state and go on to become a lasting aspect of his legacy.
  • Hyder Ali died in 1782, during a period of conquest and expansion of his realm.
  • Thus, Tipu inherited the throne under trying circumstances, with his primary motivation being to consolidate the territory he had inherited from his father.
  • Over the past 20 years, the kingdom of Mysore had slowly expanded by capturing disputed areas at its borders.
  • Tipu inherited rebellious provinces in Malabar, Kodagu, and Bednur, all of which were crucial to Mysore’s strategic and economic interests.
  • His rule in these areas is what is often cited as proof of his bigotry and authoritarianism.

Was Tipu Sultan a tyrant and a religious bigot?

  • Warfare in Tipu’s time was brutal and those who rebelled were dealt with an iron hand.
  • Among the punishments Tipu applied to rebels or conspirators were forced conversion and the transfer of people from their home territories to Mysore, with some of the absent populations replaced by migrants from other regions, such as the Bellary district.
  • The forced removals occurred from both Kodagu and Malabar, the former as a response to continued resistance against Mysore rule, the latter – specifically, Nairs and Christians – as a result of their resistance and perceived treachery in the Anglo-Mysore Wars.
  • The Hindu right’s narrative of Tipu’s bigotry emphasises Tipu’s militarism as well as his perceived attacks on “Hindu” rulers and subjects.
  • While he undoubtedly ordered forced conversions in areas he annexed, Tipu also patronised various temples and Hindu shrines, including the Sri Ranganatha temple at Srirangapatna and the Math in Sringeri.
  • Both these actions were to solidify his position as a ruler — the former to crush dissidents and the later to gain legitimacy among his largely Hindu subjects.

Some of the reforms Tipu Sultan introduced

Tipu’s fascination with European culture:
  • It was evident in many of the innovations that can be credited to him and his rule.
  • One of his emissaries returned from France with gunsmiths, watchmakers, workers of porcelain from Sèvres, glass-workers, textile weavers, printers who could work with Eastern languages, an engineer and a physician, not to speak of clove and camphor trees, European fruit trees, and seeds of various flowers.
  • Tipu wanted Mysore to be a modern rival of the European powers and made investments in technology accordingly.
Iron-cased rockets in warfare:
  • Tipu is credited for the introduction of iron-cased rockets in warfare.
  • While rocket-like weapons had previously been used in War, Tipu’s army used what can be termed as the first modern war rockets in the Anglo Mysore Wars (though some sources say that it was his father Hyder Ali who introduced these and Tipu only improved upon existing models).
  • These rockets were used to devastating effects against much larger British armies, driving them to panic and disarray.
  • The British used Tipu’s models for their own rockets, which would go on to play an important role in the Napoleonic Wars.
Administrative and Economic reforms:
  • He introduced new coins, started a new land revenue system in Mysore, as well as introduced sericulture, which continues to employ many Kannadigas to date.
  • Furthermore, some claim that upon hearing of the plight of lower caste women who were not allowed to wear blouses, Tipu personally supplied them with cloth.

How did Tipu die?

  • Tipu Sultan died defending his fortress of Srirangapatna against British forces in the Fourth Anglo Mysore War in 1799.
  • His forces were heavily outnumbered and his French allies had not been able to come to his aid.
  • His final act of valour and defiance has been glorified by many who see him as a nationalist, anti-colonial icon.
  • In the course of India’s freedom struggle, Tipu Sultan became a symbol of resistance against British rule, with emphasis on aspects of his persona which suited the nationalist narrative.

-Source: Indian Express

July 2024