Biography of Tipu Sultan (November 20, 1750 - May 4, 1799)

The great Tipu Sultan (November 20, 1750–May 4, 1799), a warrior-king and patriot who fought for freedom, is fondly remembered in India and Pakistan. He was the final ruler in India who had enough power to make demands of the British East India Company. He was famously known as the 'Tiger of Mysore' and he put up a lengthy and arduous fight in order to maintain the independence of his homeland, although, sadly, unsuccessful in his endeavor.


Biography of Tipu Sultan (November 20, 1750 - May 4, 1799)

Biography of Tipu Sultan (November 20, 1750 - May 4, 1799)

Also Read: Biography of Rabindranath Tagore (May 7, 1861 - August 7, 1941)

On the twentieth day of November in the year 1750, Tipu Sultan was born to the military officer Hyder Ali of the Kingdom of Mysore and his wife, Fatima Fakhr-un-Nisa. He was known by two names, the first being Fath Ali and the second being Tipu Sultan, which was in honor of the Muslim saint, Tipu Mastan Aulia.

Hyder Ali, the father of the man in question, was a gifted soldier and was able to defeat an invading Marathan force in 1758, thus allowing Mysore to annex the Marathan homelands. Resulting from this, Hyder Ali assumed the role of commander-in-chief of the Mysore's army and eventually advanced to the title of Sultan, eventually culminating in him becoming the sovereign ruler of the kingdom by 1761.

As his father's fame and societal status increased, Tipu Sultan during his youth was receiving a quality education from the best tutors available. He dedicated a considerable amount of time to mastering the arts of riding, swordsmanship, shooting, as well as studying Koranic studies, Islamic jurisprudence, and languages such as Urdu, Persian, and Arabic. Tipu Sultan, from an early age, sought to learn military tactics and strategies from French officers as his father was in alliance with the French in southern India.

At the tender age of 15, Tipu Sultan had his first opportunity to put all the military training he had received to use when he joined his father in an invasion of Malabar in 1766. The young leader was able to take control of a force of between two to three thousand and, through his clever tactics, managed to capture the family of the Malabar chief who had been protected by a number of guards within a fort. The chief decided to surrender, spurred by his fear for his family, and other local leaders soon followed his lead.

Hyder Ali was filled with pride for his son, and as a result, he entrusted him with the responsibility of leading 500 cavalries and governing five districts within Mysore. It marked the beginning of an illustrious military career for the promising young man.


First Anglo-Mysore War

With the aim of gaining control over southern India, the British East India Company tried to exploit the relationships between the local kingdoms and principalities and the French in the mid-18th century. In the year 1767, a coalition consisting of the British, Nizam, and Marathas was formed, and this coalition then proceeded to launch an attack on Mysore. In June of 1792, Hyder Ali sent his son, Tipu Sultan, who was only seventeen years of age, to the Nizam in order to negotiate a separate peace with the Marathas.

The young diplomat made his way to the Nizam camp bearing gifts of cash, precious jewels, ten majestic horses, and five remarkable elephants that had been specially trained. Within the space of only a week, Tipu had managed to win over the ruler of the Nizam and persuade him to join the fight against the British, alongside the Mysorean forces.

Heading a cavalry raid, Tipu Sultan was on his way to Madras, now known as Chennai, but his father had to call him back due to a loss against the British at Tiruvannamalai. Hyder Ali made the remarkable and unconventional decision to keep fighting during the monsoon season, and together with Tipu, they were successful in taking two forts that belonged to the British. At the time when British reinforcements arrived, the Mysorean army was laying siege to a third fort. Tipu and his cavalry were able to keep the British at bay for enough time to allow Hyder Ali's troops to retreat in an orderly and organized way.

Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan then launched a campaign up the coast, conquering and taking possession of several forts and cities under British control. In March of 1769, the British were forced to reach a peaceful resolution with the Mysoreans, who were attempting to drive them out of their vital port of Madras on the eastern coast.

The Treaty of Madras, a 1769 peace agreement between the British and Hyder Ali, was signed in the aftermath of a humiliating defeat. Both sides came to the understanding that they would go back to their pre-war boundaries and to offer assistance to each other in case of an attack from any other force. The punishment that the British East India Company received, in relation to the treaty terms, was lenient, however, the company still chose not to honor the agreement.


Between the Wars

In the year 1771, the Marathas launched an attack on Mysore with a military force that was estimated to be as large as 30,000 soldiers. Hyder Ali requested that the British fulfill their obligation to aid him under the Treaty of Madras, yet the British East India Company declined to provide him with any military help. Tipu Sultan was a crucial figure in the defense of Mysore against the Marathas, however, his relationship with the British was never the same after this event and he and his father both distrusted them.

In the later years of the decade, a disagreement between Britain and France arose as a result of the 1776 rebellion (the American Revolution) in Britain's North American colonies, France siding with the rebels. With the intention of driving away French support from America, Britain had chosen to take the drastic measure of retaliating and forcing the French out of India. In the year 1778, the British began to seize French possessions in India, most notably Pondicherry, situated on the southeastern coast. During the year that followed, the British seized the French-controlled port of Mahe on the coast of Mysore, which led to Hyder Ali declaring war.


Second Anglo-Mysore War

In 1780, Hyder Ali initiated the Second Anglo-Mysore War by leading an army of 90,000 to attack the Carnatic, which was on the side of Britain. The British governor of Madras made the decision to send the majority of his army under Sir Hector Munro to battle the Mysoreans, and also summoned Colonel William Baillie to leave Guntur and converge with the main force. Hyder had heard news of this and sent Tipu Sultan along with a force of 10,000 troops to try and intercept Baillie.

On the September 1780, Tipu Sultan and his 10,000 cavalry and infantry soldiers laid siege to the combined forces of British East India Company and Indian forces led by Baillie, inflicting on them the most severe defeat the British had ever experienced in India. Although 4,000 Anglo-Indian troops were present, most of them decided to surrender and were taken captive, while 336 were killed in the battle.

Colonel Munro was hesitant to march to Baillie's aid, due to the fact that he did not want to risk losing the cannons and other equipment he had stored. He had left it too late and by the time he started his journey, it was already too late. Hyder Ali had no idea of how much disorganization was within the British forces. If he had launched an attack on Madras itself during that time, there is a good chance that he would have been able to successfully take the British base.

Despite the fact that the only assistance he provided in the battle was to send Tipu Sultan and some cavalry to harass Munro's retreating columns. The Mysoreans achieved a considerable victory in capturing the British stores and baggage, as well as wounding and killing around 500 troops, yet they decided not to try and seize control of Madras. Numerous sieges were witnessed during the Second Anglo-Mysore War and eventually the conflict settled into this form of battle.

On February 18th, 1782, Tipu Sultan's army achieved a major triumph against the forces of the East India Company under the command of Colonel Braithwaite in the Battle of Tanjore. Braithwaite was taken aback by Tipu and General Lallée, and after a relentless 26-hour battle, the British and their Indian sepoys had no other choice but to surrender. It was purported by British propaganda that Tipu would have slaughtered all of the company troops had the French not been there to intervene, yet this is very doubtful as no one of the company troops was injured after they capitulated.


Tipu Assumes Power

In the midst of the Second Anglo-Mysore War, the 60-year-old Hyder Ali had the misfortune of developing a serious carbuncle. During the late autumn and early winter of the year 1782 his condition continued to decline, culminating in his death on the seventh of December. On December 29th, 1782, Tipu Sultan ascended to the throne and officially assumed the title of Sultan, following in his father's footsteps. The British had aspirations that the transition of power would be anything but peaceful in order to gain a strategic upper hand in the continued conflict.

The plans of Tipu's opponents were thwarted by the ease with which Tipu was transitioned into and accepted by the army. What made the situation worse was that the British officers had not been able to procure enough rice during the harvest season, and some of their sepoys were dying of hunger. The harsh conditions of the monsoon season did not provide the necessary resources for them to launch a successful attack against the new sultan.


Terms of Settlement

During the period of the Second Anglo-Mysore War which went on until early 1784, Tipu Sultan maintained superiority and control for a majority of the time. Following a lot of discussion and debate, the Treaty of Mangalore was finally signed on March 11, 1784, officially signifying the end of the dispute between the British East India Company and the Indian rulers. According to the terms of the treaty, the boundaries of the territories of both sides were restored to the same state as before. Tipu Sultan decided to free all of the British and Indian prisoners of war that he had taken into custody.


Reign of Tipu Sultan 

Even though Tipu Sultan had achieved two victories against the British, he was aware that the British East India Company still posed a very real and serious threat to his sovereign state. Utilizing his resources, he was able to fund continuous military advances, including the continued development of the well-known Mysore rockets, which were iron tubes that had the capability to shoot missiles up to two kilometers, causing great fear among the British troops and those who were supporting them.

Tipu Sultan was a highly progressive ruler who constructed roads, designed a new currency and facilitated the production of silk to be exported to foreign countries. His fascination and delight with new technologies was unparalleled and he was an avid scholar of science and mathematics. As a very devoted Muslim, Tipu showed a great amount of tolerance towards the Hindu faith that his majority of his subjects practiced. Tipu Sultan was framed and known as the "Tiger of Mysore" for his ability to rule with strength and courage during times of peace.


Third Anglo-Mysore War

Tipu Sultan was forced to confront the British yet again in the period of time between 1789 and 1792. With France engulfed in the revolutionary turmoil of the French Revolution, Mysore was unable to receive the aid it usually sought from its ally. On this particular occasion, the British forces were under the leadership of Lord Cornwallis, who was one of the most influential British commanders in the American Revolution.

Unfortunately, Tipu Sultan and his people did not receive the same attention and resources as the British did when it came to investing in southern India. Despite its lengthy duration, the war was not like those that had come before it, as the British were able to gain more ground than they had to give up. After the British had besieged Tipu's capital city of Seringapatam for a significant period of time, the Mysorean leader eventually had no choice but to surrender at the conclusion of the war.

In 1793, the British and their allies, the Maratha Empire, concluded the Treaty of Seringapatam, resulting in the Marathas gaining control of half of Mysore's territory. The British demanded that two of Tipu's sons, who were 7 and 11 years old, be given over as hostages to ensure that he would pay the war indemnities. Cornwallis had held his son captive so that Tipu would adhere to the term of the treaty. Tipu wasted no time in paying the ransom and was able to recover his children. Nonetheless, it was a shocking reversal for the Tiger of Mysore.


Fourth Anglo-Mysore War

A French general known as Napoleon Bonaparte led a military invasion into Egypt in the year 1798. Despite his superiors in the Revolutionary government in Paris being unaware, Bonaparte had plans to use Egypt as a stepping-stone to invade India by land (through the Middle East, Persia, and Afghanistan) and take control of it from the British. Keeping this in mind, the man who had ambitions of becoming the emperor looked to create an alliance with Tipu Sultan, Britain's most formidable adversary in the southern region of India.

Despite the potential of this alliance, it never came to fruition for a multitude of reasons. Napoleon's military forces faced a disastrous defeat when they attempted to invade Egypt. Tipu Sultan, who was meant to be an ally to him, unfortunately also experienced a crushing defeat.

After the Third Anglo-Mysore War, the British had been granted enough time for a full recovery by 1798. The British forces at Madras had a new leader, Richard Wellesley, Earl of Mornington, who was committed to a policy of taking action and expanding their influence. Despite the fact the British had occupied half of his country and taken a substantial amount of money, Tipu Sultan was able to rebuild significantly, and Mysore had regained its former prosperity.

It was in the knowledge of British East India Company that Mysore was the only Kingdom which came between it and British aim of gaining control over complete India. In the month of February 1799, a coalition of nearly 50,000 British-led troops began to march toward the city of Seringapatam, which was the capital of Tipu Sultan's kingdom. This was an army that was far from the conventional colonial army that was usually composed of a small number of European officers and an ill-prepared group of local recruits. All efforts were concentrated on the destruction of Mysore.

Despite the British's attempt to surround Mysore state with a giant pincher movement, Tipu Sultan still managed to launch a surprise attack in the early days of March that almost destroyed one of the British contingents before they could receive support. As the spring advanced, the British military gained ground and moved closer to the Mysorean capital. Tipu wrote to the British commander Wellesley, attempting to negotiate a peace treaty, yet Wellesley proposed terms that were totally unacceptable. His goal was to completely annihilate Tipu Sultan and there was no room for negotiation.


Title of "Tiger of Mysore"

Tipu Sultan, more commonly known as the Tiger of Mysore, was an immensely powerful ruler, who ruled Mysore with great authority. Tipu Sultan was a warrior king of great strength and skill and he was so swift that the enemy believed he was engaging them on many fronts at one and the same time. The tiger was a symbol of Tipu Sultan's rule, and he incorporated tiger motifs into arms, uniforms, and decorations in his palace, using it as a symbol of his power.

An occurrence involving Tiger led to the awarding of this title. While Tipu Sultan attempted to kill a tiger unfortunately his weapons i.e. his gun jammed and his knife also dropped to the ground. The Tiger of Mysore earned his nickname when he bravely faced a tiger that was about to maul him and was able to take out his knife and kill the tiger.



At the start of May 1799, Seringapatam, the main city of Mysore, was surrounded by the British and their allies. Tipu Sultan had to face 50,000 attackers with only a fraction of his forces at 30,000 defenders. On the fourth day of May, the British forces breached the defenses of the city, causing the walls to break down. Tipu Sultan, in a display of bravery and determination, ran to the breach in order to protect and defend his city, but sadly was killed in the process.



At the time of Tipu Sultan's demise, Mysore transformed into another princely state under the control of the British Raj. His sons were forcibly removed and sent into exile, allowing the British to install a puppet family to control Mysore. As a result of a deliberate policy, Tipu Sultan's family were reduced to poverty and it was only in 2009 that their princely status was restored.

Tipu Sultan fought long and hard, although ultimately unsuccessfully, to preserve his country's independence. Today, Tipu is remembered by many in India and Pakistan as a brilliant freedom fighter and as an able peacetime ruler.



Tipu Sultan was a remarkable figure in Indian history, known for his military prowess, political acumen, and his vision of a united India free from foreign domination. Despite being a controversial and complex figure, there are those who revere his life and legacy and those who revile him, and his influence can be seen across India and beyond.

A comprehensive overview of Tipu Sultan's life and the struggles he encountered while ruling is presented in the biography. His military campaigns against the British East India Company, his initiatives to bring modernity to the kingdom's economy and society, and the part he played in the Indian independence movement are all explored in depth.

The biography illuminates Tipu's character and his approach to leadership, giving readers a better understanding of him. His dedication to his people, his fresh way of governing, and his ambition of a unified India liberated from foreign domination is demonstrated. Much debate and controversy surrounds the legacy of Tipu Sultan, with various people having very different interpretations of him.

He is looked upon by some as a courageous and insightful head of state who battled against the British Empire while attempting to bring India together, while others regard him as a despot who mistreated his own citizens and disregarded minority rights.

To sum up, this biography of Tipu Sultan offers an extensive overview of an intricate and highly contentious figure of Indian history. It provides an in-depth look into the life and accomplishments of this iconic figure and his vision for India, as well as a recognition of the various debates and controversies that have been associated with his legacy. The legacy of Tipu Sultan continues to be an essential part of Indian history, and his life and works still evoke strong emotions and provoke thought in people even today.

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