Prof B.P Mahesh Guru
Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan were indeed the great rulers of Southern India. They performed their best efforts for the expansion, consolidation and development of the state of Mysore. Haider Ali played a pivotal role in the expansion of the Mysore State while Tipu Sultan thoroughly modernized the state. Haider Ali was a great warrior, while Tipu Sultan was a great visionary. They vehemently fought against the British imperialism and upheld the sovereignty of Mysore State. In the history of India, Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan remain as towering personalities who cherished self-rule, self-esteem and self-progress.
Tipu was born on November 20, 1750 at Devanahalli, North-West of Kolar in Karnataka State. Haider Ali married Fatima Begum, also called Fakhr-un-Nissa, the daughter of Mir Muin-ud-din Khan, the Governor of the Fort of Cuddapah on the insistence of his first wife. Haider Ali offered prayers at the dargah of the famous saint Tipu Mastan Aulia of Arcot along with his wife and prayed His Almighty for a smooth delivery by his second wife. Hence, Haider Ali named his son Tipu after the great saint. The word Sultan was added only after he assumed power in the State of Mysore. Haider Ali rose to greater heights after the birth of Tipu, becoming the Governor of Dindigul.
Tipu displayed the utmost courage, skill and competence in the battle against the Marathas in 1769. Tipu also played a heroic role in the second battle of Mysore against the British which spread over the period from 1780 to 1784. Tipu Sultan took charge of his State in the formal manner on December 20, 1782. The State of Mysore extended from east to west up to four hundred miles covering a vast area of 80,000 square miles. The entire territory had never been under the rule of a single monarch before Haider Ali.
Tipu efficiently managed the state of affairs and sustained the fight against the British with the help of the French forces. Tipu Sultan emerged victorious in the battle of Cuddalore and the British suffered enormous loss of life and property in this battle. The Treaty of Mangalore was signed in 1784 with a condition that both the parties would never assist the opponents of one another directly or indirectly. This treaty was indeed a crushing defeat for the British and a victory for Tipu even though he had an enormous chance and strength to rout the British from India.
Tipu returned to Srirangapattam after the peace agreement with the Marathas and sent a diplomatic mission to the Ottoman Caliphate in order to develop strategic relations between South India and the Persian Gulf in 1789. The British formed an allied front for waging a full-fledged battle against Tipu who was the most formidable adversary in South India. In 1798, Lord Wellesley was sent to India with a view to ensuring absolute colonization of the Indian sub-continent by the then Prime Minister Pitt. Tipu had prepared the ground for the ouster of the British from Indian soil by entering into diplomatic relations with foreign powers like the French, Arabs and others. The British declared the Anglo-Mysore War in 1799 and used a multi-pronged attack against Tipu.
[Battle of Srirangapattana (4th Anglo-Mysore war) April 1799, British forces lead by Colonel Arthur Wellesley (Duke of Wellington) ran away from the battlefield when attacked by rockets and musket fire of Tipu Sultan’s army. Unlike contemporary rockets whose combustion chamber was made of wood (bamboo), Tipu’s rockets (weighing between 2.2 to 5.5 kg) used iron cylinder casings that allowed greater pressure, thrust and range (1.5 to 2.5 Km)]
He made up his mind to accept martyrdom heroically rather than surrendering or leaving the battle field and was fully prepared to accept the command of His Almighty. A historic chapter of patriotism and freedom ended, and another ugly chapter of slavery opened up in the annals of Indian History on May 4, 1799 with the martyrdom of Tipu Sultan at Srirangapattana. After the death of Tipu, the fourth and final battle of Mysore came to an ominous end. General Harris came towards Sultan’s dead body and yelled at the top of his voice: “Today, India is ours”. The death of Tipu Sultan closed an illustrious chapter in the freedom struggle of India.
Several works of eminent historians have expressed the view that Haider Ali laid a strong political and economic foundation for the State of Mysore. Haider Ali was neither a diplomat nor an economist of a high order yet, he valiantly expanded the State of Mysore and mobilized enormous economic resources. On the other hand, Tipu Sultan had the ability to lead his kingdom to modernization both politically and economically. This inference is drawn on the basis of the economic policy and reforms carried out by Tipu Sultan. Undoubtedly, Tipu Sultan rightly understood the need and importance of a dynamic economic policy. He formulated several regulations connected with trade and commercial transactions, the most innovative scheme brought forward being Public Investment. The scheme was unique in the sense that the returns were paid in “inverse ratio”. The amount invested by the general public in that scheme was reinvested by the government in government trade. Another aspect of Tipu Sultan regime which deserves to be noted is his secular policy.
Gandhiji wrote in Young India that Tipu was an embodiment of Hindu-Muslim unity. His letters to Shringeri Mutt and religious gifts and land grants to several Hindu temples speak of his deep respect towards Hindus also. Therefore, to call Tipu a bigot is highly erroneous. Tipu Sultan’s intricate, complex international maneuvering, risks, initiatives, friendships and negotiations were primarily aimed at upliftment, prosperity, providing security and improving the life of the people and his state into a truly developed state like Britain or France were at that time.
The Government of Karnataka headed by Mr. Siddaramaiah have decided to celebrate the birth anniversary of Tipu Sultan despite strong protests by the Hindu fundamentalists supported by BJP, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, RSS, Bhajaranga Dal and other organizations. Several individuals like Pejavara Shri, Promod Mutalik, Chidananda Murthy, S.L Bhyrappa, B.S Yadiyurappa, Shobha Karandhlaje, Pratap Simha and others who are wedded to Hindu fundamentalism rather than Indian nationalism have protested against the celebration of Tipu’s birth anniversary. As a matter of fact, Tipu Sultan was a great champion of Hindu-Muslim amity, agricultural modernization, industrialization, rocket technology, sericulture, protection of Hindu temples, social justice and nationalism. Unfortunately, some vested interests have branded Tipu as an anti-national ruler which is biased, baseless, unfounded and motivated.
The whole history fraternity reverentially salutes Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan and gratefully acknowledges what they have done for the country, its people and more importantly to the cause of nationalism in India. In particular, Tipu Sultan will continue to be the fragrant flower, success story, milestone and role model in Indian history. The immense contributions which are available for researchers are open for study and judgment. To the scholars, Haidar Ali and Tipu Sultan appeared as great rulers, to the fraternity of historians they are great role models, and to lovers of philosophy, they were great philosophers. Tipu Sultan lived like a statesman and his contributions are marvelous for the progress of Mysore State. In conclusion, it could be stated with great pride that the uncompromising and death defying fight against British colonialism and capitalism put up by Tipu has been a rare event among the rulers of India. Hence, all nationalists and secularists salute Mahathma Tipu and love to cherish his monumental contributions to the country with pride and gratitude.
Prof B. P Mahesh Guru is a Professor at University of Mysore, his email is email@example.com
Image courtesy: The Internet