Tippu Sultan

"To live like a lion for a day is far better than to live for a hundred years like a jackal"


By Orya Maqbool Jan (In Urdu)

Lieutenant Richard said: 4th May 1799

"I have experience hurricanes, typhoons and gales of winds at sea, but never in whole course of my existence had I seen anything comparable to this desolating visitation "

From Edinburgh museum
"The threat Tipu represented to British interests in India meant that news of his death was a cause of national celebration"


The Sword of Tipu Sultan

This sword (OA1402) is one of the great treasures of the Oriental Armoury and it is of the most exquisite Indian workmanship.
The hilt is carved from jade, intricately inlaid with gold and set with rubies, emeralds and diamonds, while the blade is richly damascened in gold with an inscription identifying this weapon as being ‘the personal shamshir (sword) of Tipu Sultan’. His personal ‘badge’ of a tiger, similarly worked in gold, features prominently. Tipu Sultan (or Tippoo Sahib as he was also known) had a particular affinity for tigers… indeed, he was popularly known as ‘the Tiger of Mysore’. He made extensive use of the tiger motif, and often likened himself to a tiger; many of his possessions were decorated with tiger heads or ‘bubri’ (tiger stripes).

Significantly, he is famously credited with saying "In this world I would rather live two days like a tiger, than two hundred years like a sheep” Born c.1750, he became sultan of the southern Indian state of Mysore upon the death of his father, Haidar Ali, in 1782. Haider Ali had not been of noble blood at all, but had risen through military prowess and political ambition to command the army of the Rajah of Mysore, becoming his chief advisor and eventually virtual ruler. Tipu consolidated this position of power, and continued his father’s policy of expansion and resistance to British political and territorial ambitions in the region.

In 1798 Tipu made an alliance with the French, with whom Britain was at war. Napoleon’s landing in Egypt the same year was intended as a threat to British interests in India, which this gave Governor-General Sir Arthur Wellesley (later the first Duke of Wellington) a reason to invade Mysore. After a prolonged siege, on May 4th 1799, at the conclusion of the Fourth Mysore War, Tipu was killed defending his palace-fortress and capital at Seringapathan. His possessions, both territorial and personal, were plundered and divided amoung his enemies.
The manner of Tipu’s death inspired widespread admiration, even among those who had fought against him. In a way, his greatest legacy was his own legend. Tipu’s life and death caught the imagination of the public throughout the civilized world at the time, and his appeal continues to the present day. The anniversary of his death is marked by major celebrations every year at Seringapathan, and elsewhere across India. Politically, however, his long stand against the expansion of British influence ended with his death. Without Tipu’s charisma, drive and determination to exert his authority over the lands under his control, Mysore ceased to be a thorn in the side of British imperialist aspirations in India.
The weapon displayed here was undoubtedly one of many owned by Tipu. Despite its rich decoration, it was nonetheless capable of use in battle, and could well have seen action during its working lifetime. The blade is of the finest crucible steel, possibly of Persian origin, perhaps dating to the 17th century, such blades being highly prized and often re-hilted in the current fashion. The sword entered the Wallace Collection, through Sir Richard’s father, the fourth Marquess of Hertford, who was much taken by the early 19th century fashion for Orientalism.
It was exhibited by Lord Hertford in the 1865 Musée Retrospectif exhibition in Paris (listed as no. 6194), and was illustrated in the Gazette des Beaux Arts of 1869. Hertford almost certainly purchased the sword in France, but there is unfortunately no record of how it came to Europe, or who previously owned it. It probably formed part of the vast treasury of objects, armour and weapons looted after the fall of Seringapathan, much of which is now scattered in museums and private collections across the world.

Further Reading

  • “The Tiger and the Thistle: Tipu Sultan and the Scots in India”, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1999
  • “Treasures from India: the Clive Collection at Powis Castle”, The National Trust, 1987
  • “Tiger of Mysore”, Denys Forrest, Chatto & Windus, London 1970

Scottish Military Museum Edinburgh




The Sword of Tippu Sultan
by Dr. K. L. Kamat

On the occasion of the bi-centenary of his death, we present a biography of Tippu Sultan. He was a controversial ruler due to some of the atrocities attributed to his army (especially on Konkani speaking Christians), but Dr. Kamat has tried to evaluate him historically and above controversies.
"The Sword of Tippu Sultan" is also the title of a book by Bhagwan Gidwani, and a controversial  TV serial in India  -- Ed.
Tippu Sultan - A Portrait
Tippu Sultan (1753-1799)

Childhood and Parentage

Tippu was born in Devanahalli (in Karnataka) on Friday, November 20th, 1753. At the age of fifteen he used to accompany his father Hyder Ali, Ruler of Mysore State, to different military campaigns. He was a devout Muslim. He had a very inquisitive mind and fascination for learning. His personal library was consisted of more than two thousand books in different languages. Tippu was a man of simple habits, eating common food and leading pious life. He had a very dignified personality and impressed the people who came in contact with him. He was an extremely active man and worked from dawn to midnight for the welfare of his subjects. He himself drafted all his correspondence. He took over the kingdom after his father's death in 1782 A.D.

Fighting the British

He could foresee the (British) East India Company's design to get entrenched on Indian soil, and took a vow to foil it. For this purpose he negotiated with the French and sheltered the Frenchmen who preached the French revolutionary doctrines to the public. A "Jacobean Club" was established in Tippu's capital Srirangapattana, and the French tricolor was hoisted. He also sought assistance from the Amir of Afghanistan and the Sultan of Turkey. He had already defeated the British at Wandiwash in 1783. The British were very scared of Tippu's growing strength, and they formed an alliance with the Nizam of Hyderabad State and Marathas of Maharashtra State. The French deserted Tippu after signing of the "Versailles Treaty" in Europe in 1783 when the American War of Independence ended.
As long as the British fought alone, Tippu always defeated them. But he was no match for their diplomacy, conspiracy and intrigue. Thus he was defeated in his Capital of Srirangapattana, and forced to sign a humiliating treaty on March 22nd, 1792. As a result he had to concede half of his kingdom and pay an indemnity of thirty three million Rupees to the English and their allies. Frequent wars had drained his treasury, and hence he had no hard cash to pay this huge amount. He was compelled to pledge two of his sons to the conquerors. Governor General Conrnwallis took away these two youngsters to his headquarters in Calcutta in Bengal. However, they could not suppress Tippu's spirits for long, and he rebuilt his war machine in shortest possible time. He built a fine army and modernized his administration on the European model. He was an able and fearless military strategist.

Tippu's Government

He built a chain of excellent roads, and constructed tanks and dams to promote agriculture. He introduced the new industries, promoted trades and commerce, established factories in Cutch, Masquat, and Jedda, and sent commercial missions to Oman, Persia and Turkey. He invited foreign know-how to build factories to produce glass, mirrors and ship-building. He aimed at making his kingdom the most prosperous state of India. Hence he was also interested in latest scientific research all over the world. He introduced sericulture on a large scale, and mulberry cultivation was started at twenty one centers. He encouraged the textile industry by banning the export of cotton. The weavers from Tamilnadu were invited and settled in his kingdom. Growing of sugarcane and  producing of sugar and candy were encouraged in Channapatna, Devanhalli and Chikkaballapur. High quality tempered wire required for the string instruments was produced in Channapatna. The livestock development got special attention. Tippu prohibited the production and distribution of liquor and other intoxicants in his state of Mysore.
Tippu Sultan adopted the tiger as his emblem. His throne was shaped like a tiger, carrying the head of a life-size tiger in solid gold (see also the boxed toy above). He was an enlightened ruler who treated his non-Muslim subjects generously. He appointed them to different positions of authority, and gave them complete freedom of worship. He conferred liberal grants to Sringeri, Srirangapattana, and Mangalore temples. He gave funds for the consecration of idols and presented them with gold and silver articles. He also encouraged arts like music and dance and learning in general.
The Sword of Tippu Sultan and Engravings on it
The Sword of Tippu Sultan
and  Engravings on it
History of the Sword
On the verge of defeat, Tippu lay critically injured in the battlefield. But he still had his favorite sword with him. It is said a British soldier tried to snatch away the royal sword, but Tippu killed him with the same sword that he intended to possess!
After the war, the sword was sent to London with other loots. After India's independence, it was brought back to India, only to be smuggled out as a collectible. The federal authorities seized it in 1988 and retained in India.
Tippu's accomplishments and popularity among his subjects and in the neighborhood states were eyesore, for imperialistic designs of the English. Hence they decided to finish him once for ever. Fourth Srirangapatanna war came very handy to them to physically liquidate Tippu on May 4th, 1799. A small monument has been erected where his dead body was found. Tippu had a good collection of weapons, but a particular sword was his favorite. He fought his last war with the same sword. When he was critically injured, a British intended to snatch sway the weapon, but Tippu killed him with the same sword which he intended to possess! The victorious General Harris sent Tippu's war-horse, the palanquin, and a howdah to the king of Coorg who sided with the British. After confiscating most of the Tippu's territory, the famous sword was sent to London. This was brought back after India's Independence (1947), but was about to be smuggled out of the country when it was intercepted, and was retained in the country.

Musiacal Tiger - From Collection of East India ComapnyTippu's Toy
The mechanical 'Tipoo's Tiger' was captured at Srirangapattana in 1799 and was exhibited at the East India Company's headquarters in Leadenhall Street. The tiger roars and the British officer screams.
Picture Courtesy :
The East India Company

Tippu, the Builder

The most famous and beautiful artifact from Tippu Sultan's period is his summer place, the Daria Daulat. It beautifully depicts some of the heroic wars Tippu fought and also many social themes of the period.
Daria-Daulal Bagh Painting
Painting from Daria Daulat Bagh
Tippu built the "Gumbaz" at Srinagapattana in 1784 which is a square shaped mausoleum with ivory-inlaid doors and black marble pillars. Tippu is buried here by the side of his father Hyder ALi and mother Fatima Begum. Outside the tomb are the graves of his relatives and commanders. Nearby the "Mashit-e-Aqsa" mosque, with a pair of small minarets is located. A solar clock could be found outside this building.
Tippu built and fortified numerous forts, but unfortunately most of them are either destroyed or are in ruins because of poor maintenance. The Banglore fort, located in the heart of the city has a temple of Ganesh where devotees offer prayers regularly. Tippu also built many palaces which were demolished by the British after his death. However his Bangalore Summer Palace is a great tourists' attraction.. It is completely made of wooden structures with five well decorated and painted arches.

Tippu's Legacy

"Sword of Tippu Sultan" is the name of a novel  by Bhagwan Gidwani based on his life. Based on it, a serial was telecast by Doordarshan (the state run television in India) which became both popular and controversial. On the 4th of May, 1999 Tippu's death bicentenary will be celebrated in India on a large scale. Though the historians of India are of different views about his role to dislodge the British from Indian soil, the common people have great admiration for his heroic deeds. It is very interesting to note that seventh generation descendants of Tippu Sultan have arrived at Srirangapattana, all the way from Calcutta to claim their ancestral properties!
The Daria Daulat Bagh is a national monument and can be visited by tourists (1999).

"Under the Tipu Sultan The People were prosperous and happy,while the subjects under english rule in Bengal,Awadh and Other areas of Karantaka were not and they were oppressed" From Kingdom of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan by Anwar Haroon. http://books.google.com.pk/books?id=S2PUU22CeRkC&pg=PA220&lpg=PA220&dq=captain+little+mysore+tipu+sultan&source=bl&ots=ZbTsWClLkl&sig=wi43a5mI7edInvLjoXVzCJ-vk9k&hl=en&sa=X&ei=O-nnUfn_H8iHtQb20IHACQ&ved=0CFwQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=captain%20little%20mysore%20tipu%20sultan&f=false

Source http://www.irak.pk/july-to-december-2011/41-issue2-july-december-2011-urdu/321-2011-07-07-12-16-54.html


Tipu Sultan and the Ring of Rama

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