Tipu Sultan Jayanthi – A Celebration of Bigotry and Barbarity

Tipu Sultan Jayanthi – A Celebration of Bigotry and Barbarity

Today, the 10th of November, is being celebrated by the Government of Karnataka as Tipu Jayanthi, despite Tipu being born on the 20th of November. The government is commemorating the birth of Tipu, who ruled most of Karnataka as its sultan, from his capital, Srirangapattaman. Tipu Sultan’s rule lasted from December 1782, to 1799 – sixteen years in all. He has been alternately lauded as a great freedom fighter and patriot – a martyr in the war against the British and damned as a bigot and a religious zealot, who cruelly persecuted all, but the Muslims. Recently, the government of Karnataka, in its wisdom, decided to accept the former interpretation of Tipu Sultan, and decided to celebrate Tipu Jayanthi, ignoring the vociferous protests by the Hindu and the Christian groups. The government avers that Tipu was a great patriot and freedom fighter, a man who gave his life in the war against the British, a man who raised the prestige of the Mysore kingdom to the highest pitch, and that his atrocities have been greatly exaggerated, or outright falsified. The honourable chief minister of Karnataka declared, “Tipu Sultan is a patriot, freedom fighter – and he is most secular man. That is why I have celebrated.’’ [2]. Many secular and liberal scholars have written tomes exonerating Tipu of any atrocities against the Hindus.

A case has been made by a secular doyen [1] that while Tipu’s bigotry did come into the picture in Malabar and other places outside Karnataka, he ruled well and wisely for the people of Karnataka, and consequently, the government of Karnataka is well justified in celebrating his birth. Consequently, in this article, we take a deep look into Tipu’s actions regarding Hindus and other infidels inside the regions of modern Karnataka itself. We also present his actions during times of war and how he treated his enemies, and even his subjects. Contrary to the claim of the secular doyen [1], there were rules of war and those that rejected those rules were subject to censure by their own contemporaries. This is true whether it was Shivaji punishing his sardars, who misbehaved with women, or French and British censuring those, who indulged in wanton loot.

Tipu, throughout his life was the regent (Sarvadhikari) of Mysore Kingdom, acting for the Rajah of Mysore, though by the end of his reign, he had more or less dispensed with this pretence. Most of Tipu’s actions came in the first ten years of his rule, when his star waxed to the brightest. From the death of Haidar in 1782, until the moment when his power was broken and he was defeated and clipped of his claws in the Treaty of Srirangapattanam in 1792, Tipu energetically moved from one end of the kingdom to the other actively, warring against both external enemies like the British, the Raja of Travancore, Marathas, and the Nizam of Hyderabad and internal revolts in Coorg, Nargund, and Malabar. Consequently, it is in these 10 years that we must look for how he treated those of his Kingdom that did not follow the Islamic faith. His later actions too, bear deep scrutiny, but those at the height of his power display his characteristic feeling for his non-Muslim compatriots.

In this article, we present his life and moves as chronicled by his contemporaries, both Indian and European, and also later historians, and leave the readers to draw their own conclusions from the actions of Tipu. For this purpose, we have presented the actions chronologically, and have observed his various actions in the words of his contemporaries and respected historians of modern Mysore.

Each action of Tipu against the infidels that we list has been usually confirmed by multiple sources, both Indian and European. For his actions, we have depended on a wide variety of sources, both contemporary and later historians. Importantly, we depend on Tipu’s own letters and commands to his soldiers and administrators for our guide to his ideas. Apart from Tipu himself, for contemporary English sources, we utilise Col. Wilks, who fought against Tipu, and the famous English traveller, Hamilton-Buchanan, for French sources, the great French historian, Joseph Michaud, for Hindu sources, Ramachandra Rao, who was an official under Tipu, and for Muslim, Kirmani, who was his court poet and official chronicler and biographer, and who sang Tipu’s praises. Later historians whose words we quote include, Lewin Bowring, and Lewis Rice among the Britishers, other Europeans, including Richter, Indian historians including Hayavadana Rao, Sitaram Goel, and Sheik Ali. English sources have been accused of being hostile to Tipu, who was the enemy of the British, but most of the atrocities that Tipu perpetrated on the Hindus and Christians have been confirmed by his French allies and other contemporary Hindu and Muslim historians as well.

Tipu’s Accession and the Melukote Massacre

Haidar died (of natural causes) during the Second Mysore war against the British and their allies, and as such, Tipu was fighting the British in Malabar, when the news of his father’s death reached him. His succession was fairly smooth and as the French historian Michaud [a contemporary of Tipu] records, Haidar had pointed out to Tipu the advantages of his smooth succession, in these words, “I leave you an empire that I have not received my ancestors. A scepter acquired by violence is always fragile; However, you have not to fear the political storms that usually accompany changes of reign in Hindustan. You will find no obstacles in your family; you have no rivals among leaders of the army; I will leave you no enemies among my subjects; you have nothing to fear from within the kingdom.’’ p. 81, [8]

Nevertheless, there was considerable violence, unsettled conditions and quite a few desertions in this kingdom that attended his accession to the throne, for many, who had faithfully served Haidar Ali, were worried about Tipu. Early in his reign, Tipu faced an attempt at a coup, led by Tirumala Rao, Shamaiah and his brother Rangaiah. Both Rangaiah and Shamaiah were brutally tortured to death. However, it was the people from Tirumala Rao’s caste at Melukote, which was innocent of his crimes against Tipu, which faced brutal reprisals. These reprisals have been recorded by Hayavadana Rao, who chronicles, “… for in the executions which followed the betrayal of the plot, `seven hundred’ of Tirumala Rao’s `caste people and relations’, as he himself tells us, were put to death on the orders of Tipu, on the latter’s hearing of these proceedings.’’ p. 635, [10]. These unhappy people were slaughtered on Naraka Chaturdashi, the first day of the three days Deepavali festival.

C Hayavadana Rao has made a clear reference to the Melukote massacre of Brahmins in the aftermath of the failed revolt against Tipu, “In the executions that followed the betrayal [of Tipu by Shamaiah, Rangaiah and Tirumala Rao], it is said that over 700 families, who were described as the adherents of the Raja in this connection, were put to death. Several fled out of the country while others went into self-chosen obscurity to avoid further troubles.’’ p. 2565, [14]

This incident has been confirmed by Tipu’s contemporary, Ramachandra Rao, who writes ``In the time of Hyder, he had a servant named Shamaya, a very superior man whom Hyder employed as Post Master. He was present with Tippoo Sultan at Mangalore; his elder brother Rangaya being the head man at Seringapatam, where one Syed Mohammad was [Killadar] Captain of the fort. Syed Mohammad believed that Rangaya was plotting in favour of the English; thereupon, he imprisoned him with 200 persons connected with him; out of these people, he hanged some and killed others by dragging them at the foot of an elephant. He informed the Sultan of this by a letter written when he was at Mangalore. Hereupon, Tippoo severely reprimanded Shamaya (who now was with Tippoo), put him in irons and sent him to Seringapatam, where he was kept in a cage. All his horse and wealth being seized and ruined, all his dependants were put to the torture. Ultimately, two lacks of pagodas were extorted from them; and Tippoo extorted other sums from their people employed throughout the country, putting them fettered in prison. After a while, he slew some of them and others perished in jail. … Some wives of the sufferers were drafted into the Sultan’s Seraglio.’’ p. 35, [17]. Tipu’s atrocity on blameless women has been highlighted, for it is a recurring theme, throughout his career.

Tipu’s Actions at Bidnur and his treatment of the prisoners

From 1782, to 1784, Tipu fought the British in the region of Nagar (Bidnur) and the coast of Karnataka, for the most part, returning to Srirangapattanam in the wake of the Treaty of Mangalore with the British. In 1783, Bidnur was under a traitorous officer named Sheikh Ayaz, who deserted to the British, in the wake of Haidar Ali’s death. However, Tipu was able to retake the place and on his takeover, he forcibly converted every non-Muslim follower of Sheikh Ayaz that he could find in Bidnur to Islam. It is recorded by Wilks, a historian who was working on the history of Mysore a bare decade after the fall of Tipu Sultan and who had access to primary sources, both within the Mysore Kingdom and also among Tipu’s former officers that “Khan Jehan Khan – was born a Bramin, and was a writer in the service of Scheikh Ayaz, when it surrendered to General Medows. On the recapture of the place by Tippoo, every person was sought for who had been in any respect of use to the fugitive and this youth was forcibly converted to Islam, and highly instructed in its doctrines.’’ p. 284-285, footnote, [15]

At the same time [in 1784], Tipu’s actions against the British prisoners have also been recorded. Bowring writes thus, “The English prisoners were specially selected as victims of his vengeance, not omitting officers of rank such as General Matthews’’ pp.220-221, [3]

The cruel treatment of the English prisoners of Nagar has also been confirmed by the French historian, Michaud, who concedes that “The [English] garrison [of Bidnur] found itself at the discretion of its vanquishers, who were not any more moderate in their triumph than the English had been in theirs.’’ p. 95, [8] and ``The English general [Mathews], after further barbaric treatment, was poisoned by an Indian drink that was poured down his throat. Twenty other [English] officers suffered a similar fate.’’ p. 95, [8].

Col. Wilks also records the fate of his countrymen at Tipu’s hands, “… it was reserved for Tippoo Sultaun to destroy his prisoners by poison and assassination and the infamy was heightened, by his selecting for this purpose all those who were observed or reported to have distinguished themselves in arms, and might hereafter become dangerous opponents: fortunately, his defective information spared many who were eminently entitled to this fatal honour. Colonel Baillie’s death preceded Tippoo’s accession. Captain Rumley, who led the charge against Tippoo’s guns on the morning of Baillie’s tragedy; Lieutenant Fraser, one of that officer’s staff; and Lieutenant Sampson, captured with Colonel Brathwaite; were the first victims of this policy of the new reign. Brigadier-General Matthews, and most of the captains taken at Bednore, were the next selections; and afterwards, at uncertain periods, other individuals in the several prisons were either carried away to Cabbal Droog, to be poisoned, or if that were deemed too troublesome, they were led out to the woods, and hacked to pieces; but with this savage exception, the treatment of the remainder was not materially changed.’’ p. 520, [16]

Tipu had conquered Bidnur and Mangalore, by forcing the British garrisons to submit. After the treaty of Mangalore in 1784, Tipu was honour bound to return the prisoners, for one of the conditions of the treaty of Mangalore was the restoration and repatriation of prisoners. However, in contravention of the terms of the treaty, Tipu retained many English prisoners, subjecting them to humiliation and cruelty. Bowring writes thus, “Tipu, on the other hand, had no compunction in cutting their [prisoners’] throats, or strangling and poisoning them; while as has been stated, numbers of them were sent to die of malaria and starvation on the fatal mountain of Kabaldurg.… in direct contravention of the treaty made at Mangalore in 1784, he did not scruple to retain in captivity considerable numbers of Europeans. Many of these, particularly young and good-looking boys, were forcibly circumcised, married haphazard to girls who had been captured in the Coromandel districts, and drafted into the ranks of the army, or compelled to sing and dance for the amusement of the sovereign.” pp.220-221, [3]

Tipu Sultan’s torture of the prisoners and specifically, the European prisoners, whom he had retained in contravention of the Treaty of Mangalore has been recorded by Wilks. He writes, “Exclusively of all officers, without exception, and about two hundred other persons, who from terror or compulsion had submitted to be enrolled in his service, an account was officially rendered to Government of about fifty names, chiefly boys, who had been forcibly subjected to the painful rite of an abhorred religion, and many of them instructed to perform as singers and dancers for the future amusement of the tyrant. Some of these unhappy beings had been occasionally placed in situations to observe and be observed by the English prisoners in Seringapatam; the journal of an officer describes them as shedding a flood of tears, while attempting by gestures to describe their situation; and imagination may revert to the story of a more ancient people for the picture of their sorrows: ‘They that wasted us, required of us mirth ; saying, sing us one of the songs of Zion: How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?’ pp. 519-520, [16] and elsewhere too, as “…in the mass of living evidence at Seringapatam and elsewhere, of his [Tipu’s] detention of prisoners, in direct violation of the treaty of 1784. Of the English boys, educated as singers and dancers, twenty still remained; a secret order was despatched for the murder of these unhappy youths, as the first victims and an imperceptible succession of most of the other prisoners of the previous war.’’ p. 112, [15]

Tipu’s actions in Dakshin Kannada

After the reconquest of Bidnur, Tipu moved next to the region of Mangalore to reconquer the fortress of Mangalore that had fallen to the British. After he had expelled the British from the region in 1784, he showed himself utterly without mercy towards the infidel inhabitants of the Dakshin Kannada (Christians, Jains and even Hindus, to an extent) as will be seen below.

Lewin Bowring points out Tipu’s actions towards the Christians (who were called Nasranis) of Mangalore. He writes, “Before returning to the upper country, he [Tipu] signalised his zeal for the faith of Islam by driving out of the coast region no fewer than 30,000 of its Christian inhabitants, who were forcibly deported into Mysore. His own account of this infamous transaction is that the Portuguese, having on pretence of trade obtained settlements on the western coast, had prohibited Musalmans from practising their faith, and expelled Hindus from their territory, those who remained, in spite of the prohibition, being enrolled as Christians.” pp. 125-126, [3]

Lewin Bowring’s claim is strengthened by his quoting the official biographer of Tipu, Kirmani. Quoting Kirmani, Lewin Bowring adds, “His Majesty, `the shadow of God,’ so runs his bombastic effusion, being informed of these circumstances, the rage of Islam began to boil in his breast. He ordered that an enumeration and description of the houses of all Christians should be made, and then sent detachments under trusty officers who, after early prayers, acting in accordance with their instructions, seized 60,000 (sic) persons, great and small of both sexes, who were carried to the resplendent presence. They were then despatched to the capital, and the males being formed into battalions of five hundred each, under the command of faith, officers well instructed in the were honoured with the distinction of Islam, and distributed in the principal garrisons’ These unfortunate people, having received the appellation of ‘Ahmadi’ or ‘praiseworthy,’ and the date of their forcible conversion was commemorated by the phrase, ‘God is the protector of the religion of Ahmad’ ” p. 126, [3]

This account of forcible conversion of the Christians of Mangalore is corroborated by Col. Wilks, who writes, “Among the memorable events of this wonderful year, was the making Mussulmans of the Nazarene Christians. Now, Christian, in the language of the Franks, is applied to designate a new convert to the religion of Jesus, (on whose race be benediction and peace;) and as a compound word, it is synonymous with Eesovian, (persons of the religion of Jesus) for in the language of the Franks Christian is a name of the Lord Jesus; but to proceed with our subject. The Portuguese Nazarenes, who for a long period have possessed factories on the sea coasts, obtained, about three hundred years ago, an establishment of this nature, on pretense of trade, on the coast of Soonda, at a place situated midway in the course of a large river and estuary (Goa); and in process of time, watching their opportunity, obtained from the raja, a country, yielding a revenue of three or four lacs of rupees. They then proceeded to prohibit the Mahommedan worship within these limits, and to expel its votaries: to the bramins and other Hindoos, they proclaimed a notice of three days, within which time they were at liberty to depart, and in failure to be enrolled in the new religion. Some, alarmed at the proposition, abandoned their property and possessions; and others, deeming the whole to be an empty threat, ventured to remain and on the appointed day, the Nazarenes enrolled them in their own foolish religion. In process of time, and by means of rare presents, and flattery, and pecuniary offerings, they prevailed on the senseless rajas of Nuggur, Courial, (Mangalore), and Soonda, to tolerate their farther proceedings, and began gradually to erect shrines and chapels, (Keleesha – eclesia), and in each of these idol temples, established one or two padres, that is to say monks, who, deluding the weak and pliant populace, by a fluency of tongue, alternately soothing and severe, and by liberal and munificent gifts, led the way to their abolished religion ; and in this manner made a multitude of Christians, and continued to that day the same practices. When His Majesty, the shadow of God, was informed of these circumstances, the rage of Islam began to boil in his breast : he first gave orders, that a special enumeration and description should be made and transmitted, of the houses of the Christians in each district: detachments, under trusty officers, were then distributed in the proper places, with sealed orders, to be opened and executed, on one and the same day, after the first devotions of the morning : and in conformity to these instructions, sixty thousand persons, great and small of both sexes, were seized, and carried to the resplendent presence : whence, being placed under proper guardians, and provided with everything needful, they were dispatched to the royal capital, and being formed into battalions of five hundred each, under the command of officers well instructed in the faith, they were honoured with the distinction of Islam; they were finally distributed to the principal garrisons, with orders for a daily provision of food, apparel, and other requisites ; and the year of their reception into the pale of Islam, is designated in the following distich, each hemistic of which contains the date. The firmament is enlightened by the sect of Ahmed-God is the protector of the religion of Ahmed; and, as a distinctive appellation for this race, they were thenceforth called Ahmedy.” pp. 528-530, [16]

Hamilton-Buchanan, a famous English traveler who travelled in what was Tipu’s kingdom in the 1810s and 1820s, corroborates the forcible conversion of the Christians of Mangalore and writes thus, “In Tulava [Tulu plains – Mangalore region] they [Christians] had 27 churches, each provided with a vicar, and the whole under the control of a vicar-general, subject to the authority of the archbishop of Goa. Tippoo threw the priests into dungeons, forcibly converted to Islam the laity, and destroyed all the churches. … During the government of Hyder, these Christians were possessed of considerable estates in land, all of which were confiscated by Tippoo, and immediately bestowed on persons of other casts, from whom it would be difficult to resume them.’’ p. 28, [18]

Further, he writes of the town of Mangalore, “After Tippoo had taken General Mathews, he destroyed the town [of Mangalore], and carried away its inhabitants. One end only of the church remains, which however shows that it has been a neat building. Its situation is remarkably fine.’’ p. 61, [18]

Hayavadana Rao, a great historian of modern Mysore also has similar points to make about Tipu’s conversion of the Christians of Mangalore into Islam in the wake of the treaty of Srirangapattanam, “The reversion of Mangalore to the possession of Tipu was signalized by the forcible circumcision of many thousands of Indian Christians and their deportation to Seringapatam” p. 2581-2582, [14]

This account of the forcible capture and conversion of the Christians of Mangalore and the coast of Canara is confirmed by Ramachandra Rao, an official of Tipu and his contemporary, who writes, “Thirty or forty thousand native Christians of Mangalore were sent by Tippoo, prisoners to Seringapatam, where they were kept as converts.’’ p. 36, [17]

Further, writing about Tipu’s atrocities on the local Kings of southern Dakshin Kannada (Canara) in Nileshwar, Hamilton-Buchanan writes, “The dominions of the Nileswara Raja extended from the sea to the Ghats; and, according to the report of the same Nairs, are exceedingly depopulated by war, and by a famine that ensued while they were forced to retire into the woods to avoid circumcision. The inner parts of the country are much overgrown with woods, and are very thinly inhabited.’’ p. 12, [18]

Tipu’s cruelty in Dakshin Kannada in his dealings with the Jain chiefs of the region has also been recorded by Hamilton Buchanan, who writes, “The dominions of the first of these Jain chiefs that I entered were those of the Bungar Raja. Tippoo hanged the last person who possessed this dignity;’’ pp. 19-20, [18]

Further, Tipu, in a bid to keep out all Europeans, including his allies the French, burnt all the pepper vines in the Canara region. This has again been recorded by Hamilton Buchanan, who wrote, “They say, that Tippoo, in order to remove every inducement for Europeans to frequent the country, destroyed all the pepper vines, and all the trees on which these were supported.’’ p.61, [18]


It was not merely during his campaigns that Tipu resorted to barbarity. During a revolt in Supa, Tipu wrote a letter, which has been reproduced by Bowring, to his commander. Again, alluding to a rising at Supa in Kanara, he writes to Badr-uz-zaman Khan: “Ten years ago, from ten to fifteen thousand men were hung upon the trees of that district; since which time the aforesaid trees have been waiting for more men. You must therefore hang upon trees all such of the inhabitants of that district as have taken a lead in these rebellious proceedings.”, p. 219, [3]

Tipu’s actions in Coorg

Coorg is a small, hilly and heavily forested province in the south-western corner of today’s Karnataka. Coorg has a long tradition of being ruled by its own rulers and the military traditions of the district are well known. Throughout the rule of both Haidar and Tipu, the province was in ferment. Haidar had controlled the province to an extent via crude barbarity, but it was far from subdued, and chose to revolt.  Writing of the fate of the people of Coorg, who rose in revolt in the aftermath of the treaty of Srirangapattanam and were invaded by Tipu in 1784-1785 first and later too, Lewin Bowring narrates, “Similar cruelties were practised on the people of Coorg, the small hill district where Haidar had barbarously cut off the heads of all those who opposed his progress. Some resistance having been made to the Mysore Governor, Tipu marched into the country with his army, and lectured the Coorgs on the iniquity of their custom of polyandry. He warned them that if it any further rebellion took place he would extinguish by removing the population and Islamizing them. At a later period he actually carried this barbarous threat into execution, devastating the province, and driving the wretched inhabitants like sheep to Seringapatam, where they had to submit to circumcision and the sanctifying rites prescribed by the despot.” p. 127, [3]

Bowring also points out a letter written by Tipu to one of his officers working in Coorg, as, “You are to make a general attack on the Coorgs, and, having put to the sword or made prisoners the whole of them, both the slain and the prisoners, with the women and children, are to be made Musalmans.” p. 219, [3]

The episode of the tragedy of the Coorgis is narrated briefly by Hayavadana Rao in his Mysore Gazetteer as, “A revolt in Coorg next year [in 1785] led to the same treatment [i.e., deportation to Srirangapattanam and forcible conversion to Islam] of the greater part of the inhabitants, the occasion being marked by Tipu’s assumption of the title of Padshah.’’ pp. 2581-2582, [14]

Rev. Richter, a Christian missionary, who made Coorg his home and who has chronicled the history of Coorg, corroborates what other historians have said and narrates the tragedy of the Coorgis. He quotes Tipu’s own words to the Coorgis in 1785, “…From the period of my father’s conquest of the country, you have rebelled seven times and caused the deaths of thousands of our troops; … but if rebellion be ever repeated, I have made a vow to God, to honour every man of the country with Islam; I will make aliens of your home and establish you in a distant land, and thus at once, extinguish the rebellion and the plurality of your husbands, and initiate you in the more honourable practice of Islam!” p. 247, [9].

Further elaborating on the fate of the Coorgis, Richter writes, “Under pretence of peaceful intentions and conciliatory measures, Tipu allured the Coorgs to Talekaveri (in 1785), and when they felt most secure, he seized them suddenly with their families about 85,000 souls, sent them to Seringapatam and, carrying out his former threat, had them forcibly circumcised. On the same auspicious day, when he had added so great a number to Islam, he assumed royal dignity and declared himself independent of Delhi.’’ pp. 247-248, [9]

Into a depopulated Coorg, he sent Mussalman landlords and gave to them the lands and slaves of the exiles, besides a supply of labourers from Adwani (Adoni) in (the then) Bellary district, and armed them with a degree of cruel proscription, “The country is given to you in jahgir, improve it and be happy; the extermination of the mountaineers [Coorgs] being determined on, you are required as an imperious duty, to search for and slay all who may have escaped our just vengeance; their wives and children shall become your slaves ” p. 248, [9].

Writing of the fate of the Coorgis, James Rice Innes, a British official, has briefly mentioned a few specific tragedies: “Tippu seized some 5000 Coorgs in Bhagamandala fort, with their families, whom he sent into Mysore in 1785 and made Muslims.” p. 193, [11].

The most comprehensive effort to discern the fate of the Coorgis was made by Col. Wilks, in his 3 volume Historical Sketches concerning the state of Mysore. He writes, “He [Tipu] did, however, move late in October[of 1785], and entering Coorg in two columns, burned and destroyed the patches of open country, and compelled the inhabitants to take refuge in the woods, where they, as usual, refrained from any decisive operation. Some delay was necessary in making strong detachments to the frontier, in every direction, with a view to his ultimate measures for the future tranquility of Coorg ; but everything being ready along the whole circumference, his troops began to contract the circle, beating up the woods before them as if dislodging so much game, and by these means closed in on the great mass of the population, male and female, amounting to about 70,000, and drove them off like a herd of cattle to Seringapatam, where the Sultaun’s threats were but too effectually executed. The proprietors of land constitute the greater portion of the military population of Coorg; the labours of husbandry are chiefly performed by a perfectly distinct race (adscripti glebae) conjectured to be the aboriginal possessors, and their masters to be descended from the conquering army of the Cadumba Kings. These slaves were separated from the other prisoners, and assigned to new Mahommedan settlers, who were to be encouraged to remove thither from various parts of his possessions; but this scheme, at first attended to, and soon afterwards falling into neglect and abuse, from the prevalence of some newer project, shared the common fate of a large portion of his abortive designs.’’ p. 534, [16]

Wilks view of the tragedy of the Coorgis is attested also by Hayavadana Rao in his 3 volume history of Mysore State till 1799.  He writes, “Everything being ready along the whole circumference, these troops began to contract the circle, and beating up the woods, carried distress and confusion all over the country, attacking and destroying the towns, and driving away and capturing immense crowds of wild men. … Then he [Tipu] dispatched his troops in advance directing them to pursue the rebels further. Accordingly, the troops advanced to attack on all sides, and systematically closing in on the great mass of the population, succeeded in making prisoners of forty to fifty thousand of them, men and women. Both the leaders of the Coorgs, Momuti Nair and Ranga Nair, were taken on the Cardamon Hills by the exertions of Mons. Lally. Momuti Nair, however, died soon after, and Ranga Nair was circumcised and made a Mussalman, being named Sheikh Ahmed and appointed a Risaladar. All the other prisoners were driven off to Seringapatam, where they were in due course converted to Islam and incorporated with the Ahmedi corps of the army. The landed proprietors and husbandmen of Coorg were separated and assigned to new Muhammadan settlers, though the scheme eventually proved abortive, both on account of the local climatic conditions and by falling into neglect and abuse.’’ pp. 682-683, [10]

An European officer, who was in the employ of the last King of Coorg, published his memoirs after Coorg had been taken into possession of the East India Company. To the last day, he remained loyal to the Rajahs of Coorg, and he records, “Hyder Ali died in 1782, and was succeeded by his son Tippoo, who, in 1784, having reduced Mangalore, marched through Coorg, on his way back to Seringapatam, and compromised matters with the insurgents. The young Coorg princes were kept prisoners at Periyaputtana. Before the lapse of a year, the Coorgs rose again and defeated a force of 15,000 men sent against them from Seringapatam. Tippoo’s policy and zeal for his religion appear to have led him to expect that these warlike Hindoo tribes might be subdued like wild animals and tamed by violence, and that, by subjecting the Coorgs and Nairs to the rites of his creed, they would be the sooner reconciled to his yoke. Taking advantage, therefore, of this last formidable resistance to his authority, he marched against them with his whole force, the Coorgs retreating before him into the depths of their forests, which appeared almost inaccessible. Having, however, divided his whole army into detachments, which formed a complete circle round the unhappy, fugitives, and closing in upon them as huntsmen do in pursuit of game, he at length penetrated into their most secret haunts, and carried off several thousands of victims to undergo the abhorred punishments of circumcision and captivity. The rank of the young Rajah did not save him from like treatment: he was made a Mussulman, and enrolled among the Chelas (corps of slaves) and, though strictly guarded, had the nominal command of a battalion, at the time he made his escape.’’ pp. 11-12, [20]

Ramachandra Rao also confirms the atrocities of Tipu in Coorg in 1785, when he says, “He [Tipu] now heard that rebellion had broken out in Coorg. He therefore marched rapidly by the Aigur pass. He seized upon men and women, all he found, and sent them captives to Seringapatam. One Ramati had formerly made his escape. Tippoo at this time invited him back by (cowl) fair promises, made him an asasullahi (convert) and appointed him risaladar (captain) of the asadullahi cacheri (corps of converts).About five hundred souls, men, women and children, whom Tippoo caught in Coorg were all made asadullahi and sent (as captives) to Bangalore, Seringapatam, Chitradurgam, Colaram, Hosscota and Nandidurgam (in separate gangs).’’ p. 37, [17]

During the rebellion in Coorg, one of the most devoted generals of the Raja of Coorg and Tipu’s ferocious opponent was Kannana. After Coorg was subdued, Tipu deliberately perpetrated atrocities on the person and family of the enemy general. This has been recorded by Richter, who writes, “When after the death of Hyder Ali, Tippu Sultan invaded Coorg, he burnt Kannana’s house and hanged 24 members of his family, and the ruins are still visible.” p. 189, [9].

Ramachandra Rao also confirms Tipu’s atrocities in 1784-85, ``At the time, the whole of the Coorg [Kodugu] country had been usurped by Utteh Naick. … Thence he marched by Bhednad where he supposed Utteh Naik had his home. This place was burnt down and Tipu next turned to [`Lakiri Kota’].’’ pp. 36-37, [17]

Tipu’s generals were not far behind him in perpetrating atrocities on the hapless Coorgi civilians. The general Shoostri laid waste to many villages in Kushalanagar region. One such has been recorded by Hayavadana Rao, who records, “Zain-ul-labidin Shoostri, who, by way of erasing the impression of former misconduct, had by now attacked the village of Kushalpur [in Coorg] and plundered and destroyed it, making prisoners of the inhabitants’’ pp. 681-682, [10]

Further, Tipu’s contempt of women is manifest in his remarks to the Coorgis, where he castigates the freedom given to Coorgi women. This has been recorded by Richter, who points out Tipu’s anger against the `ascendancy of women and bastardy of your children is your common attribute.’ p. 247, [9]

Like many others, Tipu was infamous for forcibly abducting the womenfolk of his enemies. The Raja of Coorg was among those, who suffered this fate, as recorded by Wilks,”It was probably after this event [escape of the Raja of Coorg from the fortress of Periyapatnam] that Tippoo Sultaun ordered the remainder of the family to be removed to Seringapatam; where after the customary scrutiny, two females, sisters of the Raja, were received into the royal harem; and a third deemed unworthy of that honour, had a destination of which we shall presently speak.’’ p. 165, [15]

Tipu’s officers suffered from a similar malady, as indicated by Wilks, “A person named Zeen-ul-ab-u-Deen-Mahdavee was left as foujedar of Coorg, and in the exercise of a power too customary among Mussulmans, forcibly carried off the sister of a person named Mummatee, who being enraged at the indignity, incited the inhabitants, who sought but an ostensible motive, and a leader, to rise in a general revolt;’’ p. 533, [16]

In his book, Sheik Ali has claimed that Tipu crushed the Hindus of Coorg, because they were in league with the English. p. 79, [19]. However, Tipu crushed the Coorgis between 1785 and 1788, when he was not at war with the British and the Coorgis were not allied with anyone. Further, even Tipu never accused the Coorgis of being in league with the English (as seen by his own accusations, earlier in this article – he accuses them of rebellion and immoral behaviour, but not of being in league with the English).  The only time when the Coorgis allied themselves with the English (in 1791 and later), they succeeded in winning their freedom from him.

Tipu’s War with the Nizam and the Marathas

In 1785-1786, Tipu was at war with the Nizam and the Marathas, over the conduct of the Desai of Nargund (among other reasons), as we have mentioned in the previous part. Bowring chronicles Tipu’s instructions to the commander investing Nargund, “In the event of your being obliged to assault the place, every living creature in it, whether man or woman, old or young, child, dog, cat, or anything else, must be put to the sword, with the single exception of Kala Pandit (the commandant) what more’? pp. 218-219, [3]

The fate of the Desai of Nargund [in 1784-85] has also been chronicled by Hayavadana Rao, in both his Mysore Gazetteer, and the History of Mysore “On this he dispatched a force against Nargund, which the Mahrattas failed to relieve; and, after operations protracted for several months, the Deshayi, induced on a false promise to deliver himself up, was treacherously put into chains and sent off to Kabbaldurga in October 1785. Kittur was taken in a similar manner.’’ p. 2582, [14]

The fate of the Desai of Nargund has also been corroborated by Wilks, who records, “The Deshaye descended under the escort of a select guard of his own men, on the faith of personal security, and free permission to depart; he was detained under a variety of pretenses, and the vigilance and desperate aspect of his little guard, was such as to restrain Burhan-u-Deen for nearly two months from overpowering them by open violence, the object however was effected on the 6th of October [1785]. The unfortunate Kala Pundit was dispatched in irons to Seringapatam, and thence to the well-known fort at Cabaldroog, with his family, one individual excepted, a daughter, who was seized for the harem of the Sultaun.’’ p. 538, [16], pp. 690-691, [10]

Ramachandra Rao also makes the same point about Tipu’s atrocities on the Desai of Nargund. He states, “Burhan ud Din and Mir Kawer were men of Savanoor. Tipu gave them some troops and sent them to Nargund, which fort they took. They took prisoner the Commandant of the fort, Callappa, by name, and sent him, his wife and children captives to Seringapatam. Callappa, `the Mirjman’ was then sent to Cappal Droog, where he died. His daughter was taken into the Sultan’s seraglio.’’ p. 37, [17].

Tipu also perpetrated utter barbarities on enemy soldiers, and this has been recorded by the contemporary chroniclers. Ramachandra Rao also states that Tipu plundered the town of Savannur, stripping it bare. p. 38, [17]. Recounting further, Ramachandra Rao says, “Then the Badshah marched to Bahadur Bunder, where he planted batteries and made an assault in which he conquered the fort. The Peshwa had in his employ several Arabs who fled with their arms. This place was commanded by Hanuma Naik and Tipu had this man’s legs cut off.’’ p. 38, [17].

The latter event of Tipu’s cruel treatment of the Hindus, who had surrendered to the Marathas at Bahadur Banda, Hayavadana Rao writes, “On January 13th, Bahadur Banda surrendered after a short siege. The Arabs who composed a portion of the garrison were suffered to depart with their arms, but, in violation of the terms, the Hindu matchlock- men, formerly of Tipu’s garrison, who had gone over to the Mahrattas, were punished by the excision of their noses and ears, and Hanumant Naik, their chief, by the amputation of both his legs.’’ pp. 711-712, [10]

During the campaign, Tipu’s ruthlessness was once more visible. Bowring has chronicled the events and this is corroborated by Hayavadana Rao too, “Again he writes regarding some of the Nizam’s cavalry, of whom six had been taken prisoners at Kadapa: Let the prisoners be strangled, and the horses, after being valued, be taken into Government service.” p. 219, [3]

Hayavadana Rao, in his famous three volume history of Mysore State, narrates the fate of the family of the Palegars (Tipu’s vassals) of Koppal, “Tipu then proceeded [to Koppal] by route of Kanchangarh, whose ruler, Tungamma – widow of the deceased Palegar – who had gone over to the Mahrattas, escaped by flight across the river, and whose son was taken prisoner and later circumcised and made a Muslim under the name of Ali Mardan Khan.’’ p. 706, [10]

Later on, during the revolt of Moona Kool in 1786, we have Tipu writing a letter to his commander, Budruz Zaman Khan, ordering him to forcibly convert the followers of Moona. This letter has been translated by Col. William Kirkpatrick, who translated a large number of Tipu’s letters into English, after the fall of Srirangapattanam,

“Letter to Budruz Zaman Khan, 19/01/1786

Directing him to crucify the miscreant (‘) Moona Kol, and to send for his family and keep them confined in irons. If the nephew of Moona Kool should be more than twenty five years of age, to crucify him also

Two hundred of the followers of Moona Kool to be made Ahmedies, and put into the Nugr” pp. 242-243, [5]

Tipu’s ruthlessness against the Palegars

After the campaign against the Marathas and the Nizam, which ended in a tame draw, Tipu turned his attention to the palegars of Harapanahalli and Rayadurga [between 1786 and 1788]. Tipu had been strengthened by the Maratha inability to chastise Tipu sufficiently, and he utilised the opportunity after the failure of the Marathas to ruthlessly destroy the poligars of northern Mysore, many of whom had been loyal to Tipu during the Maratha war. This has been recorded by many chroniclers.

Hayavadana Rao and Lewis Rice have both written, “Returning by way of Harpanhalli and Rayadrug, after deceiving those polegars by repeated acknowledgments of their services, Tipu treacherously seized and sent them off to Kabbaldurga, plundering their capitals of every article of the slightest value, and annexing their territories.’’ p.2583, [14], p. 400, [7]

Hayavadana Rao, in his History of Mysore, expands on the treachery at Harpanahalli and Rayadurga, thus “And having previously removed all grounds of suspicion, by repeated personal acknowledgement to the chiefs of the distinguished services they had rendered in the late campaign, he seized them and their principal officers in camp on the same day, and hour that the brigades overpowered their unsuspecting garrisons. The cash and effects of every kind, not excepting the personal ornaments of the women, were carried off as plunder, and the chiefs themselves, who were put in irons, were sent off to Bangalore and later to Kabbaldurg, where they miserably perished.’’ pp. 711-712, [10]

The same atrocities have been confirmed by Ramachandra Rao too. He writes, “In the year [1787], Tippoo vanquished Harpanhalli, Raidroog, Havanur, and other places; he imprisoned the poligars of the places and their troops, setting guards in these towns; all the jewels and other plunder were seized; then he sent the poligar of Harpanhalli to Capal Droog and put him to death there. The poligars of Raidroog and Havanur and their followers were sent, some to Bangaloor and some to [Capal] Droog while the wives and children of these three poligars were sent to be in prison at Seringapatam.’’ pp. 38-39, [17].

Continuing on the fates of the hapless inhabitants of Rayadurga, Harpanahalli and Lochangood, Punaganuri continues, “Tippoo also sent Chistyar Khan and Purnaya and Nayak Singaya with some infantry to Rai Droog, sending also Kisnappa and Syed Mohammad Khan (of Hyderabad) and Nayak Govind Rao to Harpanhalli. At each place, the house of the baron [poligar] and that of his headman (Dalwai) was plundered. He next made prisoners of some inhabitants of Lochangood, whom he sent to Seringapatam; there they were made converts.’’ p. 39, [17]

Tipu’s brutality continued, and during the Third Mysore War (1791-92), Tipu’s cruelty towards the people of Chikkaballapur has been recorded by Ramachandra Rao, who writes, “Before arriving at Shondeh Coppah, Tippoo marched to Chikka Balapoor; he took the fort of Balapoor; here were five hundred peons [spearmen] in the employ of the poligar; the poligar and his men surrendered on the themselves on the faith of the promises of Mir Mohin ud Deen. But he cut off their hands and legs and let them go.’’ p. 45, [17]

Tipu’s atrocities on Mysore and its Raja

Tipu Sultan decided to obliterate the town of Mysore, in order to eliminate all traces of the previous Hindu dynasty. The Hindu dynasty of Mysore was extremely hated by him and he strove to extinguish this line by every means, without jeopardising his own position in the region. These attempts have been recorded by Lewis Rice, in both volumes of the Mysore Gazetteer. He writes,

“Hyder’s son, Tipu, attempted to obliterate traces of the Hindu Raj, and in pursuance of this policy, caused the town and fort of Mysore [in 1787], the ancient residence of the Rajas, to be razed to the ground and deported all inhabitants to the neighbourhood of Seringapatam. The stones of the old fort, he employed in building another fortress, on a slight eminence about a mile to the east, to which he gave the appellation, still retained by the site, of Nazarbad, of the place visited by the Eye of the Almighty, and the remains of the fort are to be seen.

  The work, which, according to Maj. Wilks, could not have been of the slightest use in defending the country, was still unfinished at the fall of Seringapatam; and when it had been determined that the inauguration of the Raja, then a child of four years old, should take place at Mysore, it was discovered that owing to the almost universal demolition of the place by Tipu, the workmen’s huts at Nazarbad formed the only accommodation available for the performance of the ceremony. Into the best of these, the young Raja was conducted and placed on the throne, while the work of rebuilding the palace of his ancestors was going on.” pp. 281-282, [12]

On returning to the capital, he began the destruction of the fort and town of Mysore, and commenced building Nazarbad [in place of Mysore].’’ p. 400, [7].

Wilks corroborates the account, writing, “The town and fort of Mysoor, the ancient residence of the Rajas, and the capital from which the whole country derived its name, was an offensive memorial of the deposed family, and he determined that the existence and if possible, the remembrance of such a place should be extinguished. The fort was levelled with the ground and the materials were employed in the erection of another fortress on a neighbouring height, which he named Nezerbar [Nasarbad today]. …. The town was utterly destroyed and the inhabitants were ordered to remove at their option to Gunj-am on the island of Seringapatam or to the Agrar (bramin village) of Bumboor, now to be named Sultaun-pet, a little to the southward of the island.’’ p.2, [15]

Ram Chandra Rao also confirms the destruction of the fort of Mysoor in 1787, saying, “Tippoo broke down the ancient treasury gate of Seringapatam and the old fort of Mysore and built a new one named Nazarbahar’’. p. 39, [17].

Tipu decided to do away with the old Hindu dynasty, whose regent, he and his father, Hyder Ali, were and usurp the throne. This attempt has been recorded by Lewis Rice, who writes “In 1796, Chamaraja Wodeyar, the pageant Raja, died of small pox. The practice of annually exhibiting him on the throne at the Dasara had been kept up, but Tipu now considered it unnecessary, removed the family to a mean building and plundered the palace of everything.” p. 410, [7]

Lewis Rice’s account has also been corroborated by Wilks, who writes, “Even Tippoo Sultaun in the height of his arrogance had not hitherto omitted the customary form of showing the Raja to his people once a year, at the feast of Dessera, but now [in 1796] for the first time, the ceremony was omitted of even a nominal succession to the musnud. The ancient Ranee, the present Raja, then two years old, with the remnant of the family, were removed to a miserable hovel, in which they were found at the capture of Seringapatam, and the palace rifled of all its contents, and even the individuals of their personal ornaments; the present Raja cried bitterly at the attempt to take away his little golden bracelets, and there was still sufficient feeling among the instruments of this tyranny, to be touched at the distress of a child and to abstain from this last violation.’’ pp. 300-301, [15]

Even Tipu’s French allies were horrified by Tipu’s treatment of the Rajah of Mysore’s family and the French historian Michaud records that, “History eternally reproaches him of having left the family of the Rajah [of Mysore] in the most dreadful misery.’’ p. 86, [8]

Apart from destroying the palace of Mysore, he also destroyed the Maharaja of Mysore’s palace in the island of Srirangapattanam, which included the Maharaja’s library. This has been recorded by Hayavadana Rao, who writes, “The library of the [Mysore] Maharaja’s palace at Seringapatam, with its invaluable manuscripts, was destroyed by Tipu in 1796.” p. 731, [10]

Tipu destroyed the artificial lake at French Rocks [now near Pandavapura] in 1792. p. 50, [17].

Temples destroyed by Tipu

Sitaram Goel records the destruction of the temple of Nandi at Srirangapattanam. He quotes the court historian of Tipu, Kirmani, as he writes, “It is known that when the vile and rejected Brahman Khunda Rao imprisoned the Nawab’s Zanana and the Sultan (who was then a boy of six or seven years of age) in a house in the fort, there stood a Hindu temple, the area or space round which was large. The Sultan, therefore, in his infancy being like all children fond of play, and as in that space boys of Kinhiri Brahmin castes assembled to amuse themselves, was accustomed to quit the house to see them play, or play with them. It happened one day that a Fakir (a religious mendicant) a man of saint-like mind passed that way, and seeing the Sultan gave him a life bestowing benediction, saying to him, `Fortunate child, at a future time thou will be the king of this country, and whey thy time comes, remember my words-take this temple and destroy it, and build a Masjid in its place, and for ages it will remain a memorial of thee.’ The Sultan smiled, and in reply told him, that whenever, by his blessing, he should become a Padishah, or king, he would do as he (the Fakir) directed. When, therefore, after a short time his father became a prince, the possessor of wealth and territory, he remembered his promise, and after his return from Nagar and Gorial Bundar, he purchased the temple from the adorers of the image in it (which after all was nothing but the figure of a bull, made of brick and mortar) with their goodwill, and the Brahmins, therefore, taking away their image, placed it in the Deorhi Peenth, and the temple was pulled down, and the foundations of a new Masjid raised on the site, agreeably to a plan of the Mosque built by Ali Adil Shah, at Bijapur, and brought thence.’’ [21], [22]

The nature of the purchase needs no comment. [21]’’

Sitaram Goel also records the destruction of the Anjaneya temple at Srirangapatnam, stating in his book `Hindu Temples – What happened to Them’, “Jãmi Masjid built by Tipu Sultan (1787). Stands on the site of the Ãñjaneya Temple.’’ [17]

Sitaram Goel also points out, quoting Kirmani himself, the establishment of the Masjidi Ala on a temple site, writing, “At this time the Sultan determined to recommence the building of the Masjidi Ala, the erection of which had been suspended since the year 1198 Hijri, and the Daroghu Public buildings, according to the plan, which will be mentioned hereafter, completed it in two years, at the expense of three lakhs of rupees.’’ [21], [22]

Malabar and Anjengo Gazetteer of James Rice-Innes mentions a temple destroyed in Coorg. He points out, “The Palupare fort, on the Kire river, a tributary of the Lakshmanateertha, in Hatgatnad, in Kiggatnad taluq, in which there are also the ruins of a temple, is said to have been built by Kolli Ninga and Benne Krishna of the Bedaru or hunter tribe. It was destroyed by Tippu Sultan’s armies and its ruins are extensive.” p. 193, [11].

Tipu destroyed the Prasannaparvati temple at Nandigada in 1794. Ramachandra Rao records, “The sultan then marched to Balapoor and Nandigada, where he kicked the [image of the] goddess [named Prasanna Parvati] and broke her statue. He ordered the Killadar to lodge himself in the pagoda.’’ p. 48, [17]

Sitaram Goel, in his famous book, `Hindu Temples of India – What happened to them’ has noted the destruction of the following temples:

Bellary, Masjid built by Tipu Sultãn (1789-90). Temple site.

Hospet, Masjid in Bazar Street built by Tipu Sultan (1795-96). Temple site. 

Nagar, Masjid built by Tipu Sultan. Temple materials used. [6]

Further, Tipu often confiscated the lands and wealth of the temples. Hayavadana Rao points out, “Tipu’s bigotry about this time led him to consummate the extinction of Hindu worship in the State, the confiscated funds of the temples being intended to balance the loss of the revenue derived so far from the tax on intoxicating substances. The measure commenced to operate from an early period of his regime, and the extinction was gradual, though (in 1799) the two temples (i.e. the Ranganatha and the Narasimha Swami temples) within the fort of Seringapatam alone remained open throughout the extent of his kingdom. The service inams of the Patels were likewise confiscated. … Tipu strove, in short, to obliterate every trace of the previous rulers. For this purpose, even the fine irrigation works, centuries old, of the Hindu Rajas, were to be destroyed and reconstructed in his own name.’’ p. 925, [10]

Wilks also points out the confiscation of temple lands, and writes, “The same bigotry led him to the extinction of Hindoo worship, and the confiscated funds of the temples, and were intended to compensate, and would, if well-administered, in a great degree, have balanced the tax on intoxicating substances: the measure commenced at an early period of his reign, and the extinction was gradual, but in 1799, the two temples within the fort of Seringapatam, alone remained open throughout the extent of his domains.’’ p. 267, [15]

Sheik Ali has argued in his book p. 79, [19] that Tipu’s grants to Sringeri and other temples absolve him of the charge of bigotry. However, he overlooks the instances in which Tipu showered largesse on Hindu temples and their leaders and the context it provides. Nandagopal Menon wrote about Tipu’s gifts to temples and his appeasement of Hindus thus, “It is common knowledge that Tipu had immense faith in astrology. He used to keep a number of astrologers in his court who were asked to calculate the time auspicious for his invasions. It was at the appeals of these astrologers and his own mother that Tipu spared two temples out of more than a dozen within Srirangapatanam Fort. Moreover, by the end of 1790, Tipu was facing enemies from all sides. He was also defeated at the Travancore Defence Lines. It was then that in order to appease the Hindus of Mysore, he started giving land-grants to Hindu temples.”, ch.03, [4]

Further, Nandagopal Menon, quoting Parameswaram Pillai wrote, “This view finds endorsement in the biography of the Diwan of Travancore, Life History of Raja Kesavadas by V,R. Parameswaran Pillai. Pillai writes: “With respect to the much-published land-grants I had explained the reasons about 40 years back. Tipu had immense faith in astrological predictions. It was to become an Emperor (Padushah) after destroying the might of the British that Tipu resorted to land-grants and other donations to Hindu temples in Mysore including Sringeri Mutt, as per the advice of the local Brahmin astrologers. Most of these were done after his defeat in 1791 and the humiliating Srirangapatanam Treaty in 1792. These grants were not done out of respect or love for Hindus or Hindu religion but for becoming Padushah as predicted by the astrologers.” ch.03, [4]

Hayavadana Rao also points out the expediency to which Tipu resorted when threatened politically. This is recorded in his book on the History of Mysore. He writes, “His [Tipu’s] religious fanaticism and the excesses he committed in the name of religion – both in Mysore and in the provinces, especially in Malabar and in Coorg, stand condemned for all time. His bigotry was indeed so great that it precluded all idea of toleration to others’ feelings in social or religious matters. He kept up intercourse with the Sringer Guru, but it was more for the political benefits he expected to derive from it than for allowing him unmolested the free exercise of his own religion.’’ p. 1048, [10]

Tipu’s bigotry in his administrative choices

It is interesting to observe Tipu’s character as described by several, both his allies and his enemies. Michaud, a contemporary French historian, who is rather sympathetic to Tipu [unsurprisingly, given that the French were Tipu’s allies, till the end] records the advice given by Haidar to Tipu, “Hindus, enfeebled by their pacific maxims, are incapable of defending their nation, which becomes every day the prey of foreigners; Muslims are numerous and more enterprising than the weak Hindus; it is to them belongs the glory of saving Hindustan [from the foreigners]. My son, gather all your efforts for the triumph of the Koran; and if heaven supports this noble enterprise, the day is not far, perhaps, for the sword of Mahomet will place you on the throne of Tamerlane.’’ pp. 81-82, [8] Michaud, further avers that these counsels [of his father] had a great impression on the mind of young Tipu. He says, “This advice made a strong impression on the mind of the young Tippoo Saib, and maxims of the father became the immutable principles of his own policy. He always showed himself ardent protector of the doctrine of Mahomet.’’ p. 83, [8] Consequently, it can be seen that Tipu was educated by his father to a) believe that the Muslims are the only ones capable of facing off against the foreigners, b) Hindus are weak and incapable. And while Michaud says that Tipu was always a great follower of the doctrine of Mohammad, he says nothing about his affection for the Hindus.

Tipu, raised by Haidar to hold such contempt for the Hindus, had unsurprisingly, a general disdain for Hindus [and also Christians] and a particular solicitude for the Muslims. It is recorded by Bowring that, “In 1786 he issued a remarkable proclamation, calling upon all true believers to ‘extract the cotton of negligence from the ears of their understanding,’ and, quitting the territories of apostates and unbelievers, to take refuge in his dominions, where, by the Divine blessing, they would be better provided for than before, and their lives, honour, and property remain under the protection of God. He was resolved that the worthless and stiff-necked infidels, who had turned aside their heads from obedience to the true and openly raised the standard of unbelief, should be chastised by the hands of the faithful, and made either to acknowledge the true religion or faith, to pay tribute. As, owing to the imbecility of the princes of Hind, that insolent race (presumably the English) had conceived the futile opinion that true believers had become weak, mean, and contemptible, and had overrun and laid waste the territories of Musalmans, extending the hand of violence and on the property and honour of the faithful, he had resolved to prosecute a holy war against them.” p. 215, [3]

Ramachandra Rao points out that in 1784-85, Tipu seized the property of the Brahmins. He points out, “Tippoo now settled all the country and seized on all the lands (agraharams) and livings (bhattavartiswasti), which had been bestowed on the Brahmins; he established a Revenue office to ascertain facts concerning several livings (agraharams) and report on them. After full enquiry, some (bhatvarti maniams) clerical stipends were ordered to be sequestered and others to be sanctioned.’’ p. 37, [17]

Not even atheists were spared by Tipu. Ramachandra Rao records that, “Sayed Mohammed Khan, who was commandant of the fort of Seringpatam, was falsely accused [in 1794] to the sultan that this man, with the atheists, had leagued to seize possession of Seringapatam. … Then Tippoo took away the title Mir Mira which he had bestowed upon Syed Mohammad Khan, the atheist [daireh wala], who was commandant of Seringapatam, imprisoning him and all other atheists, whether they were in his service or not, he turned them out of his country.’’ p. 48, [17]

Tipu’s tax policy and his preference for Muslim officers and administrators has been clearly described by PCN Raja, “In a deliberately designed taxation scheme, the religious prejudice of Tipu Sultan became quite clear. His co-religionists, Muslims, were exempted from house tax, commodity tax and also the levy on other items of household use. Those who were converted to Muhammadanism, were also given similar tax exemptions. He had even made provisions for the education of their children. Tipu Sultan discontinued the practice of appointing Hindus in different administrative and military jobs as practised by his father, Hyder Ali Khan, in the past. He had deep hatred towards all non-Muslims. During the entire period of sixteen years of his regime, Purnaiyya was the only Hindu who had adorned the post of Dewan or minister under Tipu Sultan. In 1797 (two years before his death) among the 65 senior Government posts, not even a single Hindu was retained. All the Mustadirs were also Muslims. Among the 26 civil and military officers captured by the British in 1792 there were only 6 non-Muslims. In 1789, when the Nizam of Hyderabad and other Muslim rulers decided that only Muslims would be appointed henceforth in all Government posts, Tipu Sultan also adopted the same policy in his Mysore State. Just because they were Muslims, even those who were illiterate and inefficient, were also appointed to important Government posts. Even for getting promotions, one still had to be a Muslim under Tipu Sultan’s regime. Considering the interest and convenience of only Muslim officers, all the records relating to tax revenue, were ordered to be written in Persian rather than in Marathi and Kannada as followed earlier. He even tried to make Persian the State language in place of Kannada. In the end all the Government posts were filled by lazy and irresponsible Muslims. As a consequence the people had to suffer a great deal because of those fun-seeking and irresponsible Muslim officers. The Muslim officers, occupying important posts at all levels, were all dishonest and unreliable persons. Even when people complained to him with evidences against those officers, Tipu Sultan did not care to inquire about the complaints lodged.” ch.02, [4]

This state of affairs is seen to be confirmed by Wilks too, who points out, “Among the real novelties in the code of Revenue, not one improvement can be discovered; as specimens may be adduced an instruction to seize all Christians and confiscate their property. … There was indeed on novelty of a ludicrous description; offices requiring an exact knowledge of accounts, and formerly filled by Brahmins or Hindoos, were ordered to be executed by Mahommedans; and when it was objected to many of the individuals that they could not even write, the Sultaun gravely replied that they would learn.’’ p. 266-267, [15]

Hayavadana Rao points out how Tipu considered Hindus and other non-Muslims “At this time [after the treaty of Seringapatam in 1792], Tipu developed a great aversion to Brahmans, Hindus and other tribes… and did not consider any but the people of Islam his friends, and therefore, on all accounts, his chief object was to promote and provide for them’’ p. 922, [10]

Ripaud, a Frenchman in Tipu’s service, recorded the treatment of Hindus, thus, “I’m disturbed by Tipu Sultan’s treatment of these most gentle souls, the Hindus. … ‘’ [Entry on the 14th January, 1799. [13]

On the other hand, Muslim officers could and often did, get away with the most egregious offences, as recorded by Wilks, “A person of strict veracity, who was present at the examination of an account furnished by a Mahommedan officer, in which the frauds were too obvious to be concealed, related that the Minister, Mir Sadik, could not help noticing it to the Sultaun. …. The Sultaun paused, and meditated for some time. `He is a Mussulman’, he gravely replied, `and pronounces the bismillah before his meal; if the revenue has diminished, the praise of God is increased.’’’ p. 272, [15]

Even in policies of trade, Tipu preferred Muslims, and not to trade with the Europeans, even his French allies, “… in 1784, he [Tipu] ordered the eradication of all pepper vines in the maritime districts, and merely reserved those of inland growth to trade with the true believers from Arabia”, p. 595, [11]

One of Tipu’s virtues, i.e. the ban on alcoholic, opium and other intoxicating substances, which have been lauded by many secular historians, as reformatory, must be seen in the context of the Koranic injunction. “The large sacrifice of revenue involved in this prohibition was founded on the unforced interpretation of a text of the Koran; `every intoxicating drink is forbidden’ and on that fanatical zeal which is deemed to cover and found to accompany so many deviations from moral rectitude.’’, p. 267, [15]

Tipu was infamous for seizing temple lands throughout his kingdom. This has been recorded by Lewis Rice, who points out, “Lands and money allowances granted to Hindu pagodas, as well as service inams of Patels, were confiscated, and an income was raised by dividing the houses in the fort of Seringapatam into separate wards for different classes, and putting prices upon them. The Revenue regulations of Chikka Deva Raja, however, remained unaltered; but they were republished as the ordinances of the sultan himself. He strove, in short, to obliterate every trace of the previous rulers. For this purpose, even the fine irrigation works, centuries old, of the Hindu Rajas were to be destroyed and reconstructed in his own name.”, p. 410, [7]

Tipu, importunate to get foreign alliances and assistance for his purposes, had no problem pointing out his brutality towards the Hindus to enthuse the Afghans to commit to a holy war against all infidels. He wrote to the Afghan King, Zaman Shah, on 30/01/1799, stating, “You were pleased to write that it was the object of yours to crush the infidels and to propagate the religion of Muhammad; please God, your Majesty would soon proceed with the conquering army to prosecute a holy war against the infidels and heretics, and free the religion of those regions from those shameless tribes …. it is my hope and my prayers that the oppression of the infidels and the polytheists may be destroyed by the avenging sword of those who have been selected by God to exercise domination” p. 275, [23]

In the same tone, he persists, boasting of his conversions, “Nearly 500,000 of the infidels of the districts of Calicut, Nuzzerabad, Zafferabad and Ashrusabad, who were wavering on the precincts of obedience, have been converted at different times” p. 283, [23]

Michaud further states that “Hyder Aly had the ambition to extend the cult of the Koran to all the peninsula of India. As a faithful and scrupulous follower of the law of the Prophet, Tippoo Saib would make it [Islam] reign among his subjects. He apportioned his time between caring for his government and the expansion of the Mohammedan religion.’’ pp. 124-125, [8].


Tipu’s oppression, temple destruction and bigotry have been summarised by both Lewin Bowring and Hayavadana Rao, who write, “So many instances have been given of the atrocities which he committed in the name of religion, that it would be superfluous to add to them. In this respect, he rivalled Mahmud of Ghazni, Nadir Shah, and Ala-ud-din the Pathan Emperor of Delhi surnamed the Khuni, or the Bloody, all of whom were famous for the number of infidels slaughtered by their orders. For this very zeal for the faith, notwithstanding the cruelties which attended his persecutions, the name of Tipu Sultan was long held in reverence by his co-religionists in Southern India – a proof how readily crimes that cry to Heaven are condoned when perpetrator of them is supposed to have been animated by a sincere desire to propagate the faith which he professed.” pp. 226-227, [3] pp. 1043-1045, [10]

Even Tipu’s own court bard, Kirmani, concedes, “He had a pleasing address and manner, and was very discriminating in his estimation of the character of men of learning, and laboured sedulously in the encouragement and instruction of the people of Islam. He had, however, a great dislike to, or rather, an abhorrence of the people of other religions

…. His chief aim was the protection and encouragement of the Muhammadan religion and the religious maxims or rules of the Soonni sect – and he had not only abstained from all forbidden practices, but he also strictly prohibited his servants from their commission’’ pp. 1040-1042, [10]

Michaud sums up Tipu’s character with the following statement, “We have noticed that when physically or morally feeble men arrive by chance at an exalted station, the head turns. We will see an example in this unhappy Tippoo-saib, who when left in power, was dazzled by it and whose overconfidence in his strength caused him to rush into mad enterprises which snatched away his empire and his life.’’ p. 86, [8]

Perhaps, it is appropriate to end the article with the words of Col. Allen, recorded by Hayavadana Rao, “Hyder was born to create an empire, Tippoo to lose one’’ p. 1036, [10]. And one wonders at the quality of the secularism that the honourable chief minister of Karnataka affects, if he is proud of the man whose crimes we have just recorded.


[1] Tipu greatest Kannadiga in 500 years, says Girish Karnad.

[2] “Karnataka simmers over Tipu Sultan Controversy’’,

[3] Lewin Bowring, “Haidar Ali and Tipu Sultan and the struggle with the Mussalman powers of the South”

[4] “Tipu Sultan: Hero or Tyrant”, Collection of Articles, Voice of Dharma Publications

[5] William Kirkpatrick, “Selected Letters of Tipu Sultan”, 1811

[6] Sitaram Goel, “Hindu Temples of India – What happened to them’’, Vol. 1, ch. 10

[7] Lewis Rice, “Mysore Gazette, Part I”, 1897

[8] J. Michaud, “Histoires des progrès et de la chûte de l’empire de Mysore”

[9] Rev. Richter, “Coorg Gazetteer”

[10] Hayavadana Rao, “History of Mysore’’, Vol. 3

[11] James Rice-Innes, “Malabar and Anjengo”

[12] Lewis Rice, “Mysore Gazette, Part II”.

[13] – “Tyrant Diaries: An account of Tipu provided by Ripaud’’, Francois Gautier

[14] “Mysore Gazetteer – Historical’’, Hayavadana Rao, Vol. 2

[15] Col. Mark Wilks, “Historical Sketches’’, Vol. 3.

[16] Col. Mark Wilks, “Historical Sketches’’, Vol. 2.

[17] Ramachandra Rao, “Memoirs of Hyder and Tippoo: rulers of Seringapatam’’

[18] Patrick Hamilton-Buchanan, “An Account of Travels through Mysore, Canara and Malabar’’, Vol. 3.

[19] “Tipu Sultan”, B Sheik Ali

[20] “Memoir of an Officer in the Employ of the Rajah of Coorg’’, 1857.

[21] Sitaram Goel, “Hindu Temples of India – What happened to them’’, Vol. 2, ch. 7

[22] Mir Ali Kirmani, “Nishan i Hyduri’’, Translated by Col. W Miles.

[23] IM Muthanna, “Tipu Sultan X Rayed”, Usha Press.