Tipu Sultan was born on 20 November 1750 to Haider Ali and Fatima after many prayers. Sultan was a part of his name by which he was known both as a prince and a ruler.
He received all the scholastic education of a Muslim prince and could freely converse in Arabic, Persian, Kanarese and Urdu. He knows horse riding, shooting and fencing and was in possession of excellent health. He despised the use of palanquins and described them as fit only for use of women and invalids.
Tipu Sultan possessed an energetic mind free from ‘Eastern apathy or Eastern conservatism’. He was eager to learn and showed proper appreciation of the Western sciences and Western political philosophy. He actively supported the proposal of the French soldiers at Seringapatam to set up a Jacobin Club in 1797 and ordered a salute of 2,300 cannons, 500 rockets to celebrate the occasion.
He is also reported to have planted the “Tree of Liberty” at Seringapatam, enrolled himself as a member of the Jacobin Club and allowed himself to be called Citizen Tipu. As an administrator and ruler: Tipu was successful and earned the praise of his adversaries. Lieutenant Moore noted, “When a person travelling through a strange country finds it well cultivated, populous with industrious inhabitants, cities newly founded, commerce extending, towns increasing and everything flourishing so as to indicate happiness he will naturally conclude it to be under a form of government congenial to the minds of the people”.
This is a picture of Tipu’s country. Even Sir John Shore commented that the peasantry of Tipu’s dominions was well protected and their labors were encouraged and rewarded. Tipu also won the confidence and loyalty of his soldiers. In times when desertions by military commanders were not uncommon Tipu’s troops displayed discipline and fidelity that earned the notice of his contemporary European observers also.
The imperialist writers’ depiction of Tipu as a ‘monster pure and simple’ and a bigoted monarch is obviously biased. Tipu’s fanaticism has been overplayed It is true he crushed the Hindu Coorgs and the Nairs, but he did not spare the Muslim Moplahs when they defied his authority.
The discovery of Sringeri Letters reveals that in response to a request from the chief priest of the Sringeri temple, Tipu sanctioned funds for repair of the temple and installation of the image of goddess Sarada. The Sultan never interfered with worship in the Sri Ranganatha, the Narasimha and the Ganga-dharesvara temples situated within the Sernigapatam fort.
Tipu Sultan stands out as a fascinating personality in the history of South India. Brave and daring he stuck to his self-respect and spurned Wellesley’s offer of a Subsidiary Alliance. He preferred a hero’s death to the tame existence of a band-wagon of Western imperialism. His great misfortune was that he was pitted against the imperial giants who had both the will and capacity to buldoze the whole of India. His life and drawings enthuse more the modern Indian mind than the host of other Indian princelings.