Tipu Sultan was courageous, proud, ruthless when required, farsighted, efficient, meticulous and devout. He was an excellent soldier, respected by his own men as well as his opponents for his stamina and ability. He was also a good marksman and horseman who enjoyed hunting.

Tipu, referring to his ongoing struggle against the British, is often quoted as saying, “In this world I would rather live two days like a tiger, than two hundred years like a sheep”.

According to a witness account he suffered from depression or ‘black bile’ which caused his mood to change as he grew older. He could become arrogant, irascible and contemptuous as well as fussing over minutiae.

Tipu understandably became paranoid as time went on vis-à-vis the British threat. It is said that after his defeat by Cornwallis in 1792, his sleeping pattern changed. He took to sleeping on a “hammock made out of a course canvas cloth and suspended from the roof by chains. The hammock was in a position which was invisible from the windows. This was a way of protecting himself in case anyone should fire on him while in bed. He also kept beside him a sword and a pair of loaded pistols.”

Tipu had a curious mind and a flair for anything new, an idea, an instrument or an innovation. He was described as having “profited to a considerable extent in all the sciences” and was “fond of introducing novelty and inventions in all matters”. The mechanical toy ‘Tippoo’s Tiger’ combines both his love technological invention with his passion for Tigers. Representations of tigers and tiger symbols adorned most of his possessions and he was known as the ‘Tiger of Mysore’. More on Tipu and his tiger connections are below.

He was restless, never content with the status quo and this was reflected in some of his innovations, such as constantly changing the names of places, and altering established customs including the measures of distance and weights. However, the majority of his changes were motivated by a genuine desire for improving the welfare of his kingdom in all areas of Government: administrative, commercial, agricultural and military where he introduced a Modernising Agenda.

Even in the throes of victory Tipu was reportedly able to display diplomacy and good manners. There are many anecdotes of Tipu’s gallantry.

His passion for innovations was also evident in the artistic sphere. He built new palaces and gardens and his swords and artillery show exquisite artistic workmanship, beautifully inscribed with Persian and Arabic verses or ornamented with tigers’ heads and stripes.

Tipu took the business of State very seriously. He kept up a punishing daily work routine and was able to successfully combine the formal pomp which his office demanded, with simplicity in his personal life.

Tipu Sultan has been described as moralistic, as is evident from some of his decrees, like banning alcohol; forcing the Malabar women to cover themselves contrary to their indigenous customs; and having no female servants to avoid temptation. He also was modest in his appearance, being always covered head to toe

Tipu was a Sunni but with leanings towards Shiism. Unlike his father he took a serious interest in theological and religious concerns, with the advantage of a broad education and literacy in Persian. He had a mystic’s fervour and was deeply interested in Sufism. Under his patronage a number of books were written on it. He revered the Muslim saints, many of who feature in the dreams he wrote down, and conferred grants on their tombs.

Tomb & shrine of the famous Sufi saint "Nizamuddin Auliya" in western Delhi

Tipu regarded himself as a defender of the faith. More especially, he believed himself to be inspired by the direct tutelage of Ali, the son-in-law of Mohammed. He named his kingdom Sultanat-i-Khudadad (God-given state). He prayed 5 times a day, kept the Ramadan fasts, and throughout the day carried a rosary in his hand. ‘God give me victory a long as the Sun and the Moon shine,’ was inscribed on is family seal, while his weapons are often inscribed with a Koranic text, or a dedication to Mohammed.

"Bedchamber Sword" of Tipu Sultan taken at the Fall of Srirangapatna 4th May 1799

Tipu Sultan was extremely superstitious. Every day he consulted the astrologers attached to his court about his stars. Every Saturday, without fail, according to the advice of the astrologers, he made an offering to the 7 stars, the planets known to the ancients. The offerings were of ‘7 different types of grain, of an iron pan full of sesame oil, of a blue cap and coat and one black sheep and some money.’ All these items were distributed among the Brahmins and the poor.

It is said that one of the tactical errors Tipu committed in the Fourth Anglo Mysore War was due to astrologers’ advice. At Maddur River on March 18th Tipu missed a clear opportunity to attack Harris who was overloaded with equipment and lacked sufficient bullocks for transportation. Instead, Tipu withdrew to Malvalli preferring to fight in the open instead of in woody country. As a result Harris was able to cross the river at the ford of Sosile on March 30th. Tipu missed another opportunity to attack here before the British artillery arrived. On this occasion he took the decision to hold back on the basis of ‘bad astrological auspices’.

Tipu Sultan also held the Hindu sadhus (mendicants), sants (saints) and gods in great respect. He fed Brahmins, gave grants to Hindu temples and bore the expenses of Hindu religious ceremonies performed to invoke success in his endeavours. On a notable occasion, Tipu sent funds for the rebuilding of the great Hindu temple which was destroyed by a Maratha raiding party. He wrote many warm-hearted letters to the Sringeri swami.

Vidyashankara temple (1342 AD) at Sringeri

In one of them he writes, “In whatever country holy personages like yourself may reside, that country will flourish with good showers and crops....,”


We have an idea of what Tipu Sultan looked like from various surviving portraits and descriptions dating from the time:

“He was 5ft 7inches in height, uncommonly well made, except in the neck, which was short and large, his leg, ankle and foot beautifully proportioned, his arms large and muscular, with the appearance of great strength, but his hands rather too fine and delicate for a soldier.”

When he was young he was thin with “an interesting mild countenance, of which large animated black eyes were the most conspicuous features. Later “he grew fat, his face became darker and his eyes fierce and terrific.”

Other descriptions record that he had ‘small arched eyebrows, and an aquiline nose’. Unlike Haidar he didn’t shave his eyebrows. He also had a moustache. This is the image familiar from many surviving Tipu portraits. Here, Tipu is dressed entirely in green, a Muslim holy colour, which he wore in later life.

Profile portrait of Tipu Sultan made during the Third Anglo-Mysore war.

Daily Routine

The following description is based on a first-hand account by a Munshi (or Moonshee - a clerk, writer, secretary, assistant or language interpreter) in Tipu’s court.

He rose an hour before dawn, leaving his bedchamber to wash in private. After his ablutions he said his morning prayers and then read part of the Koran (For about an hour he recited the Quuran - Fajr prayers in the Masjid-e-Alaa, the mosque adjoining the palace) after which he exercised by swinging weights. His first breakfast, as was the custom of the country, was medicinal in nature and consisted of the brains of the tame male sparrows. He would also go hunting with his cheetahs at this time of morning.

With his rosary in his hand, dressed simply in a white gown and a small turban and wearing leather shoes with iron spurs and a European watch in a fob pocket in the lining of his short drawers, he would leave the chapel, accompanied by some servants and eunuchs, to go to the smaller presence Chamber within whose square he would inspect the offices (strong rooms) dependent on the (domestic) Treasury (jamadar-khana) and the storehouses (which held precious stones, plate, fruits and other articles). After making enquiries about the business of the offices and giving instructions to the heads or daroghas of different departments, he returned to the presence chamber where he was informed by his astrologers about the state of the stars and by his physicians about his state of health. The almoner also attended and reported on payments of Pensions and Gratuities. After this, seated on his silver stool, he was shaved with oil of almonds and poppyseed, no water being used. Tipu wore a moustache but always shaved his beard.

On Saturdays he would make a special offering to the seven stars of seven different kinds of grain, an iron pan full of sesame oil, a blue cap and a coat, one black sheep and some money, which, following the advice of the astrologers, was bestowed on the Brahmins and others.

Then came the procession of Superintendents of the Gardens who would be attended by their servants carrying baskets of flowers, fruit and vegetables on slings. Those not required for the Sultan’s table or the apartments of his father’s women were dispatched for sale at his stall in the public market. Afterwards came the adjutants of the Corps of Horse and Foot and those in charge of the Castle of Shreeringpattnam together with other Officers of Trusts, paid their respects, made their reports and were then dismissed.

Tipu would return to his court where he would have his second and main breakfast at about 9 am with a few of his chief officers, numbering up to 15, and 2 or 3 of his sons. This breakfast consisted of fruit, milk, walnuts, jelly and almonds. It was his practice at the time to make contemptuous remarks about the Princes of the Dekkhin and others in the presence of his guests who were always ready to assent to his every comment.

Every morning, under the direction of the Master of the Household, the European and other carpets and white floor cloths were spread and the musnud (the throne) of cloth of gold facing Mecca arranged. A sabre, dagger and pair of pistols with tiger-headed golden hilts in black enamel, a round vase filled with flowers and a fine white handkerchief were placed on the right of the throne and a silver spit box on the left. In front were vases of silver and gold full of a variety of flowers and behind were two family slaves who acted as flappers to keep away the flies. The other domestics stood behind waiting under their chief Governor.

After dining Tipu went in full state to the Hall of Public Audience, taking his seat upon the throne and generally would eat some pan. He wore a red or purple, or pale crimson, or green turban wrought with threads of gold. The tufted turban, of which he was particularly fond, was about 50 yards in length, tied in a circular form with three almost imperceptible corners. It had a diamond plume of fine tufts on either side. His frock was of fine white cloth and tight with the sleeves drawn up in plaits. It was short in the waist, had long skirts and was fastened at the chest by a diamond plume. On his loins he wore a gold bordered kerchief. On the fingers of his right hand he wore a diamond ring or one set with ruby or emerald, varying each day according to the movements of the 7 stars (planets). When proceeding on journeys however he wore a coat of gold with red tiger stripes embroidered on it.

All those in charge of different departments - Masters of Requests and Ceremonies, Postmasters, Superintendants of Tents and Furniture, the Library, Stores of Grain and Fruit and of Cloths, of the Kitchen, the Mints and a Eunuch of the Secret Apartments, Headman of the domestic and carpet-spreaders and other servants, Mace and axe bearers, spearmen and the Chief Superintendant of Police and his Deputy, Inspectors of Clerks of the Public and Military Bazaar together with their various followers and also the puffers, players, story tellers - all made their obeisance.

The Postmaster delivered a bag full of petitions and letters from Princes and Nobles, Governors and Agents of Government.

The two Masters of Requests (arzbegis) read out a list of the names of those who were required to attend on business at the Levee and the ‘cutcheries’ (officers belonging to the various Departments of State) who had been officially asked to attend used to relate the events of the day before. These were introduced unarmed into the Presence, bowing at the usual distance while the Chief Chobdars (Heralds) repeated the words May thy sight be clear! – His Justice is unparalled! – Health to the Refuge of the World’

At a distance of 5 yards, the Prime Minister and older secretaries and the Persian, Hindi, Kanarese, Telegu and Marathi secretaries and the Chief Secretaries of the seven departments and agents of different Works and Businesses sat in their respective orders. The commoners used to put forward their applications to the Sultan via a Reader who used to hand over a packet containing the letters and petitions which were opened there.

The secretaries read out the petitions to the Sultan after which he used to dictate the replies then and there. The Sultan gave his wishes and orders in each tongue for he understood them all.

Recruitment both for the army and administrative staff took place in the large court of the palace where files of the old infantry and newcomers arranged in ranks, assembled for inspection. The Commander in Chief would show a list with a description of each man to the Sultan, while an adjutant would read out in a loud voice each description as the inspection took place. Many young men were selected from the ranks and those selected would then be reviewed a second time, asked about their abilities and experience and then sent to whichever department was considered most suitable. Those who could read or write were transferred to the Secretaries Office in order to be appointed as superintendants or accountants, but the others were chiefly sent to the General to be appointed as Colonels, Captains and Petty Officers, while those sent to the Minister of Finance were named Governors of Districts or Counsellors.

*(He inspected his army in two goes; after the first weeding out, he reviewed the competency of the new recruits who would then be posted to appropriate units by the monarch. Note would be taken of their degree of literacy and proficiency in scripture).

All these proceedings would continue up till half past 2 or 3pm. When the court disbanded, the Sultan would return to his bedchamber to rest. He did not take lunch. After offering the Zuhar prayers, he emerged adorned in a tiger’s head to inspect his army and the military factories. If there was any repair work of the fort being carried out, he would inspect it too such as the rebuilding after the siege of Seringapatam in 1792.

All these proceedings would continue up till about 2 or 3pm. When the court disbanded, the Sultan would return to his chamber to rest. He did not take lunch. After offering the Zuhar prayers, he emerged wearing a dress and accessories adorned with the tyger’s head, sometimes going on a mare, sometimes in a palkee [palanquin], to inspect the Foundry of cannon and mus(k)quets and the cloth manufacturers and often to review the troops/[ALT to inspect his army and the military factories.]. If there was any repair work of the fort being carried out, such as the rebuilding after the siege of Seringapatam in 1792, he would inspect it too.

He would make his way back, about an hour after sunset, returning to the palace via the Bazaar under a starlit sky. Tipu would then deal with any outstanding business before entertaining members of his family and a few courtiers to dinner.

He generally passed the evening with his 3 eldest sons, some principal officers, a qazi [‘judge’ ruling in accord with shariah – Islamic law] and his principal munshi, Habibullah. Poetry and literature of a scholarly and religious nature was often read out aloud. Bowring says that Tipu was ‘fond of enunciating his views on every possible subject’. He didn’t share his father’s taste for bawdy talk but used to make scathing comments about people, particularly the Nizam of Hyderabad. The Sultan would then have a stroll after dinner. When he had done the `Isha' prayers [evening prayers], he used to go to bed. He would read himself to sleep with a book of religion or history.

After his defeat at the hands of Cornwallis in 1792, his sleeping pattern changed. He took to sleeping on a hammock made out of a course canvas cloth and suspended from the roof by chains. The hammock was in a position which was invisible from the windows. This was a way of protecting himself in case anyone should fire on him while in bed. He also kept beside him a sword and a pair of loaded pistols.


Tipu Sultan’s mother, Fakhr-un-nisa, called her first born son Tipu, after the wandering ascetic, Tipu Mastan Aulia, also called Mast Kalandar. Aulia was a holy man who was eccentric in his behaviour and was a vagabond. He is reputed to have been quite unpredictable in his behaviour towards people, but stories abound how he used to commune with nature and its creatures. Aulia never lived in a house, but allowed the Nawab of Arcot to build him a tomb, pointing to the place where he would die. This later became a shrine to him. It was here that Haidar Ali and his wife, childless so far, went to visit the tomb of the ascetic, to seek his blessings to have a heir born to them.

Saint Tipu Mastan Aulia had only ever allowed one young man to approach him when he was alive. It was said that the latter was his son. After the death of Mast Kalandar, the young man too went mad and was seen wandering around the tomb. When Fakhr-un-nisa was staying near the shrine, praying to the saint, she arranged for the ground around the tomb to be planted with trees. At this time, the agitated young man questioned her and said Aulia would not wish anything to be done by a woman and asked Fakhr-un-nisa to send her son. When she told him that she had no son, the young man suddenly turned lucid and gently said that Aulia predicted that she would have many sons, the first among which would be a Sultan. Fakhr-un-nisa promised, as asked of her, that her first born would take the path of service to God if the predictions came true. Thus it was that Haidar and Fakhr-un-nisa’s first born, Fath Ali, came to be known as ‘Tipu Sultan’.

After the visit to the shrine and meeting the saint’s son, Fakhr-un-nisa returned to the tomb to find him after her son was born. She found that the young mendicant had died and willed that no shrine be built for him and his ashes be scattered to the winds. The only acknowledgement that Mast Kalandar’s son was willing to accept was a candle lighted so that his ashes would be able to follow their path on a dark night. For fifteen years, Fakhr-un-nisa lighted a candle at her window in fulfilment of her own unbidden covenant. On the fifteenth year, when her son Fath Ali, Tipu, turned to the way of the warrior, she stopped lighting the candle because her promise to the saint and his son, to give her son to the service of God was broken.

As the young Fath Ali reached the appropriate age, thought was given to the education of the young prince. Fakhr-un-nisa wanted Tipu to get an Islamic education to serve God as per the predictions of Mast Kalandar’s son. Maulvi Obedullah was deemed the best choice for the role. Haidar Ali wanted his son to understand Hinduism also, as the majority of his subjects followed that religion. So, Goverdhan Pandit, who was recommended by Haidar’s able Brahmin advisor Purnaiyya, was appointed to teach Hindu concepts. Haidar Ali’s great general, Ghazi Khan, was entrusted with the training of the prince in martial matters like weaponry and horse riding. Thus it was that young Tipu Side by side with the Koran, Upanishads and Bhagwad Gita, he learnt Yoga and became a devotee of Yoga exercises. He learnt the stories of Mahabharata and Ramayana and poetry of Kalidasa. He also learnt equally about Emperor Ashoka as he did about Emperor Akbar and his equitable view of religions. His education included Persian and Sanskrit and stories of Prophet Mohammed, Jesus and Buddha. Most of all, Tipu learnt about the varied and broad culture of India, which assimilated into itself, all the influences that came conquer it.

When Tipu Sultan was ten years old, his father Haidar Ali, facing a coup, had to flee to Bangalore from Srirangapatna, fearing for his life. His mother was safe for the time as she was visiting her father. Young Tipu and his five year old younger brother Karim were taken hostage by the conspirators. The two little princes were well treated, but were confined to a tower near the mosque in the fort. Their teachers, Goverdham Pandit, Maulvi Obedullah and Ghazi Khan, along with their retinue were also unmolested, but did not know of the children’s whereabouts. Guarded by a platoon of soldiers in a dark room where a high window was the only opening, Tipu found a way to look out as he perched on the shoulders of the lone servant they were allowed. Tipu waited by the window, suspended inside a loop fashioned out of a sheet, looking to the nearby mosque for Maulvi Obedullah to appear. Beside him was a bow and arrows, which he had been allowed to keep. As the Maulvi passed, he shot an arrow with a message to his parents to not worry and it landed near the teacher. On learning the whereabouts of the princes, Ghazi Khan sprang into action. At the dead of night, he sent a man up the precarious climb up to the children’s cell, more than hundred feet from the ground. Having to stop ten feet short, the man tossed up a rope and file in through the window. The weak bar in the small window filed away quickly, with the servant’s constant coughs covering the noise, along with the outside rain. Tipu Sultan, carrying his brother Karim holding on tightly on his back climbed down the long rope to Ghazi Khan. By the time the prince was on the ground, his hands were bloody from the rope. The brave servant, who could not fit through the window, was strangled to death. His death was later avenged on the triumphant return of Haidar Ali.

After the princes were rescued, Ghazi Khan had to hide them for a while in a boat moored on the river, five miles from the fort. The general was arrested for questioning on that first day, but before that, managed to pass a note to his neighbour, Lala Mian, through his 7-year-old daughter Ruqayya Banu. The little girl, later to become Tipu’s wife, took food to the two children after her father’s initial refusal to take any risks by helping them. Despite his initial reluctance and seeing his daughter’s bravery, Lala Mian brought the two princes to his own house during Ghazi Khan’s absence. It was the day of the Holi festival, a traditional Hindu celebration. All citizens participated wearing all kinds of masks and playing with multicoloured water and dyes. Tipu was given a tiger mask as he and Karim mingled with the festive crowd and got to Lala’s house. Ruqayya Banu was taken by the appearance of Tipu in the tiger mask and started referring to him as her tiger. So it is said that because of his love for Ruqayya he selected the tiger symbol in all matters to represent him and the Mysore kingdom, later in his life. After Ghazi Khan was released, he arranged to spirit the boys away from the capital disguised as a marriage party in palanquins.

Tipu Sultan was introduced to war and the battleground at the age of fifteen, despite his mother’s initial vow to put him on the path of piety. Haidar Ali took Tipu along during a battle with the ruler of the small town of Balam near Coorg, after the latter had invaded some of Mysore territory. Tipu waited in the rear with Ghazi Khan and 2,000 troops. As hours went by without word from the front, the general left Tipu with 500 troops and advanced to investigate. Again, the hours passed by with no news. Tipu decided to take the rest of his bodyguard and advanced on a flanking route to the Balam ruler’s rear. Here, he stumbled upon the wife of the potentate, whose guard feared the worst and immediately surrendered. Tipu graciously assured the woman, who had an infant with her, and her three ladies and other attendance of safety and honour. As the news reached the Balam ruler, he immediately surrendered to Haidar Ali. A commander of Haidar’s forces, Maqbool Khan, was sent forward to investigate. He found Tipu in control of the zenana (womenfolk) of the Balam ruler and immediately proceeded to drag out the noble ladies to whom Tipu had given his assurances. When Maqbool ignored Tipu’s repeated orders to release the women, the latter showed that he had the steel to back his decisions and shot the man dead.

Tipu displayed excellent diplomatic skills from an early age. This was shown when, during the first Anglo Mysore war, a 16-year-old Tipu went on a special diplomatic mission to the Nizam of Hyderabad with gifts. The young prince impressed the Nizam so much that on this occasion the latter changed sides and joined Haidar in fighting against the English.

Two years before the American war of Independence, on the eve of Tipu’s marriage Haidar Ali asked him what marriage present he would like. Tipu replied ‘A Library’. His father who could hardly read or write promised to purchase a good collection of books available in the kingdom for him. Tipu explained that he had in his mind a library of a larger dimension and he said ‘I would like to begin collecting books of all cultures, of all nations. I would like to know how men live elsewhere, how they meet evil, of their battles against it. ” So began the project of Tipu Sultan’s Library. Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, the famous French playwright and publisher, contributed significantly in the setting up of the library. He found it amusing to choose books for what he thought was an Oriental despot.

Among the various books Tipu Sultan received, was the text of the American Declaration of Independence. It was in English, with translations to both French and Persian, the latter of which was done by a Paris-based poet, Raza Mahdi. Tipu was deeply impressed and stirred by this document, particularly by the passage, “A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.” Sayyad Saheb, a great scholar referring to this passage, said it “sounds like treason to me”. Tipu replied: it is “treason surely, but treason by whom? It seems to me it is the King who commits the treason against his subjects”.

United States Declaration Of

In spite of being at war for most of his rule lasting nearly 17 years, he didn’t compromise his academic aspirations and authored or decreed to have authored as many as 45 books. After Tipu’s defeat, the English found an enormous collection of volumes of theology, poetry, history, mathematics and jurisprudence. He had one of the best libraries in that any Indian prince of his time could have, containing 2000 books in several languages. His collection included 115 works on Sufism and Theology, 95 on Jurisprudence, 20 on Astronomy, 29 on Lexicography and 118 on History. The library was taken by the East India Company and many of the 2000 volumes remain in the India Office Library, now incorporated in the British Library. Tiger watermarks are found on many pages.

On the battlefield, Haidar Ali had expressly forbidden his ministers from sending for Tipu Sultan when he himself was still alive. This was due to an incident before in their life, during a battle with Maratha commander Trimbuk Rao. A drunken Haidar Ali had been surprised by Rao’s cavalry and had to flee on horseback. One of his commanders, Yaseen Ali surrendered to the Marathas, masquerading as Haidar. On hearing the news of his father’s surrender and capture, Tipu Sultan, who had been elsewhere, went to Trimbuk Rao under the flag of truce. So much was Tipu’s regard for his father that he had gone ready for an unconditional surrender to secure Haidar’s release. Only because he had seen that Haidar had been substituted did he desist from going forward. This was the reason Haidar warned his court to not jump the gun in calling for Tipu during wartime.

Purnaiya, Chief Minister of Mysore (30 June
1799 – 23 December 1811)

Among Haidar Ali’s and later Tipu Sultan’s closest advisors was Diwan (Prime Minister) Krishnacharya Purnaiyya. He was a Hindu Brahmin who had been working for a trader who supplied Haidar’s army. He had an excellent head for numbers, good handwriting, prodigious memory and proficiency in languages. Purnaiyya through sheer hard work, at first gained employment with Haidar Ali, later becoming his Head of Accounts and finally his Diwan.

Purnaiyya hated the British because of how they had treated his father, a devout Brahmin. The soldiers had left the then young Purnaiyya an orphan when they ravaged their home, beat up his father and even killed a cow at their doorstep and forced a piece of its flesh into the mouth of his father.

Even so, when dying three days later, Purnaiyya’s father had requested him to love all men. Purnaiyya was taken by missionaries and escaped, though with a copy of the Bible in his pockets. Despite his hatred for the invaders, the young boy read and understood the Bible and the concept of a loving God who sacrificed His son for humanity. He decided that it was the British rather than their religion that was evil.

It was this intelligent and enlightened man who was entrusted by Haidar Ali to guide Tipu Sultan as a Prime Minister. He was so good and dependable at his job that even after Tipu’s time, the British entrusted him with the Diwanship of Mysore as they placed the still underage Krishnaraja Wodeyar as the King after their victory. Purnaiyya remained the Diwan till he retired just before his death in 1811.

As Haidar was suffering with pain and fever from his cancerous growth that ultimately took his life, conspiracies were being hatched against his son Tipu. Sheikh Ayaz, one of the commanders of Haidar’s army was in collusion with the British and had arranged for messages from Diwan Purnaiyya to be delivered to him first. One such message, written in code, aroused Ayaz’s suspicion that Purnaiyya was hiding the fact of Haidar’s death. Believing his own reasoning, Ayaz plotted to incite rebellion against Tipu. He and other commanders including Mohammed Aramin, Haidar’s cousin, would spread rumours that the ‘vile Brahmin’ Purnaiyya had assassinated Haidar and the conspirators would seize control. However, as the conspirators planned, so did Purnaiyya, who got an inkling of their plans. As Aramin, as a relative of Haidar and others, paving the way for Ayaz, led the agitated troops to Purnaiyya, the latter arranged for all doubters to see the still alive, but raving, Haidar Ali, thus diffusing the situation.

Haidar Ali had a habit of sending a bouquet of white flowers to his wife Fakhr-un-nisa when he left for campaigns. A day or two before his return, he would have multi-coloured flowers delivered. The white flowers signified his sadness of parting, while the coloured ones stood for joy of reunion with his wife. Haidar died at Narasingarayapet near Chittoor, on December 2, 1782, in the middle of the 2nd Anglo Mysore War. By his side was Diwan Purnaiyya among others. Before his death, he asked his Diwan to send white flowers to his wife, who he called Fatima. At first, she thought it was a mistake, but then understood that her husband had parted from her forever.

Haidar seems to have left an injunction to his son at his death. The story is that when Tipu was performing the last rites for his father’s body, he came across a scrap of paper tucked into one corner of his turban. On it was written “I have gained nothing by the war with the English, but am now alas no longer alive. If you, through fear of disturbances in your own kingdom, repair thither without having concluded peace with the English, they will certainly follow you and carry the war into your country. On this account, therefore, it is better to make peace on whatever terms you can procure, and then go into your own country.”

Tipu Sultan’s secretary, Brahmin Shivji was from Bengal and was rescued from British captivity by Tipu. Shivji’s was a tragic tale of loss during the Bengal Famine of 1770, during the time when the East India Company was given control of the region by the Mughal emperor. Shivji on a trip to raise a loan for food was delayed as he found the friend who he had gone in search of had also been wiped out. On his return, his wife and three sons had disappeared. His beautiful wife, who had foolishly sought the help of the British soldiers in a nearby camp, had been raped to death. His three sons were taken away by a missionary, Father Wilson, who forged adoption papers for the one child who had survived. As Shivji kept insisting on the return of his son, he was beaten and arrested by the police. He, along with other prisoners, was sent to Madras as labour during the war with Haidar Ali. It was thus Shivji was freed when Tipu Sultan routed the English.

Despite his enmity with the English, Tipu was gallant, displaying diplomacy and good manners in victory. Colonel Baillie, who had led the British at the Battle of Pollilur, was wounded during the battle. After accepting his surrender, it is said Tipu complimented the Colonel on his defence and assured him that he was simply unlucky. It is also said a palanquin was ordered and Tipu assisted Baillie towards it. Some blood from Baillie’s bandaged wound began to drip onto the Sultan’s sleeve. Baillie apologised but Tipu replied, “Do not apologise, it is gallant blood, it has the same colour as my blood”.

There is also the story of how Tipu had released a contingent of prisoners of war (PoWs) because it was the birthday of his patron saint. A young officer was so relieved that he sent to Tipu an emerald he had come into possession. Tipu accepted the gift and in exchange, gave the officer a bag of precious stones and asked him to join his army. When the officer pleaded his inability because he had taken an oath of loyalty, Tipu was even more pleased and rewarded him further with a ring off his own finger.

Another officer, a Lieutenant, taken PoW, beseeched Tipu that his wife may be informed of his life or death, whichever decision the Sultan decided to take. He also wished to pass a message to his son who would turn four the next month. Moved, Tipu released the officer and presented him with a necklace with thirty pearls, as compensation for the tears his wife had shed. He also sent various ivory toys for the lieutenant’s son.

Tipu Sultan was a very active battlefield commander. There are stories of how he would be reported to have been seen at many different places at almost the same time. For example, on 18 May 1783, during the 2nd Anglo Mysore War, Tipu was seen by three English commanders separated by hundreds of miles. All of them sent messages to Madras, asking for reinforcements. The Commander-in-chief, while sending the forces to all three, also informed each of the reports from the other two, humorously asking each, “Shall we believe him?” Thus was born the legend of how Tipu tore across the country ‘like a pillar of cloud during the night and like a pillar of fire during day’.

During the 3rd Anglo Mysore War, Tipu Sultan was held back by the loss of Palghat to Colonel Stuart through treachery and Erode fell to Colonel Oldham. Colonel Floyd was just 13 miles from Gajalhati Pass, on the route to Mysore. Tipu Sultan, at the head of his army charged again and again, losing hundreds of soldiers. In the melee, Tipu’s banner fell as its carrier was shot dead and the troops wavered and started to retreat, fearing the worst. Burhan-ud-din, Tipu’s brother-in-law, picked up the fallen banner and started to charge ahead, rallying the troops. With the Sultan too urging them on, the Mysore army forced the British to rout. Burhan-ud-din had far outrun the troops in his charge and did not hear Tipu’s calls to slow down. After the battle, when Gajalhati was saved, Tipu’s old commander found the body of Burhan-ud-din, killed in the charge, draped in Tipu’s banner.

In the final days of the 3rd Anglo Mysore war, the British and allies laid siege to Srirangapatna in February 1792. Tipu Sultan and Cornwallis’ forces exchanged artillery barrages. Tipu’s wife Ruqqaya was in the habit of going around the fort, consoling the wives of fallen soldiers. On one such night, she was killed by an artillery shell that burst near her. By the end of the month, Tipu was forced to sue for peace and send two of his sons as hostages to the British.

Tipu’s open-mindedness led him into some curious situations such as his misplaced trust in the maverick Francois Ripaud, a shipwrecked French soldier-adventurer. On account of the latter, Tipu became a founder member of the Jacobin Club in Srirangapatna and swore allegiance to the French Republic. He was hailed unanimously by his French comrades as ‘Citizen Tipoo’.

During the final battle of Srirangapatna in 1799, Colonel Arthur Wellesley, later to become the celebrated Lord Wellington of Waterloo, was one of the commanders involved. He was much influenced by an encounter he had with Mysore forces under Diwan Purnaiyya at Sultanpet Tope, a grove near the fort. Purnaiyya had attacked and caused the retreat in chaos of General Baird’s forces from the woods earlier. Wellesley was tasked to re-capture the strategic point with two strong columns of troops. However, Purnaiyya’s forces, well dug in, laid down such a withering fire that the British, further impeded by the terrain, had to retreat in haste. Wellesley himself was struck on the leg by a spent bullet. This, the great general took as a lesson in humility, of not attacking entrenched and determined troops and for not taking undue credit or pleasure from successes.

One of Tipu Sultan’s ministers, Mir Sadiq aided the British in taking Srirangapatna. There are many stories of his end. One of the stories recount how a Hindu soldier named Shekhar, wounded in the battle, lured Sadiq near him on the pretext of revealing the location of Tipu Sultan. Sadiq, knowing he had to ensure Tipu’s death, leaned forward and was stabbed to death by the patriotic soldier. Though Shekhar too was dispatched immediately, it is said that he died with a laugh on his lips.


In the India Office library (now the Oriental and African Collection in the British Library) there is a very interesting manuscript containing Tipu Sultan’s dreams in his own handwriting. It was discovered by Colonel Kirkpatrick among other memoranda in the Sultan’s bedchamber when the palace was subjected to a thorough search after the fall of Srirangapatna in May 1799.

Habibullah – one of Tipu’s courtiers, a eunuch, was said to be present at the time the manuscript was discovered. According to Kirkpatrick, Habibullah knew of the existence of the diary but had been sworn to secrecy about its location. The first of the dreams is dated 1785, the last 1798, covering a period of thirteen years. They are all in Persian. Of the 37 dreams he recorded the majority are concerned with war. There are several dreams which give general omens of success. Many of the dreams also point to his intense love and veneration for the Prophet and Hazrat Ali.

As early as 1800 the world was supplied with translated extracts from ‘Tippoo’s Dream Book’.

Tipu Sultan also interpreted some of his dreams. Such is the case with dreams 13, 17, 28…Some of these interpretations are highly interesting.

For example, in dream 13, Tipu Sultan interprets the woman in man’s dress as his enemy, the Marathas, against whom he was waging a war at that time. In dream 17 there is a monstrous hybrid cow-tiger with foreshortened limbs which Tipu interprets as a sign that the enemy – the Malabar Christians – will be unable to resist him. In dream 28 the 3 silver trays of fresh dates have been interpreted as the dominions of his 3 enemies, the British, the Marathas and the Nizam, which, so he hoped, would fall into his hands. Many of his dreams seem to have been political.

Some of the dreams as recorded by Tipu:

Dream 2: The Crescent

It was Sunday, the night of Monday, of the lunar year the 27th of Zilhijja, on this side of Shahidpur by the river Kaveri, about the time of the false dawn that I had a dream: It appeared to me as if along with other people I was standing on a high spot looking for the new moon of the month of Ramadan. None could see the moon. I, however, saw a very slender and beautiful crescent surrounded by several stars of the Pleiades. I seemed to be pointing the new moon to all others present and telling them that, if God willed, Id would be celebrated the following day…..That is all.

Dream 8: The Sacred relics of Hazrat Banda Nawaz

On the 5th of the month Raz Thamari, of the year Shata, corresponding to the 3rd Shawwal, 1218, from the birth of Prophet Mohammed, on Thursday, while returning to Patan, the Capital, at Salamabad, I had a dream: I saw coming two aged holy persons, both being brothers, with baggage and provisions. They told me they had come according to the orders of Hazrat Banda Nawaz (Hazrat Khwaja Banda Nawaz Gaisu Daraz, a Sufi saint, whose tomb and shrine is in Gulbarga), who had sent certain relics.

The Shekh-ka-Roza [the dargah of Banda-Nawaz], Gulbarga; a photo by Lala Deen Dayal, 1880's

Then they gave me a few pieces from the covers of the Ka’bah, the Madinah-i-Munawwarah and the tomb of Hazrat Banda Nawaz, a copy of the Holy Koran and some sugar-candy. I took the sacred relics and raised them to my head. I then opened the Koran and found it was written in a beautiful hand. Every page of the Koran had the name of the scribe written on it. On some of the pages I noticed the names of Hazrat Banda Nawaz and other saints.

Both the holy persons said to me that this copy of the Holy Koran had been written by several saints and calligraphists and that Hazrat Banda Nawaz used to recite constantly from this copy. The saint had done a great favour, they added, by sending this copy for me. They also pointed out that they themselves were from among the descendants of Hazrat Banda Nawaz and it was their custom to recite the Fatihah (first chapter of the Koran, essential part of daily prayer) at his tomb and to offer sacrifices around it. Then I read those verses (of the Holy Koran) which had been inscribed in fine handwriting on the gate of the tomb.

At this point I woke up. The same afternoon I offered Fatihah in the name of Hazrat Banda Nawaz on eleven cauldrons of sweets.

Dream 9: The White Elephant of China

On the 3rd of the month Thamari which happened to be the last night of the month of Ramadan followed by ‘Id the next morning, the year Shata, 1218, from the birth of Mohammed, at a place on the outskirts of Salamabad, while the army was returning from Farrukkhi, I had a dream: I seemed to have gone out for a Shikar (hunt) of elephants and captured from the jungle two or three herds of elephants numbering about two or three hundred, like a flock of sheep. Having chosen the good male elephants and after handing them over to the mahouts, the female elephants and the young ones were set free in the jungle. The freed elephants did not run away and continued to stroll there. Then I came to the palace along with the captured elephants. In front of my palace, I found men on two white elephants and two horses along with several foot-men carrying spears and guns who had come from somewhere standing to give me a salute.

Mythological white elephant, Airavata, who carries the Hindu god Indra. It is also called 'Abhra-Matanga', meaning "elephant of the clouds".

I also stood up and enquired from them where they had come from. They replied they had come from beyond our country’s frontier along with the agents of the Emperor of China. I asked them to enter the palace and take a seat in the Diwan-i-Am (hall for public audience) and then called upon agents of China to appear before me. The two agents along with the two elephants and the two horses presented themselves accordingly

On reaching the place of obeisance they paid their respects. When they proceeded towards me I asked the arzbegi (court announcer like a herald) to stand up, a practice which is observed in the case of ambassadors. I noticed that both the persons were old and wore white beards. I asked them to sit down. Then after enquiring after the health of the Emperor of China I enquired about the purpose of their visit. They said they had no object in view other than the promotion of greater friendship. I asked the elephants and horses to be brought near me and I made the elephants take a round. I enquired from them as to what was the mode of capturing elephants in their country and explained to them the one prevalent in our own which consisted in capturing a whole herd of elephants, selecting the better ones from among them and setting the rest free in the jungle. I invited them to have a look at the elephants captured that very day. I then ordered the elephants captured that day to be brought. Three or four such elephants were placed before the Chinese agents. I told them that the elephants and horses which the Emperor of China had sent as a token of affection and friendship were, indeed, very good and that such friendly interchange was a charming custom.

The Sarkar-i-Ahmadi (one of the names for Tipu’s own court), I said to them, possessed an elephant which was very white and a friendly gesture was remembered for ever. As for example, some three or four thousand years ago, the ruler of China had sent a present of a white elephant, a horse and a female slave to Alexander and this one could still read in the pages of the Sikandar-Nama of Hazrat Nizami. Perhaps since then the Emperor of China, I added, had never sent such a present to anyone until it had been sent to the Sarkar-i-Ahmadi .Having said that, I showed all courtesy and kindness towards them.

The agents mentioned above were very brave and experienced. They also pointed out that the Chinese had never sent a white elephant to anyone except Alexander and the Presence. In the meantime morning dawned and I rose.

Note: Hazrat Nizami, Nizamuddin Abu Mohammed Ilyas bin Yusuf, one of the great Sufis and poets of Persia, b.1140. His famous work is Khamsa, a collection of five great epic poems, one of which is Sikandar-Nama. The romance of Alexander constitutes the central theme.

Dream 12: A Message from the Prophet

On the 21st of the month Haidari, of the year Busd (1786 AD) in accordance with the Zar evaluation, the fortieth year of the cycle, at the place where I had halted, on the farther side of the Tungabhadra, I had this dream: It appeared to me as if it was the Day of Judgement when no one would be interested in anyone else.

At that time a stranger of great strength and commanding stature with a bright face and red beard and moustache came to me and taking my hand in his, said to me: “Do you know who I am?” I told him I did not. He then said to me, “I am Murtaza Ali and the Messenger of God has said and is still repeating it that he would not set his foot in paradise without you and would wait for you and enter the paradise with you.” I felt so happy and woke up. God is all powerful, and the Messenger is the intercessor. This suffices.

Dream 13: Woman in man’s dress

Prior to the night attack upon the Marathas at Shahnur by the side of Devgiri, on the 6th of the month Khusrawi, of the year Busd, I had a dream: It seemed to me as if a handsome young man, a stranger, came and sat down near me. I passed certain remarks in the manner in which one might, in a playful mood, talk to a woman.

I then said to myself: "It is not my custom to enter into playful discourse with anyone."

Shortly thereafter, the youth rose, and walking a few paces, returned to loosen his hair from beneath his turban, and opening the fastenings of his robe, displayed his bosom, and I saw it was a woman."

I immediately called and seated her and said to her: "Whereas formerly I had only guessed you were a woman, and I had cut jokes with you. It is now definite that you are a woman in the dress of a man. My conjecture has come true."

In the midst of this conversation the morning dawned, and I woke up.

I conveyed the contents of the dream to other people and interpreted it thus: That please God those Marathas have put on the clothes of men, but in fact will prove to be women. By the favour of God and the aid of His Messenger, on the 8th of the month and the year above mentioned, on the morning of Saturday, I made a surprise attack upon the army of the unbelievers. Advancing with two or three hundred men, I myself penetrated the camp of the unbelievers, crushing them as I went, as far as the tent of Hari Pant Pharkiah (Haripant Phadke, a well known Maratha general), and they all fled like women.

Dream 16: Flowers

On the 23rd of the month Ja'fari, on Thursday, at Hartala on the far side of Panchanguda, while intending to go to war with the irreligious Nazarenes, I had a dream: It seemed to me as if I was sitting in the antechamber and people were saying that snow and a cold wave were coming like solidified clouds and people will die of the cold wave.

I said God would show mercy. When the cold bringing cloud appeared, I also went into the inner chamber. Inside the chamber there was a snake. I killed it. On coming outside I saw a tiger running away. I got hold of a gun and after a little chase I shot the tiger dead. Then I noticed the same clouds approaching and I watched them standing.

It seemed to be raining and along with rain seemed to fall double jasmine flowers of big size and many other smaller wild flower buds. And I said, “Praise be to God who has favoured us with such beautiful flowers and continues to favour us with them”. I was in this state of happiness when I woke up and morning dawned. May God grant his favours!

Dream 17: Strange cow

On the 7th of the month of Ja’fari, of the year Shadab, 1217, from the birth of Mohammed, while encamped at Salamabad (Satyamangalam, presently in Tamil Nadu), preceding the attack upon the entrenchments of Rama Nair (one of the organisers of the Malabar revolts against Haidar Ali and Tipu Sultan), after the Maghrib Prayers, I invoked God in these terms: “O God, in the hills the unbelievers of the land of the enemy have forbidden fasting and prayer; convert them all to Islam, so that the religion of Thy Messenger may gain in strength.”

In the course of the night and towards the morning I had a dream: It appeared to me that after traversing the forests and high hills the army of the Ahmadi (used to mean blasphemer) Sarkar had encamped. On the way and near the place of encampment I saw a cow with its calf, in semblance like a big striped tiger; in countenance, teeth, etc, looked like those of a tiger; its forelegs were like those of a cow; it had no hinder legs at all; its forelegs were in slight motion; and it was causing injury to the best of its ability. Having closely examined it, I reached the camp and directed several persons to prepare themselves and accompany me.

I said to them: “God willing, on arriving near this cow which looks like a tiger, I shall with my own hand cut it along with its calf into pieces.” Having said that I reviewed my household stud and gave orders for two grey horses to be quickly saddled and brought. At this moment the morning appeared and I woke up.

At that very moment, the following interpretation of the dream suggested itself to my mind: that the Nazarenes (Kerala and Malabar Christians are sometimes called Nasaranis, or Nazarenes) of the hills are like the cow with its calf with the appearance of tigers; and by the favour of God and through the felicity and aid of the Prophet, the place mentioned will be reduced with ease and all the irreligious Nazarenes will be slain. The slight motion of the forelegs I interpreted to mean that they would make an attempt to wage war, and the absence of hindlegs indicated that no one would afford them any help and that no Muslim would receive any injury at their hands. Through the aid of God, be it so.

Dream 20: The Thief

On the 29th of the month Ja'fari, of the year Shad, 1223, from the birth of Mohammed, corresponding to the 28th of Muharram, on Thursday, early in the morning, I had a dream: It seemed as if I had said my morning prayers with a large congregation after which all of us had remained seated. Sayyid Ali Qazi and Abdur Rahman Maulvi proposed to the gathering to have a three-lettered Khatm in the same sitting, for, according to them, there was great virtue attached to it. I accepted the proposal. They said one hundred people should participate in the recital. I expressed my willingness to join but I told them that I could not remain seated for long hours and, therefore, a hundred persons should be chosen excluding myself though I would also associate myself with it.

They chose the persons accordingly and began with the letter 'M'. When the Khatm commenced I found myself among the participants. Apart from those persons who were taking part in the Khatm, others were seated on one side and were taking food.

When I was going for my prayers along with other men and had crossed the culvert, I came across a black and bulky Maratha with an empty tray in his hand. As soon as I saw him, I drew out my dagger and asked him who he was. He told me that he was Dhonduji's (Dhondu Pant Gokhale, a Maratha chief) servant and house-steward and that he had brought gold and silver for me. As he entreated me to accept the present and generously distribute it to whomsoever I liked, I asked him to wait till I had finished my prayers after which, I said, I would talk to him.

He was thus sitting when on the conclusion of the prayers, Ghulam Ali came and submitted that this particular person was an intruder who had entered his house. I asked him to be careful for this man seemed to be a great thief who might run away with his horse. And I asked the unbeliever to surrender the things he had brought to the Sarkar-i-Khudadad and I made him understand that if I freed a person like him many people would be ruined. In the meantime rain came in torrents and I woke up.

Dream 22: The Extraordinary idols

On the 8th of the month Zakiri, on the night of Tuesday, the following day being

Wednesday, of the year Hirasat, 1224, from the birth of Mohammed, corresponding to the 7th of Jamadi-ul-thani, in the morning I had the following dream: There seemed to be a big temple, the back portion of which was slightly damaged. It contained several large idols.

I went into the temple along with a few other men and noticed that the idols were seeing like human beings and their eyes were in motion. I was surprised to see the eyes of the idols moving like those of the living and wondered what it could be due to. Then I approached them.

In the last row there were two female idols. One of these two, drawing out her sari from betwixt her two knees, stated that both of them were women while the rest of the idols were the images of men and other objects. She added that they had been praying to God for a long time and everyone ought to nourish oneself.

I said to her, “That is fine; do keep yourself occupied with the remembrance of God.”

Having said that, I ordered my men to repair the dilapidated building. In the meantime I woke up.

Dream 24: French troops

On the 12th of the month Bahari, of the year Hirasat, 1224, from the birth of Mohammed, on the night of Thursday, the following day being Friday, and towards the morning, this servant of God had a dream: It was represented to me that a Frenchman of standing had arrived. I sent for him, and he came.

When the Frenchman came, I was absorbed in some business. But as he approached the throne I noticed him and I rose and embraced him. I asked him to take a seat and inquired after his health.

The Christian then said: “I have come with ten thousand Franks to serve the Sarkar-i-Khudadad and I have disembarked them all on the shore. They are well-built, stout and young.”

I, thereupon, said to him, “That is fine. Here too all the equipment for war is ready and the followers of Islam are eager, in large numbers, to prosecute Jihad.” At this moment the morning came and I awoke.

Dream 27:The Hajj

On the 29th of the month Razi, corresponding to the 27th of Sha’ban, 1224, from the birth of Mohammed, at Tanjangor (Tanjore, now called Tanjavur in Tamil Nadu) where I had gone for shikar and had ordered the construction of a fort to be named Ilahabad, early in the morning, I had a dream: it seemed I had gone for Hajj. When I was entering the sanctuary of the Ka’bah, a respectable and distinguished gentleman from among the Arabs came and took me into the Ka’bah and indicated to me how I should offer my prayers.

I followed his instructions in saying my prayers. Then he asked me to kiss the Black Stone. The Black Stone was affixed to a big square towards the lower side of the wall. I felt very happy at the time of kissing the Stone and I did it with the greatest reverence. Inside the sanctuary where there was not much room, there was a box. The gentleman said that the turban which was kept there had been conferred on me by God and he asked me to grasp it. He then took out the turban from the box and handed it over to me. I seized one end of the turban and he seized the other and together we unfolded it and found it laid with gold. It was an exquisite piece of craftsmanship.

The Holy Kabah building of Ibn Al-
Zubair. Illustration by calligrapher Al-Sheikh Muhammad Tahir AI-Kurdi.

After having a look at it, I refolded the turban with care and put it in the box and carried it with me. Then I came out. The venerable gentleman told me that there was an idol at some distance which I ought to insult and at which I ought to throw stones. In accordance with his instructions I threw stones at it. Then I proceeded to visit certain shrines. In the meantime I awoke.

Dream 28: The Fresh Dates

At the capital, on the night of Sunday, the following morning being Monday, the 2nd of the month Zakiri, of the year Saz, 1225, from the birth of Mohammed, corresponding to the 23rd Jamadi-ul thani, I had a dream: It seemed to me as if three silver trays of fresh dates known as ratb were brought and placed before me. The dates were each of the size of a span. They were fresh and full of juice. It was reported to me that they had been reared in the garden.

At that moment I awoke and found it was morning. This servant of God interpreted the dream as follows: That by the grace of merciful God the dominions and homes of all the three Kafirs (unbelievers) shall fall into his hands. On the 3rd of the month mentioned above, news arrived that Nizam Ali was dead.

Note: Among the three Kafirs are obviously included not only the British and the Marathas but also the Nizam! In the eyes of Tipu Sultan, he who sided with Kafirs was a Kafir.

Dream 32: The Bridge of Elephants

On the 12th of the month Ahmadi, of the year Shadab, 1226, from the birth of Mohammed, on the night of Thursday, I had a dream: The troops seemed to be stationed by the side of the river. This servant of the High was on horseback. He saw that the river was in spate and he issued instructions that all the elephants should be brought and made to stand in the river, one adjacent to the other, thus forming a bridge. He then asked the troops to cross the river by passing over the backs of the elephants and under their protection. The whole army actually crossed the river in this manner. In the meanwhile I woke up.

Dream 34: Shaikh Saadi of Shiraz

On the 13th of the month Khusrawi, on Monday, in the year 1226, from the birth of Mohammed, corresponding to the 11th of Jamadi-ul-awwal, 1213 A.H., on the fourteenth night of the moon, the following day being Tuesday, in the early hours of the morning, I had a dream: I saw Hazrat Saadi Shirazi (A major Persian poet) .

The appearance of the aforesaid was somewhat like this: he was big-bodied with a large head and a long and white beard. I most respectfully offered him a seat. He seemed to be very pleased. I enquired from him what countries he had visited. “Hindustan (Northern India), Arcot (now in Tamil Nadu), the country of Abdun Nabi Khan (areas around Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh, down to Salem in Tamil Nadu), the country of Kalopant (Nargund, now in Dharwar, Maharashtra) and Konkan (Western coastal strip of modern Maharashtra and Karnataka)” was his reply. Then he recited several verses and couplets and after going round the palace he took a seat. In the meantime I woke up, since the morning had already dawned.

Dream(s) 35/36 (double dream): Maulana Jami and Plantain fruits

On the 24th of the month Taqi, of the year Shadab, on Friday, in the afternoon, at Haidarabad (Hyderabad), I had a dream: It seemed as if this servant of God had gone into a garden in which there were several buildings. The people told me that Maulana Jami (Maulana Nuruddin Abdur Rahman Jami, a great Persian poet, disciple and successor of the famous sufi saint, Bahauddin Naqshband) was staying there. I went to the Maulana and expressed my pleasure at his arrival. The Maulana said to me. “I have come to meet you”.

Nur ad-Dīn Abdar-Rahmān Jāmī, one of the greatest Persian and Tajik Sufi poets of the 15th century

I again repeated how nice and appropriate it was that he had come, and added, “In old times lived Maulana Saadi and in our own God Almighty had produced Maulana Jami and sent him to us. I shall seek his blessings.”

Having said that, I took the Maulana with me to my residence.

That very night in the early hours of the morning I had another dream: A young and beautiful woman, putting on costly jewellery and clothes, came to me. She was carrying three big ripe plantains fruits of the size of large cucumbers. She handed over the fruits to this servant of God, and I said I had never seen such plantain fruit. I ate one of them and found it extremely sweet and delicious. In the meanwhile I woke up.


Taken from the novel ‘The Sword of Tipu Sultan’ by Baghwan Gidwani

“...Looting a conquered enemy enriches a few, impoverishes the nation and dishonours the entire army. Wars must be linked to battlefields. Do not carry it to innocent civilians. Honour their women, respect their religion and protect their children and the infirm.”

From Tipu Sultan’s decree in 1785 repeated in 1785, 1787 and possibly more often

“Flogging and whipping – be they to extract confessions or as punishment – are repugnant to humanity and reason. They do not achieve their purpose. They degrade the victim. They dishonour the person in whose name they are ordered.”

From Tipu Sultan’s decree issued in 1786

“No man shall be punished save in accordance with law. The law of immemorial custom and as enshrined in our traditions shall be honoured by us. So that people may know the extent and the rigour of the law, as also their rights, duties, obligations and responsibilities, we have decided that codification of law shall be undertaken….Accordingly, we have established a Committee of Ministers under Prime Minister Purnaiya....”

From Tipu Sultan’s Proclamation in 1786

“All praise and glory be to the most high God, who breathing life into a handful of clay gave it the form of man, and who has raised some chosen individuals to rank and power, riches and rule, in order that they might administer to the feeble, the helpless and destitute, and promote the welfare of the people”

From Tipu’s proclamation in 1783

“To quarrel with our subjects is to war with ourselves. They are our shield and our Buckler; and it is they who furnish us with all things. Reserve the hostile strength of our Empire, exclusively for its foreign enemies....”

From Tipu’s Code of Law and Conduct 1787

“...For the social, economic and moral good of our people, there shall be total prohibition on distilling and selling of liquor. Licenses shall be issued for limited quantities strictly for sale to foreigners...“

From Tipu’s Revenue Regulations of 1787 &Tipu Sultan’s letter to Gulam Hyder, Amildar of Bangalore, dated 4th January 1787 & Memorandum of Tipu Sultan to Mir Sadik 1787

“...Your report stating you had strictly prohibited the distilling and vending of liquors and had moreover made over the whole body of vintners enter into written engagements to desist from selling liquors is understood. You must make the distillers also execute similar agreements and then assist them to take up some other occupation....”

From Tipu’s letter to Gulam Hyder, Amildar of Bangalore, dated 4 January 1787

“...This is a matter in which we must be undeterred and undaunted by financial considerations. Total prohibition is very near to my heart. It is not a question of religion alone. We must think of the economic wellbeing and the moral height of our people and the need to build the character of our youth. I appreciate your concern for immediate financial loss but should we not look ahead? Is the gain to sour treasury to be rated higher than the health and morality of our people........

Note: Those who were actually engaged in distilling or selling liquor and lost their employment as the result of the introduction of prohibition were given financial assistance to begin with and later alternative employment.

Mir Sadik concerned that justice and equality were undermining the highly valued privileges and perquisites of the ruling classes.“

Memorandum of Tipu Sultan to Mir Sadik, 1787

“It pained me to see some women of Malabar going about with their breasts uncovered. Such a spectacle offends the sight and aesthetics; certainly it is repugnant to good taste and morality. You had explained that these women belonged to a tribe whose custom enjoined that they should not cover themselves above the waist. But since then I have been wondering. Is it a question of immemorial custom or is it a question of poverty of the tribe? If it is the latter, I would like you to supply their wants so that their women should be decently draped. If, however, it is a question of time-honoured custom, I would like you to try and use your influence with the religious leaders of the tribe to see if such a custom can be done away with. For this purpose, I wish you to use friendly persuasion without giving any offence to their religious susceptibilities. The arguments that you might employ in this regard will naturally depend upon the foundations on which this custom is rooted. But you may keep the following in view:

  • Do customs of this tribe impose any corresponding disability on males also? If not, such a disability on women alone is contrary to principles of justice and is therefore discriminatory.
  • Did this custom originate because of poverty of the tribe? Or, did it originate as a punishment by a King? In either case, the kingdom can now intervene to help.
  • Even if the custom is based neither on poverty nor on punishment but is rooted in antiquity, how would the sons of the tribe feel about their elders who permitted their mothers to go about half-naked, exposed to ridicule and disgust of bystanders?

From Tipu Sultan’s letter in 1785 to the Governor of Malabar

“...The Pharaohs built the Pyramids with the labour of their slaves. The entire route of the Great Wall of China is littered with the blood and bones of men and women forced to work under the whip and the lash of the slave drivers. Countless millions were enslaved and chained, and thousands upon thousands bled and died to make it possible that the magnificent structures of Imperial Roe, Babylon, Greece and Carthage should be built. To my mind, every great work of art and architecture – be it in countries to the East of India or in the west – is a monument not so much to the memory of the men who ordered them to be built but to the agony and toil, blood and tears of those unfortunates who were driven to death in the effort to build it.

What does such a monument standing impassive, in brick or stone, commemorate? What is its message to all wayfarers who pass it? I believe its message is that here around it is the ruin of an empire, founded on tyranny and anguish of people, driven from their homes, chained and enslaved so that a vain and haughty emperor might harbour illusions of his glory.

And what is the tradition of this proud land which we call India? Its entire architecture, from the Taj Mahal of recent times to the ancient Sanchi Stupa of 2000 years ago, was built by free and devoted men. But why stop there? Go back into thousands of years of the history of our people. Can you tell me of a single structure, of a single monument, of a single edifice built in this land by forced labour? You cannot, for I know it that for 2000 years – nay, even from prehistoric times – this country refrained from imitating the foreign custom of forcing people to donate free labour.

I mention this to you because I received a letter from the Governor of Malabar that in his province are excellent workmen whom he has put to work without payment on government building. Knowing of my project to extend the Darya Daulat palace, he has offered them to me. To him I shall say that this palace commissioned by my father with love shall not be sullied by labour forced from unwilling hands. I shall also order that for all their past work on public buildings, those workmen shall be paid and that henceforth none in my kingdom shall permit or order such forced labour.

Since receiving that letter, I have heard that frequently such labour is being requisitioned by Amildars either on their own or at the request of several departments. Therefore, I say this to you, let strict instructions b issued forthwith, for I see in such a practice the beginnings of a system of slavery.

There can be no glory or achievement if the foundation of our palaces, road and dams are mingled with the tears and blood of humanity....”

From Tipu Sultan’s address to the Council of Ministers in 1789

“Agriculture is the lifeblood of the nation. This land, rich and fertile, will reward those that work on it. Famine and want are either the result of sloth and ignorance or of corruption. The 127 Regulations of this Revenue Code are intended for your immediate implementation. In particular, your urgent attention is drawn to the provisions which relate to cash advances to needy peasants for buying ploughs, steps for taking over derelict land and protection to the cultivator and his descendants. Non-traditional crops must be specially encouraged and the formula for tax concession to those who grow crops such as sugar cane, betel and coconut must be brought into effect without delay. Also essential is to encourage the planting of valuable trees – mangoes and the like – at the rate of 200 per village and careful protection of teak, sandal and other timber for internal needs and for export.

The Code is illustrative and not exhaustive. For instance one amildar has decided that where peasants are convicted of certain minor offences as are only punishable by fines, such fines can be commuted if the persons charged with a fine agrees to plant two mangoe and two almond trees in front of his village, and water and tend them till they are the height of three feet. We approve of such measures. Thus amildars must rely on their ingenuity consistent with local conditions (but without ignoring the rights of the people) to stimulate agricultural growth. Any measures so introduced should be reported so that consideration can be given to their incorporation in the Code as also to reward the amildars concerned....”

From Tipu Sultan’s circular to all Amildars 1788

“...Religious tolerance is the fundamental tenet of the Holy Quran

  • The Quran holds that there can be no compulsion in religion. The right discretion is henceforth distinct from error.
  • The Quran calls upon you not to revile the idols of another religion for it says: revile not those unto whom they pray beside Allah lest they wrongfully revile Allah through ignorance….
  • The Quran enjoins on you not to argue with the People of the Scriptures, save with such of them as do wrong.
  • The Quran expects you to vie with each other in good works and says; for each We have appointed a divine law and a traced out way. Had Allah willed He could have mad you one community….so vie one with another in good works.
  • The Quran requires you to say to people of scripture: We believe in that which has been revealed unto us and revealed unto you; our God and your God is one and unto him we surrender. We hold this God-given law dear to our heart, based as it is on human dignity, reason and brotherhood of man. With reverence we have also read the Vedas of the Hindus. They proclaim their faith in universal unity and express their belief that God is one although He bears many names .

It distresses us therefore that some persons wearing the garb of religion have crossed into the frontiers of the kingdom to preach the false and ungodly doctrine of hatred between the various religions. We hereby declare that from this day, it shall not be lawful in the Kingdom of Mysore ad for any Mysorean beyond this realm to discriminate against anyone on the basis of religion, caste or creed”

Tipu Sultan's Declaration 1787

“I am proud of the spiritual and cultural advancement of our people. That is their glory and their greatness. Let no Kingdom – past or present – claim the credit for that continuity which has flourished in this land for thousands of decades. What then is to be the role of our social structure, of the government and of its various agencies? It is my belief that our basic task is to guarantee material welfare of our people – full employment and the satisfaction of their needs for food, clothing, housing, education of natural justice and human rights can be honoured unless people are assured of economic wealth.

Our economic and commercial policies must be based on growth and dynamism. It is not enough merely to improve our methods of production of the traditional items. We must diversify into new fields of activity suited to the richness of or soil and the genius of our people.

Let me mention two or three avenues in which real progress is possible:

  • I have given detailed instructions for the establishment of a silk industry in Mysore. Silk worms and men well versed din the art of rearing them have already arrived from foreign lands to train our people. Eighteen centres have been set up for development of the industry. Many more are needed. Every encouragement is being given to plantation of mulberry trees. I would like you to take a direct interest in this developmental activity. My goal is clear: I want Mysore to be the foremost amongst silk producing nations.
  • A pearl fishery is being established on the Malabar coast. Expert pearl divers are coming to Mysore from foreign lands. They will be with us for a short while until our own people can be trained. Believe me, there is glitter and romance in those pearls – and there is wealth and profit in them. Government is prepared to subsidise your training the youth in this field of work. You will also be assisted in case you suffer any financial losses in the pioneering years. Can I count on your cooperation?
  • We must improve our breed of horses and mules. For this purpose, we have imported horses and asses of excellent stock from Arabia. These would not be for sale but shall be given over free of charge to those of you who can guarantee special attention to such breeding.

These are only a few instances of our desire to diversify the economic activity of the kingdom. Many more such steps can be thought of and I am hopeful that during your deliberations you will devise concrete and constructive measures in this regard. You can be assured of fullest cooperation from the Government in your quest for tapping new sources of wealth, quality-control and improved methods of production. In your prosperity is the prosperity of the nation and a swifter realisation of our goal that every citizen of this Kingdom must be usefully and gainfully employed....”

Extract from Tipu Sultan’s address at the special audience of the representatives from Trade, Commerce and Industry 1788


Tipu Sultan died while fighting in his capital on May 4, 1799. With Tipu’s death, the Kingdom of Mysore lay at the feet of the British. Tipu had been defending the southern walls all afternoon until some soldiers from the 12th Regiment, a Suffolk unit, discovered a way of crossing to the inner wall and the defence collapsed. Tipu, twice wounded already and conspicuous with the jewels that decorated his clothing, retreated to the space between the walls. No one knows for sure what happened next.

The Last Effort and Fall of Tipoo Sultan after Henry Singleton

The most popular story is that he was pursued by the redcoats as he tried to escape via the Watergate, a tunnel through the city’s inner wall. However, the Watergate’s far door was locked and Tipu’s bodyguards were overcome at the outer entrance. One of the British soldiers or possibly several of them entered the tunnel and killed Tipu, stripping him of his jewels.

It is thought that the British soldier did not identify himself because by admitting his feat, he would also have revealed his possession of the jewels, which the prize agents of the East India Company would have confiscated.

On the other hand, it is equally plausible that the admission of such a feat as killing Tipu would have brought accolades to the soldier if not some material compensation. It is therefore alleged that the story was simply British war propaganda.

It has also been suggested that Tipu’s real killer was a soldier in the regiment of Mir Sadiq who had deliberately arranged for Tipu’s escape route to be shut off. The soldier would not have identified himself because of the retaliation he was sure to receive from Tipu Sultan’s people.

Banyan tree close to the Watergate where Tipu died

The fighting went on and some of Tipu’s servants found their ruler mortally wounded and managed to place him on a palanquin. They tried to smuggle him out of the city, but the palanquin was overrun by sepoys, who killed the carriers, tipped the vehicle over and never saw Tipu inside. His body was discovered that evening, and it was then that Sir David Baird was shown his enemy’s corpse, making the subject of a well known painting by David Wilkie with Baird triumphantly standing over Tipu’s body.

"Sir David Baird Discovering the Body of Tippoo Sultan," by Sir David Wilkie. Steel engraving by John Burnet, 1843

Lord Harris, the British Commander-in-Chief, to his credit, ordered that no expense should be spared on Tipu’s funeral. Tipu’s body was displayed in the palace overnight and his state palanquin then formed the bier. Tipu’s subjects prostrated themselves along the route to the Lal Bagh garden. His son Abdul Khaliq, was chief mourner. At the mausoleum, the escort of 4 companies of European grenadiers presented arms and the body, covered in muslins and rich brocade, was placed in a tomb beside his father’s.

The funeral ended dramatically in a sudden, violent thunderstorm and two lieutenants, Barclay and Grant were struck dead. The elements had paid their last tribute to the Tiger of Mysore.


Tiger symbols

Tipu Sultan’s love of the tiger bordered on an obsession. He made the tiger his personal symbol and on his accession to the throne in 1782 the official emblem of the state of Mysore. Throughout India and the rest of the world, he was known as 'The Tiger of Mysore'.

The origin of Tipu’s tiger love affair is conjectured in the tale of his escape from Srirangapatna when he was a child. The story tells of how Ruqayya Banu, who later became Tipu’s wife, affectionately called him Tiger because of the mask he had worn during the escape.

The tomb of Tipu Sultan and his parents. Note stylised tiger-stripe babri decoration on wall.

His use of the tiger as an emblem took several forms, both naturalistic and decorative. The most common decoration he used was the stylised tiger stripe in a repeatable pattern commonly referred to as babri from babr meaning tiger. Another motif was a calligraphic design depicting the tiger’s head.

The stripes appeared on his own clothing and that of soldiers, the upholstery of his throne, the cushions of his chamber, as well as on quilted hangings, carpets and walls, including the interior walls of his tomb.

They were stamped on the bindings of his books and served as the watermark on his paper. Other tiger motifs also appeared on his weapons, banners and coins; for example, the calligraphic ciphers in the shape of a tiger’s face which were found incised, inlaid or cast on guns and swords.

Naturalistic tiger forms appeared on swords, gun barrels, bayonets and cannon - as pommels and hilts, wooden carvings or tiger muzzles. Tipu’s golden throne was surmounted by eight tiger heads and the whole was set as though the back of a tiger with a huge gold head with a dropped jaw revealing a gold tongue and crystal teeth.

The occurrence of tiger imagery on Tipu’s Sultan’s personal armour, swords and firearms was particularly significant. Inlaid with the tiger cipher in gold and accompanied by inscriptions of the Koranic verses in gold calligraphy, they are seen as representing his existential self and are highly prized artefacts.

The face of a tiger on a gun barrel composed of Arabic calligraphy – see below for explanation

Live Tigers

Live tigers guarded the entrance to Tipu’s palace, the Lal Mahal in Srirangapatna, attached to the wall by chains. Inside the palace there were more tigers, some in cages, and some on chains. They guarded the narrow passage to Tipu’s bed-chamber.

The British discovered them starving after the capture of Srirangapatna. With no-one to attend to them they were becoming restless and as soon as their moorings became loose Wellesley instructed that they should be shot.

A French visitor in the time of Haidar recounts that they were very tame. They were regularly paraded in front of the royal balcony, under the supervision of their keepers. Haidar would personally give them a ball of sweetmeat, which they were able to take very adroitly with their paws. They could also face large public crowds without getting panicked.

Tipu and Haidar also had a hunting establishment of cheetahs, sometimes referred to as ‘tigers of chase’. It is know that Wellesley kept up this establishment for his own enjoyment of hunting.

Tippoo’s Tiger

Tipu's Tiger or Tippoo's Tyger is an 18th century mechanical toy created for Tipu Sultan, the ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore in India. It is also referred to as a ‘tyger organ’. The carved and painted wood casing represents a tiger devouring a prostrate British soldier or European man in a red jacket. Mechanisms inside the tiger and man's bodies make one hand of the man move; emit a wailing sound from his mouth and roars from the tiger. In addition a flap on the side of the tiger folds down to reveal the keyboard of a small pipe organ with 18 notes.

Tipu's tiger at the V & A (South Kensington) carved and lacquered wooden semi-automaton in the shape of a tiger mauling a man, Mysore, India, about 1793.

The tiger was created for Tipu and makes use of his personal emblem of the tiger and expresses his hatred of his enemy, the British of the East India Company. The tiger was discovered in his summer palace after East India Company troops stormed Tipu's capital in 1799.

The Governor General, Lord Mornington sent the Tiger to Britain initially intending it to be an exhibit in the Tower of London. It was first exhibited to the London public in 1808 in East India House, then the offices of the East India Company in London, where it is said to have been constantly played and disturbed scholars in the adjoining Library. These latter included the poet John Keats, who alluded to a ‘Man-Tiger-Organ’ in his unfinished poem ‘The Cap And Bells; Or, The Jealousies: A Faery Tale’.

No one is certain as to whom the victim depicted is. One candidate is Colonel Baillie whose defeat at the Battle of Pollilur in 1780 had such a lasting significance for Tipu.

The other possibility is that it shows the death in 1792 of Hugh Munro, only son of General Sir Hector Munro, who had commanded a division during Sir Eyre Coote's victory in 1781 against Haidar Ali, Tipu Sultan's father.

Hugh Munro son was mauled to death by a large tiger during a hunting expedition which took place on Saugar Island in the Hooghly River in December 1792. It was a widely publicised incident.

Mildred Archer in her celebrated book ‘Tippoo’s Tiger’ thinks that the resemblance is no coincidence as Sir Hector Munro was widely blamed for his failure to support Baillie at Pollilur. She believes that when Tipu heard this news he commissioned the musical toy, sometime after the Third Mysore War, as a celebratory trophy harking back to the victorious days of 1780.

The Tiger can now be seen in the Indian section of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. From the moment it arrived in London to the present day, Tipu's Tiger has been a popular attraction to the public.

The Staffordshire earthenware figure, ‘The Death of Munrow’ shows a close resemblance to Tipu’s Tiger and has spawned thousands of pottery reproductions.

Why the tiger?

The tiger, being a ferocious beast, is an obvious choice of emblem in order to strike terror into the minds of enemies and subjects alike.

Tigers are also prevalent in South India and are associated with royalty; i.e., the ‘Royal Tiger’ as in other parts of India, notably Bengal and Rajasthan.

Tiger near Kabini river in Nagarhole National Park, Karnataka. Photo taken by Yathin S Krishnappa

Tipu adopted the tiger as his emblem because he needed an emblem that was suitable for royalty and also accessible to both his Islamic and Hindu subjects.

On the one hand the tiger linked Tipu with the hero of Islam, the Ghazi, a warrior saint who was portrayed mounted on a lion or tiger and who was often featured in the Muslim festival Muharram.

On the other hand there were strong associations with Hindu culture and his locality. The Shaivite Cholas, an ancient ruling dynasty in Mysore responsible for building many of the exquisite Hindu temples that can be seen today used the tiger as their emblem, for example in the entrances to their temples. Both the Shaivite Cholas and Hoysalas, ancient ruling dynasties of Mysore, built many Hindu temples incorporating the naturalistic tiger form, for example in the entrances to their temples

Durga slaying the demon buffalo, Mahisasura.
A miniature painting of the Pahari style, dating to the eighteenth century

The tiger generally features strongly in the Shaivite tradition in which the warrior goddesses are associated with female power or Shakti. The tiger or lion is the vahana (mount or vehicle) of Durga-Kali, gifted to the goddess by Himavat (the Himalayan mountains). Chamundeshwari, the goddess of power, is a local goddess form of Durga who is frequently depicted riding a tiger.

Chamundeshwari was the tutelary deity of the Wodeyars (the ruling Hindu dynasty that preceded Haidar and Tipu and who were later restored to the throne) and the presiding local deity of Mysore.

According to mythology, the goddess destroyed a cruel asura (demon), Mahishasura, who had been oppressing the people of Mysore for a long period. Therefore, Tipu’s adoption of the tiger emblem could have been a symbolic projection of his determination to destroy the ‘white demons from across the seas’.

The tiger featured in Tipu Sultan’s personal seal or tughra, made up of the name ‘Tipu Sultan’ and also a tiger mask made up of the words Bismillah ,used as decoration on his arms and banners, which is used in the design of this website. This phrase is part of an invocatory verse in the Koran. The full verse is Bismillah-ir-Rahman-nir-Rahim (In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful) and the name of the Prophet Mohammed. The tiger mask is written in the khattmukabil or khatt ma-kus style of calligraphy meaning a line inverted or reverted. The creator of this style of calligraphy during the twelfth to thirteenth century was the famous Hazrat Majnu Harathi of Persia.

There is some linguistic confusion in Hindi and Persian between the lion and the tiger, the words (sher) sometimes being used for both. However, Tipu’s choice was clearly the tiger; there are no visual representations of lions.

British historians at the time believed the answer lay both in Tipu’s reverence for ‘Ali, one of whose epithets is asad allah ul-ghalib ‘the victorious lion of God’, and in the coincidence of Haidar, the name of his father, also meaning ‘lion’, as well as being a title of ‘Ali’.

Tigermask calligraphy derived from Tipu’s banner