This is Tipu Sultan’s real story.
During its expansion on the Indian Subcontinent, East India Company faced many obstacles. But none was greater and fiercer than the tiger of Mysore, Tipu Sultan. Tipu Sultan was East India’s biggest headache. He fought the British in their style. Tipu had a well-trained army, which was supported by a healthy economy. He also bettered the navy to fight the British at sea as well. Lastly, he brought innovation into war. Tipu was the pioneer of rockets being used as weapons.
Tipu’s father Hyder Ali was the highest-ranked military officer of the Mysore kingdom. He became the defacto ruler after the death of the king. Being illiterate, Hyder wanted nothing but the best education for his son. Tipu Sultan was placed under a French nobleman working in Mysore royal court to train in the western language. With French and English in full grasp, Tipu also learned both war and peacetime strategies used by European forces. Once he entered his teen, he started training for the actual battle. By the age of 15, he knew archery, shooting, fencing, and horse riding.
Soon he had created an aura of confidence around him. As a result, he became part of the first Anglo-Mysore war just at the age of 15. The first two Anglo-Mysore war was led by his father, with Tipu being his second in command. After the second Anglo-Mysore War, a treaty between the East India Company and the Mysore Kingdom was signed. A period of peace was achieved by the treaty. Tipu lost his father to cancer during this.
Tipu Sultan sat on the throne at the age of 29. He could sense the upcoming threats to his kingdoms. Both the East India Company and the Marathas were looking to expand their empire. The wealth of the Mysore Kingdom would attract them for sure.
Your enemy’s enemy is your friend. Tipu understood this and befriended the French. Tipu gave way to the French to bring their army to the ports of Mysore. And in return asked French military officers to train his soldiers in modern warfare. Soon Tipu had an advanced army with soldiers capable of firing rifles.
Tipu finished his preparations just in time as the Third Anglo-Mysore war broke out. Thanks to his advanced army, Tipu was able to defend well. The British agreed to settle for an agreement. Tipu had to give away some of his lands, but peace was achieved once again.
And once again, Tipu started preparing for the next battle. This time he focused on strengthening other areas of his kingdoms too. To prepare for fighting on multiple fronts he connected his important cities with wider roads. He invested a lot to renew and expand his navy. Naval power was the strength of East India and the Maratha empire.
Being isolated and cornered geographically, he wrote to many neighbouring kingdoms for an alliance against the British. His messengers travelled to modern-day Turkey, Saudi, Punjab, and many more places seeking an alliance. The most popular change he invented was the use of rockets as weapons. The art of rocketry had come from China and was used during celebrations as fireworks. Tipu increased the size of the rockets and placed sharp metal cones on top. And the world’s first missile was made.
As expected, the first Maratha war between Marathas and Mysore broke out. And once again Tipu was able to defend his kingdom. The East India company saw an opportunity in this and allied with the Maratha. In the fourth Anglo-Mysore war, Tipu Sultan faced both East India and Maratha together. Tipu did have an alliance with the French but they were very few of them.
Finally, Tipu Sultan was surrounded by the enemy forces defending the Hoally Gateway. His generals suggested he escape via a secret passage. But when has a tiger ever backed off from a fight? Tipu continued to fight and was found dead after the British captured the city. The General leading the British claimed, “now India is ours”.
Indian soil has seen many great rulers in its history. But Tipu Sultan stands out in his way. Tipu kept developing his kingdom while also battling enemies every other year. A rare individual, who managed to give his people better lives amidst adversaries.