A Tiger Is Born:
On November 20, 1750, military officer Hyder Ali of the Kingdom of Mysore and his wife, Fatima Fakhr-un-Nisa, welcomed a new baby boy in Bangalore, their first. They named him Fath Ali, but also called him Tipu Sultan after a local Muslim saint, Tipu Mastan Aulia. Hyder Ali was an able soldier, and won such a complete victory against an invading force of Marathas in 1758 that Mysore was able to absorb the Marathan homelands. As a result, Hyder Ali became the commander-in-chief of Mysore's army, later the Sultan, and by 1761 the outright ruler of the kingdom. Early Life:
While his father rose to fame and prominence, young Tipu Sultan was receiving an education from the finest tutors available. He studied such subjects as riding, swordsmanship, shooting, Koranic studies, Islamic jurisprudence, and languages such as Urdu, Persian, and Arabic. Tipu Sultan also studied military strategy and tactics under French officers from an early age, since his father was allied with the French in southern India. In 1766, when Tipu Sultan was just 15 years old, he got the chance to apply his military training in battle for the first time, when he accompanied his father on an invasion of Malabar. The youngster took charge of a force of two to three thousand, and cleverly managed to capture the Malabar chief's family, which had taken refuge in a fort under heavy guard. Fearful for his family, the chief surrendered, and other local leaders soon followed his example. Hyder Ali was so proud of his son that he gave him command of 500 cavalry, and assigned him rule of five districts within Mysore. It was the start of an illustrious military career for the young man. First Anglo-Mysore War:
During the mid-eighteenth century, the British East India Company sought to expand its control of southern India by playing local kingdoms and principalities off one another, and off of the French. In 1767, the British formed a coalition with the Nizam and the Marathas, and together they attacked Mysore. Hyder Ali managed to make a separate peace with the Marathas, and then in June sent his 17-year-old son Tipu Sultan to negotiate with the Nizam. The young diplomat arrived in the Nizam camp with gifts including cash, jewels, ten horses, and five trained elephants. In just one week, Tipu charmed the ruler of the Nizam into switching sides, and joining the Mysorean fight against the British. Tipu Sultan then led a cavalry raid on Madras (now Chennai) itself, but his father suffered a defeat by the British at Tiruvannamalai and had to call his son back. Hyder Ali decided to take the unusual step of continuing to fight during the monsoon rains, and together with Tipu captured two British forts. The Mysorean army was besieging a third fort when British reinforcements arrived; Tipu and his cavalry held off the British long enough to allow Hyder Ali's troops to retreat in good order. Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan then went on a tear up the coast, capturing forts and British-held cities. The Mysoreans were threatening to dislodge the British from their key east coast port of Madras when the British sued for peace in March of 1769. After this humiliating defeat, the British had to sign a 1769 peace agreement with Hyder Ali called the Treaty of Madras. Both sides agreed to return to their pre-war boundaries, and to come to each others' aid in case of attack by any other power. Under the circumstances, the British East India Company got off easy, but still it would not honor the treaty terms. Interwar Period:
In 1771, the Marathas attacked Mysore with an army perhaps as large as 30,000 men. Hyder Ali called upon the British to honor their duty of aid under the Treaty of Madras, but the British East India Company refused to send any troops to assist him. Tipu Sultan played a key role as Mysore fought off the Marathas, but the young commander and his father never trusted the British again. Later that decade, Britain and France came to blows over the 1776...
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