The organization of the Mysorean infantry and the Jouq

This is further to a small note on a similar topic that I wrote some time ago. In the year 1783, around the time when the Mysoreans were besieging Bednore and Mangalore Tipu made his first attempt at the reorganization of the army. This was evidently done on a set European pattern with inputs from the French who were already allied with the Mysorean army in a large way by then.

The infantry was organised into various brigades called Cushoons each under a Sipahdar correponding to a Brigadier-General in European service.

  1. The Sipahdar had a Bakshi and two Mutsaddis to assist him in the accounts and civil administration of the brigade in addition to himself being in charge of it’s military affairs.
  2. To help him on the reporting side there was a Brigade-Major termed here as Sar-yusaqchi.
  3. Each Kushun had 4 Risalas or Regiments of Infantry which was placed under the charge of a Risaldar equivalent to a Colonel.
  4. The Risala in turn was divided into 4 Jouqs each under a Jouqdar, corresponding to a Captain in charge of a Company.
  5. Next in rank were the sarkheils (adjutant), jamadars (assistant quartermaster), dafadars (sergeant) and the yusakchi.

The duty of the sipahdar was to look after the conduct of the officers and men belonging to his Cushoon. He could promote the Juqdars and other junior officers to higher ranks as well as punish them by court martial. In case a risaldar deserved punishment or reward, his case was to be reported to the Sultan himself. The sipahdar, with the bakshi and mutsaddis were required to take the muster-roll of the troops once every month and inspect their weapons. Then he was supposed to submit a report jointly with the bakshi. He was supposed to see that his cushoon was well supplied with arms and ammunition, guns kept clean and that parade was held regularly. If he faced any difficulty, he was to consult his risaldars and take their opinions in writing. If their views differed from his own, the decision was to be taken by mutual agreement.

The bakshi was to prepare a salary statement for his cushoon’s troops at the end of each month and after obtaining the money from the government, to distribute it on the first of every month in the presence of the sipahdar.

The risaldar was to hold the parade of his troops every day of the week except on thursdays which was the weekly holiday.

The sar-yusaqchi was to visit his risala everyday in order to find out the condition of the army and submit a report to the sipahdar, Jaish kacheri of the huzur and finally to the Sultan in that order.

The yusaqchi was to wander about the risala finding the condition of soldiers and equipment and then report to the risaldar and sipahdar. He also acted as a courier carrying orders from the commander to their subordinates during wartime. Always present at parade to see if it was done regularly and properly, he was eligible to be promoted to the post of Jouqdar if he merited the advancement and was also liable to be demoted to the post of sarkheil if he committed an impropriety.

So this list above gives us an idea of the ranks and corresponding responsibilities of the upper layers of the Mysorean infantry organisation. But what of the organization at the lowest level?  A copy of the Mysorean military manual, the Fath-ul Mujahideen in the British Library collection gives us a glimpse into the constitution of the Jouq – the smallest effective fighting unit in the Mysorean army, equivalent to a company in any army today.

The Jouq is Arabic for ‘Group of people’ and is pronounced the way you would pronounce ‘joke’.  A Jouq was made of 121 men who were constituted as ranks of the following :

RANK                                                                         No. OF MEN

Jouqdar                                                                       – 1

Sarkheil                                                                       – 2

Jamadar                                                                      – 8

Duffadar                                                                      – 7

Standard bearer                                                         – 1

Drummer                                                                    – 2

Pukhaly                                                                        – 1

Camp Colourman                                                       – 7

Washerman                                                                 –  1

Barber                                                                           –  1

Sipahis                                                                          –   90

—————                                                         ——————–

Grand Total                                                                 – 121   Men

The Jouqdar commanded a Jouq consisting of more than a 100 men. His duties were as follows :

  1. He was to take a survey of his company once in every fifteen days.
  2. When on guard, he was to take care that his men were constantly at their post, with the exception of two hours in the twenty-four, during which they were allowed to attend to their own concerns.
  3. He was to report to his Risaldar the conduct of the officers under him ; to point out those who were deserving of punishment or removal, and to recommend such as merited advancement,
  4. He was to appoint a Jumadar who was to have the immediate superintendance of the arms and accoutrements of the company, which he was carefully to inspect and to keep in proper condition.
  5. Whatever part of his company might be on guard, or on other duty, he was to visit the same once in twenty-four hours, and to see that the sentinels and others were alert and vigilant.
  6. In case of being guilty of any neglect of duty, his sword was to be taken from him, and lodged in the guard, till such time as the charge against him should be duly enquired into : nor was the same to be restored to him without the orders of the Sarkar.

The Sarkheil was responsible to see that the guards on duty during the day and the night did their duties properly.

The Jamadar was a senior sipahi who would reach that position after about 10 years and would look after the inventory of the company.

The Duffadar was incharge of posting sentries on guard as well as acquainting himself with vantage position in the camp to be guarded as well points of entry and exit.

The standard bearer carried the colors or the flags of the company he belonged to.

The drummer was the one responsible for keeping time with the drum while at march.

The Pukhaly was the man who would fill his container (Pukhal) with water for distribution in the Jouq.

The camp colourmen were the soldiers who assisted in laying out the lines of encampment, placing the colors for their company so they could locate the area assigned to them. Camp colour-men also had the responsibility of carrying the company colors to the exercise field and ensuring they were placed in the proper position to guide their company in forming up during marching and maneuvers.

The barber would not only give the men haircuts and shaves but would also ensure the men were fighting fit by use of massages and other therapeutic cures.

The Sipahis also called yuzukchies in the manual were the rank and file of the army and carried firelocks and exercised every day with them.

This reorganisation of an Indian army to a European model was unprecedented for that time and contributed in no small measure to the success of Mysorean armies across South India. A question that comes to our mind now is if this model was copied by Tipu’s contemporaries also? We will be disappointed here.

In the second half of the eighteenth century, the responses of  Indian rulers to the European regimental system ranged all the way from full adoption to complete rejection. While Tipu Sultan’s forces had uniforms, an officer corps, insignia, training manuals and an order of battle comparable to any European army of the day,  he had also suppressed the Palegars or feudal Lords and initiated direct recruitment of soldiers to a permanently standing army dispensing the old system of Palegars sending their fightingmen to the king when called upon to.

No other Indian ruler of  the late eighteenth century went that far. For example, Mahadji Shinde’s infantry battalions  approximately 8,000 men under the Frenchman, De Boigne were mixed with 20,000 cavalry raised by the older feudal levy system. Some rulers, such as Hyderabad and Oudh, simply hired European units and kept them separate from the rest of the army. Others, such as the Peshwa, failed at hiring European units and employed Muslims trained in the new system. Still other rulers, such as Mulhar Rao Holkar in the 1760s, developed only artillery and did not hire Europeans or attempt to raise European-style infantry. Many rulers, such as the Bhonsles of Nagpur, chose completely to ignore the new system and continued to recruit cavalry on the older system throughout the eighteenth century.

The Mysorean infantry did not fight in isolation. Each cushoon had a jouq of rocketmen, 2 jouqs of matchlockmen, 2 jouqs of khalasies (lascars), drivers, etc very similar to todays infantry regiments being supported by batteries of artillery as well as air support. After sometime Tipu reorganized his army and as a result, the bakshi, who was earlier merely a paymaster now became the most important officer in the army even supervising the sipahdar himself. This demonstrated the primacy Tipu gave to financial prudence by ensuring no leakage or misappropriation of resources by military commanders at the cost of the fighting sepoy that was so common in contemporary Indian armies and at times European armies also then. No wonder a sipahi in Tipu’s service earned a monthly pay of about 10 Silver rupees each month while the Maratha pay scale for an infantryman was only Rs. 7  and the East India Company scale was Rs. 9. This required a long-term Mysorean commitment  to a substantial regular flow of cash requiring a tax-collecting and
credit structure beyond the means and in most cases imagination of other Indian powers.

But then, in the end it was this effort on Tipu Sultan’s part of matching the Europeans arm for arm, tactic for tactic that made him their inveterate enemy. As Stewart Gordon writes in his thesis on the adoption of  European style military forces by 18C Indian rulers – “If we track the survival of states as princely states into the nineteenth century, some of the militarily adaptive states like Shinde survived, some like Tipu did not. Likewise, hundreds of the smaller states based on cavalry and familial entrepreneurship survived as princely states in the nineteenth century. If anything, many more of the states based on watan (feudal levies) and cavalry survived because they threatened British colonial power far less than larger states with infantry forces, such as Ranjit Singh’s Punjab or Tipu’s Mysore.”


1. Fath-ul Mujahideen, British Library Collection; London

2. History of Tipu Sultan, Mohibbul Hasan

3. Tipu Sultan’s Mysore, An economic study: M H Gopal

4. The Anglo-Maratha Campaigns and the contest for India, Randolf G.S. Cooper

5. The limited adoption of European-style military forces by eighteenth century
rulers in India, Stewart Gordon

Posted in Anecdotes in Kannada history, Tipu Sultan & his times | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Tigers’ revenge – The chase, capture and punishment of General Mathews for the Anandapuram atrocity

“four hundred beautiful women, all bleeding with wounds from the bayonet, and either dead or expiring in each others’ arms, while the common soldiers, casting off all obedience to their officers were stripping them of their jewels and committing every outrage on their bodies. Many of the women, rather than be torn from their relatives, threw themselves into a large tank and were drowned.”

–Burke’s Annual Register for 1783

This was an extract from a letter sent to his father by a young British army ensign, John Charles Sheen who was a witness and participant at the British siege and sack of Anandapuram on Valentines Day February 14, 1783.

But first, let us see why this village nestled among the lush green forests of Malnad was the location of an incident that would mark Tipu’s name forever in the eyes of the British as a Tyrant and Savage and ultimately bring about his end, but in the eyes of his subjects win him great respect and admiration.

Haidar Ali departed from this world in December 1782 directing his men against the British at his camp near Chittoor in North Arcot. He departed while at war in the same way as he entered the annals of Mysore history while at war. Around this time, Lt. Gen. Sir Eyre Coote, one among England’s brightest strategist of that time and participant of several campaigns across Ireland, Europe and Bengal  was withdrawn from the Carnatic where he had to his credit worsted Haidar in battle, to Bengal. And in his place came the much less distinguished Major-General Jame Stuart, who petulantly claimed the same powers as his predecessor. The fleeting moment of Haidar’s death showed him at his worst. The Governor and Council thought the army should take the field at once. The events which now followed in South India are basic to the whole story of Tipu and the English. They raise all the questions of comparative good faith, of apparent and genuine political aims, and of civilized conduct or otherwise on both sides which were to cloud that story until it’s tragic end.  Even as Tipu had been hurriedly marching after fighting in the Carnatic to his dead father’s camp, the Bombay  council had ordered their Commander-in-Chief, Brigadier General Mathews, to help with a diversionary movement by making a push to Bednur. This, the council thought would lure the Mysore army out of the Carnatic where the British were in a precarious situation. Added to this the council also thought that Bednur was rich and fertile and would be a prize to have.

This large and prosperous province of Bednur had originally been occupied by haidar in 1763; he had renamed it as Haidarnagar or simply ‘Nagara”, tried to build up it’s industries and also spent as much time there as possible. A large treasure was usually kept at Bednur and this would have been known to the English. The Governor of Bednur was a certain Shaik Ayaz, Haidar’s pet and quite an able governor. As Mathew’s army approached Bednur, Ayaz who was fearful that Tipu would have him murdered thinking of him a rival to the Mysore throne sent a messenger to Mathew’s camp asking for an armistice and promptly surrendered to the British on January 29, 1783. The gates of Bednur were opened and the English army marched in. After Bednur fell, most of the fortresses in the neighbourhood also surrendered after Ayaz wrote to the Killedars to capitulate to the English.

The French historian Joseph Michaud (1767 – 1839) a contemporary of those times writes of the whole incident as it happened hearing of it from his French countrymen in the service of Mysore – ” General Mathews who commanded the English armies advanced against the dominions of Hyder Ali, promising to the Mysoreans a government mild and peaceful, if they could shake off the yoke of Tippoo Saheb;…..The English made no mention about the family of the dethroned Raja (the Wodeyars), and the Mysoreans had no reason to prefer to their present one the government  which the English wished to give them.”

It was obvious that the British did not anticipate that the people of Mysore would accept Tipu Sultan’s accession as the Sarvadhikari of Mysore after Haidar’s death and they assumed that there would be widespread rebellion against Tipu and civil strife within that realm. None of that happened and life in Mysore continued as it had all along with both the Mysore civil and military officers pleading allegiance to Tipu as they had done to the earlier Sarvadhikaris – Haidar Ali and Nanjaraj before him.

One among the forts that held out was the fort of Anandapuram. This fort which had been around since the time of the Gangas had been strengthened by the Nayaka rulers and held on by Haidar who had wrested it for Mysore from the Keladi kings and his son Tipu as the town lay at a strategic position with the hills of Malnad and the pass to Mangalore on one side and the Konkan coast on the other side. Somashekara Nayaka in the mid 17th Century enlarged the town and is believed to have given it the name “Ananda-puram” or ‘abode of happiness” seeing it’s numerous temples, tanks and the forests abounding  in food and game all around.

Michaud goes on to write of this incident – ” After forcing the barriers which nature had raised between the coast of Bombay and the realm of Canara, the English devastated this fair land, and thousands of Hindus, unarmed and surprised, fell under the attacks of the enemy who had inscribed ‘Peace’ on his banners….The town was taken by assault and  the garrison was put to the sword. The inhabitants were given over to all the fury of an army, in disciplined and greedy of plunder. The weak and timid sex was not respected, and one saw in the midst of the disorder, four hundred of the most beautiful women of India vainly bargaining to redeem their lives and their honor at the cost of all their riches….” Contemporary accounts speak of the indiscriminate slaughter of the menfolk in the village and the women being led to a temple tank in the vicinity of the Agrahara, stripped of all their clothes and jewellery and then violated.

This incident is either denied to have happened, passed over or just left unmentioned in  the well-known histories of Tipu Sultan written by the British actors and commentators of that war. The French however make mention of it vividly. Now, let us move on the Tipu’s reaction on hearing of this atrocity. In the meantime after securing Haidar’s seat for himself, he had rode back with his men to fight the British in the Carnatic and it is here while waiting for a French embassy who desired to meet him that the news of the incidents at Anandapuram got his ears. Tipu is enraged and immediately orders that the army move to Bednur. Another French eyewitness to this encounter remonstrances with Tipu requesting him to wait the Frenchmen who have traveled all the way from France with a message from the Court there. Tipu replies to him (translated from the Hindustani to French) – “MON PAYS MON PEUPLE” – “My Land My People” signifying that rushing to the defense of his subjects was of more importance than waiting for a message from the French court.

By forced marches and riding without rest the Mysorean army entered the Bednur province and started to give battle to the British who had by now occupied all the fortifications and important towns there. Tipu had gathered the scattered Mysoreans around Bednur, reviving everywhere hatred against the British and ” giving the terrible signal of revenge, he advanced like a storm which swells in it’s passage with all the sulphurous matter which it encountered on the horizon.” Fighting several pitched battles, the Mysoreans routed the British town after town. Finally, on April 17th, 1783  the Sun and Tiger stripe flag of Mysore fluttered at the gates of Bednur (Nagara) city. Michaud writes – “This city which they had once devastated became their sole asylum, and they found themselves all of a sudden shut up with the people they had plundered and amidst scenes still reeking in blood as a result of their own passionate greed.”

After ten days of a relentless siege, the English were reduced to a pitiable state. They decided to capitulate and terms were drawn. The terms were that they should lay down their arms on the ramparts and that the diamonds, the precious stones and the silver – contents of the Mysore treasury which General Mathews had seized on entering Nagara along with the money looted from the inhabitants of Anandapuram and the jewellery of the violated womenfolk should be restored. Tipu played to a very clever plan here; he had no intention of letting Gen. Mathews and the British leave unpunished yet did not want the siege to be responsible for the destruction of the beautiful town and the loss of the treasure that the English had looted; he also wanted to be seen honoring agreements he was part of. He was already aware that at the last moment, Mathews, who was supposed to hand over all state property intact, had allowed officers and men to draw upon his closely guarded hoard.

An inventory of the treasury was done and it was impossible for the British to execute punctually the second condition of the treaty. Tipu caused the officers to be searched, and ‘that in no very delicate manner’ and  quantities of money and jewellery were found, not only in the prisoners’ clothes and the more intimate parts of their persons, but even hidden in loaves of bread and cheeks of goats!

As Tipu knew very well would happen, this was sufficient pretext for him to break the articles of capitulation and Tipu got the opportunity he was looking at, Revenge! The garrison from the lowest ensign to General Mathews was immediately put in chains and driven to the dungeons. An English confidante of Gen. Mathews who had been entrusted the most precious of jewellery and was making a run to Madras was intercepted on the way, arrested and brought to Tipu’s presence. He was divested of all the jewellery, an inventory taken of them and on Tipu’s orders was executed that very day. The turn of the British officers came next. Over the next few days, twenty of them were one after the other executed. The executions were carried out by administering poison to them causing a lingering and painful death. Then came the turn of General Mathews.  His food rations were slowly cut down and he after a while refused to eat anything but a little rice each day, obviously for fear of poison in his food. The account goes that he was finally  taken to Tipu’s presence in chains and offered a cup of coffee laced with poison. He refused to drink it and Tipu ordered that he be beaten to death with the butts of the firearms of his guards. The order was promptly carried out. Captain Richardson who was the last to be executed fell on his knees and implored his executioners to ask for the confirmation of his sentence; but they gave no heed to his entreaties. He perished with his companions. The dead bodies were not given burials but thrown out of the fort into the dense jungle where they were devoured by wild beasts.

The other prisoners were then shipped off to the dungeons of Seringapatam and other remote ‘droogs’ or forts, so remote as Chitradurga that chances of survival there was remote. Accounts of the travel of these hapless men to the dungeons of the Sarkar is also mentioned in later narratives written by other British prisoners like Scurry. He mentions the English men being taunted and spat upon by the locals as they passed from village to village.  Each prisoners’ leg was put in irons and the chains attached to another prisoner so that they would have to walk in pairs. An account survives of a prisoner called Campbell who was arrested after being shipwrecked on the coast. He was chained to a fellow who perished during the long walk and whose corpse remained attached to him up to it’s total dissolution !

Thus ended the firestorm of hate, murder, anger and revenge that started in the village of Anandapuram and would forever change the how the British viewed Tipu Sultan. The British who since their victory at Plassey had always been seen by the Indians as privileged who got away with rapine and plunder. But this was the first time in the history of the British East India company where their men were made to pay for their crimes.This was the first and the last time when a British Armyman as senior in rank as a Brigadier-General was punished for a crime he carried out in India. This happened just a year after Tipus accession as Mysore’s Sarvadhikari or Nawab and would shock the British who till then had thought of Tipu as being amenable to ‘British’ reason unlike his father.

How were these events looked upon by the people of Bednur? Clues to this lie in the accounts left by travellers many years after Tipu’s death. Their ancient rulers, the Nayakas of Keladi having been overthrown by Haidar Ali in the recent past and their homes being turned into a veritable battleground between Mysore and the British confederacy with the ever predatory Marathas, they still retained a pleasant memory of those times.

In 1801, Dr. Francis Buchanan was assigned to inspect and report upon all the territories  acquired by the East India company in the wars with Tipu Sultan. On reaching Sagar,  a principal town very near Anandapuram he met the Amildar of that place. The Amildar was the government servant responsible for the collection of revenue and law and order in that area. Having also served under Tipu and now serving the young Mysore King Krishnaraja Wodeyar III, mentioned on being asked about how life was under Tipu – ” Tippoo’s government , when compared with that of the Marattahs, was excellent; and notwithstanding all the evils the people suffered from the extortions of the Asophs, and the attacks of invading armies, they enjoyed a comparatively great security.”

In early 1831, 24 farmers of Nagar, obviously rich peasants and all Hindu landlords , sent a letter to the Governor General where they wrote of the mismanagement and overzealous taxation policies of the Wodeyar King – “While we were under the dominion of the family of Caladi Sivappa Naik, who governed this country for many years, and also in the days of Nawab Bahadur Tippu, we were in a state of happiness. When the Company took possession of this country, instead of giving it up to the family of the Rajah of Nuggur who had formerly held dominion over it, joined it to the possessions of the Rajah of Mysore, and without making the least enquiry into the state of our country has appointed a Foujdar to govern us…” So once again, here the populace was angry that after Tipu the province was handed over to the Wodeyars instead of back to the early Keladi rulers. They also mentioned in writing of their ‘state of happiness’ under the Khodadad Sarkar of Tipu Sultan. The great regard for Haidar and Tipu that the Havyaka Brahmin Maths of Ramchandrapura and Swarnavalli of the erstwhile Nagara province still have are also testament to the benevolent times of the Sultan.

An unfortunate outcome of the events and retribution for Anandapuram was that from then on-wards started the British attempts at demonizing Tipu Sultan in the eyes of both the British shareholders of the East Indian company, the English court and among Mysore’s neighbors. Though the atrocities at Anandapuram were carried in some parts of the English press in England, they were labelled as false and propaganda. They were brushed under the carpet and no punishment was meted out to those who came back to England. The British had in the meantime  realized that here, they were confronted  with someone very unlike his contemporary Indian potentates who were comfortable with giving the English primacy in the revenue and military affairs of their state as long as they did not interfere in their debauchery and mismanagement of their states. Tipu placed the security and well being of his subjects over all other opinions. He was well aware that the British would not forgive him for what he had done but the ‘appreciation of England’ was the last in his mind. And this cycle of revenge would finally end on the evening of May 4, 1799 when the lifeless body of the Sultan was discovered after being dragged out of a heap of corpses from the Watergate where the fight had been the thickest.

As the French witness to those turbulent times writes about Tipu Sultan while concluding his ‘History of Mysore’: ” As the narration of so much atrocity humanity cannot keep back it’s tears; but one cannot help saying that much of the persecution had been provoked by the reprehensible conduct of the English Generals. If the government of Mysore had historians like those the Europeans had to expose their grievances and voice their complaints, they would not have failed to reproach the English for their invasions of nations who had no quarrel with them, their violation of the most sacred treaties, and their contempt for the first laws of Nature which had given to every nation a motherland whose sanctity should be inviolable. I do not make this observation to justify the barbarism of Tippoo Saheb; but the most impartial writer cannot always get rid of a secret sympathy for an unhappy Prince who had as his chroniclers only those who invaded his Empire and destroyed his life.



Histoire des Progres et de la chuts de L’Empire De Mysore – Par J. Michaud; 1801-1809

A journey from Madras through the countries of Mysore, Canara and Malabar; F. Buchanan

Tiger of Mysore; Denys Forrest

Modern Mysore; Shama Rao

Posted in Tipu Sultan & his times | 1 Comment

Despair, Revolution and Exile: Tipu Sultans’ Family in Vellore

Hidden among Calcutta’s by-lanes just across the Presidency college is India’s oldest repository of colonial records from 1758 till post 1947. The West Bengal state archives at 6, Bhawani Dutta lane is a treasure trove of information on civil, military and secret correspondence emanating from and received at Fort St. William in Calcutta which was the capital of the brightest of the British jewels – her Indian colony.

In there, enclosed in annual hard bound volumes lie over a century of correspondence between Tipu Sultan’s sons’ and extended family in Russapaglah, then a malarious swampy suburb of Calcutta (now the most fashionable Tollygunj)  with their British ‘benefactors’ or ‘captors’ at Fort St. William, from where colonial India was administered. Today there are no less than 30 members belonging to Tipu Sultan’s family living in Calcutta and their forefathers were the first Mysoreans in Calcutta. Among them are several who live in abject poverty and the spirit of Tipu is all what sustains them even if two of his heirs take up plying rickshaws for making both the ends meet. While there have been more than one attempt to rehabilitate them by governments in Karnataka of all political hues, no outcome has come yet of these attempts and the families still carry on with their lives there. It was during the time that I had spent here attempting to use information from the archives to document the lives of the Princes’ in Calcutta that my attention was drawn to some letters referring to the Princes from an earlier and lesser known period of their lives spent at Vellore, a bustling town in Tamil Nadu state in South India today. It is my attempt here to provide to the reader an account of the circumstances behind the presence and the lives of the Mysore family during the period of their stay here. I will be narrating from primary accounts left behind by English visitors as well as reference to the family from other contemporary sources and introducing the readers to the treasure trove of underutilized information that may be gleaned from all the family correspondence still hidden away in the archives in Calcutta.

Soon after Seringapatam fell on May 4 1799, Lord Wellesley ordered the removal of Tipu’s family from Mysore, “with the least practicable injury to their feelings”, so that the Mysorean populace was prevented from rallying around the heirs of their late ruler. Lord Wellesley, in his letter dated 4th June 1799 exactly a month after Tipu’s death wrote – “As soon as you shall judge that your arrangements with the remnant of the Mussulmen interest are in sufficient forwardness, you will proceed to take the necessary measures for removing the family of the Sultan…….I have appointed Lieut. Colonel Doveton to take the command of the fortress of Vellore, which is destined for the future residence of the Sultan’s family….After their arrival, no reasonable expense will be spared to render their habitation suitable to their former rank and expectations; and it is my intention to give them a liberal pecuniary allowance…The females and children of the several families must follow the princes as speedily as possible…” The four elder princes of Tipu – Fath Haidar, Abdul Khaliq, Moyinuddin and Mohiuddeen, with their respective families, crossed the Kaveri river and proceeded on their march to Vellore on the morning of 19th June 1799.

Of the four princes, this departure would have been especially poignant to Fath Haidar and Abdul Khaliq. Fath Haidar was Tipu’s eldest son, almost 30 years old then though not born of a senior wife was widely seen as successor to Mysore’s throne. Shahzada Fath Haidar ‘Bahadur’ had distinguished himself even at the age of 19 when he decimated an army led by the Nizam’s confidant Hafiz Fariduddin near Adhoni and recaptured Gurramkonda for Mysore from the Nizam. At the death of Tipu he was away in the field and as the contemporary Mysorean chronicler Kirmani wrote – “persuaded by many of his confidantes to continue the struggle against the English as Tipu’s former servants still held control over most of Mysore’s strong cities and forts and that his army with all its stores and artillery was still a potent force. However, deceived by the conciliatory message of Commander in Chief of the Bombay army, Maj. Gen. Harris, and the assurances of some of his officers that the victors would restore to him his fathers’ kingdom, he did not take up arms and threw himself on the mercy of the English.” Sadly for him, things did not turn out as expected as Lord Wellesley was adamant that having a descendant of Tipu on the throne of Mysore would always be dangerous for the British and instead he raised a young boy Prince from the old Wodeyar royalty to be the new King, Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar. Fath Haidar was left high and dry and this would singe him as long as he lived. Abdul Khaliq about 18 years then, was along with Prince Muizuddin among the two sons of Tipu offered upto the British in 1792 as hostages to guarantee the terms of the treaty signed after Mysore’s defeat in the 3rd Anglo Mysore war. Just 7 years ago, Abdul Khaliq would have watched from his silver howdah on an elephant, his father the Sultan staring at his sons from a rampart on the fort, leaving Seringapatam on way to the British camp outside. He was now departing from his beloved country not as a hostage who would return but as a defeated Prince being sent away forever. The Princes with their families arrived at Vellore on the 12th of July, 1799.

Their time in Vellore would have gone undocumented had it not been for a visitor. Henrietta Antonia Clive, Countess of Powis (1758 – 1830) was a British mineral collector and botanist. She married Lord Robert Clive’s (of Plassey fame) eldest son and heir Edward Clive and in 1798, accompanied him to India when he was appointed Governor of Madras by the East India Company. Having been confined to Madras for the duration of the final Mysore campaign and following every development with bated breath, her diary is witness to the importance that the British placed on the destruction of their most formidable enemy. Immediately following the battle, plans had been made for Lord Mornington (Wellesley) and Lord Clive to travel to Seringapatam, with Henrietta to follow later. However at the last moment, Lord Clive decided that they would remain in Madras for the victory celebration and the trip to Seringapatam was foregone altogether.Lady Henrietta was not one to give up so easily and she remained quite fixated upon visiting Seringapatam. A letter to her mother in law dated August 9th, 1799 has her speaking of “You have heard of all our victories in this country, I am almost tired of hearing of Tipu Sultan and all belonging to him. People think of nothing but pearls and emeralds. All the officers send heaps to their wives….” Finally on March 4, 1800 Lady Henrietta started on her journey to Mysore accompanied by her 2 daughters, her artist friend and daughters’ governess Signora Tonelli and others on palanquins accompanied by a train of draught animals which included fourteen elephants !

On March 15th  1800, the party of travelers crossed Arcot and entered Vellore. At the entrance of the town, she writes of being waited upon by Col Doveton who met her there upon an elephant. He took the entourage to rest for the night at his country house outside the fort at Vellore. She mentions “Col Doveton having the charge of Tipu’s four sons cannot sleep out of the fort.”  This also means that even though over eight months had elapsed since the four Princes had reached Vellore the rest of Tipu’s sons were still not here. The next morning she saw a palace which was the building for Tipu’s and Haidar’s wives. They were allowed two apartments each, besides a verandah. She mention of Col Doveton establishing a school for the four Princes who were to study there along with the children of the soldiers of the Scotch brigade garrisoning the fort.

She writes – “I breakfasted at the commanding officer’s house, and afterwards the Princes came to see me. Moyen Uddeen and Mousa Uddeen came from their house opposite on horseback; the countenance of the latter, the Padshaw is extremely interesting; there is a great appearance of gentleness in his countenance. I understand that col. Wellesley was much pleased with his manners at Seringapatam.  His brother’s appearance was quite different; his spirited and even fears eyes were extremely expressive of his character, which is violated cruel. He has great pleasure in meeting his servants and tormenting animals; once he had a horse rubbed over with gunpowder, and then set on fire.  Col. Doveton has been under the necessity on interfering on many occasion, not always with proper effect.  …… A short time after they came, Abdul Khaliq arrived who is illegitimate, his mother having been a slave; the other brothers look upon him with great contempt;  of course, I got to receive him, and his brothers did the same but they said to Col. Doveton afterwards, that they should not have done so, if I had not thought he was their elder brother.  He has a most sulky countenance, and really the appearances of a slave, unlike the general countenances of the Mussalmans; he was more dressed than the other being in silver muslin with a red and gold turban.  The Padshaw has not owned any turban, only a shawl twisted round his head, since the death of his father which with them is a sign of mourning……. The mothers of both the young princess were of high cast; one of them (the Padshaw’s ) is dead.

After they were gone, Futteh Haidar  came; he had never been in any English house, or seen any English women, and had not till that morning expressed that he wished to pay his respect to me.  Futteh Haider is said to be very likely to his father, indeed he resembles all the drawings I have seen of him. He is fact, and as a most remarkable thick neck, like Tippu’s ; there is a most terrific expression in his countenance, and I fancied I could see as he looked round him I wish to have the English in his power.  One of his attendants stood near to him whom he frequently looked at, and appeared to express something in those looks, which we did not understand.  His manners were more polished than those of his brothers, he having mixed more with the world. I really could have looked at him till I had been frightened; there is something so fears in his aspects.  He passes his time in reading, and in his Zenana, in great retirement, in continual regret for having surrendered himself a prisoner.  He says Poornaiah deceived him by advising him to surrender, saying that it would be most likely to soften the English govt. towards him; he could have occasioned much trouble, if he had not come into Seringapatam.  …….  They had each several wives.  Futteh Haider married a great granddaughter of Chunda Saheb and has had seven children, who are all dead; one died on the road to Vellore, and the last since he came here.  His wives habitation is divided by a high wall from those of Abdul Khaliq, and there was lately a serious engagement between these zenanas.  His elder wives overheard something impertinent said of them by the young ones of Abdul Khaliq, and resented it; stones were presently thrown from each party till the stones were exhausted.  Then they sent their old female attendants, out into the street to collect more.  A message came to Col. Doveton to inform him of the civil war, and he sent them word that unless peace was immediately established, that he should be under the necessity of sending in a guard which would disgrace them forever.  This quieted the fury of the combatants.

Col. Doveton described Mousa Uddeen as very clever, as I have before mentioned, and ready for any expedition if he could possibly get out of the fort, or for any mischief.  A few days ago he sent to desire Col. Doveton would drive him to a great camel feast where there are some thousands of people assembled, but he declined it.  The Padshaw is more gentle and reserved in his manner, but it is a pity they do not attend to reading or some part of education; they only play like much younger boys.  Futteh Haider says he was alarmed for the safety of his family at the taking of Seringapatam, but perhaps the reason I have before given may also have some weight with him. There is not the least friendship subsisting between the brothers; they never meet but in great form.  Two of Tippu’s daughters I hear, are said to be very beautiful ……..”

Lady Clive’s observations are interesting. She alludes to the lack of bonhomie between the brothers and the resentment of some among them at being expected to receive another of their brothers whom they consider to be of lower standing. This was not surprising in the families of Muslim nobility of that time where a man’s’ wives were ranked as per two classifications. The primary classification was on the basis of ‘Nikah’ wives and Non-‘Nikah’ wives. A muslim is allowed four wives as per Muslim law while any other of his wives is not legally a wife yet enjoys a fair degree of protection of her rights as a Non-Nikah. The rights of any child he may have with a non-Nikah wife are the same as that from a Nikah wife. However in the protocol of the Harem or the Zenana as the women’s quarters in India are known the Nikah wives have a higher rank and so do their children. However it is the prerogative of the father to name any son or in rare cases a daughter as his heir and this choice is accepted irrespective of whether the heir is from a Nikah or a Non-Nikah wife. Such combinations of Nikah and Non-Nikah wives created it’s own layers of intrigues within the Zenana. Added to this was another rank system in the Zenana of classifying the women as well as concubines on the basis of their lineage. A lady of royal birth was usually ranked higher in status than one say purchased as a slavegirl. Coming back to the status of the Princes as mentioned by the Lady Clive, we note that only Mousa Uddeen was called a Padshaw and that both Mousa Uddeen and Moyen Uddeen looked down upon their half brother Abdul Khaliq with ‘contempt’ as the latter was descended from a slave-girl. The fact is that among the four senior Princes mentioned by Lady Clive, only Moyen Uddeen’s mother was one among Tipu’s four legal wives. His mother Ruqayya Begum was Tipu’s most beloved wife  and tradition goes that Tipu Sultan fell in love with her even before his marriage to her. The mother of the senior most in age Prince Fath Haidar was Roshani Begum who was a dancing girl from Adoni. Prince Abdul Khaliq, who the other Princes looked down with contempt as his mother was supposedly a minor wife (Non Nikah wife whom Henrietta obviously on account of coming from another culture terms slave-girl), she being one three Hindu Princesses of Mysore who Tipu had conscripted into his Zenana. And surprisingly Durdana Begum the mother of Prince Mousa Uddeen who Tipu had deemed his heir was also not a Nikah wife but was one among twenty slave girls purchased in Delhi. So, the dynamics of rank within the women’s quarters would not have been well understood by a European visitor as Lady Clive then.

Prince Fateh Haidar’s disappointment at not being restored to the throne of Mysore was also very genuine as he had surrendered to the British in the hope of  clemency as well as being crowned Nawab of Mysore has father was. His mention of Purnaiah, the Diwan being instrumental in his surrender is also correct as Tipu Sultan had entrusted Fateh Haidar into Purnaiah’s care during the siege of Seringapatam and both of them were outside Seringapatam when the capital fell to the British. Purnaiah on seeing that that Tipu Sultan had fallen and the principal city taken, would have realized with his vast experience of serving under Tipu and Haidar Ali that the Kingdom could not withstand this loss of leadership and would crumble if not immediately but in a while under the onslaught of the combined forces of the English, Marathas and the Nizam. So hedging his bets he advised Fateh Haidar to surrender to the English accompanied by himself. Besides the families of both Purnaiah as well as Fateh Haidar were in Seringapatam and were prisoners of he British. This would obviously have weighed on their minds as well. It is thereafter to Purnaiah’s credit that he proposed to the English that Fath Haidar should be placed on the throne of Mysore allowing for the payment of a tribute to the English by the Mysoreans as well as agreeing for the English to garrison such forts as they considered strategically important. But Wellesley rejected the proposal on the ground that “such a settlement would have cherished in it’s bosom a restless and a powerful principle of it’s own dissolution.” Fate thus took a cruel turn for Fateh Haidar.

There were about 3000 Mysoreans in Vellore in 1806, when the mutiny broke out.  Native solders in the British army in April 1806 were ordered to wear a new kind of turban made of leather (prepared from cow hide in most cases), which was against their religious feelings.  This new form of turban was actually resembled a round hat topped by cockade, similar to what some European and Indian Christians were using.  This was on top of too hugely unpopular orders, one banning sepoys from displaying ash on the forehead or a beard on chin.  Consequently some of the fort’s sepoys and their Indian seniors refused to wear it, whereupon two havaldars, one hindu and the other a muslim, were punished with 900 lashes.

When the forces of the two opposing sides were thus drawn up, an event took place at fort Vellore.  The wedding festivities of Noorunnissa Begum, a daughter of Tippu Sultan and sister of the Royal Heir Prince Mohy Uddin, took place on the night of July 9th, 1806.  This event gave a fillip to the insurrectionists and the raising of the sepoys took place in the early hours of  10th July 1806…… the flag of Tippu Sultan bearing ‘the son in the centre with green tiger stripes on a red field’ was hoisted on the garrison flag staff amidst victorious shouts of ‘Deen’, ‘Deen’!  The flag, it was alleged was the property of Prince Mousa Uddeen, 4th son of Tippu Sultan who separate the same to the sepoys.  The followers of the Princes, it is said, assisted the insurgent sepoys, in getting out the guns, in laying them, in encouraging the sepoys to kill the English.  Princes Mousa Uddeen and Mohy Uddeen presented themselves before the sepoys and ordered refreshments to be given to them.  Prince Mousa Uddeen, further, was reported to have presented a sword to the son (then in British service) of Tippu Sultan’s commandant Syed Gaffur and ordered him to take possession of the hill fort of Vellore.  Many Britons in the fort were killed while they slept and also many others were dragged out the fort’s sick rooms and shot among those gunned down was the fort’s commander Col. John Fancourt, though his wife and young children hit themselves and survived.

With the passing of hours it was found that the sepoys were more and more attracted towards looting the fort than in taking control of Vellore.  The British garrison in Arcot was alerted by an escapee, from where accompanied by Horse pulled galloper guns, a cavalry squadron led by Col Rollo Gillespie road off at once to Vellore and suppressed the mutiny the galloper guns demolished rebel defenses and the cavalry stormed in, cutting down every sepoy in his way.  If about 200 Europeans were slain during the half day mutiny nearly 800 sepoys were probably killed in the reprisal, in which Indians among the company’s troops joined.  Once the fort was secured the Princes were placed under tighter watch and an enquiry was set up under a Mixed Enquiry Commission which submitted it’s report after an extensive investigation of the affair and interviews with the survivors and the Princes included. This commission was regulated by the Government of Madras from Fort St. George and we get a hint of it’s general conclusion from an entry in The Asiatic annual register, Vol. 9 ,1807 containing documents on the Vellore mutiny which mentions “it appears unnecessary to detail the extensive evidence, that the family of Tippu took an open and active part in the fatal scene; that the most confidential persons in the palace had been employed in negotiation and direct hostility.  The guilt of two sons is established, and their murders intentions left without a doubt……..  It is even stated in evidence, amidst the numerous bands of the family of Tipu, collected from all parts of the country and resident in the Pettah, there were 500 persons in regular pay.”

However many English voices differed on this and expressed an opinion that the Princes were innocent and were merely being made scapegoats for the mutiny of the company sepoys. John Blakiston, an engineer in Gillespie’s force who had helped bring down one of the gates of Vellore’s fort would write – “this was a politic measure in more respect than one; for it not only removed them out of reach of former friends and adherence of their family, but it appeared to throw the odium of the conspiracy upon them, instead of permitting it to rest on the native army, whose loyalty and attachment it would not have been prudent to question. William Hickey , the famous attorney of the supreme court of Calcutta, and who was under Sheriff , had the custody of Mousa Uddeen, in his memoirs wrote, “Col. Mariott, who had the care of the princes at Vellore and who accompanied them from thence to Calcutta , assured me that selecting Mousa Uddeen as the object of peculiar severity was most cruel and unjust, for that neither he, nor any of his brothers or other branches of the family had any more to do with the insurrection than he (the Col. ) had nor did it originate in any of their dependants or people……. Col. Mariette further declared that the suspicions raised against Mousa Uddeen and the other princes, originated in the Govt. of Madras, the members of which had propagated such a report in general and in order to pacify the remains of this majesties 69 regiments, which continued in a state of dreadful insubordination, daily committing the most wanton and atrocious murders upon the unoffending natives ……”

That the mutiny happened in of all garrison towns in British India in Vellore with the Mysorean Tiger Flag being unfurled and the Princes actively emerging from their apartments and rallying the sepoys is testament enough to the fact that on that day in Vellore, albeit for a few hours only, the courage of Haidar Ali and Tipu Sultan revealed itself in the blood of their sons.

The Vellore mutiny alarmed the English as this was the first ever large scale mutiny in India where Indian sepoys had turned against their English officers with an intention of getting rid of English rule and replacing the government with a native one. Lord Minto who had succeeded Lord Wellesley, Tipu’s nemesis, as Governor General of India ordered for the removal of the Mysore Princes and their families from Vellore to Calcutta. The reason for their removal may be summed up in an extract from the ‘minute’ of his from Fort William dated 19th October 1807: “Much in my opinion has been done towards security by the removal of these families from the coast to Bengal.  They are withdrawn from the sphere of their natural influence, and are transferred to a country in which they cannot count one partisan, or one public friend, but in which they are subject to the close and constant observation of government itself, surrounded by all the means of vigilance and control which are possessed at the seat of authority.” Some more ‘tender and liberal’ commandments were “They shall not quit their habitation in order to make visits without permission. They shall not attend processions or public ceremonies or religious festivals or domestic events.” Security remained short of imprisonment though the exiled Princes enjoyed free management of their respective pensions which varied among the brothers.

And thus the children of Britain’s most feared enemy was exiled from their homeland never to return. In a short span of 30 years, eleven of Tipu’s twelve sons succumbed to the unhealthy climate and surfeit of good living. Prince Fateh Haidar, was declared illegitimate by the British captors and a special police force stationed at his house. Prince Abdul Khaliq died ‘conveniently’ at sandheads even before reaching Calcutta. The heir Prince Mousa Uddeen was imprisoned for his involvement in the Vellore mutiny and his family deprived of financial support. William Hickey, the diarist and superintendent of prisons in Calcutta records the ‘filthy’ condition of the sad and depressed Prince who died in jail in 1809. Prince Mohy Uddin committed suicide in 1809.

The relationship of the Mysore family except for the children of Tipu Sultan, however continued well into the middle of the 19th C. And this is where the archives at Calcutta come in handy. Hidden here and there in between tomes of correspondence volumes of the Mysore Princes, their children and grandchildren with their captor – The Superintendent of Political Pensions – Mysore Family, a position specially created at Fort William to oversee the Mysore Princes are letters from and a few to Vellore, very poignant and despondent ones from and to aunts, cousins, former retainers of the family who had to stay back there.

Among the many letters related to the Mysore family at the Calcutta archives and elsewhere I observed three very interesting letters dated 1820, a sequence of correspondence to and fro between the  in-charge of Stipends for the relatives of the Mysore family who were still at Vellore to the Chief Secretary to the Government of India.



Letter inquiring about Princess Noorunnissa’s Jewellery – Mysore Family Correspondence

Political Department


Edward Wood Esquire

Chief secretary to the Government


I have had the Honor to receive your letter the 27th Ultimo together with the several enclosures and beg to state for the information of the Honorable the Governor, that I have this day obtained the jewels from Fatima Begum, the property of the Eldest Daughter of the late Tippoo Sultan with came trifling difference as will appear from the schedule of the Begums which will accompany the property.

There are two very large copper boilers and also a great quantity of cooking pots and pans, very old and I should imagine almost useless, which I would recommend to be continued under charge of Fatima Khanum Begum.

For the Jewels-Cloths-Boxes &.., I imagine six bullocks will be sufficient but if that which I have noticed is also sent two bandies will also be required.

May I request to be informed if it is the wish of the Government I should send the Jewels to Madras or from this- sent direct to Mhow thence to Russapuglah.


Vellore                                                                                                              I have..

10th July 1820                                                                                   /signed/ aug: Andrews

Major Paymaster of stipends



The Paymaster of Stipends

at Vellore


I am directed to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 18th Ultimo and to state the desire of the Honorable the Governor in Council that the jewels and other property which you have recovered from Fathima Khanum Begum for Tippoo’s Eldest Daughter may be packed in a proper manner for transmission to Fort William by sea. You will forward them in that state to the Residency and the Marine Board will be instructed on their arrival to make the necessary provision for their shipment accordingly.


Fort St. George                                                                                            I am…

15th August 1820                                                                          /Signed/ E.Wood

Chief Secy

/True Copies/

/signed/ H.Chamcer

First asst.

/True Copies/


Secy to the Govt



C.T. Metcalfe Esquire

Secretary to the Government

at Fort William


The Paymaster of the stipends at Vellore having been instructed to make the enquiry desired in your dispatch of the 6th June concerning certain jewels for the property of Tippoo’s Eldest Daughter. I am directed by the Honorable the Governor in Council to transmit to you to be laid before the Most Noble the Governor General in Council the accompanying copy of a letter from that officers with a copy of the reply to it.


Fort W.George                                                                                    I have the honor …

15th August 1820                                                                                E.Wood

Chief Secy


Major Andrews, the paymaster of stipends at Vellore was reporting back to a query from the Chief Secretary about the Jewels and other valuable items belonging to the eldest daughter of Tipu Sultan, in all probability Shahzadi Noor Unnissa Begum, the one who was married a day before the fateful incident at Vellore. Major Andrews confirmed the receipt of the Jewels along with various other items from Fathima Khanum Begum and enquires of the Chief Secretary where he should dispatch the items – Six bullock carts of Jewellery and Cloth!! A reply from the Chief Secretary instructs Major Andrews to dispatch the items by sea to Calcutta. And finally the Chief Secretary informs the Secretary, Govt. of India of the matters discussed and action taken.

These conversations are revealing and intriguing at the same time. Six bullock carts of clothes and Jewellery in the possession of Tipu’s eldest daughter even after Seringapatam was sacked for treasure after Tipu’s death may not be surprising given that Noor Unnissa was the daughter of Tipu and his favorite wife Ruqayya Banu, who was Tipu’s first love from his childhood days. But why should, 14 years after Shahzadi Noor Unnissa was exiled from Vellore, her jewels be ‘recovered’ for her from Fathima Begum? And who was Fathima Khanum Begum? A relative, a family retainer? And, why did she keep all of Noor Unnissa’s jewellery? What happened to this jewellery after it reached Calcutta?

The answers to these and more questions could still be hidden in the large mass of Mysore Family correspondence in the archive at Calcutta as well as the archives at Madras and Delhi. One must remember that copies of all correspondence emanating from say Mysore or Vellore would be sent to the Governor at Madras, the Governor General in Calcutta and a copy of all important correspondences also to England via the Indian office. This correspondence is very important for the fact that this may be the only detailed glimpse into the going-ons within a large Indian Muslim royal family. That each family member had to explicitly seek permission for matters as mundane as being allowed to ride a horse within the estate at Calcutta or going for a river cruise to enjoy the fresh air or allowance for a family wedding allows us a peek into the private lives of the descendants of Tipu Sultan after their exile to Calcutta.

Though this corpus of correspondence spread across Calcutta, Madras, Delhi, London and also in private collections has been noted and referenced to in part time and again there has been no effort till date to study these letters in entirety, to cross reference them and place them in different contexts. I myself only studied them as part of research into another area of Mysore’s history that I was working upon. There can be no greater homage paid to Tipu Sultan’s sacrifice than by some hardworking researcher who will dig into these archives and produce a riveting account of the lives of many  generations of despairing men, women and children who lived as birds in a golden cage built for them by their English captors.


I am grateful to Dr. Simonti Sen, Director and Ms. Bidisha Chakraborty , Archivist at the Directorate of State Archives, Calcutta, West Bengal for assisting me while studying the Mysore family correspondence in their collection. The archives (Historical Section) at Bhawani Dutta Lane are accessible to all researchers irrespective of academic qualifications who only need to fill an application form and submit a credible reference to the archivists.

Amitava Raha was generous with access to his collection

Sukant Bhattacharjee was generous with his timely assistance and company


Birds of Passage, Travels in Southern India, 1798-1801, Henrietta Clive

South Indians in Calcutta, P. Thankappan Nair

The tears of the Rajas, Ferdinand Mount

Account of the Receipts and Expenditure of the “Appropriated Mysore Deposit Fund”

Exiles in Calcutta, The Descendants of Tipu Sultan, Bunny Gupta & Jaya Chaliha

History of Tipu Sultan, Mohibbul Hasan

Modern South India, Rajmohan Gandhi

Khudadad: The family of Tipu Sultan – Genealogy




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Chaqmaq Jang: The Martyr of Canara, Henje Nayaka

The story of Tipu Sultan is incomplete without the stories of countless characters that surrounded him. Of these characters there were many that stood shoulder to shoulder with him in the fight for a united and triumphant Mysore as well as many characters who opposed him tooth and nail in their own quest to safeguard the freedom of their lands that Mysore laid claim to. And this leads us on to another question. How do we pass judgment upon the stories of those who opposed Tipu? The Marathas, the Wodeyar family in house-arrest,  the Nizam, the Ghorpades of Sandur, the Kodava Rajahs, the Raja of Travancore, the Nawabs of Savanur….and many more. Were they traitors to the ‘Indian’ cause?

But, was there even a dim idea of ‘India’ then?  I believe there was. As Tipu was growing up, the Marathas had just spilt the blood of countless of their men while fighting the alien Afghan for dominion over ‘Hindustan’ on the parched earth of Panipat.  Tipu would time and again write to neighbouring and farther Indian rulers soliciting assistance against the British who he would remind his addressees were in India to usurp their lands. India for him then was ‘Hindustan’ most of which including Maratha and British territory too still owed allegiance, but only in name to the Great Mogul in Delhi.

Yet, the same Tipu would also be quick in ravaging territories of his neighbours even at the slightest pretext. So, what must be understood here is that towards the end of the 18th C, the Moguls were no longer an effective binding force over the numerous states that constituted this ‘Hindustan’ and the English and to a smaller extant the French had come to be regarded as the most formidable powers in the subcontinent. These European powers that had been in India for nearly a century and a half now, had seen the collapse of all central authority and the consequent emerging of regional states with internecine strife between them. These feuding states would time and again use the military might of the Europeans powers in India against their neighbours and in the process increase the material as well as territorial powers of the Europeans.

Throughout the duration of the Mysore wars, and even earlier during the Carnatic wars which would be the curtain raiser for the former, the opponents of Haidar Ali’s as well as Tipu’s Mysore fought them to preserve their territorial integrities as well as independence like the Kodava and Travancore Rajas or like the Marathas and Nizam reacting in offense to Tipu’s refusal to kowtow to them as previous Mysore rulers had done. All of these opponents of Mysore at different periods of time used the British as allies promising them wealth as well as parts of Mysore’s territory in return for this assistance. The British for their part made sure that no Indian power grew to such an extent as to threaten British interests. For these Indian states, the Europeans were just a temporary power or at best a well armed party of merchants who could be used and later sent away. To Tipu Sultan’s credit, he was the only Indian ruler of that time who understood English intentions well and unsuccessfully tried to impress upon his contemporary kings that the English would stay to rule over them and could not be wished away unless there was Indian unity against the common enemy.

So in these circumstances if we assume that all who fought Tipu were disloyal to their land or did not have the interests of their subjects in heart, we will only be doing a grave disservice to their memory. Many among them may have been lacking in intuition and wisdom but certainly not in courage or loyalty to their people and land. One among such unheralded opponents of Tipu was Henje Nayaka, the son of a common farmer from the ancient principality of Soonda in the Canara district of Mysore. Soonda (Sonda, today) is the corrupt Kannada name of the ancient town of Sudhapura which was ruled by the Nayaka Rajas who were vassals to the Vijaynagara rulers and in all probability related to the Keladi Nayaka rulers. The town was said to have contained at one time a hundred thousand homes. Though this may very well be an exaggeration the country around the town was nonetheless well cultivated and rich. From the west, the Gangavali river and from the east, the Aganasini rivers irrigated vast areas of Areca plantations as well as verdant paddy fields. The last of the Soonda Nayaka rulers Immadi Sadasiva Raya was expelled by Hyder Ali from his dominion and escaped to Goa around 1763. After this Soonda like the other parts of Canara fell under the rule of Mysore. By this time, Bednur had fallen and the old House of Keladi was also extinguished at Hyder’s hands.

It is around this time that we first hear of Henje Nayaka who was the son of Lingappa Nayaka a farmer from the village of Kodibag , near Karwar. He was from the Komarapantha caste which comprised of farmers who also doubled as soldiers in the armies of the Keladi Nayakas as well as of Vijayanagara before it. Much of Henje Nayaka’s story is fleaned from folklore of that period as well as local oral histories called ‘Kaifiyats’. They speak of Henje Nayaka leading an army of Peasants against Tipu’s oppressive taxation of the farmers of Canara.

The theory of the revolt on account of oppressive taxation needs further questioning. Mysorean revenue regulations were far more efficient than they had been under the Raja of Soonda. The principle of land tenure was that a tenant and his heirs’ occupied land so long as they cultivated it and paid a mutually agreed rent. But if they failed to fulfill these conditions, the Government was entitled to transfer the land to other tenants. The cultivators of non irrigated   lands paid a fixed money rent amounting to about one third of the crop and those of irrigated lands paid in kind about one-half of the crop. However in Canara, all rents were paid in cash. Monro, who would later play the role of the architect of the land settlement system in British India was the administrator here just after Tipu’s death says of revenue collection under Mysorean rule said – “there was no instance in which the Sircar’s share was more than one third. In many it was not one-fifth, or one-sixth, or in some cases, not one-tenth of the gross produce”. So, while Tipu’s revenue system was well organized and the farmers more comfortable than during earlier periods, the heavy handedness of certain Mysorean officers in Canara may well have led to a revolt of the peasantry there. Many of Tipu’s Amildars and Shanbogues whose responsibility it was to collect taxes from the farmers would enrich themselves at the expense of the poor ryots and pocket the excess tax collected. That Mysore could pay off the indemnity levied on it by the victorious allies after the 3rd Mysore war well in time is testament to the severe taxation that the peasantry must have faced during those turbulent years. Besides, Tipu’s practice of putting up the Mysorean bureaucracy as revenue collectors in all provinces instead of farming revenue collection out to the old established families of that area may also have pinched Henje Nayaka, who hailed from a family much allied to the earlier rulers, into assuming leadership of the local revolt.

Local accounts of the revolt of Henje Nayaka speak of his intense animosity with Mysore and his men engaging in several skirmishes against enemy forces stationed around Karwar. It was around this time that the Mysoreans got hold of two of Henje Nayaka’s sons. The story goes that Tipu threatened Henje Nayaka that his sons would be brought to harm in case he did not desist from harassing the Sarkar’s forces and till the time he submitted to Mysore, the sons of Henje Nayaka would remain as hostages in custody of the Mysoreans. These were two young men would have been as dear to Henje Nayaka as were Princes Abdul Khaliq and Muiz-ud-din to their father Tipu Sultan. These sons of Tipu had been taking hostage by the British as per the terms of the Treaty of Seringapatam after the Third Mysore war.

How did Henje Nayaka react to this development? Did he submit to Mysore fearing for the safety of his sons as many Poligars and feudal lords did to Haidar and Tipu accepting their suzerainty and sending annual Peshcush or tribute to the Mysore treasury? A clue to this can be found in the accounts of Francis Buchanan as he traversed through the recently conquered dominion of Mysore in the year 1801. After passing by Sadashivgarh, he speaks of the people who live nearby – “Much land in this vicinity has fallen into the hands of government and , owing to the deprecations of the Comarapeca robbers, has become waste. One of their chiefs, named Venja Nayaka, was the terror of the whole country, and forced even Brahmans to adopt his caste. Two of his sons were hanged by Tippoo..…”

So, now we see how Henje Nayaka responded to Tipu’s threat. No retreat, No surrender. One would be lying to oneself if one does not feel poignant thinking of that scene of the two young sons of Henje Nayaka being led out to hang for the sake of their father who would not forsake his country for the lives of his children. One can only feel the heavy heart of a father when on the morning of February 26, 1793 Tipu stood on the rampart over one of Seringapatam’s gateways watching his two sons depart as hostages to the British camp. After that day Tipu exerted himself to ensure that the indemnity due to the British from Mysore was paid well before time so that he could see the young Princes back. Henje Nayaka was also a father like Tipu Sultan and he would have faced the execution of his children with a broken and heavy heart. Could Tipu having gone through the same harrowing circumstances not spared Henje Nayaka’s children?  But then, war is Hell. And maybe, the war brought out the worst in Tipu in this case, not the best.

The tide was to turn soon when Tipu fell sword in hand facing the British assault on May 4, 1799 in Seringapatam. Canara now fell to it’s British victors. Henje Nayaka got some respite now and back from hiding. Yet his reputation followed him. Buchanan continued writing about him – “…until, terrified by the firmness of Major Monro’s government, he continued obstinate in his evil practices. Soon after that gentleman’s arrival, he made his submission, and continues to behave like a good subject. I found him very ready to give me assistance in procuring supplies, and means to transport my baggage; and from the mildness of his manners, until informed by the officers of revenue, I had no idea of his disposition, which was barbarous in the extreme.”

It was common practice of the British colonists to ridicule those who did not ally with them. For as long as Tipu was alive, he was demonized and projected as a tyrant. As long as Henje Nayaka remained an obedient servant of the British he was tolerated but once he began to assert his independence he became ‘barbarous’. A clue to the reason for his ‘emerging barbarism’ may be gleaned from the profession of the individual who ‘corrected’ Buchanan’s interpretation of Henje Nayaka’s character – the Officer of Revenue. Buchanan on further discussion with him discovered that the Peasants in Canara actually now paid more rent to the British than they did to Tipu ! This he believed was on account of Monro’s care and strictness in the collection of revenue. There was according to Buchanan, no room for the ‘corrupt practices’ which in the Sultan’s government was very prevalent. These unknown or misunderstood by Monro were not corrupt practices per se but only ‘adjustments’ between the village accountants and peasants which would ensure that expected revenue collections went hand in hand with the well being of the tiller of land and also factored remission of taxes in circumstances of drought and other calamities. This  merciless taxation would have perturbed Henje Nayaka a great deal and he raised the standard of revolt again. The British again tagged his community of Comarpanthis as cultivator-soldiers but from birth ‘strongly inclined to be robbers’. A people whom the Vijaynagar and Keladi kings trusted well enough to make them Lords of the region suddenly became robbers for the British. Henje Nayaka and his followers once again retired to the hills and took up the banner of revolt, this time against a new enemy, the British.

After several more skirmishes, Henje Nayaka on a fateful day in 1801 just a while after the meeting with Buchanan was tricked into an ambush by the British on the banks of the river Kali in Kodibag. He fell fighting and was 65 years old at this time. Both his foes and his friends knew him by the title Chaqmaq Jung – ‘Chaqmaq’ coming from the spark of the flint lock gun, which he was adept at handling and Jang meaning courageous in war, which he was!  He had lived an eventful life seeing the glory of the Soonda Nayakas as well as it’s capitulation to Mysore. Unperturbed he took arms against Mysore and later the British in midst of this sacrificed his two sons at the altar of freedom for Soonda and lastly himself.

In my opinion the martyrdom of individuals like Henje Nayaka are no less than the martyrdom of Tipu Sultan. Though inveterate foes, the hearts of both beat for the liberty and well being of their own people and the glory of their respective motherlands.



A journey from Madras through the Countries of Mysore, Canara and Malabar; Francis Buchanan

History of Tipu Sultan; Mohibbul Hasan

Tipu Sultan’s Mysore – An Economic Study; M.H. Gopal

Solstice at Panipat; Uday Kulkarni



This article would not have been written had it not been for the assistance of Lakshmeesh Hegde, Historian and Writer from Sonda. Working as a faculty in History at an institution in Mangalore, he has published over 400 articles and 9 books so far and is a very good researcher. With interests varied from the History of Canara and Sonda to the Yakshagana dance form and the traditions of the Havyaka Brahmin community of Canara, he may be contacted at

The Channabasaveshwara Temple in Ulavi, N. Canara was gifted an Elephant Bell by Henje Nayaka as an offering to the deity Channabasava to whom Henje Nayaka prayed for deliverance when caught in a large whirlwind during one of his encounters with the British. The temple still treasures this bell.


Posted in Anecdotes in Kannada history, Tipu Sultan & his times | 2 Comments

Fangs of the Tiger: The Seringapatam Matchlock & Other Guns of Tipu Sultan

This is the third and final in a trilogy of articles providing the reader with an introduction to Tipu Sultan’s technologically advanced and vigorous arms industry. We started with studying about the process and economics of steel production in Mysore moving on to the second article dealing with Tipu Sultan’s scientific exchange with European powers and his perseverance to stop the drain of bullion from Mysore to Europe. In this final article we look up a few of Tipu Sultan’s handguns that I have selected as the finest representatives of the repertoire of skills that his gunsmiths possessed.

By the mid 1750s Haidar Ali had schemed and fought his way to power in Mysore where he eventually took control of both state and crown. Around this time while the armies of the myriad Indian kingdoms still relied upon the matchlock which was used by the elite troops only with the majority of the soldiers using the Swords and other edged weaponry, the flintlock action gun was being adopted by the more enlightened native rulers and was even being manufactured   in such places as Lucknow, Pondicherry and Hyderabad. As a soldier at the siege of Devanahalli in 1749, Haidar Ali observed the superior skill of the French and Indian Sepoys amongst them trained by Marquis de Bussy  in the use of the flintlock and the advantages the former enjoyed over the matchlock.

He subsequently became one of the early pioneers to equip an Indian army with flintlock guns on account of which he even picked up a nick name ‘Chaqmaq Jang’; alluding to the ‘chaqmaq’ which is purse-like tinder lighter containing flintstones and combustible material. On the lower edge or the bottom of the purse is fixed a broad band of iron. When a light is required a flintstone is held in one hand and the ‘purse’ in the other, with the bottom edge striking sparks on to the tinder.  Unfortunately, no firearms produced by Haidar Ali can be identified. This does not mean that they weren’t there. It was not a practice in those times in India, for a gunsmith to identify his work. Armory marks were prevalent but not gun maker marks.  Firearms were as a rule made to supply demand and they were made in two or three common patterns making it very difficult today to establish their exact place of origin.

Haidar Ali and his son Tipu Sultan nurtured and encouraged Mysore’s Iron Smelts and Forges which churned out large quantities of some of the world’s best steel that the father and son put good use to in their drive to rid Mysore of her foreign aggressors. But raw material alone would not be able to match the European trained and equipped armies which confronted Mysore at every step. Tipu Sultan made every effort to procure the best of weaponry along with technicians and technology – gunsmiths, cannon casters, shot casters that France had to offer and on top of that, at the best commercial terms to Mysore.

What makes Tipu’s firearms truly unique in their design, both superficially and physically, is the incorporation of the bubri or the tiger stripe. Although this mark as an art form was widely used throughout the world of Islam, and in India even before the advent of Islam, Tipu’s particular pattern of the bubri was very much his own choice. It was an S-shaped figure, wide at the middle with a hollow center, and with re-curving ends of equal size. It is sometimes decorated with pellets.  Expanding the bubri theme further, the plantain plant was used to great effect. It, too, was engraved on gun and pistol barrels but with it’s leaves actually adopting the bubri shape and often enclosing calligraphy.

Gold, Silver bubris were inlaid in his gun and pistol barrels and were cast in relief on his bronze cannon and mortar. In the field of decorations and design using a specific decorative motif, no firearms manufactory has worked so consistently within such closed confines over a 20 year period.  The Bubri was adopted in about 1780 and continued in use till the fall of Tipu Sultan in 1799.  As the self-styled Tiger of Mysore it is appropriate that the striking and rather menacing form of ornament should have been his.


The Bubri Motif of Tipu Sultan from the Royal Shamiana of Tipu Sultan; Pic Courtesy: Sotheby’s

Another motif frequently found upon Tipu’s arms is also derived from the Tiger. It is the cipher written in Arabic ‘Asadullah Al-Ghalib’  meaning ‘The lion of God is the Conqueror’. When the Arabic characters are carefully arranged and then mirrored, they remarkably resemble the face of a tiger.



Asadullah Tiger Head Cipher

Another device found on Mysorean firearms is the heart shaped or Rectangular shield with four quarters containing the four letters ‘HIDR’ which stand for Haidar, Tipu Sultan’s father. The device is either inlaid in gold or silver, or engraved, and like the other motifs served as a type of armorial marking. The ‘HIDR’ device was obviously influenced by the shield shaped badge of the Honourable East India Company which contained the letters ‘VEIC’ arranged in four quarters of a shield denoting the ‘United East India Company’.

H-I-D-R Cipher/Control Mark



VEIC Herald

Further, in regard to Tipu’s firearms the following 5 features are to be generally seen:

  1. The S shaped cock of the firearm is of Tipu’s unique design being formed a large bubri terminating  at the throat, with a tiger head holding the flint in it’s
  2. The grip of the small end of the butt sweeps downward to the butt plate of the gun.
  3. The tang of the barrel has a ‘shell’ carving  which has two elongated bubris running down on either side of it, resembling the leaves of the plantain plant.
  4. The thin iron ramrod is threaded at the tail end with a threaded hole to secure cleaning tools.
  5. The ramrod pipes are unusually short and astral in section.

The barrels, locks and mounts were decorated most tastefully with the victorious Tiger being the preferred theme of decoration on the weapons manufactured at the Royal workshops (Karkhane Huzur). The artists’ imagination would run riot on the ample space that gun barrels afforded.  God and Silver smiths would work most intricate patterns on butt plates and trigger guards. The top flat of the barrel was retained for calligraphy.  The gunsmith’s name, name of the town where it was manufactured, date of manufacture, the talismanic HIDR shield and a control mark would invariably adorn this portion of the barrels of the important pieces. Control marks on the Mysorean firearms were of 3 distinct types:

  1. The name Haidar would be mentioned within a bubri stamp.
  2. The letter H , in Arabic small in size within stamps of various sizes.
  3. The letter H , in Arabic big in size within stamps of various sizes.

The control marks are found on firearms from both the Royal and Public workshops. The Royal workshop churned our firearms for Tipu’s personal use as well as for the use of members of his court and diplomatic gifts to other states. The Public workshops provided arms for the Mysore army. So they may not denote high quality but only provenance to the Sultans workshops. While some of the weapons of the lowest quality are not stamped, the control marks on Tipu’s pieces are filled with gold or silver sheet en suite with the décor of the arm. The control marks on munition grade pieces are either left plain or in some cases is filled with brass.

When Seringapatam was taken by storm on 4 May, 1799 a vast armory, military stores and treasure were captured.  Lt-Col Alexander Beatson writes in his book ‘ A view of the origin and conduct of the war with Tippoo Sultaun’ : ‘In his palace was found a great variety of curious swords, daggers, fusils, pistols and blunderbusses; some were of exquisite workmanship, mounted with gold, or silver, and beautifully inlaid and ornamented with tiger’s heads and stripes, or with Persian and Arabic verses.’  Out of that vast store of weapons only those which are Tipuesqe in character and those few which are stamped with his peculiar marks described above can be positively identified today.

I have at the beginning of this article mentioned that Tipu’s father had initiated the task of reforming the Mysorean military establishment including tactics as well as ordinance. The transformation of a Matchlock equipped army to a Flintlock equipped army had already begun under him. While matchlocks would continue to be used in Indian armies till way into the mid 18th Century, Tipu and his father had discarded its use in Mysore by the 3rd quarter of the 18th Century.

The firearms that I have chosen to exhibit in this article  are what I consider to be the finest among the ones that can be positively identified as being entirely of Mysorean manufacture produced between the years 1782 – 1799 when Tipu was the   ‘Sarvadhikari’ of Mysore.  Since I will be going into the technical aspects of the actual working of these firearms, I hope that the reader will not grudge me providing them with a brief idea of how a Matchlock and a Firelock gun actually work.

The Matchlock:

Mechanism of a Matchlock

Part List:

A – Flash pan cover        B – Flash pan (with touch hole)   C – Serpentine (or cock)

D – Trigger                     E – Slow match (i.e. a lit rope)    F – Sear

G – Pivot                       H – Flat spring                         I – Tumbler link

J – Barrel                      K – Lock plate

To fire a matchlock, the soldier would perform the following steps


  1. He would load the barrel with gunpowder and after it insert a ball into the barrel.
  2. He would then pour a little extra gunpowder into a flash pan (B) after pushing the flash pan cover (A) to the side. The cover was used to keep the flash pan safe from the elements, until the moment of use. The flash pan had a tiny touch hole leading into the
  3. A cord of hemp or cotton called match (E) would then be attached to a curved lever called the Cock (C). The cord would then be lighted at one end and start burning very slowly.
  4. After taking aim, the trigger (D) connected to a lever (F), which was connected to a tumbler link (I) was pulled. This caused the serpentine C to be pulled towards the flash pan B and lights the gunpowder charge in the flash pan. The fire in the flash pan burnt through the touch hole and ignited the main gunpowder charge inside the barrel which exploded in that constricted space of the barrel and discharged the ball towards the target. A flat spring (H) then returned the lever back to its normal position.

The matchlock wasn’t always reliable though – many a time, the gunpowder in the flash pan could be blown off or become wet in the rain, or the slow match could go out. Sometimes when the trigger was pulled, the contents of the flash pan would ignite, but it wouldn’t burn through the touch hole and therefore fail to ignite the main gunpowder charge inside the barrel. There was always a chance that the open flame from one person’s matchlock could set off another person’s supply of gunpowder as soldiers would all be in close proximity setting off their charges. Besides, the glow of the match could give away a person’s position at night time and the slow match also had a distinct smell that could let people know that a person carrying a matchlock was nearby.

The Flintlock:

The flintlock mechanism is amazing from an innovation standpoint as it solved so many of the problems of the time using the fairly primitive tools and technology already available then.

The basic goal of the flintlock is simple: to create a spark that can light the gunpowder stored in the barrel of the gun. To create this spark, the flintlock uses the “flint and steel” approach. The idea behind flint and steel is straightforward. Flint is a very hard form of rock. If you strike iron or steel with flint, the flint flakes off tiny particles of iron. The force of the blow and the friction it creates actually ignites the iron, and it burns rapidly to form Ferric Oxide. The sparks are the hot specks of iron burning. If these sparks come near gunpowder, they will ignite it.

Lock Mechanism of a Flintlock

The main parts of a flintlock are:

The hammer, which holds and accelerates a piece of flint

The mainspring, which powers the hammer

The frizzen, which is the piece of steel the flint strikes

The pan, which is the place where a small quantity of gunpowder waits to receive the sparks.

This weapon has a hammer, which has jaws at the end, to which can be screwed on a piece of flint. It has a steel “frizzen” facing the piece of flint. To operate a Firelock, the soldier would perform the following steps

  1. One would first half-cock the hammer. This was a “safe” position from which the hammer would not normally spring back.
  2. Then one would pour a measure of gunpowder down the barrel and wrap a lead ball in a small piece of cloth or paper and ram it down the barrel on top of the gunpowder. The ball/cloth combination should have a nice, tight fit.
  3. After this, placing a small amount of gunpowder which is finer and more combustible than the regular gunpowder charge, in the flintlock’s pan the gunner would snap the frizzen in place over the pan. The frizzen also protects the powder in the pan from outside elements.
  4. He would now pull back the hammer from it’s ‘safe’ position to where it would be farthest from the pan.
  5. The trigger is now pulled to fire the gun.

When the gun is fired, the flint strikes the frizzen and shaves off iron to create sparks with the hammer holding the flint falling down to uncocked position. The hammer’s blow also snaps the frizzen back to expose the gunpowder in the pan. The pan’s gunpowder ignites aided by the sparks falling upon it, and it flashes through a small hole in the side of the barrel to ignite the gunpowder inside the barrel and shooting   the ball out of the barrel.

Unlike the matchlock, this weapon doesn’t require the user to carry a lit match at all times to discharge the weapon. Hence it is much safer to use, especially in larger groups of soldiers or near gunpowder supplies. It can also be used more reliably in rainy weather and the time lapse between pressing the trigger and the shot being discharged was far less than the matchlock thus providing the quarry with far less time to adopt a defensive posture.  Having understood how Matchlocks and Firelocks work, let us move on to the purpose of this article – to show you some of the best of these pieces manufactured in Tipu Sultan’s Mysore. I will start describing each of these pieces by alluding to a particular problem that each piece contrived to solve.


In the beginning of 1789, Alexander Read, a British Officer, estimated on ‘good authority’ the Mysore forces as below:

Four cushoons or Brigades each composed of 300 cavalry,  70 artillery,     2842 infantry, 50 rocketmen and 50 pioneers                                            –   13248

22 cushoons and bar or infantry with firelocks              –    78864

2 bodies of silladars (Lancers)                                            –     4500

A party of looties (irregulars)                                              –     500

Fighting camels                                                                      –     500

Young charters trained to arms  ( Asadilahi Troops)     –     3000

Infantry with matchlocks        (Kandachar militia)        –    30000

Total                                                                                         –  130612

The  observation of ‘fighting camels’ is interesting here because although camels were a part of many an army’s train in South India right from Vijaynagara times asmay be observed from depiction of camels on the wall friezes at the Hazara Rama temple in Hampi, they were primarily used as pack animals for carrying men and material. Tipu used them very effectively as fighting animals. Each camel had 2 soldiers mounted upon them, with one soldier reloading his weapon and the other firing his. This enabled a continuous fire from atop the camels into the enemy massed below. For the camel rider-soldier, maneuvering the camel as well as shooting from atop the moving camel presented the problem of ineffective fire as the rounds would often miss their target. Tipu surmounted this problem by providing a swivel blunderbuss to his mounted soldiers. The blunderbuss was fitted with a swivel that enabled the shooter to turn the gun o er a 360 degrees circle, though in most working situations a swivel arc of fire of more than 180 degrees across 2 quadrants was not needed as the rider would turn the camel towards the target being aimed at.

The blunderbuss is a muzzle loading firearm with a short, large diameter (caliber) barrel, which is flared at the shooting end of the barrel (muzzle) and frequently throughout the entire bore, and used with shot and other projectiles of relevant quantity and caliber. The muzzle was flared with the intent not only to increase the spread of the shot, but also to funnel powder and shot into the weapon, making it easier to reload on camelback. It was typically loaded with a number of lead balls smaller than the bore diameter. When fired the gun would release all the lead balls at once making the weapon very effective against massed troops on the opposite side of the barrel. It eliminated the need to aim at the enemy; it was enough to point at him from an effective distance and fire.


Bukmar in Farsi means ‘Stinging Wasp’ an apt name for this Mysorean firearm whose discharge of pellets would inflict similar agony on one’s flesh as when one was stung by a vicious wasp.  The blunderbuss was not a weapon unique to Tipu’s army as it had been used by armies in Europe since the 17th C. What is important here is how Tipu identified the efficacy of this type of firearm for his Camel corps and manufactured them in Mysore.

Bukmar from Mysore; Pic Courtesy: Thomas DelMar

This flintlock blunderbuss has a slender iron barrel formed in two stages with a belled muzzle, inlaid in silver at the median with the tiger mask cipher of Tipu Sultan, as well as  a brief inscription, decorated with scrolling foliage incorporating plantain leaves and Haidar talismanic square at the breech. The engraved tang is inlaid in silver with a brief inscription again. It has a beveled bubri shaped lock, inscribed with bubri shaped cock with jaws chiseled as a Tiger’s head in steel.

The stock is made of hard wood , carved in low relief about the lock with a bubri on either side of the tang. The butt is carved and has engraved brass mounts including pierced bubri shaped side plate as well as a trigger guard with a five point leaf shaped finial. The escutcheon (shieldlike surface on the wooden stock) is engraved with a tiger mask. The ramrod consists of three small molded pipes and the firearm is fitted with steel swing swivel as well.


Tiger Mask Cipher of Tipu Sultan on the barrel


HYDR Talismanic square at the breech-1223 Mauludi Era (1794/1795 AD)


Bismillah inscribed on the barrel Tang in Bubri script



Bubri shaped Cock with Tiger head jaw. Observe the place of manufacture ‘Pattan’ inscribed on the Lock under the Pan Pic Courtesy: Thomas DelMar


The Tiger mask cipher is engraved in Brass on the escutcheon on the wooden stock.


The breech tang with the Arabic numerals 313 inscribed over it

This number represents a curse in the Urdu language which is read as ‘Theen Therah’ – Theen for 3 and Therah for 13. Strategically situated close to the charge with which the weapon is loaded, it is intended that on firing, the target is both cursed and then destroyed.

Since this particular blunderbuss that we are studying is missing it’s sling swivel, I will show you a contemporary blunderbuss with a sling swivel – this particular one  of British manufacture, 1775 A.D.


A contemporary British Swivel Flintlock blunderbuss – 1775 A.D.

Swivel Gun

An Iranian Qizilbash firing his camel mounted swivel cannon, Picture Courtesy: Farrukh Husain, London

This is how a scene of a Mysorean soldier shooting his Bukmar mounted atop his camel and swinging the weapon around in the target’s direction as and when needed would have looked. But, do we have any depiction of such a camel mounted soldier in Mysore. For this, we need not look far but only at Robert Home’s Painting that was done on the spot where the Mysorean Princes were taken as hostages by the British in the year 1792.


Reception of the Hostage Princes by Marquis Cornwallis, Robert Home

Robert Home’s famous Painting of  the ‘Reception of the Hostage Princes by Marquis Cornwallis’ painted in 1793-94 has a number of Camel riders stationed on the side of Tipu’s forces just behind his ‘Tyger Men’. So, this is the closest that we can come to any contemporary image of the Camel-men in Mysore’s army. Camel mounted soldiers were not new to the East but it was Tipu who used them efficiently in battle in the Deccan. And equipping them with the bukmar would help create a posse of  armed Camel-men who sowed terror into the hearts of Mysore’s opponents by tearing their flesh with the fire balls of metal that spewed from their  bukmars.

This gun carries no inscription of it originating either from the Karkhaneh-ye-Khas, the Royal armoury or the ‘Karkhaneh-e-Aam’, the Public armoury. It just mentions the place of manufacture – Patan and the year of manufacture – 1794/1795. The gun itself is made of wood, steel and brass devoid of any silver of gold work. All this points to the fact that this is well made  piece with quality of work not at par with the guns that came out of the Royal or even the public workshops but far better than the regular munitions grade pieces that were used by most of  Mysorean army men. This shows that the Mysorean Came Corp occupied an important place in the military hierarchy. The gun was not particularly difficult to manufacture, yet the beauty of the piece looking at the bell shaped barrel end, the engraved cock and the swivel mechanism also testify to the efficiency of the Mysorean armorers.


A well-trained soldier in an 18th Century army could load and fire a firelock musket three or four times a minute.  The  elaborate step-by-step infantry drill of the eighteenth century armies, including the French drilled Mysorean one was designed to make this possible. The rate of fire fell, however, as the musket became fouled with powder residue and it became harder to ram home the ball and powder charge. Also there was a high misfire rate as the numbers of consecutive loading and firing increased. Volley fire was practiced by Mysorean  infantry too wherein a line of soldiers would let off their flintlocks just as the line behind them was loading theirs. This shortened the time between consecutive discharges of musketry and was a common practice in modern armies of that time.

Of the 15 odd seconds that it took for a soldier to discharge his firelock, more than 10 seconds were consumed by the act of taking out the ram rod, ramming in the powder and lead and putting the rod back into place, usually along the barrel of the gun. If this loading time could be shortened, more vollies of fire from an infantry line could be managed. This was where the Mysorean armory rose to the occasion and produced firelocks that could fire multiple shots from a single barrel without reloading!


Superimposed loads are loads that are placed in the barrel, one on top of the other, so that there is an alternating sequence of (from the breach end) powder, ball, powder, ball, etc., for the desired number of charges. Each charge is accompanied by a corresponding touch hole that allows ignition of that charge. Each ball behind the first acts as a seal, to prevent ignition of the next charge.

A very ingenious innovation, a superimposed flintlock is muzzle loaded in the same way as any other flintlock with a charge and then another complete charge is rammed down on top.

SuperImp Flnt

Images: 1. Flintlock in Transverse View 2. Crouching Tiger Butt 3. ‘Tiger’ Lock with Priming Screw 4. Blued Breech with silver Tiger Fore- Sight

The  blued barrel is decorated with silver koftgari bubris in a close-set regular pattern over its full length ahead of the breech and fitted with a silver fore-sight cast as a tiger in high relief. The trigger-guard and escutcheon are each decorated in continuation of the Tiger theme, with two short ramrod-pipes, the third cast with a tiger mask, silver fore-end cap, original iron sling-swivels and ramrod. The entire rear half of the gun is finely chiselled in relief as a seated tiger, the jaws of the cock forming the tiger’s head, heightened with silver bubris throughout, the eyes and subsidiary detail inlaid in gold, inscribed with both the date and a ‘Haydar’ talismanic square in gold on the haunches, fitted with safety-catch chiselled in the form of a miniature tiger moving on the back of the principal subject.


Lock – Hammer and Frizzen with Rolling Shutter Pan Mechanism

A gold-lined ‘Haydar’control mark along  with a band of three gold cartouches filled with the maker’s signature, the place and date of manufacture, and a ‘Haydar’ talismanic square, with decorated breech tang inscribed with the silver magic numbers ‘313′, can be seen on the flintlock.


Breech with Chamber for Superimposed charge

The breech is a two-stage octagonal one  formed with an additional chamber for the superimposed charge and the pan incorporating a rotary tap-action chamber for the sequential priming and ignition of successive charges, finely inlaid with with strips of stylised bubri ornaments framing both the an inlaid  quatrain and the royal Sun device of Tipu Sultan.

So, how does this flintlock work? How does it enable the shooter to fire two rounds one after the other without loading the powder and ball in between the two shots?  At the breech of the barrel are two touch holes, instead of the usual one hole, leading from the pan to the base of each charge. These have to ignited separately and this is achieved by having a tightly fitting tolling shutter in the base of the pan which serves the rear charge only. Thus, when the pan is primed and the forward charge has been fired, the rolling shutter, hollowed to contain further priming  powder, is turned through 180 degrees by means of a wing nut on the outside of the pan, exposing the fresh priming, and at the same time, permitting passage to the rear touch hole.

To operate this firelock, the soldier would perform the following steps

  1. He would first half-cock the hammer. This was a “safe” position from which the hammer would not normally spring back.
  2. Then he would pour a measure of gunpowder down the barrel and wrap a lead ball in a small piece of cloth or paper and ram it down the barrel on top of the gunpowder. The ball/cloth combination should have a nice, tight fit.
  3. He would then again pour the same measure of gunpowder down the barrel and after that ram another ball of lead into it. So at this point we have inserted 2 alternate charges of powder and ball in the same gun barrel one after the other.
  4. The gunner now places a small amount of fine gunpowder in the flintlock’s pan to prime the forward charge – the charge that is towards the muzzle of the
  5. He would now pull back the hammer from it’s ‘safe’ position to where it would be farthest from the pan.
  6. The trigger is now pulled to fire the gun. The flint strikes the frizzen with the resultant friction causing sparks to fly from the retreating frizzen which burns the fine powder in the pan. The flame reaches the front charge through the first touch hole at one end of the pan and the ball is discharged.
  7. Once this is taken care of, the gunner turns the wing nut at the base of the pan by 180 degrees activating the rolling shutter which is tube like with a cylindrical slot in it. The tube consequently rotates exposing the slot to the outside. This slot is connected to the rear of the barrel and thus to the charge first rammed into the gun, via a touch hole in the barrel. A small amount of gunpowder is put into this slot thus priming the rear charge. The gunner would snap the frizzen in place over the pan.
  8. Once again the hammer is half-cocked and the trigger pressed. Sparks from the frizzen burn the charge in the slot and subsequently burns through to the rear charge and discharges the ball that was rammed into the barrel first.

So, in a very short span 2 consecutive shots are discharged from the gun! Where it would take a gunner with a regular flintlock over 30 seconds to fire 2 shots, in this case with the superimposed load flintlock, the same 2 shots could be discharged in a span of about 20 seconds. This saving of 10 seconds between consecutive volleys was extremely useful on the battlefield where the opposing army with soldiers firing at you with regular flintlocks would be unable to shoot at you before you shot a round at them.

In my opinion, the technology incorporating the rolling shutter with twin touch holes on this flintlock reflects the apogee of the technical might of the Mysorean industrial state. From an engineering perspective, what were the points that the gunsmith would have to keep in   mind while designing this kind of a flintlock?

  1. The barrel would have to bored to precision. Remember, that what separated the first charge from the second was only the first ball enclosed in a wad of cloth or fibre.  Unless the barrell was bored uniformly and the soldier trained well to ram the ball tight there was every danger of hot exploding gases from the second charge after being expelled reaching to the first charge behind it and the resultant multi charge explosion causing the entire breech to burst! So, Mysore’s gunsmiths had learnt the art of boring gun barrells to perfection. Contemporary British accounts after the sack of Seringapatam record the British discovering machines that Tipu’s gunsmiths used to bore more than one barrell at the same time.
  2. The heart of this flintlock is the rolling shutter mechanism, which upon activation provided the priming charge access to the second touch hole leading to the first charge. Again, if this circular tube controlled with a wingnut is not made to precision, we would have encountered problems like the shutter tube getting stuck because of the powder, grime and heat around it as well as the danger of it’s improper seating around the second touch-hole leading to flame and gas from the first priming escaping through the second touch hole and creating a simultaneous combustion of both the charges leading to catastrophic failure of the barrel tube at the breech.

This particular flintlock was manufactured in the Royal workshop at Patan – Srirangapatna, as can be made out from the inscriptions on the gun and would have been intended for Mysorean royalty. It is improbable that like the blunderbuss, this kind of  flintlock would have been manufactured in large numbers in the Public Workshop, if manufactured there at all, on account of the complexity of the mechanisms involved.

While the effectiveness of this kind of flintlock is beyond doubt it also required a soldier with very good training to operate it as he had to ensure that he inserted the correct amount of charge and rammed the first ball in properly to ensure smooth firing. He would also have to keep the touch hole as well as the pan clean with tools available with him to prevent the touch holes from getting clogged up as well as for proper buting of charge in the pan and the shutter. Thus only a relatively limited number  of these flintlocks would have been made at the Mysorean armory.

Though guns with superimposed loads were known in Europe right from the 17th C, they only started to be manufactured in larger numbers only in the early part of the 19th C. That the Mysorean armory was up to the challenge of manufacturing such a weapon which was scarcely found in Europe as well at that time shows the technological prowess of Mysore at that time.




Seringapatam Matchlock

This matchlock is one of a select group manufactured in the  Mysore Public Armouries for making and finishing small arms under Tipu’s patronage. These have been made dual-purpose, in that they can easily be adapted for use as a flintlock, which it resembles from a distance. So we have a gun here that can be easily disassembled and reconfigured either as a Matchlock or a Flintlock.

The barrel, is a re-used Indian barrel. It has 4 convex flutes with silver calligraphy on the top, two flutes and two rows of bubris on either side also in silver. There is a Haidar control mark and ‘Patan’ stamp at the first girdle, which is also decorated with silver trellis work and calligraphy. Past another 8 convex flutes, we have another girdle with floral trellis and bird patterns. The muzzle has a brass foresight. The short section between the rearmost girdles is inlaid with the maker’s signature, the date and place of manufacture all in silver;  the butt-plate finial, the side-plate and the trigger-guard all formed as series of bubris and the gun retains it’s  small ramrod-pipes, brass fore-end cap, original brass sling-swivels, along with the original iron ramrod.


Matchlock with Match inserted in the hollowed Serpentine Cock

Inscriptions on the Matchlock

On the Barrel:-

karkhana   (Workshop)

1225   (Mauludi Year 1796/1797)

Patan, Abd-al-Qadir

“tofang-e-kebriya’ist sultan-e jahan ara

Ze Haydar bar ‘adu fath-e-muhammad shod zafar peyda”

(It is a magnificent gun of the World-adorning Sultan

Through Haidar, the victory of  Muhammad over the enemy became triumphantly apparent)

On the Lock:-

The talismanic square with the letters H/Y/D/R

This firearm was made to be fired by flintlock ignition. There is no integral pan as on the standard matchlock barrel, and the lock can be described as a matchlock which can be adapted for use with flint. Normally the serpentine is in the upright position and it is retained there solely by the bolted catch corresponding to the standard safety catch bolting the tumbler. The pan cover is fitted with a roller bearing riding on a standard frizzen spring.


The Lock


The mechanism of the Lock


When the trigger is pulled, the serpentine is rotated downwards by the action of the sear on the tumbler being activated solely by the pressure of the trigger finger. The movement of the tumbler, through the linkage, also cantilevers the pan cover open. It’s opening is accelerated by the action of the frizzen spring, so it snaps open smartly. When the trigger is released the serpentine returns to the upright position under pressure of the sear spring. The pan cover may then be operated manually.


To Meer Kumruddeen Ali Khan ; dated 11th (Extra) Ahmedy,

(28th March)

Your letter, informing us of your arrival at Chekry, and applying for a supply of gun-flints, powder, &c., has been received, and its contents are  duly understood. Send to Burhanuddeen for gun-flints, powder, and whatever else you may want. The Sipahdar  Mahomed Ali, has no doubt joined you by this time with the troops under his command, orders for this purpose having been repeatedly dispatched to

him. That part of your forces which was at Kurpah has also marched from thence, and will soon join your army. What more?

The letter from Tipu to Meer Kumuruddeen Ali Khan who was his one of his Meer Marans, the highest ranking officer in Mysore is evidence of the importance of armament stores, specifically flint for a marching army.

Although any quartz bearing material can be used to strike a  spark from hardened steel, only flint or other, similar micro-crystalline quartzose material was strong enough to hold a sharp edge for reliable, and  continued use.   Gunflint making in many regions was a typical cottage industry. Flint was mined locally by hand. Labor was usually organized according to three main steps. The cracker or quarterer broke raw nodules into suitable sizes for making cores. The flaker produced long blades from these cores. The knapper finally segmented the blades, and trimmed the finished gunflints. The ideal gun flint is tabular in shape with a sharp sloping front face. Flint was available in India and mined locally but some of the best flint was imported from England and France as well.  Only in 1805-06, 42,658 C. Rs. worth of powder and flint was imported by the East India Company to their Indian possessions. The value of a flint was even less than a paisa!

While Tipu Sultan would not have depended upon imports for goods as vital as flint for his army, getting flints to armies on the move and stocking them safely was not easy. And this is why only in Mysore, was a unique firearm invented and used which was aptly   named by her British foes as – The Seringapatam Matchlock!

But, what makes them so unusual is that they are matchlocks, produced towards the end of Tipu’s reign when his armories had been producing high-quality flintlocks of the most up-to-date design for nearly twenty years. We have already discussed earlier in the article, how matchlocks predated firelocks by several centuries and why firelocks were superior to matchlocks in terms of both technology used as well as convenience.

There was also no shortage of flintlock firearms in Mysore as many thousands of them were captured by the British after the fall of Seringapatam. For almost 2 decades prior to Tipu’s death, his armouries had already been turning out excellent examples of these pieces. As a matter of fact, from the Return of Ordinance and Military stores found at Seringapatam dated  20 May, 1799 it is interesting to note that there were 99000 flintlock arms captured and only 320 Matchlock guns! This was back in 1799, when all Indian armies were largely fighting with shield, saber and matchlocks; which only goes in showing how modern for its times was the Mysorean army!

So what could be a reason for Tipu to outfit a flintlock gun with a regressive matchlock mechanism? Contemporary and later visitors to Mysore and scholars  noted that Tipu’s unique designs were at best “…intended to be no more than another piece of inventiveness with which to feed his insatiable appetite for the mechanically unusual.” Much of this writing off Tipu’s scientific zeal as mere ‘whim and fancy’ was rooted in British prejudice against Mysore’s formidable strength.

An example of this attitude may be seen in C. Buchanan’s writing about  a canon boring machine operated with water and purportedly designed by French engineers for Mysore that he saw in the environs of Seringapatam during his travels through Mysore, Madras and Malabar around 1800-1801. He derides Tipu Sultan when he observed the machine had been altered to be operated by bullocks instead of water forgetting that now the machine could be operated at any place where bullocks were available instead of only at those places where power was obtained from water, primarily water falling down from a height.

It is my opinion that the reasons for the design of the Seringapatam Matchlock were the following:

  1. Some of the disadvantages of the flintlock system being a great number of misfires as the flint chips and wears away, fails to spark, with resulting wear to the tempered face of the frizzen. It is a main object of this invention to provide in combination with a flintlock mechanism, through conversion by the invention to the use of matches within the flintlock mechanism, resulting in a superior method of producing a more intense and reliable primary ignition and effective delivery of the improved ignition to the flashpowder within the cavity of the flashpan and the adjacent prime-hole.
  2. As seen in the letter from Tipu to his Meer Maran, flints were not always in abundant supply and the outcome of wars depended upon each gunner having good quality flints upon him. So, in eventualities, however rare where a flintlock was made useless because of lack of flints, it could be speedily transformed into a matchlock with the replacement of the lock mechanism and vice-versa from a matchlock into a flintlock.

It is to Tipu’s credit that he encouraged his gunsmiths to work around the problem of  finding flints for the flintlock and they in turn invented a mechanism found nowhere else in the contemporary world and patented only as late as 1983, of all places in the United States! Not many of these Seringapatam matchlocks were made from the fact that till date only 5 known examples exist. It is most probable that this gun was only made available to his chosen troops in Seringapatam. As the figures of captured ordinance show, matchlocks were hardly used in the Mysorean army and could only be found in the hinterlands among the ‘Kandachar’ or irregular troops.

Tipu was immensely proud of this and other products from Mysore and in a letter to the Executive Directory of  France, dated 29 July 1798, Tipu has included an account of presents for ‘5 French Chiefs’ and ‘their wives’. The gifts included:

Guns – 3

Matchlock – 1

Another Kind of Gun -1 , all of which he states were manufactured in Mysore. In view of the date of the letter and 1 of the guns being described as a matchlock, it is most probable that the Proud Tipu was gifting the Seringapatam Matchlock to his French allies.  Another letter to the French King, Louis XVII himself has Tipu saying mentioning – “A double barrelled gun made in the arsenal of the Sarkar together with an embroidered dress is sent for the noble rank and will arrive”.

Under Tipu’s orders, scholar and theologian Zainulabedin Shustari compiled a military manual for the  Mysorean army, called the Fateh-ul-Mujahidin or ‘The Truimph of the Holy Warriors’.  This manual deals with the military maxims and observations of Tipu Sultan with respect to military maneuvers and training.  A copy of this manuscript was carried away by the British in 1791 and partly translated into English with 21 copies finding their way to the India Office library alone.

An illustrated copy of the manuscript dated 1782/3 has on its margin a detail of an ink and watercolor illustration of one of Tipu’s infantrymen in 2 different stages of loading his firelock.


Illustration of Tiger Soldier in action with his firelock, Fateh-ul-Mujahidin

The soldier is observed here in two stages of using the firelock, first using the ramrod to load the charge into the barrel and in the second, cleaning the touch hole using a cleaning tool. The touch hole would get clogged with ash and grime over several firings; this would cause the charge to misfire or just ‘flash in the pan’. So frequent cleaning of the touch hole as well as the pan was necessary to ensure passage of the fired priming charge through the touch hole into the barrel.

Firelock-men were drilled through the year on their weapons, often taught by experienced French officers on the latest infantry techniques. No wonder Tipu’s men stood their ground in battle after battle with British and European trained Sepoys. The latest methods of training along with the best possible weaponry made the Mysorean army, though small in numbers when say compared to the Marathas or the Nizam’s,  a very formidable fighting force towards the end of the 18th C.  The Mir Sadar Cutcheri (Ordinance and Garrison Department) supervised the stores and manufacture of arms and ammunition. It was in charge of the garrisons and kept the army accounts as well. Ghulam Ali Khan, was the Mir Sadar or Head of this department and had eight officers or Bakhshis serving under him. This network of bureaucrats reporting to the court at Seringapatam itself ensured a steady supply of workmen and material right from the smelting irons to the flintlocks.

There is no evidence that the manufacture of firearms was continued in Mysore after Tipu’s fall in 1799. It must be assumed that his gunsmiths would have dispersed after the fall of the Khodadad  Sarkar. The Indian workmen moving on to other pastures and his European artificers deported from Mysore. In a newly conquered country, it is highly unlikely that existing munitions factories would have been left intact. Of  the ‘eleven armories for making and furnishing small arms’, nothing remains today.

But the inscriptions on the arms provide us with some clues about his gunsmiths and location of his arms factories. The factories at Patan and Nagar come up prominently as do Muhammad Almas,  Asad Amin,  Sayyid Masum, Sayyid Hasan and Sayyid Ali among the names of gunsmiths. We have arms from both Patan and Nagar bearing Sayyid Ali’s name which means that gunsmiths were also moved across factories.  Tipu even gave a new name to firelocks, which were called ‘bundook’ till then. At least in the nomenclature of the scribes at court and inscriptions on the firearms themseves, they were henceforth to be called ‘Tofang’.

Such was the allure of the weaponry from Mysore that only a few survive today, in museums all over the world and  private collectors owning the rest. They were so eagerly sought after as objects of curiosity that most of them were brought back to England by the early years of the 18th C, which account for the fact that there are virtually none of Tipu’s personal arms to be found in India today.

The reason of British interest in Tipu’s ordinance can be summed up in an observation made by a contemporary English visitor to one of his arms factories after his fall – ‘A degree of perfection has been achieved in every stage of the process, truly astonishing to those of our officers who visited the different workshops.’ The English were petrified at the idea of Tipu himself. Here was a brown ruler who unlike his contemporaries around him did not waste time and resources in wine, women and outlandish palaces. He would not borrow money or men from the East India Company nor would he ally with any European power against an Indian foe. Add to this the fact that he built up an army along modern European lines and armed them with armament equal to European arms that he made in his own factories. This was the quintessential Tipu the British were frightened of. And in vanquishing and felling him in that gateway on that afternoon of May 4, 1799 they had vanquished their greatest foe in India then. This was exactly why the English valued as war trophy any Mysore weaponry that they could lay their hands upon!

But what about the Mysoreans  who worked Tipu’s factories and manned his defences and loaded his firelocks? Did they forget him after his bones became dust and his factories ravaged with neglect and time? No, the memory remained for a long while after Tipu. The evidence for this lies in a percussion cap pistol sourced from Kollegala, near Mysore which is now in a private collection.


Native Percussion Cap Pistol from Mysore Circa 1840 A.D. Pic Courtesy: Private Collection

This kind of pistol which was the next advancement in firearm technology after the firelock uses a small cylinder of copper or brass with one closed end containing a small amount of a shock-sensitive explosive material such as fulminate of mercury. The cap is placed over a hollow metal “nipple” at the rear end of the gun barrel, on a chimney. Pulling the trigger releases a hammer that strikes the percussion cap and ignites the explosive primer causing the resulting flame to travel through the hollow nipple to ignite the main powder charge. Percussion caps were made in small sizes for pistols and larger sizes for rifles and muskets. They solved the problem of flintlocks misfiring in wet weather to a large extant.

Percussion cap pistols were first introduced circa 1820 and did not really become popular till the 1840s. So this particular piece would be from that period. This pistol is of Indian manufacture  quite crude in construction and uses as it’s lock an old flintlock lock stripped off its parts.


Observe 3 Bubri marks on the Chimney – 2 parallel bubris in horizontal and 1 by its side in vertical

What is striking about this piece is the observation of 3 bubris marks on the chimney. What are bubris marks doing on a piece produced in Mysore more than four decades after the fall of Tipu and his Kingdom? It could only mean one thing that there was some gunsmith in some corner of Mysore who inscribed the bubris onto the piece remembering the value that stamp once held! We will never know if this gunsmith had worked half a century ago in Tipu’s gun shop or had worked with the previous generation who probably had. What is amazing is that the memory of that stamp of quality still held! There could be no greater appreciation of Tipu Sultan’s role in fostering this arms industry, than this.

Thus ends the third and final of my trilogy on Mysore’s Firearms industry during the rule of Tipu Sultan. I can only hope that the reader, whichever part of the world he may hail from, is inspired to cultivate the same inquisitive mind that Tipu possessed and which transformed the Mysorean arms industry in the span of less than a generation.



No study of the firearms of Tipu Sultan is complete without the mention of the Late Robin Wigington, a dealer-collector based out of Stratford-upon-Avon, England. He was Tipu obsessed and his home in Stratford, where his collection was housed, backed on to the river Avon where he kept a boat painted with Tipu bubri stripes. His interest in Tipu predated the hysteria over him seen over the last decade. From the 1970’s, Robin started acquiring Tipu pieces and writing about them primarily in the prestigious Journal of Arms and Armour Society. He never believed in keeping knowledge acquired from his study of these arms to himself; his book “The Firearms of Tipu Sultan 1783-1799”, published in 1992 is testimonial to his efforts. As his collection grew, he set up a private museum to display the major pieces and make them known to a wider audience. He is no more with us now and is up there with Tipu Sultan perhaps, discussing niceties with him over Sherbet.

Much of his collection, after his passing away was disposed through his estate in collaboration with the esteemed auction house Sotheby’s in ‘The Tipu Sultan Collection” Sale of 25 May, 2005.


  1. The Firearms of Tipu Sultan, Robin Wigington; John Taylor Book Ventures, 1992
  2. Sotheby’s – The Tipu Sultan Collection; 25 May 2005, London
  3. Thomas DelMar Ltd., in association with Sotheby’s
  4. Tipu Sultan’s Mysore – An Economic Study, M.H. Gopal; Bombay Popular Prakashan, 1971
  5. Confronting Colonialism-Resistance and Modernisation under Haidar Ali and Tipu Sultan, Edited by Irfan Habib; Tulika, 1999
  6. The Tiger and the Thistle, Tipu Sultan and the Scots in India; NGS, 1999
  7. Tigers round the Throne, The Court of Tipu Sultan; Zamana Art Gallery, 1990
  8. History of Tipu Sultan, Mohibbul Hasan;Aakar Books, 2005
  9. Sunset at Srirangapatam, Mohammad Moienuddin; Orient Longman Ltd., 2000
  10. History of Tipu SUltan, M.H.A.Khan Kirmani;Asian Educatioanal Services, 1997
Posted in Tipu Sultan & his times | 3 Comments

Technology Transfer and a Cashless Economy: Tipu Sultan’s efforts to imbibe European Science and keep Indian Gold in India

Tipu Sultan’s interest in imbibing new technology was evident from the beginning of his reign. His embassy to France’s Louis XVI which left Indian shores in July, 1787 carried requests to France to dispatch to Mysore ‘seeds of flowers and plants of various kinds, and for technicians, workers and doctors.’ This request was made by Tipu’s ambassador to France, Darwesh Khan who ‘delivered his address to the King in low tones’. The King informed the ambassador that such craftsmen and technicians, who could improve the manufacture of arms and introduce new industries in his kingdom could be arranged for.

The transcript of Tipu’s letter to the French King received from the reports of British Intelligence at the French court to London is preserved in the India Office library records makes for interesting reading. The letter requests for 10 masters for casting cannon; 10 gunsmiths; 10 foremen for casting incendiary bombs; 10 workers of Sevres porcelain; 10 glass workers; 10 wool-carders; 10 watch-makers; 10 textile-makers; 10 printers of  Oriental languages; 10 weavers; one skillful doctor and one surgeon; one Engineer; one caster of bullets; clove plants; camphor trees; fruit trees of Europe; seeds of flowers of various kinds; seeds of linseed and 10 workers necessary for their cultivation.

We also know how many French artisans agreed to enter Tipu’s service: 10 casters of cannon; 10 gunsmiths; 10 casters of bullets; 10 porcelain workers; 10 glass makers; 10 weavers of cloth; 10 tapestry makers; 10 watch makers; 10 farmers and workers of hemp;2 printers of Oriental languages; 1 physician; 1 surgeon; 2 engineers and  2 gardeners.  This list makes interesting reading because it is a comprehensive list of all what Europe at that time had to offer. While there were other rulers in India, contemporaries of Tipu who would spend vast sums of money buying and using European arms, watches, cloth and books; here was a ruler who aspired to learn these trades from the Europeans and manufacture these very items in his country.

The Iron and Steel industry in Mysore had already reached a high level of scientific proficiency and output by the end of the 18th C. These forges in Tipu’s time were optimized for labor efficiency and the wages earned by the labor force were on par or better than contemporary workmen in neighboring states controlled by the British.

Similarly ambassadors whom he sent to Constantinople in 1785 were instructed to seek besides military assistance, technicians who would be able to make muskets, guns, glass, chinaware and other things. However there is no record of Tipu having received any help from the Ottoman Caliph primarily because of British subversive activity in Constantinople and the Sublime Porte’s displeasure at Tipu’s camaraderie with France which had by then with Napoleon Bonaparte’s sword arm started to nip into the Turkish Empire in the Middle East.

Another aspect of Tipu’s economic prudence can be seen in how Tipu offered to pay for armaments procured from France and Turkey.  Early in October 1788, the French sent proposals to Tipu for a commercial treaty proposing that Tipu allow the French company to purchase the annual produce of pepper in Mysore along with sandalwood, cardamom, cotton yarn, wool, gum, ivory and other goods. These imports would be paid for in cannon, muskets, ammunition, men-of-war, silk, woolen goods or other articles from Europe, as demanded by Tipu. Only, in case there was a balance, it would be paid for in bullion or silver. As for the military assistance in the form of technicians requested from the Ottoman Caliph, Tipu offered to send such workmen as were available in Mysore and required by the Caliph, This cashless trade served two purposes.  The first was to provide a market abroad for Mysorean goods and workmen, but the most important of them was to stop the drain of bullion out of Mysore.

Mr. Montgomery Martin who in 1835, did a survey of records in India House from 1807-1814 of the condition of provinces in Bengal and Bihar for  his book,  ‘Eastern India’ writes  “It is impossible to avoid remarking two facts as peculiarly striking – first the richness of the country surveyed and second, the poverty of  it’s inhabitants…..The annual drain of British Pounds (BP) 3, 000,000 on British India has amounted in thirty years, at 12 percent compound interest to the enormous sum of  BP 723,900,000 sterling….So constant and accumulating a drain, even in England, would soon impoverish her. How severe then must be its effects on India when the wage of a labourer is from two pence to three pence a day.’

Sir John Shore says in his minute of 1787 – “The export of specie from the country for the last twenty-five years have been great and particularly during the last ten of that period…..Upon the whole, I have no hesitation in concluding that since the company’s acquisition of the Dewany (of Bengal), the current specie of the country has been greatly diminished….; and that the necessity of supplying China, Madras and Bombay with money, as well as the exportation of it by Europeans to England, will continue still further to exhaust the country of it’s silver….”

Dadabhai Naoroji in his bold for that time book ‘Poverty and Un-British rule’ makes the point that the export of Indian Bullion by the British to China to finance the Opium trade and to England, remittances of English surplus in revenue from Indian trade as well as savings and bribes earned by company servants in Gold and Silver exhausted India of its bullion forcing an import of the precious metal into India. Dadabhai calculates from the returns of 1801 to 1869, only a paltry amount of 34 shillings per capita remained for all possible wants, commercial, social, religious, revenue, railways and other public works. And having no precious metal left to pay for the heavy English drain,   India began to pay in goods which now began to affect supply of raw material for our own trade and Industry. By 1869, the debt that India owed to England had climbed to an astounding 82,000,000 British Pounds !

Tipu even thought of establishing depots in foreign territories for the purpose of commerce. These centers were to buy rare goods and send them to Mysore for sale, and also sell rarities of Mysore in the foreign markets. Including the two existing depots at Cutch and Muscat they were to be 17 in number. The Sultans purpose in establishing these trade depots can best be expressed in his own words:-  “Sending in charge of your deputies or agents to other countries, the  produce  of our dominions, and disposing of the same there; the produce of those countries must be bought hither in return; and sold at such prices as will afford profit.”

The Revenue regulations of Mysore drafted under Tipu’s supervision himself is a very important source which helps us understand the importance Tipu gave to Mysore’s Iron and Steel Works. This book of regulations was to be compulsorily retained , read and followed by all Government functionaries throughout the extant of Mysore’s possessions from Malabar to  Dharwar.

Instruction no. 68 in the booklet read thus:- If the Reyuts (Farmers) in discharge of their rents, shall offer Gold, Silver, Copper or Brass, these articles are not to be disposed of to traders, but are to be purchased for government; according to the current price of the Bazaar(Market), and to be entered in the accounts of the office, and to be forwarded with the account of them to the Cutchery, at the same time with the supplies of stores. If in breach of these rules, you shall allow these articles to be disposed of to merchants, and receive the purchase money on account of government, you shall incur the displeasure of Government.

This showed Tipu’s adamancy that even payment of taxes in bullion kind should not be disposed off to merchants but be sent to the seat of Government at Seringapatam for deposit in the treasury. It was this surplus of precious metal in the treasury that helped Mysore to pay off the 33 Million Rupee indemnity imposed upon it by the British and their allies after the 1792 Mysore war in 16.5 million Rupees cash and bullion and the remaining within a year!

Tipu’s preferred policy of commerce in kind and not cash helped Mysore to stay bullion rich and thus prosperous during Tipu’s reign. “Tippoo   prohibited” writes a later contemporary of his “the importation of any foreign commodities so that the Canara merchants carried specie always out and thus the country so far as Arcot was drained of its gold.”  Though this was a misrepresentation of Tipu’s policy, as Tipu only prohibited trade with hostile countries and paid in cash when payment in goods was declined, the statement by the British observer shows how Tipu had managed to keep the flow of precious metals reverse of what it would be just seven decades from then in an India that had by then fallen under British dominion.


  1. Tipu Sultans Mysore – An Economic Study, M.H. Gopal; 1971
  2. History of Tipu Sultan, Mohibbul Hasan; 1951
  3. The Mysorean Revenue Regulations, Translated by Burrish Crisp; 1792
  4. Poverty and Unbritish rule in India, Dadabhai Nauroji; 1901


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Preparing the Sinews of War: The Method and Economics of Iron and Steel production in Tipu Sultan’s Mysore

Mysore’s transformation into a technologically advanced state was precipitated on account of the special circumstances that it found itself in towards the middle of the 18th century. Regular skirmishes with the British made   Tipu Sultan realize that the Europeans could only be defeated on the battlefield by employing superior technology and tactics against them. Fortunately for Tipu, the natural resources that Mysore possessed would become his greatest ally in this search for technological parity with the European adversary on the battlefield.

According to Francis Hamilton Buchanan, who is 1800 was sent by the conqueror of Mysore, Lord Wellesley, Governor General of India to Mysore to collect data on the climate and natural resources as well as the condition of peoples and their agriculture and manufactures, there existed in many parts of Mysore iron forges for the manufacture of iron. The iron was made partly from the black sand which was found during the four months of the rainy season in the channels of all the torrents in the country which the monsoon currents brought down from the rocks or from an ore called ‘Canny Kallu’ found in the rocks themselves.  However, only iron from the black sand could be made into steel. And it was this iron that would be the bedrock of Mysore’s gun-making industry.

Buchanan discovered Iron being smelted in various talukas near Tumkur, a distance of about 70 kilometers from Bangalore – Madhugiri, Chinnarayanadurga, Hagalawadi and Devarayadurga. The first 2 talukas contributed iron ore in the form of black sand from channels described above that would be used to make steel for sword blades, cannon, muskets, stone cutter chisels, etc  and the rest gave iron ore mined out of rocks which was used for all other purposes, primarily agricultural and household.

The work people in the smelting houses were four bellows-men, three men who tended the charcoal and three women and one man collecting and washing the sand. They worked only during the four months when the sand was to be found; and for the remainder of the year they cultivate the ground, or supply the inhabitants of towns with firewood. There are four men working in shifts at the bellows with the more skillful among them taking out the iron and building up the furnace. In each furnace the worker first put a basket of charcoal weighing about half a bushel (which is about 7 kilogram). He then would gather as much as he could of the black sand that he could lift with both hands and put in double that quantity. After placing another basket of charcoal, the fire was stoked by the bellows as often as necessary. This process of loading the furnace with charcoal and black sand is repeated every time the earlier load of charcoal is burnt.

In all, Buchanan noted that each smelting saw an input of about 20 kilograms of dry black sand which after smelting gave a mass of iron weighing about 9 kg wight. The iron was now taken to the forging house where there were 3 hammer-men, 1 man to manage the forceps, 2 bellows-men and 4 men to apply charcoal, which is made from Bamboo. Here, this mass of iron was again burnt and hammered into 11 wedges of iron, each conveniently shaped like a plough-share and hence easily trade-able as one. So, in the end about 47% of iron was procured from the ore, which though quite impure was malleable, a prime requirement for all tools from plough-shares to sword blades. Every day 3 furnaces are smelted and 33 wedges are forged.

So, at this stage we have these iron wedges extracted from ore that was mined from river beds in Mysore. How did the Mysoreans convert this into what could easily rank among the world’s best steel? Dr. Benjamin Heyne in 1814, wrote about the production of steel from these iron wedges after keenly observing the process in Mysore. He writes “ In order to convert the iron into steel each piece (wedge) is cut into three parts, each of which is put into a crucible carefully made of refractory clay, together with a handful of the dried branches of the  ‘Avaram’ tree and a few fresh leaves of the ‘Vonangady’ shrub. The mouth of the crucible is then closely shut with a handful of red mud, and the whole is arranged in circular order with their bottoms turned towards the center in a hole made on the ground for the purpose. The hole is then filled with charcoal, made of any wood except from the Banyan tree and large bellows are kept blowing for six hours, by which time the operation is finished. The crucibles are then removed from the furnace, ranged in rows on moistened mud, and water is thrown on them while yet hot. The steel is found in conical pieces – button like at the bottom of the crucibles, the form of which it has taken.”

The Mysorean method of production of steel could be said to be superior to the contemporary European method of  cementation by charcoal alone, which used to take anything between six to seven days, on the one hand, and fourteen to twenty on the other. By contrast, under the Indian method carbon and hydro-carbon acting jointly on iron formed steel within four to six hours. It is very likely that the Avaram wood and the Vonangady leaf were used for fuelling the furnace as they acted as de-oxidants.  De-oxidation is important in the steelmaking process as oxygen is often detrimental to the quality of steel produced.  Recent studies on ethanol and methanol extracts from the   Avaram plant have shown it’s superior anti-oxidant properties.  The excess of iron in the ore was gradually eliminated in the process of reheating. Steel of the kind required could be obtained by interrupting the process of de-carbonizing when wanted.

Let us now having looked at the Steel making process in Mysore move our attention to how the workers employed in this industry were organised and the method as well as amount of their remuneration. The Forging house studied here by Buchanan produced 33 iron wedges a day. Every 4 days, after production of 132 wedges they were divided amongst the workers as follows:

The incomes (in Kind) of the workers at the Iron Forge are as detailed below:

Proprietor:                                                         35 pieces

Panchala, Foreman at the forge:                10 pieces

Foreman at the smelt:                                     8 pieces

Bellows-men:                                                     5 pieces

Two of the women, at 5 each:                       10 pieces

Remaining 16 persons, at 4 each:               64 pieces


TOTAL:                                                               132 pieces

So, the workers would distribute the produce among themselves. In currency terms let us evaluate the value of these pieces. Buchanan mentioned that 4 pieces of iron made from the sand sold for a Fanam, which was a small Gold coin in circulation in Tipu’s Mysore. So, in currency terms let us now examine the earnings of each of the workers over a monthly period (30 days) iterating the data forward from the one calculated earlier for number of wedges produced (132) over a 4 day period. 5 Fanams were worth a Silver Rupee which was worth 960 Copper Kasu in Tipu’s time.

The incomes (Cash values) of the workers at the Iron Forge are as detailed below:

Proprietor:                                                         263 pieces =>   65 Fanams – 144 Kasu

Panchala, Foreman at the forge:                75 pieces    =>  18 Fanams – 144 Kasu

Foreman at the smelt:                                     60 pieces =>   15  Fanams

Bellows-men:                                                    38 pieces  =>     9  Fanams – 96 Kasu

Two of the women, at 5 each:                       10 pieces  =>      2 Fanams – 96 Kasu

Remaining 16 persons, at 4 each:               64 pieces  =>    16 Fanams


TOTAL INCOME OF WORKERS:                  132 pieces  =>    125 Fanams – 480 Kasu

Since a rupee was worth 5 Fanams, we may state that the entire output of a contemporary Mysore Forge produced a revenue of 25 Rupees 2 Fanams – 96 Kasu to its labour over a 4 day production cycle. The proprietor earned a sum of 13 Rupees – 144 Kasu each month. For a season of about 6 months that the forges worked in a year leaving out the Monsoon and other unproductive months, the Proprietor earned an income of 78  Rupees – 4 Fanams – 96 Kasu.

Let us now go forward again and see the expenses incurred by any one of the individuals associated with the forge. The proprietor, like today’s Contractor was supposed to defray all other fixed expenses for a whole season of work.

The expenses incurred by the Proprietor of the Iron Forge are as detailed below:

Forest keeper, for permission to make charcoal:  100 Fanams

Village chief for permission to gather river sand:   40 Fanams

Furnace Rent:                                                                        15 Fanams

Custom House (Tax):                                                          30 Fanams

For a pair of Bellows each – Smelt & Forge:                66 Fanams

Sacrifices to propitiate Gods:                                           15 Fanams

Charity for Brahmins:                                                       10 Fanams

TOTAL EXPENDITURE :                                                  276 Fanams => 55 Rupees – 1 Fanam

Profit made by the proprietor is  (78  Rupees – 4 Fanams – 96 Kasu) – (55 Rupees – 1 Fanam) = 23 Rupees – 3 Fanams – 96 Kasu 

What needs to be remembered here is that the Proprietor was the contractor who arranged men and materials for the purpose of forging Iron. He did not have to spend time at the forge and was free to pursue farming or trading or any other employment that he chose to which provided him with additional earning power.

We are also fortunate to have access to information about the payment to workers at the Steel Forge. Here, we are informed that the number of people employed in converting the iron wedges to steel is thirteen. A head workman makes the Crucibles, loads them and builds up the furnace. 4 teams of workmen, each consisting of 3 persons, one to tend to the fire, and 2 to work the bellows. Each team therefore, labors in the working season only four hours a day; except every fourth day when they must work 8 hours. They are all cultivators and in their leisure time, they manage their fields. Here too, there is besides the 13 men a proprietor who advances all money required to the workmen, and who receives payment when the steel is solid. Fifteen Pagodas ( 52 Rupees – 6 Fanam) worth of iron is purchased as raw material for the furnace. Of this 15 pagodas (a standard Gold coin prevalent in South India) worth of iron, 2 are given to the head workman and 1 each distributed among the remaining workmen and proprietor. All this iron is then handed over by each of the 13 people to the head workman, who for three months in employed in making the crucibles, loading them and preparing the furnace..During this time, the 12 workmen would bring him clay, repair the hut where the furnace was and make charcoal; but all this labor was only done in intervals when needed and they were free the rest of their time to work in their fields.

After the steel is produced, every man takes the measure of steel produced by the iron he gave to the head workman as pay. In many cases, the proprietor would have advanced sums of money to the laborers for their daily needs which he would now collect from them. Another quantity of iron worth 15 pagodas is purchased and this is done again till in a season 45 pagodas worth of iron is made into steel. It is again the proprietors responsibility to supply his team of workers with necessary advance on their pay to be recovered later as well as the general expenses attending the forge.


The incomes of the workers at the Steel Works is as detailed below:

45 Pagodas of Iron produce 1800 iron wedges divided into 5400 pieces of steel of which:

4500 pieces of good steel @ 2.5 pieces/Fanam:                                        1800 Fanams

900 pieces of poor steel @ 6 pieces/Fanam:                                               150 Fanams

Deducting Expenses:                                                                                       – (247) Fanams

Deducting Cost of Iron: (1 Pagoda = 10 Fanams)                                    – (450) Fanams

Net Profit:                                                                                                              1253 Fanams

This profit, divided among 15 labor, gives 83.5 Fanams income to each individual. This is an income of about 7 Fanams per month for a workman with a single share. The foreman gets double of this at 14 Fanams per month  as he spends all his time in the Workshop.

The expenses incurred by the Proprietor of the Steel Works are as detailed below:

Forest keeper, for permission to make charcoal:   110 Fanams

Village chief for house rent:                                            15  Fanams

Custom House (Tax):                                                          30 Fanams

For a pair of Bellows:                                                         42 Fanams

Sacrifices to propitiate Gods:                                          30 Fanams

Charity for Brahmins:                                                       20 Fanams

TOTAL EXPENDITURE :                                                  247 Fanams => 49 Rupees – 2 Fanams

This expenditure is shared by each worker, in proportion to his quantity of steel. The whole profit of the proprietor is the 3 Pagodas worth of iron converted into steel, for which he would already have advanced 40 odd pagodas to buy the 45 pagodas worth of iron required by the steel work over the year. This he manages with his own capital or with cash borrowed from a moneylender.

Let us now for each kind of Forge, summarize the wages/profit earned by the owner of the forge as well as the basest of workers there.  Since we do not have access to the investment made by the proprietor of the Iron forge we can only assess his Profit in terms of % of Expenses/Income which gives him a  dividend of 70%. At the same time the remuneration of the most menial of workers is 1 Fanam for every production cycle of 4 days giving him a wage of  7 Fanams – 96 Kasu in a month.

In case of the Steel Forge we may calculate the ROI (Return on Investment) as:

(Gain from Investment – Cost of Investment)/ Cost of Investment which in our case is (in Fanam worth):

The team together takes home (1253 – 450) / 450 = 1.7 or an astonishing 170% ! The least paid of labor earns 7 fanams a month.

Let us now compare the wages of a higher 30 Fanams / month and lower 7 Fanams / month with contemporary wages in India. The  Returns Register of the PWD (1830-31), Bengal Presidency  mentions the daily wages of a Laborers on Zamindari estates in the districts of Dinagepore, Bakegunj, Dacca, Murshidabad, even the Parganahs of Calcutta as 2 annas per diem. This means monthly wages hovered at 3 Rupees – 12 annas in East India Currency. The years 1790-1800 were very depressed times in Bengal due to  famine and the wages would have been lower. Even if one wishes to disregard the wages in British Bengal looking at the depressed conditions there, one may move to the relatively prosperous and neighboring Bombay Presidency where the Bartle Frere Price Commission Report of 1864 gives the minimum wage was only 7 Rupees – 12 Annas per month in 1863 and notes that the early decades of the 19th Century saw much lower wages on account of the depression .which continued more or less till wages improved in the 1850’s on account of the US Civil war demand for Cotton, construction of the Railways and the Indian War of Independence.

Contrast this with the wages of the most menial of workers at the Mysore forge at the turn of the 18th C who made between 7 -8 Mysore Fanams in a month which comes to about 2 British Rupees – 4 Annas each month. One also has to keep in mind the fact that in the forges of Mysore,  these workers were not needed to work more than 4 hours a day and were free to work the rest of the time in their fields or as hired labor elsewhere thus adding to their monthly income.


A Blunderbuss produced at one of the Royal Workshops in Mysore


Steel Barrel of the Blunderbuss with Bubris Etched

As discussed earlier, Ore was extracted from rocks in another way. Buchanan visited a village near Tumkur where the ore  was being mined and found a man with a pickax digging up on the side of a hill. Until he got a perpendicular face five or six feet wide and as much  high. Before him he has then a face containing ore, more or less intermixed with clay, sand, and hematite and covered with two to three feet of external soil. He would go on to physically scoop out the ore, and matters with which it is mixed; and having beaten them well with his pickax, and rubbed them with his hands, pick out the small pieces of ore throwing away the sand, clay and other matter.

This stone ore was made into iron in exactly the same way as described above for ore from black river sand. However the smelting process slightly differed. The ore was smelted twice a day. At each time, an amount of cleaned ore is put into the furnace and wrought iron to the weight of about 20% of the ore is produced. This iron is heated after cutting into wedges, in a forging furnace and beaten at once by 3 men, with hammers weighing 7 – 9 kilograms each. The iron, very malleable is now ready for sale. This iron was primarily used to fulfill Mysore’s Household and Agricultural requirement. It would also be used in making war equipment like Shells, round shot, horse accouterments, sword and lance blades for the Kandachar militia, etc.


Part of Horse Armour manufactured in Mysore, 1799 AD Courtesy Pvt. Collection


Observe the Bubris struck along the borders of the Armour

The forge at Hampapura by the banks of the Kabini river was one of the factories that regularly supplied iron wedges to the Sarkar and Buchanan records that Tipu’s father, Haidar Ali made an allowance of a Fanam per Maund (appx. 38 kilogram wt.) of iron sent to the Government. So, what needs to be remembered here is that Tipu himself or in his time did not actually kick-start a new Industry in Mysore; it was already there, but he only actively incentivised, encouraged and regulated their activities. And in doing this he was able to bring up methods of production as well as the output to levels yet unseen in the rest of South India. Another very important contribution of his was his policy of encouraging foreign Craftsmen to come to Mysore and produce new Cannon and other armaments inducing in this process more modern methods of forging and manufacture.

Tipu Sultan’s embassy to France’s Louis XVI which left Indian shores in July, 1787 carried requests to France to dispatch to Mysore ‘seeds of flowers and plants of various kinds, and for technicians, workers and doctors.’ The King informed the ambassador that such craftsmen and technicians, who could improve the manufacture of arms and introduce new industries in his kingdom could be arranged for. The transcript of Tipu’s letter to the French King received from the reports of British Intelligence at the French court to London is preserved in the India Office library records makes for interesting reading. The letter requests for 10 masters for casting cannon; 10 gunsmiths; 10 foremen for casting incendiary bombs; 10 workers of Sevres porcelain; 10 glass workers; …one Engineer; one caster of bullets;  We also know how many French artisans agreed to enter Tipu’s service: 10 casters of cannon; 10 gunsmiths; 10 casters of bullets; …. 10 watch makers;….2 engineers and  2 gardeners. Obviously, manufacturing the best weaponry would also mean ramping up science, quality as well as scale of Metal production to the best standards of that time. This is Tipu’s primary achievement.

At Kankanhalli, the iron foundry was under the exclusive preserve of the army manufactory. This factory, like today’s ordinance factories in India appears to have been conducted entirely on Government account and for it’s exclusive benefit.

The Revenue regulations of Mysore drafted under Tipu’s supervision himself is a very important source which helps us understand the importance Tipu gave to Mysore’s Iron and Steel Works. This book of regulations was to be compulsorily retained , read and followed by all Government functionaries throughout the extant of Mysore’s possessions from Malabar to Dharwar.

Instruction no. 78 in the booklet read thus:- If there are ten iron-foundries in your district, you are by encouragement, to increase them to double their number; and according to the indents and musters sent from the Huzoor; you are to have iron Dubas and steel Kuhuttes made and forwarded. Whenever an order comes to your Kuchery for iron shot and Dubas, you are to forward them without the smallest delay;Ironmongers may make all sorts of implements of iron, but you are to take care that they do not sell shot. You are also to ascertain where there are mines of iron and steel; and obtain from thence the utmost possible quantity of each of those articles, which you are to take the greatest care of.

Instruction no. 122 read thus:- You are to cause the name of your district to be stamped on all the iron implements and shot which are made in your district and are to send them through your Cutchery to Agran Puttun.

We see Tipu asking his Amildars who were Civil officers in-charge of each district to encourage and expand the production of Iron and Steel as well as to keep an open eye of sources of ore and acquire them for the Sarkar. We see a very interesting point made of the output of the forges. Along with iron implements they produced Dubas , Kuhuttes and iron shot. Kuhuttes (from the Dravidian Katthi for Knife) were sword blades for the use of the Sarkar, iron shot were round metal balls used in muskets and cannon for ammunition. But what is enlightening here is the use of the word – Dubas (From the Hindustani Dubba for box) are Cylindrical Shells, something unique throughout the Armament world of the 18th Century to Mysore and Tipu. These Dubas or Cylindrical Shells were Rocket casings into which charge and fuse would be put, ends sealed and a steel blade or long bamboo attached  to the shell with leather strips and sent flying into the sky bringing fire and terror into the hearts of Mysore’s enemies. Tipu also goes further asking the foundries to mark the shot and implements  with the name of the district as a quality check so that the item could be verified at any time against both inventory as well as Quality.

To sum up, we have now seen a well developed and advanced Iron and Steel industry in 18th Century Mysore which made use of the best of the resources the land had to offer with a well organised Labor force being paid wages which were far ahead of corresponding wages in British occupied territories nearby. All of this together helped to change Mysore from a petty principality of 33 villages to World power status.


The currency conversion ratios used are as follows:

British: 1 Pagoda = 3.5 Rupee = 42 Silver Fanam = 3360 Kasu

Tipu: 1 Pagoda = 2 Rupee = 10 Gold Fanam = 1920 Kasu

The conversion key were the following ratios:

1 Tipu Pagoda = 3 British Indian Rupees

1 Tipu Pagoda = 2 Tipu Rupees (Double Rupee – Haidari)

1 British Rupee = 16 Annas


  1. A journey from Madras through the countries of Mysore, Canara and Malabar, Francis Buchanan; 1807
  2. Iron and Steel Production in Eighteenth Century Mysore, Nikhiles Guha; 2002
  3. Tipu Sultans Mysore – An Economic Study, M.H. Gopal; 1971
  4. History of Tipu Sultan, Mohibbul Hasan; 1951
  5. The coins of Tipu Sultan, Rev. Geo P. Taylor; 1914
  6. The Standard guide to South Asian Coins and paper Money Since 1565 A.D.; 1st Edition
  7. The Mysorean Revenue Regulations, Translated by Burrish Crisp; 1792
  8. Poverty and Unbritish rule in India, Dadabhai Nauroji; 1901
  9. Medicinal values of Avaram, International Journal of Current Pharmaceutical Research – V. Joy, M. John Paul Peter and others; 2012
  10. Of Damascus Sword Blades, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society – Henry Wilkinson; 1837
  11. Tipu Sultan to Zynal Aabideen, 6th Nov. 1786: Select Letters of Tipu Sultan, William Kirkpatrick, Letter no. CCCXCIV
  12. Tipu Sultan to Raja Ram Chander, 13th June, 1786: Select Letters of Tipu Sultan, William Kirkpatrick, Letter no. CCXCIV
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