The Mysorean Army under Haidar Ali and Tipu Sultan

In it’s time Tipu Sultan’s army was the best equipped and best disciplined troops maintained by any Indian state. In his study of Tipu’s armies, Denys Forrest says that Tipu had inherited a system of compulsory service, which had been purged completely of it’s feudal element. The armed forces answered to the ruler direct, and he was the sole source of promotions and punishments. Most of the troops were cantoned in and around Seringapatam and no officer was left in command of a single unit for any lenghth of time. For the same prudential reason, the soldier’s families were compelled to live in Seringapatam, Bangalore or Bednur.

The regular forces were originally organised into cushoons, risalas and juqs, roughly equivalent to brigades, batallions and companies, and commanded by Sipahdars, Risaldars and Juqdars respectively. The Sipahdar was under the obligation to consult his Risaldars over any serious problem and if necessary to take their opinions in writing. There was also the curious institution of the ‘Sarvasakshi’, an officer of subaltern rank but with wide powers of inspection and report. One of his duties was to keep the higher command, and even Tipu himself, informed about the morale of the risala to which he was attached.

Later, the Brigades were called cutcheries, there were four each for cavalry and infantry, the former being divided into fived mokums or regiments and the latter into six cushoons.

Every contemporary chronicler pays tribute to the smart appearance and excellent equipment of the Mysorean armies, as well as to their remarkable steadiness under fire. The infantry wore tunics of the famous ‘tiger’ pattern, with or without short trousers. They were armed with muskets and each cushoon had it’s corps artillery from one to five guns. Operating in support were the rocketeers and other auxilliaries. The most versatile of tipu’s troops were the irregular cavalry, or silhadars. They and the irregular infantry were responsible for much of the devastation wrought by Tipu’s armies in the Carnatic and Malabar. The number of European auxillaries in the Mysorean army at any time would never have amounted to more than a few hundreds.

Both Lord Cornwallis and Wellesley spoke highly of the Mysorean army and the Duke of Wellington wrote that the Mysore Cavalry was at that time the best fighting force in the world. After the defeat of Tipu this cavalry would be merged with the Maharaja’s cavalry and called the Mysore Lancers that became famous throughout India after it’s campaigns in the Maratha wars, prominently at Assaye, and later in the Great War in Turkey and Europe. Tipu’s military tradition would live long and serve his erstwhile enemy the British to extend their reach even further. What a tragedy?


About Olikara

An engineer, history buff, collector of South Indian antiques.
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8 Responses to The Mysorean Army under Haidar Ali and Tipu Sultan

  1. Graeme Cook says:

    The full text of:
    LEWIN B. BOWRING, 1893

    can be found at:

    • olikara says:

      Thanks for the link to the book. The description of the Mysorean army by Paul Stevenson was also interesting. Yes, the chelas batallions were not on par with the rest of Tipu’s army but some of them did excel on the battlefield. I think this lack of vigour was more to do with the fact that they were forcibly conscripted into the army and less to do with poor training.

      Thanks again for stopping by.


  2. Please give free licence to use this article in wikipedia.

  3. dr saleem akhtar says:

    thanks for this lovely article

  4. Anonymous says:

    Which book is the Denys Forrest’s on the Mysore army please? I’m trying to find out all I can about it but keep hitting brick walls.

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