The Tiger’s Last Roar: The death of Tipu Sultan

Today, Tipu Sultan is best remembered by the events that transpired on May 4, 1799, when he died fighting by the side of his men for Mysore. His valour and steadfastness that day is something that even his detractors, of whom there are legion, appreciate.

I will in the course of this post take you through the events of that tumultuous day and we shall constantly be by Tipu’s side till the end. For this article I will be collating several accounts of that fateful day written by several people of different backgrounds but most of whom were involved in one way or another with Tipu Sultan and the endgame of the  Fourth Mysore war.

My reference sources here are:

  1. Beatson,  Alexander (1800) A view of the origin and conduct of the war with Tippoo    Sultaun; comprising a narrative of the operations of the army under the command of      Lieut.-General George Harris, and of the siege of Seringapatam. (English  Account -This is the primary British source)
  2. A review of the origin, progress and result of the decisive war with the late Tippoo      Sultaun in Mysore: with notes; By James Salmond (1800) (English Account)
  3. History of   Mysore under Hyder Ali and Tippoo Sultan. By J. Michaud (1801-09) (French  Account)
  4. Memoirs of      Haidar and Tippoo, rulers of Seringapatam (1849). Ramchandra Rao Punganuri.  (Hindu Mysorean  account).
  5. The history of  Hyder Shah and of his son, Tippoo Sultaun. (1855) By M.M.D.L.T. revised  and corrected by His Highness Prince Gholam Mohammed, the only surviving  son of Tipu Sultan (Anglo-Mysore Muslim Account)
  6. History of Tipu  Sultan being a continuation of the Neshani Hyduri; By Mir Hussain Ali Khan  Kirmani (1864) (Mysore Persian Account – under British Patronage)
  7. A brief  Mahamadan version of the sieges of 1792 and 1799 (1897) By Stephen      Basappa  (Oral Muslim Local History  Account narrated).
  8. The last siege   of Seringapatam, E.W. Thompson (1928) (British Account)
  9. History of  Mysore 1766-1799 AD(1946) By C. Hayavadana Rao (Mysore Hindu Account)
  10. History of Tipu  Sultan.(1951) By Mohibbul Hasan (Extremely well researched Modern Indian  Account)
  11. Tiger of Mysore;  The life and death of Tipu Sultan (1970). By Denys Forrest (Well      researched Modern English Account)

As I proceeded with this article, I was pleasantly surprised to realise that though the basic narrative of events remains the same, different narrations give out specific anecdotes that analysed in the full perspective of what happened that day add to our knowledge of the multi-faceted character of the Tiger of Mysore.

Now, may I begin?

When the British began their siege of Seringapatam, Tipu Sultan following their movement had stationed himself   on the southern walls of his citadel, then he moved to the western angle  from where he monitored the enemy positions and gave instructions to his men. However, when it became clear that the British attack would be delivered from the Northwest face of the fort, Tipu Sultan took up his residence in the Kalale Deedy, which was near a gate through which one entered the river Cauvery,  near the outer rampart of the north face of the Fort.

This gate was constructed by Devraj a former regent of Mysore who hailed from the Kalale village, about 4 miles from Nanjangud, about 80 years ago. Tipu closed up this gate, on the side towards the river, about the year 1793. Here he occupied this enclosure within the gate, enclosed by curtains, forming an apartment in which he ate and slept. Near to this shelter, four small tents were pitched, for his servants and baggage. He remained  there for fourteen days.

Tipu’s astrologers had apprised him well before that fateful day that the 4th of May, 1799, being the last day of a lunar month, was an inauspicious day; and around 9 in the morning of that day, the Brahmin astrologers waited upon him at the Kalale Deedy, and repeated the same unfavourable omen. They informed him that to mid-day and for seven ghadis (nearly 2 hours), the time was extremely unpropitious to him, and he should take care and stay with the army until the evening and give alms in the name of God.

Tipu then mounted his horse, and after inspecting the breaches in the defences, ordered a party of pioneers to repair them and returned to the Lal Bagh palace for a bath. After his bath, at about 10 in the morning, the Sultan then distributed among the Brahmins an oblation, consisting of the following articles : To the priest of Chennapatanam, he gave an elephant, a bag of til oil-seeds, and two hundred rupees. To different Brahmins, he gave a black bullock, a milch buffalo, a male buffalo, a black she-goat, a jacket of coarse black cloth, a cap of the same material, ninety rupees, and an iron pot filled with oil; and previous to the delivery of this last article, he held his head over the pot, for the purpose of seeing the image of his face,  a ceremony used among the Hindus to avert misfortune.  Further money and cloth was distributed to a number of poor men and women who assembled there.

He, soon after this ceremony, left the Palace, without going into the zenana to meet his women and children as was the custom, and returned in his palanquin to the Kalale Deedy. Obviously the defence of Seringapatam was all that weighed upon his mind that day. There he was met by two spies, who reported that the besiegers were preparing to storm, and that they would attack either in the course of that day, or at night. The Sultaun remarked, that it was improbable they would attempt an assault in the daytime.

Syed Gafur,  one among his best commanders and confidantes who commanded near the Breach, also informed the Sultaun through a message that there seemed to be an unusual number of men in the trenches, as if an assault was intended; and he recommended that the Sultaun should give orders to the troops to be alert. Tippoo again expressed his belief, that an assault would not take place in the daytime., but he also informed Syed Gafur that if such an assault were to be delivered during the day, it should be repulsed. His confidence on the timing of the British assault  would be proved wrong here.

It was near one o’clock when the Sultaun reached the Kalale  Deedy. He immediately ordered his lunch to be brought, ate a morsel, and was about to take more when the sound of commotion  reached his ears. The storm had begun.  He received intelligence that Syed Gafur, was killed. He instantly washed his hands, and said ‘ we also shall soon depart’. He  called for his sword and fusils.  After he had buckled on his sword, he exclaimed, “Syed Gafur  was never afraid of death: let Mahomed Cassim take charge of Syed Gafur‘s Division.”.  However he prudently  kept the news of Syed Gafur’s death a secret and told the men around him that Seringapatam’s walls were not made of wax, that it should be breached so easily and that Syed Gafur was no ordinary man to be felled so easily. He obviously did not want to demoralise his men.

The Sultan then  ascended the north rampart, followed by four chosen men who carried his fusils, by a fifth who carried a blunderbuss, and by two or three eunuchs. He advanced towards the the western battery after crossing through a small postern on the river, called the ‘Hole Vuddi’ in Kannada. When within about two hundred yards of the Breach where the British flag was already hoisted, he stood behind one of the traverses on the rampart, and fired seven or eight times with his own hand, at such of the assailants as had advanced within shot. He kept firing while his men loaded the blunderbusses for him. At least 3 – 4 Europeans were personally felled by Tipu at this juncture.

When the Sultaun observed, that such of his own men as were in front had either fled or were killed, he retired along the north rampart all the while on foot.  Here he complained of pain and weakness in one of his legs, which had been badly wounded when he was young and campaigning in Malabar, and, desiring his favourite horse  might be brought, he mounted the horse and  proceeded back towards the ‘Hole Vuddi’ gate that he unfortunately found closed.

He pressed on eastwards upon the rampart in order to cross into the inner fortress with an intention to rally his men and make a stand inside the walls now that the outer wall had fallen.  He came to the slope at the new sally-port, in the inner, or new rampart. Here he descended, still on horseback, crossed the bridge which passes over the inner ditch. When he entered this sally-port or water-gate, it was so much crowded that he could not make his way into the town. The British storming party had found a wooden plank between the outer and inner walls that had been inadvertently left behind by Tipu’s pioneers who were repairing the breach and used this plank to cross into the inner fortress thus leaving Tipu and his immediate circle coming under attack from the British force pursuing them from the outer wall and now confronting them from the inner fortress itself that Tipu planned to enter.

As he was crossing to the gate by the communication from the outer rampart, he received a musket ball in his right side.  He advanced through the crowd three or four paces in the gateway  until he was stopped about half through the arch of the gateway by the fire of the British 12th Light Infantry from within, when he received a second  and third ball in the right side close to the other,  the mare he rode being wounded at the same time.

The Sultan having told his personal retainer Rajah Khan that he was wounded, this faithful servant proposed to him to reveal himself to the British; but the Sultan said, “Are you mad ?  Be silent”.

Rajah Khan now endeavoured to disengage him from the saddle, in which attempt they both fell, together with the horse, amongst the dead and wounded men. Rajah Khan was at this moment shot through the leg. The fallen Sultan was immediately raised by some of his faithful adherents, and placed upon his palanquin under the arch, and on one side of the gateway, where he lay or sat for some moments faint and exhausted, until some European soldiers entered the gateway.

The firing had now nearly ceased below the arch or the gateway; and a British grenadier came up to Tipu and seized his sword-belt, with a view to strip it of the gold buckle by which it was fastened. The Sultan instantly stretched out his right hand, and snatching a drawn sword, which happened to lie within his reach, made a stroke at the soldier. The blow falling upon his musket, he made another stroke at another soldier with more effect: and immediately afterwards was killed, by a musket ball which penetrated his right temple and was later found lodged below his ear. It was about 2 in the afternoon now.

Thus was extinguished the life of the Tiger of Mysore. I have often wondered about that moment where the severely wounded Tipu and his personal retainer Rajah Khan are in the darkness of the water gate, surrounded by dead Mysoreans all around with almost no hope left, and Raja Khan asks Tipu to reveal himself to British knowing well that if his master did so, Tipu’s life would be saved.

However, Tipu remained  the quintessential Tipu till the end reprimanding Raja Khan for even bringing that suggestion of surrender up. This was when Tipu’s character showed itself for the last time. That character and mettle which would forge Mysore, a state once comprising of 33 villages into a power that ruled over territory from Dharwar to Calicut.

15 years after Tipu’s death and on the abdication of Napoleon Bonaparte, the Great British Poet and Playwright Sir Walter Scott wrote “Although I never supposed that he [Napoleon] possessed, allowing for some difference of education, the liberality of conduct and political views which were sometimes exhibited by old Haidar Ally, yet I did think he [Napoleon] might have shown the same resolved and dogged spirit of resolution which induced Tippoo Saib to die manfully upon the breach of his capital city with his sabre clenched in his hand”.

Tipu had certainly shown himself to be made of sterner stuff than Napoleon, his friend and ally, when it came to the end.

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About Olikara

An engineer, history buff, collector of South Indian antiques.
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33 Responses to The Tiger’s Last Roar: The death of Tipu Sultan

  1. This in depth write up about his last day alive has touched me. Tipu could have raised a white flag, surrendered and remained a Rajah. and died of old age as a rich man would. But he did not.
    Unhone veergati ko praapt ki. This state of mind suggests he was not an ordinary man.
    Bhagat Singh was another one, among many who did the same, but Bhagat did not have a kingdom to lose. I bow to these people who laid down their lives for you and I.

    This lone act wipes away any wrongdoing he might have done or he is accused of having done.
    Aye mere watan ke logo
    zara aankh me bharlo paani
    jo shaheed hue hey unki
    zara yaad karo kurbaani.

  2. Sam says:

    The British portrayed him as a cruel man and religious bigot, but instead ,they themselves were religious bigots and committed heinous crimes,rape plunder and loot of golden India and took away lots and lots of wealth,they were in fact thieves ,robbers, bandits and vagabonds, came to India to plunder and loot its wealth and finally in the end divided the country.
    Tipu Sultan was indeed a brave and very able man, if Nizam of Hyderabad with his immense army and wealth never supported British they would have been beaten back and kicked out to their tiny island, like they suffered the humiliating end in USA .
    Tipu Sultan was a handsome and very good looking man according to many Indian historian but British painted him as an ugly short and stubby man, because they hated him,they envy his power , his rockets and his unstoppable courage to fight in any situation, British brought Hyderabad Nizam,,Arcot Nawab,Marathas and Travancore combined with British and many other forces to fight with and ,he fought with them all singly and before dying he killed many British soldier with his famous SWORD and gave his life for his beloved India.

  3. sandeep says:

    I am not sure whether tipoo will be considered as a freedom figher of india but i am sure that he was the only one whom the british feared most and called the “invincible”.i am proud that he was an indian and an example to the whole world for the word bravery same as a tiger…….

  4. Varun Moganti says:

    Tiger always shows royality whether in life or in death

  5. shahanaaz says:

    i belive that tipu sultan was getting sucess

  6. Raj singh says:

    Tipu sultan was a brave Indian tiger who had no fear about his life . He was able to become badshah of India. ab thoda hindi main in chuze angrezon ke liye . Girtey hain sher shashwar-e-maidan-e-jung main wo kya girenge jo ghutno ke bal chala karte hain. tumne humein hi aapas sab bhaiyon ko ladwakar jeet hansil ki thi nhi to akele tumhari aukat or bisat hi kya thi. Tiger Tipu aap hmare dilon main hmeshan rahoge. aapka balidan sar ankhon par. Raj singh from (jat riyasat)Bharatpur Rajasthan . Bharatpur is one of the most undefeatable fort ever in Rajputana or Rajasthan it is also known as Ajay Durg(lohagarh). Britishers ki yahan “waat” laga di thi hmare purkhone kabhi jeet hi nahi paye or bat kartein hain . ye chuze hmari kya braabri kareinge. oh chuzoooo.

  7. Islah Ikrami says:

    You have done it once again my friend. It is a brilliant write-up and I appreciate all the hard work that you have done to collate this data. From a Mysorean, I am indebted to you.
    There is more to the eye that can meet..do you know of the account wherein after Tipu was martyred, there was a terrible storm the following night, it was supposed to be one of the most frightful ever in the history of srirangapatnam delta and 3 british soldiers died of sheer fright. There is also a tale surrounding “Tha-oos” the sultan’s horse and his end. Keep up the good work and your research buddy, it is in good taste.

  8. Anonymous says:

    TiPpu SULTAN IS GREAT man….who is always make proud to us
    he is 1st man who nt only fight with tiger but also win on tht
    that indicate us how bravry n strongness he had
    ……….
    V always remebr u
    KINGZ OF KING”TIPU SULTAN”…

  9. Anonymous says:

    OMG!!!!! So awsome….You were with him the day he got murdered….

  10. Nadeem pasha says:

    Mera tipu shere mysore hai mitaoge kaa hastiyon ko ye tho mitne wale nahi marna tho har yek ko hai mare hai kaha tippu ke yadien abhi

  11. Anonymous says:

    Tipu Sltan was the Fist Freedom Fighter of India, But least we forget his Sacrifieses .

  12. Shaik javeed says:

    Tipu Sultan RA was the fist Indian Freedom Fighter

  13. Md abdul khader (fyan of Hazrat Tippu sultan please mail me history Hazrat Tippu sultan says:

    Assalamalaikum .This is Mohammed Abdul Khades i love for Hazrat Tippu Sultan a lot of .Please mail me a real photo H.Tippu Sultan and their history.If Allah Granted me one more son i will keep my son name Tippu sultan Thanks and regards Mohammed Abdul khader+918904774386

  14. Khaled says:

    Beshak har dil aziz hai wo shaheed humare dilon mein.”JO LADA THA SIPAHIYON KI TARAH BHARAT MEIN AISA BADSHAH NA HUA,ROOH TO HO GAYI THI TAN SE JUDA MAGAR HAATH TALWAR SE JUDA NA HUA. “HINDUSTAN ZINDABAD”.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Long live Tipu, We acknowledge your sacrifice

  16. shirin says:

    tippu sultan was a great indian

  17. He is the freedom fighter and he shown loving the mother land than his life.He is the REAL HERO-THE TIGER FOREVER

  18. Anonymous says:

    Tippu might be a great warrior and a shrude king but cheated and hated hindus, esp. Kodavas(Coorgs or Coorgies) he killed in lakhs by cheating, which was not the quality of a true hero.

  19. Anonymous says:

    However, a Hindu hater and we kodavas were cheated and killed by him in lakhs.

    • Olikara says:

      Not in lakhs but several thousands anyway. Yes, he did not like the Coorgis. That is because the Coorgis were brave if not braver than him. They refused to submit to Mysore and he came out hard on them using force and trickery too. That is war!

  20. xxxx says:

    he is a fanatic,coward ,cunning ruler.Never respected any other religion.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the well researched write-up. Tippu couldn’t haue been defeated if not betrayed by one of his men who let the enemies pass through the secret underground tunnel passage that connected the fort to the outer world and get inside the fort. Infact Tippu was betrayed and caught unawares. The british bribed the traitor and defeated Tippu by treason. It is sad that Tippu was laid low by deceit. It is true he was cruel towards those who didn’t submit to his supremacy and rebelle against him like the coorgies and nairs of malabar. Afterall he is human. However he was a patriot and a freedom fighter without doubt. Had he won the support of the other kings of neighbouring states he would have driven the E I C AND BRITISH Much earlier than 1947. Any way there is no denying that Tipu is to be considered as a freedom fighter and a true brave warrior. He deserves to be honoured with due respect and recognition. Though a muslim he was an Indian.

  22. Nazeefa k. Monem says:

    Who, Tipu Sulttan or Nawab Sirajuddoula had his 50 thousand soldiers compromise with the opposition force before the battle?

  23. Paramanand Chandawarkar says:

    Really its very interesting to read the Last Roar Of ( A Lion ) The Tipu Sultan ! Do we have any proof that the many brahmins, Hindus were killed by Tipu Sultan. I dont think there is any proof of it !
    If any body is can give the proof I will be really Thankful ! I will really appreciate if any one answer my questions !

    • Olikara says:

      There is evidence of a single instance when he did target a group of Brahmins very brutally for a crime their menfolk were alleged to have committed. On a whole he targetted people for their political allegiance and not religion. This is clear.

  24. Anonymous says:

    When I read the whole description I visualised the whole thing like a re
    ality Tippu was a great valor and indeed a be novelant yes he is a first real freedoms fighter in India I salute him

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