The Family of Tipu Sultan


The ancestors of Tipu Sultan supposedly belong to the Qureishi tribe, originating near Mecca in Arabia. According to an anonimous source, the founder of the family was Husain bin Yahya, Sharif of Mecca, who died in 1469. His grandson, Ahmad, proceeded to Sana in Yemen, where he married the local Governor's daughter and later succeeded his father-in-law. His thirteen-year old son, Muhammad, escaped to Baghdad following the assassination of his father. The family eventually migrated to India, establishing themselves at Kohir, a place situated between Hyderabad and Gulbargha in the Deccan. This lineage is almost certainly fanciful, probably invented sometime after Tipu's advent to power.

The family came to prominence under Tipu's father, Hyder 'Ali, an illiterate soldier of fortune who entered the service of the Hindu Raja of Mysore. A military genius, he rose to high commands under his masters, and for his efforts received extensive lands, honours and offices. Through guile and intrigue, he established control over the whole administration of the state, effectively seizing power in 1761 through appointment to the office of Sarvadhikari. He increased his powers further when the old Maharaja died, leaving three minor sons. The eldest of these succeeded under a regency headed by Hyder, who poisoned of his charge four years later, just before the regency was due to end. His younger brother followed, only to suffer the same fate. A third regency follwed when a young scion of the family succeeded through adoption by the mother of the recently two deceased, childless princes.

Tipu Sultan succeeded his father as Savadhikari in 1782. No less of a military genius and tactitian, Tipu had already gained fame under his father and received exalted presents and honours from the Nizam of Hyderabad. Brought up in princely style, he saw himself as a great ruler and world conqueror. His administration set about eradicating Hindu influence throughout the region, traditional rulers were deposed, dispossessed or murdered and their territories seized, place names changed to Islamic derivatives, Muslim laws declared paramount, conversions "encouraged", a new calendar invented. Seing no use in continuing the charade of a regency, he deposed the Maharaja in 1786, assumed complete power and renamed his state Khudadad. Within a year, he had thrown off any semblance of allegiance to the Mughal Emperor, substituted his own name at Friday prayers, and proclaimed himself Padshah, declaring that the Emperor was now a prisoner of Scindia and a mere cipher.

Unfortunately for Tipu, his rise to power coinsided with the titanic struggle for power between two great European rivals, Britain and France. India, no less than other parts of the world, provided a backdrop for this great context, and Tipu's choice of ally, proved the loser. After many years of battle, in which great territories were won and defeats inflicted on the British, his end came in ignominious defeat in 1799. The great soldier died gloriously in battle trying to defend his fort of Serigapatam, after its defences had been breached by British arms.

After Tipu's death, Mysore was restored to the Wodeyar dynasty, other conquered lands returned to the Rajas of Travancore, Coorg, and Cochin, while other territories were annexed by the HEIC. His family were removed to Vallore, where they were restricted to the town and surrounding countryside, but otherwise allowed to move freely. A mutiny by the garrison troops of the Madras army resulted in the proclamation of Fath Hyder Sultan, as Raja in 1806. There were reports that Fath Hyder's younger brother, Muiz ud-din, was implicated in the rebellion but this was later proved to be innaccurate. In any event, this prompted the government to remove most of the family to the safety of Calcutta. There, they received pensions, several mansions and some lands, but lived as important nobles, not as ruling princes.

Several members of the family played prominent roles in Calcutta society, serving as Members of the Bengal and the Imperial Legislative Councils, or the Calcutta municipality. One descendant even served as General-Secretary and President of the Indian National Congress. However, independence proved a more painful pill than defeat at British hands. The pensions paid by the government eroded over time and were eventually stopped, and their land holdings were either lost during the reform programmes of the 1950's or tied up in costly litigation. Today, many members of this once illustrious family live in penury, while politicians and demagogues extol the nationalist virtues of their famous ancestor, yet treat his descendants with far less courtesy than those who vanquished him.

A sun in splendour in the centre, with green tiger stripes on a red field.


The Sovereign: Padshah Bahadur, with the style of His Majesty.
The sons of the sovereign: Shahzada (personal name) Sahib*.
The daughters of the sovereign: Shahzadi (personal name) Begum Sahiba.
The grandsons of the sovereign, and other male descendants: Sahibzada (personal name).
The granddaughters of the sovereign, and other female descendants: Sahibzadi (personal name) Begum.
* These styles were also extended on a personal basis to all surviving grandsons of Tipu Sultan, in the male line, by the GOI on 5th September 1860.


Bengal Board Collections. IOR/F/4/1346. Oriental and India Office Collection, British Library, St Pancras, London.
Bengal Political Proceedings, Fort William, 24th December 1832, No. 88. IOR/P/126/59. Oriental and India Office Collection, British Library, St Pancras, London.
Collection of Papers in the Office of the Superintendent of Political Pensions. IOR/V/27/71/1. Oriental and India Office Collection, British Library, St Pancras, London.
Provision for Prince Gholam Mahomed’s Family, India Foreign Proceedings Financial, Dec. 1872, Nos. 16-22. IOR/P/751. Oriental and India Office Collection, British Library, St Pancras, London.
Return to an Address of the Honourable The House of Commons, dated 12 February 1861: East India (Mysore). J.W. Kaye, Secretary in the Political Department, India Office, London, 1861.
Lewin B. Bowring, CSI. Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan and the struggle with the Musalman powers of the South. Rulers of India. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1893.
Prof. P. Chinnian. Tipu Sultan, The Great. Siva Publications, Erode, South India, 1983.
Sir Murray Hammick, KCSI, CIE (ed.). Historical Sketches of the South of India, etc. by Lieut. Colonel Mark Wilks. 2 volumes. Government Branch Press, Mysore, 1932.
C. Hayavadana Rao. History of Mysore (1399-1799 AD). 3 volumes. Mysore Government Press, Bangalore, 1943.
A Facsimile Reprint of the History of Hyder Shah alias Hyder Ali Khan Bahadur: and of his son Tippoo Sultaun by M.M.D.L.T. revised and corrected by His Highness Prince Gholam Mohammed, the only surviving son of Tippoo Sultaun. The Bangabashi Office, Calcutta, 1908.
Colonel W. Miles (transl.). The History of Hyder Naik, or the Neshani Hyduri, written by Mir Hussein Ali Khan Kirmani. Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland, London, 1842.
Colonel W. Miles (transl.). The History of the reign of Tipu Sultan, being a continuation of the Neshani Hyduri, written by Mir Hussein Ali Khan Kirmani. Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland, London, 1844.
P. Thankappan Nair. South Indians in Kolkata: History of Kannadigas, Konkanis, Malayalees, Tamilians, Telugus, South Indian Dishes and Tippoo Sultan’s Heirs in Calcutta. Punthi Pustak, Kolkata, 2004.Lewis Rice. Mysore and Coorg, A Gazetteer compiled for the Government of India. 4 volumes. Mysore Government Press, Bangalore, 1878.

Sahibzada Shahid Alam.
Dr. Morris Bierbrier, FSA.
John McLeod.
Father Lawrence M. Ober, SJ.
Copyright© Christopher Buyers
Copyright© Christopher Buyers
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