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Remembering Tipu Sultan

The summer heat and dust brings alive memories of a historic battle that culminated on May 4, 1799, on the banks of the Cauvery at Seringapatam (Srirangapatna).

For it was the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War in which Tipu Sultan, who was the scourge of the British and an impediment to their imperialist ambition, fought the British army and died.

Failed negotiation

The sequence of events that unfolded on the fateful day has been narrated by contemporary historians of his times and reproduced in the Mysore Gazetteer , which notes that Tipu Sultan tried to negotiate with the British through General Harris on April 20 only to be told that he should cede half his territory, hand over four of his sons as hostage for compliance of British diktats, apart from payment of Rs. 2 crore.

The treaty, Tipu Sultan was told, should be signed within 24 hours.

Unacceptable treaty

The Mysore Cavalry commanded by Kammar-ud-din Khan was beaten behind the last line of defence near the Seringapatam Fort and the British reiterated the terms and conditions of the treaty, which was unacceptable to Tipu Sultan.

B. Lewis Rice describes the last day of the battle in the Mysore Gazetteer in the late 19th Century as per which more than 2,490 European soldiers and 1,887 soldiers from various contingents of the native kingdoms raided the Fort and breached on May 4, 1799, at 1 p.m.

General Baird and his contingent took heavy shelling from a battery of musketry and rockets fired by Tipu’s forces, but it was not enough to repel the invading forces that entered the fort. One of the important casualties was his General Syed Gafur.

Buried among the dead

On learning of his death, Tipu Sultan mounted his steed and headed to the northern ramparts of the fort.On noticing a large British contingent, he turned east and headed through a gateway where his horse was struck by a volley of bullets.

Tipu Sultan fell and was buried among a heap of dead.

“While he lay with the lower part of his body buried underneath the slain, the gold buckle of his belt excited the cupidity of a soldier who attempted to seize it. Tipu snatching up a sword, made a cut at him but the grenadier shot him through the temple and thus terminated his earthly career,” the Gazetteer recorded.

British were unaware of Tipu’s death

The British were oblivious of his death and when Tipu Sultan was not found in the palace, General Baird sent a search party that discovered his body among the dead.

The news of Tipu’s death and the capture of Seringapatam, according to the Gazetteer , reached London on September 13, 1799.