Great Personalities of India

Hyder Ali – Nawab of Mysore in the Chapters of Karnataka History

Hyder Ali Khan was a sultan and a de-facto ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore in South India. He was a distinguished military person who had gained attention from Mysore rulers. He was serving as commander-in-chief to Krishnaraja Wodeyar II and then he came to dominate the Mysore Kingdom and later became the de-facto ruler of the Kingdom. He is known for his resistance to the British during the First and Second Anglo British wars and also for improving the economy of Mysore. 

Hyder Ali was illiterate however, his works speak words where he is known for his administrative and military skills. He announced an alliance with the French where they fought against the British. He learned many military tactics of French people to fight against the British. During the rule of Hyder Ali, southern India witnessed many attacks and sieges which was previously not seen much. 

Hyder Ali Information

  • Born: Budikote
  • Died: 7 December 1782, Chittoor
  • Spouse: Fatima Fakhr-un-Nisa
  • Reign: 1761–1782
  • Place of burial: Gumbaz-e-Shahi, Srirangapatna, Ganjam
  • Parents: Fath Muhammad, Lal bai

Early Years 

Hyder Ali’s exact birthdate is not known correctly as many historians suggest that the ruler would have born around 1717 -1722. According to some, his grandfather was descended from Afghanistan and some suggest from Baghdad.

In one of the accounts by the French Military, it is noted that Hyder Ali had himself mentioned that he was a descent from the Arabs Bani Hashim clan of Quraysh from the Muhammed Tribe. He was the son of Fath Muhammad who served as a commander in the army of Nawab of Carnatic. Fath Muhammed later served under the Woderyars and became a powerful military commander. 

Hyder Ali was Fath Muhammed’s 5th child. Although his early years are not well documented, it is known that he entered the military along with his brother Shahbaz after the death of his father.

He and his brother served under rulers of Arcot and later they came to Srirangapatnam where his uncle served under Wodeyars. During the rule of Krishnaraja Wodeyar II, he and his brother were given commands in the Mysorean Army where Hyder Ali served under Shahbaz. 

Skills He Had

Although an illiterate, Hyder Ali was known to have good mathematical acumen. He retained as a chief financial assistant to a Brahmin named Khande Rao. Hyder Ali could outperform other accountants with his mathematical skills that he and Rao were working to develop checks and balances that all matter of income would be accounted for with less possibility of fraud. 

Rise of Power and Wars

During the second Carnatic war which involved Nasir Jung to fight against Muzaffar Jung. Both the fights were supported by French and Britishers. The locals also supported Nasir and Muzaffar Jung with their army and the Mysoreans participated to support Nasir Jung and they participated during the siege of Devanahalli fort. 

However, the fort was held by Muzaffar Jung and the French forces supported Muzaffar Jung, and the French were controlled by Marquis de Bussy. Hyder Ali and his brother supported Muzaffar Jung where they were rewarded with enlarged commands. 

By 1755, Hyder Ali was a commander for a strong 3000 infantry and 1500 cavalry. In his early years, he was appointed as Commander of Dindigul. When he assumed the position, he retained French advisors to organise and train their military. 

In his early years, he also became a person of dislike for Muhammed Ali Khan Wallajah, the Nawab of the Carnatic. Where Muhammed Ali Khan Wallajah had formed a pact with the British and Hyder Ali had prevented long-lasting alliances with the British.

For the due course of the Carnatic War, Hyder Ali alongside Bussy and Mysore kingdom supported Chanda Sahib and Muzaffar Jung. 

In the year 1757, Hyder Ali was summoned by Devaraja to fight against Srirangapatnam as the wodeyars were receiving threats from Hyderbad and Marathas. When he arrived, the Mysorean army was already in defeat. Devaraja with his powers clear of the threats and Hyder Ali arranged for the army to be paid and arrested the ringleaders.

He then leads Mysorean campaigns against Nairs of Malabar and for this role, Hyder Ali was rewarded the governorship of Bangalore. And in 1758, Hyder Ali successfully forced the Marathas to lift the siege of Bangalore where Hyder Ali’s forces entered the city and captured it. The next year he became the commandant of the entire Mysore Army. 

Krishna Raja Wodeyar was impressed by tactics used by Hyder Ali and awarded him Fath Hyder Bahadur of Nawab Hyder Ali Khan and he was the first known person to be granted Nawab status. However, the ongoing fights with the Marathas bankrupted the Mysorean treasury hence the queen mother force exiled Nanjaraj and Hyder Ali was a beneficiary of this action.

In 1760, the queen’s mother conspired with Khande Rao to oust Hyder Ali where he was forced out of Srirangapatnam along with his wives and son. The sudden departure left Hyder Ali weak on resources. During the same time, the Marathas were battling in the Battle of Panipat which they suffered a major defeat. Because of the loss, the Marathas withdrew forces from Mysore.

Hyder Ali soon consolidated the strength where he placed Mirza Sahib as commander of Sira, Ibrahim Ali Khan in Bangalore, and Amin Sahib his cousin in Basnagar. He soon marched against Makdum Ali’s forces where he, marched from Bangalore to Serirangapatnam.

They clashed against Khande Rao. However, was defeated which forced him to seek support from Nanjaraj. With his support, Hyder Ali once again fought with Khande Rao however, Hyder Ali convinced Khande Rao to flee and he sent out letters from Nanjaraj confirming agreement to hand Khande Rao to Hyder Ali which made Khande Rao flee.

Hyder Ali immediately took control of Srirangapatna and he imprisoned Khande Rao in Bangalore. 

Ruler of Mysore and Expansions

Ruler of Mysore and Expansions, Hyder Ali, Karnataka Freedom Fighter, Indian Freedom Fighter

Hyder Ali assumed control of Mysore after Khande Rao was imprisoned and during that time, Mughal emperor Shah Alam II became a pensioner to the British East India company. This caused Hyder Ali to style himself as Sultan Hyder Ali Khan during the First Anglo Mysore War and onwards. 

He was cautious with his diplomacy with the Nizam of Hyderabad who was the sovereign of all Muslim-ruled territories in southern India.

Over the next few years, he expanded the kingdom where he captured Sira, from the Marathas, The Kingdom of Bednore where he renamed Ikkeri as Haidernagar. He moved his family to Ikkeri which had a natural fortress. He began establishing the coins and started weighing with weights and measurements. He made sure that his son Tipu Sultan received a quality education and here he never allowed any foreigner in his courthouse. However, after a series of conspiracies, he felt that Bednore is not safe hence he returned back to Mysore. 

With his capture of Bednore, several areas such as Malabar or Mangalore came under his control and he established a small navy. The navy was established somewhere between 1763-1765 according to the records and was lead by Europeans.   

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Attack on Maratha Confederacy and the war against Marathas  

The Marathas had lost a war against the Mughals and they were vulnerable and were feeble for any attack, hence at this time, Hyder Ali decided to attack the Marathas and put an end to their power.

Hence, Hyder Ali first attacked Rani of Bednore which was aligned with the Marathas, she appealed to Nawab of Savanur for assistance when Hyder Ali invaded and Hyder Ali warned Nawab and threatened that he would extort tribute from him fearing this, Nawab ran away as far as Dharwad and Marathas knew about this attack. 

Peshawa Madhavrao I from the Marathas countered Hyder Ali with the strong force near Rattihalli and won against Hyder Ali. After the war was won, Madhavrao I restored Maratha Power and forced Hyder Ali to retreat and he had to abandon Bednore and Hyder Ali had to pay 35 lakh rupees in tribute to the war. 

In the year 1766, Hyder Ali on Invitation from Raja of Cannanore returned to the Malabar. The raja of Cannanore had sought independence from the ruler of Calicut, Zamorin and Hyder Ali also claimed a debt of Tribute from Zamorin who had supported in his earlier campaigns and agreed to reach Calicut where zamorin will pay for the campaign. Hyder Ali on reaching Calicut got to know that Zamorin was betrayed hence he placed him on house arrest and had his accountant tortured. Fearing this Zamorin set fire to the palace and perished hence he ended the Eradi dynasty of Calicut. 

Hyder Ali was now the ruler of Calicut and went returned several months later when Nairs rebelled against Reza Sahib who was a lieutenant of Hyder Ali. Hyder Ali attacked the nairs and provided harsh treatment to the rebels. 

After some years, Hyder Ali once again fought against the Marathas where he believed that he would be supported by the British began demanding tribute payments from smaller states between Maratha and Mysore kingdom. He refused to pay tributaries and in the year 1770, the Marathas responded to Hyder Ali with a strong 35000 army.

This was when Hyder Ali requested assistance from the British but the company refused and Hyder Ali retreated. But during his retreat, he burned and slashed the land as that will now belong to the Marathas. During the monsoon season, the Marathas were able to capture some of the regions near North-Eastern Mysore and Hyder agreed to pay the tribute that was demanded but the Marathas refused the offer.

The Marathas attacked Serirangapatnam and inflicted heavy damage on Hyder’s army where they captured most of the baggage and held Serirangapatnam for 5 weeks. They took Bangalore and Hyder Ali appealed to the British once again but he rejected as their treaty was unacceptable.

In the year 1772, Hyder Ali agreed to pay 3.6 million rupees in arrear and 1.4 million as an annual tribute and ceded all his territory till Bangalore and returned to Mysore. When he returned he got to know that Maharaja of Mysore Nanjaraja had secret communication with Marathas where he ordered to strangle him and made Chamaraja as the king. 

Peshwa Madhavrao I of the Maratha kingdom died in late 1772 and using this opportunity, Hyder Ali sent Tipu Sultan to recover the lost territories of North of the Mysore Kingdom which belonged to the Marathas and Hyder Ali went to Coorg where he quickly captured Merkara and imprisoned Raja Vira Rajendra. 

He later made Brahmin as Governor and went on to capture the lost territories which he captured by the end of 1774. However, the Coorgs rebelled against the Brahmin governor which Hyder Ali returned and crushed but they did not deter to resist against Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. 

In the year 1775, Poona had become the capital of the Maratha empire and had joined as an alliance with Nizams of Hyderabad to oppose Hyder Ali. Hyder Ali successfully bribed or threatened the Nizam army leaders so that they withdrew their army from the campaign. After a lengthy siege of Dharwad, Hyder Ali was successful to capture territories until the Krishna River.

However, in 1779, Madakari Nayaka who was supporting Hyder Ali in his early campaigns had formed an alliance with the Marathas and he did not extend his support to Hyder Ali. This made him furious and Hyder Ali sent Madakari Nayaka to Serirangapatnam where he was made a prisoner and he died there. The boys of Madakari Nayaka were converted to Islam when Hyder sent over 20000 soldiers to fight against Madakari Nayaka. The converted army of Madakari Nayaka was made Chela Army Battalions in Mysore Army. 

First and Second Anglo-Mysore War

After the Battle of Buxar, Hector Monro from East India Company decided to support Shah Alam II and the Nawabs and Mysore. As the power struggle between Mysore and Peshwa of Marathas continued and it began to involve British and European mercantile companies. Hyder Ali who was already an ally of the French expected the British against the Marathas but the British did not help. 

In the year 1766, the Mysore Kingdom involved in disputes with the Nizams of Hyderabad and the British East India company. The Nizams along with the British began to gain control of Northern Circas which Hyder Ali overtures in the Carnatic region. The Nizam stuck a deal with Madras’ presidency but Hyder Ali was already preparing for the war and this resulted in the start of the Anglo-Mysore war in 1767 when a company outpost of Changama was attacked by a combined Mysore-Hyderabad army and under Hyder Ali’s army.

Hyder Ali army was outnumbered by the British Army but Hyder Ali captured Kaveripatnam after two days of siege and the British army retreated. Hyder Ali repulsed with the onset of the Monsoon season and he continued to campaign against the usual practice of suspending operation. In November he besieged Ambur which forced the British to resume campaigning. 

Hyder Ali instead of surrender offered large bribes but the British commander refused and Hyder Ali lifted the siege and returned northward. Meanwhile, Hyder Ali got to know that Nizams had made a pact with the British which led to a split between Hyder Ali and the Nizam. Hyder Ali made peace with the British but was later rebuffed. 

Early 1768, the British Bombay Presidency organized an expedition to the Malabar regions. Hyder Ali fleet which the British reported is more than 10 numbers reportedly were unhappy and they demanded the return of Ali Raja Kunhi Amsa II. But Hyder Ali chose cavalry command Lutf Ali Beg owing to British Deception. Lutf Ali Beg also withdrew from Mangalore garrison and the British subsequently occupied Mangalore. With this activity and the loss from Nizams, Hyder Ali withdrew his army and moved to the Malabar. Hyder Ali dispatched his son Tipu Sultan and eventually re-took Mangalore.

The British captured most places in Carnatic when Hyder Ali was absent from the Carnatic and they captured as far as Dindigul. They also convinced the Marathas to enter the conflict and a large force of theirs in early 1768. The army began to besiege Bangalore but Hyder Ali returned to Bangalore from Malabar.

On 22nd August 1768, Hyder Ali and Mysore Army attacked the Maratha camp but were defeated as the Maratha army was large. Hyder Ali later foiled an attempt to prevent the arrival of the second British Column with the strength of these combined forces convinced him to retreat to Bangalore, offering to pay 10 lakhs rupees and grant other land concessions.

October 03 Hyder Ali army was coming back from Bangalore surprised Muhammed Ali Khan Wallajah men at the rock-cut fort. And a small force outnumbered Hyder’s army in the Battle of Mulwagal but Colonel Brooks prevented the loss of detachment.

Hyder Ali renewed his attack with the British but faced with heavy losses. The severity of the conflict convinced Colonel Smith that he will be unable to besiege Bangalore without inflicting damage on Hyder Ali which the company disagreed and they called him back to Madras.

During this time, Hyder Ali besieged Hosur and colonel wood attacked however, Hyder Ali successfully captured the baggage train carrying supplies, and the Colonel was droved in disgrace and sent to Venkatagiri. Wood was replaced with Colonel Lang. 

Hyder Ali after that raised his army and went on the offensive where he split his army into two and crossed ghats at the Carnatic and regained control of minor posts which were held by the British. He fought with a small army of British and captured them as pows. He later established control over Southern Carnatic and marched till Madras. The British saw the army sent an envoy to discuss peace but Hyder Ali wanted Nawab of Carnatic to be excluded in negotiations. He later traveled 210kms to the gates of Madras where he surprised the British. 

The force made the British to negotiate and Hyder Ali was seeking diplomatic leverage against the Marathas. Later a treaty was signed on 29 March 1769 which restored the status quo ante bellumbetweenMysore and the British and it included that each side will defend their territory.

First and Second Anglo-Mysore War, Hyder Ali
(Image source: Wikimedia)

The second Anglo Mysore War began after a lengthy conflict with Madras which Hyder had requested the British several times and the British had refused his every request. The British also came into conflict with Marathas as they had repudiating treaties and were at war with them the most of the 1770s, the British were also upset with the Nizam of Hyderabad over their occupation of Guntur.

In the year 1771, The Marathas requested Hyder for his assistance to fight against the British and gaining control over eastern India, however, as Hyder was still seeking assistance for The British taught that the Marathas would become a superpower if they win and threaten his position he refused their proposal.

However, the British had attacked the coast of Mahe which had French Outposts which followed the American Revolutionary War and Hyder Ali received supplies from French Controlled post and secondly, the Nairs of Malabar was provoked by the British and they rebelled against them. Hyder Ali quickly solved the issue. Also, the British provoked the territories which Hyder Ali controlled from Madras to Guntur which made Hyder Ali attack and the British quickly retreated. 

Hyder Ali in the year 1778 started to rebuild the navy with Dutch assistance and the war broke out in the year 1779. The Brahmans and their allies tried to stop the navy base in Bhatkal.

The allies planned their attacks on the British all throughout India and the Marathas agreed to honor Hyder’s claims to territories that he had held from North of Tungabhadra River and reduced the amount of tribute that he was required to pay. Hyder planned an attack with assistance from the French however diplomatic relations with Nizams and Marathas by General Warren Hastings and company made him difficult to fight the war and Hyder fought the war on his own.

The War at Carnatic and Death

Hyder Ali assembled to what is said to be one of the largest armies with over 83,000 soldiers and he carefully coordinated with the commanders as he swept across the Eastern Ghats. Hyder Ali attacked the Madras with secrecy that even the British or Madras Kingdom knew until they saw fires burning 14kms from Madras. Hyder Himself take ownership of the siege of Arcot and this movement made Sir Hector Munroe attack Hyder Ali with a force of 5000 from Madras to Kanchipuram which made Hyder Ali lift the siege of Arcot.         

Soon a word arrived that Munroe was waiting for forces to arrive from Guntur who were fighting under Colonel William Bailie so he sent a detachment which Tipu Sultan led and he strengthened his army with a force to fight against Bailie. Tipu and Hyder surrounded Bailie and asked them to surrender in the Battle of Pollilur where the British were defeated. 

Shortly after, Governor Hastings sent General Sir Eyre Coote from Bengal to Madras to fight against Hyder Ali. Arriving in November, Coote marched into Carnatic and captured Cuddalore. He besieged Chidambaram which was repulsed by Hyder’s army. 

Hyder Ali meantime descended Tanjore which after an allegiance with the Maratha king he destroyed cattle and crops. He leads his expeditions to the Kallars. During this, the economy of Madras fell so much that it did not recover until the 19th century. 

General Coote was in Cuddalore which prompted Hyder Ali to attack and interpose his army at Chidambaram and Cuddalore. He cut Coote’s supply which made Coote fight against Hyder Ali and won in the battle of Porto Novo. Hyder then dispatched Tipu to prevent the entry of Coote’s reinforcements from Bengal yet it failed and they again battled in the Battle of Pollinur.

However, Hyder was defeated here and Coote re-grouped and searched for provisions, and during this time Hyder Ali besieged Vellore. The authorities at Madras convinced Coote to quit, however, they once again met at the battle of Sholinghur, and Hyder’s army was at the brink of surrender. 

In 1781, Lord Macartney arrived at madras as the new governor and announced that Britain was at a war with the Dutch and made the company seized all the dutch holdings in India. Hyder Ali offered his help to the Dutch by providing troops however Colonel Braithwaite fought against him at Negapatam and they fought for 3 weeks which is known as the siege of Negapatam which forced Hyder Ali to withdraw his troops from Tanjore. 

In January 1782, General Coote again went to re-provision at Vellore, Hyder, although did not prevent the British for the supply, shadowed them back at Tripassore. However, Coote successfully maneuvered against Hyder Ali and In February, Hyder Ali sent Tipu Sultan to recover Tanjore, due to intelligence failure by the British Colonel Brathwaite and his 2000 men surrendered.

Hyder faced bad news when he heard that the Mysore force besieging Tellichery was broken, an uprising was happening in Coorg and Malabar and he sent out forces to control them. Word arrived that French forces had arrived Porto Novo and he sent Tipu Sultan to Tanjore to meet him. He met French admiral Suffren and agreed to establish Cuddalore as French Base.

Now Cuddalore was a base with less resistance and Hyder along with the French army marched towards Permacoil. Coote responded by marching towards Arni, Arni had a major supply depot from Hyder Ali. Hyder and French forces had planned to attack Wandiwash but set out to face Coote. The British landed a force on the Malabar coast which is when he sent Tipu to fight however the monsoon season forced to abandon the army. 

Hyder Ali died due to a cancerous growth on his back on 6th December 1782 in his camp. His advisors had kept his death secret until Tipu could be called from the Malabar coast. When Tipu heard of this news, he immediately set off to Chittor to take the power. Tipu faced a problem where his uncle wanted to place Abdul Karim to the throne. 

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