This sparkling figure of Indian history lived in a time of profound political shifts, and accordingly his personal life was marked by the desire to hold up traditional values of Indian identity and at the same time to attune to changes in world policy. It was the time of decay of the Indian kingdoms and expansions of British colonialist policy.
Tipu Sultans destiny and fate was to be born in the focal point of these tensions. His father, Haider Ali, a simple man from the Panjab, made his name as a brave soldier in Mysore and was a born strategist who lead the defense successfully against an attack of the Marathas from the North, and so soon became the Fateh Bahadur, leader of the armed forces.
His wife, Fakhr-un-nisa, went to see the Sufi-Saint Tipu Mastan Aulia, when she was pregnant, to ask for the blessing for her first-born, and to know about his destiny. Tipu Mastan Aulia foresaw signs of wisdom in the tendencies of the child, and so her son, born on 20th November 1750, received his name, Tipu, after the Sufi sage.
Tipu Sultan had a specially intimate relationship with the tiger, ruler of the Indian jungle, and surrounded himself with these animals all his life. He soon became known all over India as the Tiger of Mysore; his father taught him martial arts when he was only 15 years of age. After the death of Haider Ali in 1784, Tipu Sultan took the throne and ruled Mysore until his own death in the year 1799.
It was said that his life motto was: Better live one day as a tiger than hundred years as a sheep. His father Haider Ali had hardly any school formation, but Tipu Sultan became a ruler who spoke Kannada, Urdu, Persian and Arabic. He had a vision and a mission in his life. The vision was to make his subjects illuminated and prosperous, and his mission was to free his land from the yoke of the colonialists.
His short but stormy time was marked by the insight that life was only worth living for the one who lives the drama of human liberty, not only the political, but also the social, economic and cultural, and freedom from greed, hunger, apathy, ignorance and superstition. His definition of state was one of organised energy for freedom.
Despite hectic political and military life, Tipu Sultan never neglected his main task, the development of agriculture and industry, the promotion of trade and commerce, the inauguration of factories in the entire country and the establishment of embassies in various countries, near and far, to link the small state Mysore with the world. He created a highly efficient system of administration which converted his state into a vibrating center of great industrial activity.
Tipu Sultans reforming zeal touched almost every aspect of life: coins and calendars, weight and measure, banks and finances, legislation, army and navy, morals and customs, social ethos and culture.
His vision included the construction of a dam across the river Cauvery as well as a university, which he called Dar-ul-Umur.
Another aspect of his regime was his secular policy. Gandhiji wrote in Young India, that Tipu Sultan was an embodiment of unity between Hindus and Muslims. The letters of Tipu to Sringeri Muth speaks of his deep respect towards the faith of the Hindus. He helped Sri Shankaracharya financially to rebuild the temple of Sharada. The Ranganath temple at Srirangapatana was hardly a stone-throw from his palace from where he listened with equal respect to the ringing of temple bells and the Muezzin’s call from the mosque. Among his employees many non-Muslims could be found.