We are all aware that Tipu Sultan perished in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War in 1799. This post presents the narrative of Major Alexander Allan detailing the discovery of Tipu Sultan's body following the storming of Srirangapatna.
On the 4th of May, 1799, at approximately 1:30 pm, the assault on Srirangapatna commenced. Within an hour, at 2:30 pm, the British had successfully taken control of the area. However, they believed that Tipu Sultan, along with his chief officers, had managed to escape and taken refuge in the palace.
General David Baird dispatched Major Alexander Allan, the Deputy Quarter-master General, to offer protection to all individuals within the palace and to Tipu himself, on the condition of their prompt surrender. It was necessary to allay their fears and persuade them to open the gates of the palace to the British forces that were stationed outside, ready to either assault them or to accept peaceful control. Major Allan was the perfect choice for this task, as his demeanor and appearance were well-suited for his compassionate duty. He firmly believed that 'an enemy conquered is an enemy no more'.
Major Allan, carrying a white cloth attached to a sergeant's pike, proceeded to the palace. He noticed several of Tipu's people gathered in a balcony, looking worried and anxious. In a calm and professional manner, he informed them that he had been sent by the General to offer them safety, on the condition that they did not resist. He urged them to immediately send word of this to the Sultan. The killedar and few others came down however, they seemed hesitant, perhaps hoping to escape under the cover of darkness. Major Allan assured them of their protection and suggested that he personally deliver these assurances to Tipu by going into the palace.
Major Allan along with Captain Scohey, a skilled linguist, got into the palace. Mir Nadim, the killedar, and several others confirmed that the princes and Tipu's family were inside the palace, but the Sultan was not among them. Major Allan immediately sent a message to the princes, warning them of their critical situation. The princes responded, stating that they would receive him as soon as a carpet had been laid out. Shortly thereafter, Mir Nadim escorted Major Allan to their presence.
The two princes, Muiz-ud-din and Muhi-ud-din, were seated on a magnificent carpet, surrounded by a large group of attendants. Major Allan graciously accepted their invitation and sat down in front of them. He observed that when he saw Muiz-ud-din again, it reminded him of the time when Muiz-ud-din and his brother were taken as hostages by Marquis Cornwallis, and the unfortunate turn of events that had led them to this point. Despite their efforts to hide it, their fear was palpable, and it stirred a deep sense of compassion within him. He extended his hand to Muiz-ud-din, offering reassurance that neither he nor his brother, nor anyone else in the palace, would suffer any harm.
He pleaded with Muiz-ud-din, explaining that revealing his father's hiding place was the only way to save his life. Muiz-ud-din, after consulting with his attendants, assured him that the Sultan was not in the palace. Major Allan then requested the princes to open the gates, however, they insisted that only their father had the authority to make such a decision.
To gain their trust, Major Allan proposed that their own sepoy guard will be placed within the palace and a group of Europeans outside. He promised that no one would enter without his authorization, and that he would remain with them until General Baird’s arrival. At last, both the princes and their attendants showed trust in his promises.
The princes were conducted to the entrance where General Baird and a group of officers were eagerly awaiting their arrival. Major Allan briefed General Baird on the situation, explaining that the princes had repeatedly denied any knowledge of their father's whereabouts, except that he was not in the palace. The young royals were willing to surrender themselves and the palace, provided they were promised protection.
David Baird welcomed the princes with utmost respect and reassured them that they would not be subjected to any harm or disrespect. He then entrusted them to Lieutenant Colonel Agnew and Captain Marriott, who escorted them to the headquarters in the camp.
General Baird now determined to search the palace. To ensure the Sultan did not escape, guards were stationed outside the Zenana.
Major Allan implored the killedar, emphasizing the importance of both his and the Sultan's safety, to disclose the whereabouts of Tipu's hiding place. The killedar solemnly revealed that the Sultan was hurt badly during the attack and was lying in a gateway on the north face of the fort.
Upon receiving the news, General Baird left the palace and made his way to the gateway, where hundreds of dead bodies lay strewn around. With so much darkness and such a great amount of dead bodies, it was hard to distinguish anyone. The scene was truly harrowing. However, recognizing the immense political significance of confirming the death of Tipu, the bodies were carefully removed, and the killedar and two other individuals were instructed to examine them one by one.
As the sun began to set, a light was procured. The Sultan's horse, which had been shot, and his palanquin were first discovered. Raza Khan—one of Tipu's most confidential servants who had remained with his master throughout the day—was found wounded and lying under the palanquin. Upon learning the purpose of the search, Raza Khan pointed out the spot where the Sultan had fallen.
The body of Tipu Sultan was then carried in a palanquin to the palace, where it was recognized by the eunuchs and other members of the royal household.
When Tipu was brought from under the gateway his eyes remained open, and the body still retained warmth, that for a few moments Colonel Arthur Wellesley and Major Allan were uncertain whether he was still alive. However, upon examining his pulse and heart, they confirmed his passing. Tipu had sustained four wounds, three of which were in his body, seemingly inflicted by a bayonet, and one in his temple. The musket ball had entered just above his right ear and lodged in his cheek.
"The Sultan had been shot, a little above the right ear, by a musket ball, which lodged near the mouth, in his left cheek; he had also received three wounds, apparently with the bayonet, in his right side", noted Alexander Beatson.
Tipu Sultan was dressed in a stunning white linen jacket, paired with loose flowered chintz trousers. A striking crimson silk and cotton cloth was wrapped around his waist, and a beautiful pouch with a red and green silk belt hung across his shoulder. His turban had been lost. He had an amulet on his arm, but no ornament whatever.
"Tipu was of low stature; corpulent, with high shoulders, and a short thick neck, but his feet and hands were remarkably small; his complexion was rather dark; his eyes large and prominent, with small arched eye-brows, and his nose aquiline. He had an appearance of dignity, or perhaps of sternness; in his countenance, which distinguished him above the common order people" reported Major Allan.
Another officer noted, "The body was still warm when we discovered it...He appeared to be rather above the middle size, stout and well made; his head was shaved close, he seemed to he between forty and fifty, and rather corpulent. His dress was very plain".
An officer carefully removed the talisman from the Sultan's right arm. The talisman was embellished with a delicate metallic amulet that shimmered with a silver hue. The amulet was sewn into pieces of fine flowered silk, and it contained manuscripts written in magical Arabic and Persian characters. Meanwhile, another officer found a small Koran enclosed in a silver case that the Sultan always wore around his neck, which had become detached during the preceding commotion.
With the fall of Tipu Sultan Mysore came under British rule, and a small portion of it they restored to the Wodeyars. The legacy of Tipu Sultan, however, lives on, as he is remembered as a valiant warrior and a symbol of resistance against foreign rule.
Major-General David Baird and other British officers finding the body of Tippoo Sahib, the Sultan of Mysore, in the gateway in the north face of the fort of Seringapatam on the 4th May 1799', oil on canvas, by Arthur William Devis, c. 1802
Check out more paintings depicting the 'Assault and Taking of Seringapatam', 'Battle of Srirangapatnam', 'Storming of Seringapatam', 'Finding of the Body of Tippoo Sahib' and the 'Glorious conquest of Seringapatam' and the 'Last effort and fall of Tipu Sultan' on Pinterest.
General David Baird, who was in Colonel Baillie's force, was taken prisoner at Pollilur on 10 Sep 1780. He was imprisoned by Hyder Ali at Srirangapatna where he spent nearly four years in a dungeon, and released at the Treaty of Mangalore in 1784.