The Successor of Tipu Sultan

After the fall of Tipu Sultan on 4th May, 1799, the British took possession of his family and treasures. Tipu's eldest son Fateh Hyder surrendered himself to General Harris [Commander-in-Chief of the army which stormed Srirangapatna], in the hope that the British would place him in his father's dominions.

Whom did Wellesley chose? the heir of Hyder and Tipu or of the Wodeyars?

"The necessity now occurred of determining in what hands the new government of Mysore should be seemed expedient that my choice should be made between the pretensions of the family of Tipu Sultan, and those of the ancient house of the Rajas of Mysore", wrote Lord Mornington [Richard Marquess Wellesley, the then Governor General of Fort William, Bengal] to the Court of Directors.

Below are some excerpts from the above-mentioned letter:-

"Since the peace of Srirangapatna, and more especially since the year 1796, the destruction of the British power in India has formed the favorite object of Tipu Sultan's hopes and exertions. His haughty mind never could he reconciled to the sacrifices which he was compelled to make for the purchase of peace in 1792; and his eagerness to recover the extensive portion of his dominions, then ceded to the allies, urged him to pursue a systematic course of intrigue against the British power among all the native states, and to revert to his ancient and hereditary connection with France, as the only effectual means of gratifying either his ambition or revenge.

A French army was the only instrument by which such an enterprise could be attempted; — an alliance with France was, therefore, the necessary consequence of Tipu Sultan's restless desire to restore his empire to its former splendour and strength. In addition to his correspondence with the French at Tranquebar (present day Tharangambadi in Tamil Nadu), with those at the Isle of France, and with the executive Directory at Paris, his embassy to Zaman Shah, his intrigues at Pune and Hyderabad and his correspondence with Mons. Raymond, furnish abundant evidence that his hatred to the English was the ruling passion of his heart, the fixed and fundamental principle of his councils and government.

The heir of Tipu Sultan must have been educated in the same principles. Our success had subverted the foundations of his father's empire, and transferred to our possession all the civil or military power of Mysore. Placed on the throne by our favour, and limited by our control, he would have felt himself degraded to a state of humiliation and weakness so abject as no prince of spirit would brook. Under such an arrangement our safety would have required us to retain at least all the territory which we now hold by the partition treaty of Mysore. Whatever we retained must have been considered by the prince as an usurpation upon his royal inheritance. The heir of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, animated by the implacable spirit of his parents, and accustomed to the commanding prospect of independent sovereignty, might deliberately hazard the remnant of his hereditary possessions in pursuit of so proud an object, as the recovery of that vast and powerful empire, which for many years had rendered his ancestors the scourge of the Carnatic, and the terror of this quarter of India.

The son of Tipu Sultan must have felt a perpetual interest in the subversion of any settlement of Mysore, founded on a partition of his father's dominions, and on a limitation of his own independence. Therefore, if a prince of this race had been placed on the throne of Mysore, the foundations of the new settlement would have been laid in the very principles of its own dissolution. With such a prince no sincere alliance, no concord of sentiments, or union of views could ever have been established; the appearances of friendship must have been delusive, even his submission must have been reluctant, if not treacherous; while all his interests, habits, prejudices, passions, vices and even his virtues must have concurred to cherish an irreconcilable aversion to our name and power, and an eager desire to abet the cause, to exasperate the animosity, and to receive the aid of every enemy of the British nation. The hostile power of Mysore would have been weakened, but not destroyed; an enemy would still have remained in the center of your possessions, watching every occasion to repair the misfortunes of his family at your expense, and forming a point of union for the machinations of every discontented faction in India, and for the intrigues of every emissary of France. Under these circumstances, the same anxiety for the security and repose of your possessions, which originally compelled me to reduce the power of Tipu Sultan, now appeared to require that I should provide effectually against the revival of any degree of a similar danger, in the person of his son.

Krishnaraja Wodeyar III, the Raja of Mysore
By Samuel William Reynolds
On the other hand, the restoration of the descendant of the ancient Rajas of Mysore was recommended by the same course of reasoning which excluded the heir of the Mohammedan usurpation. The indignities which the deposed family of Mysore had suffered, especially during the reign of Tipu Sultan, and the state of degradation and misery to which they had been reduced, would most naturally excite a sentiment of gratitude and attachment in their minds towards that power, which had not only delivered them from oppression, hut had raised them to a state of considerable affluence and distinction. Between the British government and the Wodeyar family, an intercourse of friendship and kindness had subsisted in the most desperate crisis of their adverse fortune. They had formed no connection with your enemies. From your support alone could they ever hope to be maintained upon the throne, either against the family of Tipu Sultan, or against any other claimant.....The heir of the Rajas of Mysore, if placed on the throne, must feel that his continuance in that state depended on the stability of the new settlement. Thus, the kingdom of Mysore, so long the source of calamity and alarm to the Carnatic, might become a new harrier of our defense, and might supply fresh means of wealth and strength to the Company, their subjects and allies.

In addition to these motives of policy, moral considerations and sentiments of generosity and humanity, favoured the restoration of the ancient family of Mysore. Their high birth, the antiquity of their legitimate title and their long and unmerited sufferings, rendered them peculiar objects of compassion and respect; their government would be both more acceptable and more indulgent than that of the Mohammedan usurpers, to the inhabitants of the country, composed almost entirely of Hindus".

In short, Wellesley feared that if a son of Tipu Sultan had been placed on the throne, it would be equivalent in exposing Mysore to perpetual dangers like internal insurrections or foreign war. Also, it may harm the stability of the mutual interests of England and her Indian allies. As Tipu's favorite object had been the destruction of the British power in India, his heir must have been brought up in the same principles; ie, hereditary hatred of the British. He could never consider himself dignified, if placed on the throne by the favour of British, and limited by British control. Nor he could ever forget the great power and independence from which he had fallen. Revived by the spirit of his ancestors, he would definitely attempt for independent sovereignty and to recover that powerful empire.

Wellesley, therefore, announced his determination of setting aside the heir of Tipu Sultan, in favour of the descendant of the Wodeyars of Mysore.

Tipu's four eldest sons with their family were transferred to Vellore by 18th June. Thus ended the dynasty of the Mysore tiger, the Sultanat Khudadad.

Installation of Prince Krishnaraja Wodeyar:

Krishnaraja Wodeyar III at the age of five
Image taken from 'A Journey from Madras Through the Countries of Mysore, Canara, and Malabar' by Francis Buchanan

On 30th June, the five-year old Prince Krishnaraja Wodeyar, was installed on the throne of Mysore. This Raja was also called Krishnaraja Wodeyar III or Mummudi Krishnaraja Wodeyar. The capital was shifted from Srirangapatna to Mysore. In 1973, the Mysore state was renamed as Karnataka.


Wellesley's Despatches