Return of the Mysorean Hostage Princes to Srirangapatna

In the last post we have seen how the reception of the hostage princes was celebrated in great pomp. After delivering the definitive treaty to the Governor-General Lord Cornwallis, the princes, Abdul Khaliq and Muiz-ud-din, were taken to Madras and kept there for nearly two years. Tipu Sultan made the war indemnity payments punctually, however, for some reason the princes were kept at Madras till February 1794 [Lord Cornwallis wished to return the hostage princes before leaving India, but the restoration of the princes was delayed due to a dispute over some villages claimed by the Nizam with respect to the treaty of Srirangapatna].

12 Sons of Tipu Sultan

The young princes Abdul Khaliq and Muiz-ud-din, left Madras on 27th February, escorted by Captain Doveton, [their in-charge at Madras] and accompanied by the vakils and attendants, who came with them from Srirangapatna. Captain Doveton delivered them safely into the hands of Tipu Sultan on 29th March.

"Tippoo exhibited no emotion on recovering from captivity two persons who might be supposed so dear to him. His reception of them was far less warm and affectionate than that which they had met from Lord Cornwallis on being placed under his care", wrote Edward Thornton. Is it possible for a king to express his emotions in front of his enemies?

Below is a narrative of the reception of the princes by their father at Srirangapatna.

Captain Doveton
Captain Doveton, afterwards General Sir John Doveton, G.C.B. (1768-1847) was entrusted with the care of the sons of Tipu when they were hostages with the British at Madras; oil on canvas - Anglo-Indian School, 18th century - Christie’s

On 17th March, the escort of the princes ascended the ghats by the Pass of Padnadurgum, and encamped near a hill-fort, where they were met by an officer of Tipu, who was in waiting to accompany the princes.

On 21st morning, they reached Kolar.  Next day the princes, accompanied by Captain Doveton, visited the tomb of Fath Muhammad, their great grand-father at Kolar and performed the ceremony of futtiah (distribution of boiled rice to the poor).

At his birth place Devanahalli, Tipu Sultan had been encamped with a small army, from 18th March, anxiously expecting the arrival of the princes.

On 28th morning, Arz Beg (Lords of Requests) and two other officers were sent by the Sultan along with elephants to wait on Captain Doveton, to conduct them into camp. The Sultan had also sent his rocket boys, pike-men and some cavalry on that occasion. The procession was in the following order: Seven men riding on camels with red housings with yellow borders, each man armed with a blunderbuss; two Companies of the Sultan's infantry; rocket boys belonging to the Sultan; rocket boys belonging to Ghulam Ali Khan; rocket boys belonging to Captain Doveton; two men proclaiming the titles of the princes; the princes abreast on two elephants with yellow howdahs and housings; Ghulam Ali Khan and Captain Doveton abreast on two elephants, the former with green howdah, and the latter a yellow one with deep red fringe (Since Ali Raza Khan was sick, he rode on a palanquin); Arz Beg and the two other officers were also on elephants with yellow howdahs and housings; then followed the empty palanquins; the Company's Cavalry; the Company's native infantry; a line of pike-men on each side of the Company's Cavalry with the staffs of their pikes cased in silver, and a piece of red ribbons tied to the pike: — thus they moved on in succession, attended by a number of horsemen. When the escort reached the Sultan's camp, a salute of 21 guns was fired. Tents for all of them were pitched there.

On 29th at 12 o'clock, the princes with their suite, accompanied by Captain Doveton, proceeded on their visit to the Sultan. The Sultan received them in a superb pavilion, the tent of audience.

On their entrance to the pavilion, the princes were taken to the Adah Gah [A place from where all persons presented make three salaams], where the eldest Abdul Khaliq made three salaams; and Muiz-ud-din five. After this, the princes prostrated themselves at the feet of their father. "The father, instead of advancing to embrace his darling children, contented himself with coldly placing a hand on the neck of each, and, on the instant, the princes arose, and respectfully retired. It is a remarkable fact that not a word was exchanged at this extraordinary interview", notes Captain Doveton.

The Sultan was seated at one extremity of the pavilion, on a musnud (a large square cushion), raised a little above the carpet of the tent; the cushion was covered with red velvet embroidered with gold. On his each side, at suitable distances were seated nearly fifty of his principal officers according to their rank. At his right side was placed his sword with an enameled hilt, in a red velvet scabbard, and some petitions or official papers, and on them a gold snuff box, of European manufacture.

The Sultan pointed out their seats to his sons, which were on his right a little behind him. His principal officers, ranged in two lines, fronting each other. Captain Doveton was received with great courtesy and was placed on a seat near to the hostages; [British historians like Wilks and Edward Thornton remark that Tipu at first hesitated whether he should admit the Captain to his presence. His councilors represented that the Sultan's refusal to receive him might excite suspicion and the Englishman must be amused with professions of friendship, while, 'whatever was in the heart may remain there'.] Ghulam Ali Khan, as usual, sat on his silver chair (on account of rheumatism), very near to the Sultan.

Gifts were now presented; on seeing the palanquins that Lord Cornwallis had given to the princes, the Sultan said, 'where friendship subsisted, there was no need of presents'. He was excessively pleased with a ring, containing a piece of clock-work, which was a present from Lady Oakley, wife of Charles Oakley.

He conversed with Captain Doveton with great familiarity and ease on European topics, more than an hour and a half: he inquired particularly about the affairs of Europe, the progress the allies had made in subduing France; the cause of their confederation; their intentions if crowned with success; and the reason why so potent a force in so long a space of time had not made a greater impression on the French. He was likewise very inquisitive respecting the principles of the English Constitution; the form of Government; the meaning of the word Parliament, and extent of great Britain and Ireland; the power that King George possessed; and the different degrees of rank among the British nobles. In the course of conversation, he asked, after the Marquis Cornwallis, and said that, although the Marquis had returned to England, yet he should continue to consider him as his friend, and would be always happy to follow his advice relating to the management and government of his country. He also made kind inquiries after Sir Charles Oakley, the Governor of Madras, &c.

["Tipu Sultan's knowledge and awareness of international events surprised the English. Captain Doveton was astonished at Tipu's inquiries into such matters as the French revolution and Lord Macartney's visit to China. No wonder, Tipu's comprehension of world affairs, enabled him to clearly identify the British designs in India, implications of Anglo-French rivalry and advantage of an alliance with the French", wrote Aftab Kamal Pasha]

Captain Doveton and his suite were afterwards presented with beetle, cloves and a variety of Asiatic dainties, on a gold plate; then the Sultan made a sign to rise. The princes then returned accompanied and escorted in the same manner in which they had come to the grand pavilion. After few days Captain Doveton was given his audience of leave. When the Captain left Devanahalli, a person of high consequence accompanied him back to Madras. And the Sultan returned to Srirangapatna.


Selections from Calcutta gazettes of the year 1794 By W S Seton-Karr, C.S