Return of Mysorean Hostage Princes to Srirangapatna

In an earlier post, we discussed the reception held for the hostage princes, Abdul Khaliq and Muiz-ud-din, which was celebrated with great pomp. After delivering the definitive treaty to the Governor General Lord Cornwallis on March 19, 1792, the princes were escorted to Madras.

Tipu Sultan made the war indemnity payments punctually. Lord Cornwallis had intended to release the hostage princes before leaving India. However, their return was delayed due to a dispute over certain villages claimed by the Nizam in relation to the Srirangapatna treaty. Ultimately, the princes were not returned until February 1794.

12 Sons of Tipu Sultan

The young princes, Abdul Khaliq and Muiz-ud-din, left Madras on February 27, 1794, under the escort of Captain Doveton, their in-charge at Madras, and the vakils and attendants who had accompanied them from Srirangapatna. After a month-long journey, Captain Doveton safely handed over the princes to Tipu Sultan on March 29.

Despite the joyous occasion, Tipu Sultan remained composed and dignified, never allowing his enemies to witness his innermost feelings. "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. 

The following is an account of the princes' reception by Tipu Sultan at Devanahalli.

Captain Doveton
Captain Doveton, afterwards General Sir John Doveton, G.C.B. (1768-1847) - oil on canvas - Christie’s

On 17 March, the princes ascended the Ghats by the Pass of Padnadurgum and encamped near a hill-fort. They were greeted by an officer of Tipu Sultan, who was there to escort the princes.

On the morning of the 21st, they arrived in Kolar. The following day, the princes paid a visit to the tomb of their great-grandfather, Fath Muhammad, at Kolar. They performed the traditional ceremony of futtiah, which involves distributing boiled rice to the poor.

At Devanahalli, Tipu Sultan had established his camp since March 18, eagerly awaiting the arrival of his sons. The detachment under Captain Doveton positioned themselves just two miles away from Tipu's camp.

On the morning of 28, Tipu Sultan dispatched Arz Beg (Lord of Requests) and two other officers, accompanied by a procession of elephants, to greet Captain Doveton and the princes and escort them to camp.

The procession was a sight to behold: Seven men riding on camels with red housings trimmed in yellow, each armed with a blunderbuss; two Companies of the Sultan's infantry; the Sultan's rocket boys, as well as those belonging to Ghulam Ali Khan and Captain Doveton; two men proclaiming the titles of the princes; the princes riding side by side on two elephants with yellow howdas and housings; Ghulam Ali Khan and Captain Doveton abreast on two elephants, the former with green howda, and the latter a yellow one with deep red fringe. Ali Raza Khan, who was unwell, rode in a palanquin. Arz Beg and two other officers on elephants with yellow howdas and housings. Following them were the empty palanquins, the Company's Cavalry, and the Company's native infantry. Flanking the Company's Cavalry were lines of pike-men, their pike staffs encased in silver with red ribbons tied to them. The procession was accompanied by a number of horsemen.

When the procession reached Tipu Sultan's camp, a salute of 21 guns was fired. Tents were set up for everyone.

On the 29th at 12 o'clock, Arz Beg arrived at Captain Doveton's tent to escort him to the presence of Tipu Sultan. Tipu received them warmly in a splendid pavilion.

Upon descending from the palanquins, the princes were led to the Adab Gah, where the eldest prince Abdul Khaliq performed three salaams, while Muiz-ud-din made five. Following this, the princes approached their father and humbly prostrated themselves at his feet, upon which he placed his hands on them. "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," observes Captain Doveton.

Tipu Sultan was seated at one end of the pavilion, on a musnud - a large square cushion - that was elegantly raised above the tent's carpet. The cushion was adorned with red velvet embroidered with gold. Positioned at strategic intervals on either side of him were almost fifty of his most esteemed officers. To his right, his sword with an enameled hilt rested in a scabbard made of red velvet. Next to it, there was a collection of petitions and official documents, with a gold snuff box of European origin resting on top.

Tipu Sultan gestured to his sons, indicating their seats which were situated to his right and slightly behind him. Captain Doveton was greeted with utmost respect and seated close to the princes. Ghulam Ali Khan, as usual, sat on his silver chair (due to his rheumatism), very close to Tipu.

British historians such as Wilks and Edward Thornton noted that initially, Tipu hesitated about allowing the Captain into his presence. However, his advisors convinced him that refusing the Englishman might raise suspicions, so he decided to entertain him with professions of friendship.

Gifts were now presented. Upon seeing the palanquins that Lord Cornwallis had bestowed upon the princes, Tipu Sultan remarked that "where friendship subsisted, there was no need of presents." He was particularly delighted by a ring gifted by Lady Oakley, which contained a piece of clockwork.

Tipu Sultan engaged in a lively conversation with Captain Doveton for over an hour and a half, displaying a keen interest in European affairs. He was particularly interested in 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. Tipu Sultan also expressed curiosity about 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.

During their discussion, Tipu Sultan inquired about the Marquis Cornwallis and said that, although the Marquis had returned to England, he would still consider him a friend, and would be eager to take his advice regarding the management and government of his country. He also kindly asked after Sir Charles Oakley, the Governor of Madras, and others.

"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," notes Aftab Kamal Pasha.

Captain Doveton and his entourage were subsequently presented with beetle, cloves and a variety of Asiatic dainties, on a golden platter. The princes, accompanied by Captain Doveton then returned to their tents in the same manner in which they had come to the pavilion.

A few days later, Captain Doveton was given his audience of leave. As he left Devanahalli, a person of high rank accompanied him back to Madras. Meanwhile, Tipu Sultan returned to Srirangapatna.


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