Return of the Mysorean Hostage Princes to Srirangapatna

In an earlier post, we saw how the reception of the hostage princes, Abdul Khaliq and Muiz-ud-din, was celebrated with great pomp. After delivering the definitive treaty to the Governor-General Lord Cornwallis, the princes were taken to Madras and kept there for nearly two years. Tipu Sultan made the war indemnity payments punctually, yet for some reason the princes were not released until February 1794. Lord Cornwallis had 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 the vakils and attendants who had accompanied them from Srirangapatna. After a month-long journey, Captain Doveton safely delivered the princes into the hands of Tipu Sultan on March 29th.

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. 

Below is a narrative of the reception of the princes by their father Tipu Sultan 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 princes ascended the Ghats by the Pass of Padnadurgum and encamped near a hill-fort, where they were met by an officer of Tipu Sultan, who had been awaiting their arrival.

On the morning of the 21st, they reached Kolar. The following 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, which involved the distribution of boiled rice to the poor.

Tipu Sultan had encamped at his birthplace of Devanahalli with a small army from the 18th of March, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the princes.

On the morning of the 28th, the Sultan dispatched Arz Beg (Lord of Requests) and two other officers, accompanied by a procession of elephants, to greet Captain Doveton and escort him to camp. The procession marched in the following order: Seven men atop their majestic camels, their red housings adorned with yellow borders, each man armed with a blunderbuss; two Companies of the Sultan's infantry; rocket boys belonging to the Sultan, Ghulam Ali Khan and 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 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 procession reached the Sultan's camp, a salute of 21 guns was fired and tents were pitched for all of them.

On the 29th at noon, the princes with their entourage, accompanied by Captain Doveton, proceeded on their visit to the Sultan. The Sultan welcomed them in a magnificent pavilion, the tent of audience, where they were met with a grand display of opulence and splendor.

Upon entering the pavilion, the princes were taken to the Adah Gah, a place from where all persons presented make three salaams. The eldest Abdul Khaliq made three salaams, and Muiz-ud-din made 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 end of the pavilion, on a musnud (a large square cushion), raised slightly above the carpet of the tent. The cushion was covered with red velvet embroidered with gold. On either side of him, at appropriate distances, were seated nearly fifty of his most important officers, according to their rank. To his right side was placed his sword with an enameled hilt, in a red velvet scabbard, and a few petitions or official papers, and on them a gold snuff box, of European make.

The Sultan gestured to his sons, indicating their seats which were situated to his right and slightly behind him. His principal officers were seated in two lines, facing each other. Captain Doveton was welcomed with great hospitality and was seated near the hostages; [British historians Wilks and Edward Thornton remark that Tipu at first hesitated to admit the Captain into his presence. His councilors represented that the Sultan's refusal to receive him could arouse suspicion and that the Englishman must be amused with friendly words, while, 'whatever was in the heart may remain there'.] Ghulam Ali Khan, as usual, sat on his silver chair (due to his rheumatism), very close to the Sultan.

Gifts were now presented; upon seeing the palanquins that Lord Cornwallis had bestowed upon the princes, the Sultan remarked that 'where friendship subsisted, there was no need of presents'. He was excessively delighted with a ring, containing a piece of clock-work, which was a gift from Lady Oakley, wife of Charles Oakley.

Tipu Sultan conversed with Captain Doveton with great familiarity and ease on European topics for more than an hour and a half. He was particularly interested in 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. During the conversation, he asked 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, all served on a golden platter; 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 a few days Captain Doveton was given his audience of leave. When the Captain departed 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