How Tipu Sultan Actually Looked?

A few years ago, an image was circulating on social media which was claimed to be of the real Tipu Sultan, the ruler of Mysore. This 'real photo' was shared widely, quickly going viral.

However, it seems that many people had forgotten the fact that photography was not invented until 1826-27, while Tipu Sultan's reign was from 1782-1799.


The image which the rumour makers are using originates from the Wikipedia link:

Upon closer examination, it has been discovered that the image in question actually depicts Tippu Tib, a notorious slave and ivory trader from Zanzibar. This is further confirmed by alamy.

However, further research conducted by Alt News has revealed that the individual in the image is not even Tippu Tib, but rather a man named Rumaliza. Rumaliza was a slave and ivory trader from East Africa during the 19th century, who eventually rose to the position of Sultan of Ujiji.

For those interested in verifying this information, the following link may be of use:

This new information sheds light on the true identity of the individual in the image, and serves as a reminder of the importance of fact-checking and verifying sources before spreading rumors.

Perhaps we can turn our attention to the many paintings, sketches, and written descriptions of Tipu Sultan's appearance.

Appearance of the Sultan

The Madras Courier report of 11th April 1794 and Captain Doveton who accompanied the hostage princes back to Srirangapatna, gives the following description of the Sultan.

The Sultan was dressed in a plain muslin gown, without any jewels or ornament. He wore a deep red turban of the same form worn by the princes, and a dagger was there in his girdle. Tipu has a very majestic deportment, and is of the middle stature, with a countenance very expressive; his eye is particularly animated and scrutinizing, and blood-shot; his nose large with oblique dilated nostrils, his mouth small, but with thick lips, and an eminence towards the center of the upper lip, which projects. He wears thin and narrow whiskers, not curled on the upper lip, and only in the upper lip; his eyebrows are well arched, and rather low; his aspect serious, determined and austere; he is darker than the prince Abdul Khaliq.

Major Allan was among the British officers who founded the body of Tipu Sultan amidst a pile of corpses on 4th May, 1799.

"Tipu was of low stature; corpulent, with high shoulders, and a short thick neck, but his hands and feet 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 denoted him above the common order people. His dress consisted of a jacket of fine white linen, loose drawers of flowered chintz and a crimson cloth of silk and cotton round his waist. A handsome pouch with a red and green silk bell hung across his shoulder. He had an amulet on his arm, but no ornament whatever", says Major Allan.

Alexander Beatson notes that Tipu was about five feet eight inches. He had large full eyes, small arched eyebrows and an aquiline nose. He was of brown complexion and had small hands and feet, short neck, and square shoulders.

Tipu Sultan was fond of riding, and particularly excelled in horsemanship. His dress was remarkably plain; he usually wore a sword slung across the body, with a dagger in his gridle. His thoughts were constantly bent on war and military preparations. He has been frequently heard to say that in this world he would rather live two days like a tiger, than two hundred years like a sheep.

According to Kirmani, Tipu wore no beard but retained his moustache: "On his journeys and expeditions, he wore a coat of cloth of gold, or of the red tiger stripe embroidered with gold. He was also accustomed to tie a white handkerchief over his turban and under his chin. Towards the end of his reign he wore a green turban Shumlehdar, (twisted apparently) after the fashion of the Arabs, having one embroidered end pendant on the side of his head. He was so modest that no one ever saw any part of his person except his ankle and wrist, and even in the bath he always covered himself from head to foot."


An account of the campaign in Mysore (1799) By Sir Alexander Allan, Bart

A view of the origin and conduct of the war with Tippoo Sultaun By Alexander Beatson