Saringapattam, the capital of Mysore, was surrounded on all sides by the formidable invading forces, comprising the British, the Marhattas and the Nizam. This triple alliance strengthened by the subversive activities of the state traitors had compelled the "Lion of Mysore", as he was called, to make a strategic retreat and fall back to defend his capital. The Sultan was taking his lunch, when he was informed of the treachery of his trusted officers and the entry of the alien forces. Leaving his meals aside and with sword in hand, he rushed forth towards the danger spot. He gallantly fought a hand to hand fight. In the heat of the battle, he was advised to accept the British offer of subsidiary alliance. But the reply which the lion-hearted Tipu gave will go down as the most chivalrous recorded in history. He said: `One day's life of a lion is preferable to hundred years' existence of a jackal'. With these words he fought heroically to the last drop of his blood and became a martyr to the cause of national freedom.
Tipu Sultan, one of the most talented, valiant and enlightened monarchs that India has produced, was destined to struggle against heavy odds at a time when the British power had, to a great extent, established its supremacy over the major pat of the subcontinent and had successfully conspired with the Marhattas and the Nizam to overcome the only formidable hurdle in the south--- the Muslim state of Mysore. Tipu Sultan put up a gallant fight against much superior forces. But, for the treachery of his own men, the history of the subcontinent would have been different from what it has been during the last 150 years.
His primary aim was the expulsion of the British from India and for this purpose he sought assistance wherever he could. But the two other important powers of southern India, namely, the Mahrattas and the Nizam, had shut their eyes to the impending danger of foreign domination and the British used them as tools to achieve their objects. The British were not happy with the treaty of Mangalore concluded with Tipu Sultan. Ever since then, they were planning against him.
Tipu Sultan was an outstanding administrator and a great reformer, endowed with great vision and calibre. Despite his troubled life, he introduced great reforms in almost all departments of the state administration which brought unprecedented peace and prosperity to his people. He highly developed agriculture and industry in his dominion and initiated progressive agricultural reforms beneficial to the peasantry. Mill, the celebrated English historian, considers his territories to be `the best and its population the most flourishing in India ' and Tipu Sultan a ruler who `sustains an advantageous comparison with the greatest princes of the east.' He kept a watch over his people and received reports to make annual tours of their districts for this purpose.
The Sultan took effective steps towards the promotion of trade and industry in his country. He established several factories and built an Armada to protect his marine commerce from pirates. This led to the development of international trade with several countries, especially of the east. He set up trading agencies in several coastal towns and established large factories for manufacturing watches, ammunition, cutlery and paper. Cottage industries also thrived. His state was surplus in food grains, sugar, glassware, paper, silk and cotton cloth. Buchanan who visited his state acknowledges that `Tipu was born with a commercial mind'.
Being himself a very learned man, well versed in Persian, Arabic and Urdu, he immensely promoted learning. During his short troubled reign, he popularized education. The Imperial Library of Saringapattam was the finest of its kind in the east. He was also a writer of repute. He wrote "Fath ul Mujahidin", an army manual and "Muwaa`iz ul Mujahidin", the collection of his Friday Sermons. The real greatness of Tipu Sultan, therefore, lies in his struggle against heavy odds and in ultimately laying down his life for a noble cause. This has earned for him an immortal place among the great men of the world.