Tipu Sultan’s relations with the Ottoman Empire

Kate Brittlebank in her book Tiger: The Life of Tipu Sultan writes:

In November 1785, a large contingent from Mysore, comprising troops, servants, officials, and four vakils, left Srirangapattana for the port of Tadri on the Malabar coast. They were charged with a mission from Tipu to the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid I in Istanbul.

The embassy, under the leadership of Ghulam Ali Khan, carried detailed instructions, along with a huge array of gifts – many of local manufacture – spices, textiles, jewelry, and gold and silver coins.

In early March 1786, the travelers set sail in four ships for Muscat; also on board were four elephants – three intended as gifts and one to be sold to raise funds for the mission’s return. Sadly, none of the unfortunate creatures survived the voyage.

Mysore already had an agent and warehouse in Muscat and part of the purpose of the embassy was commercial. There was also a religious aspect to the journey, requiring the vakils to present gifts at any holy sites that they visited. And finally, they were to convey Tipu’s requests to Abdul Hamid, who was still regarded by many in the Muslim world due to his guardianship of Mecca and Medina – as Caliph.

As well as seeking Ottoman assistance in combating the rise of British power, Tipu sought the Sultan’s confirmation, as Caliph, of the legitimacy of his claim to rule Mysore. It was to be four years before the vakils returned with Abdul Hamid’s approval – not that Tipu waited for the Sultan’s imprimatur before proclaiming himself Badshah, but its receipt certainly would have reinforced his right to do so.

In approaching the Ottoman Sultan in this way, Tipu was conforming to the practice of earlier Muslim rulers in India, who prior to the ascendancy of the Mughals had themselves turned to the Ottoman Caliph to legitimate their rule.

Excerpt from Kate Brittlebank’s book Tiger

Resting place of Tipu Sultan

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