Haider Ali was born in 1722 and was the son of Fateh Mohammad, a Punjabi adventurer, who traced his lineage to the family of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.). Haider Ali rose from poverty and came to notice of the ruler of Mysore as a brave soldier. In 1755, he became the Faujdar, or the Military Commander, and Jagirdar of Budikot in Mysore.
Though uneducated, Haider Ali displayed robust common sense, courage and determination, taking full advantage of every opportunity that came his way. Haider Ali copied the army organization and equipment of the English and the French. Charge of the whole army was entrusted to him in 1757 when the Marhattas attacked Mysore and the internal position of the state was in chaos. He rose to the occasion and forced the Marhattas to withdraw. The Maharaja gave him the title of Fateh Bahadur. In 1761, he rose to the position of Chief Minister of Mysore and continued to strengthen his power. By 1766, the Hindu ruler of Mysore was the head merely in name, while Haider Ali assumed unquestioned control. When the Raja died in 1766, Haider Ali became the actual ruler.
Haider Ali discharged his responsibilities with great ability and not only overcame the chaos within the state, but also took advantage of the prevailing anarchy in the south, adding fresh territory to Mysore and greatly extending its area. The Marhattas and the Nizam of Hyderabad, who continued to cause trouble for him, viewed the rise of Mysore with anxiety. His entire reign was almost taken up with military campaigns against the Nizam of Hyderabad, Nawab of Karnatic and the Marhattas who claimed Mysore to be part of their dominion. Both the Marhattas and the Nizam of Hyderabad on numerous occasions sided with the British in joint attacks on Mysore. In 1767, the British, in alliance with Hyderabad and the Marhattas, took the field against Haider Ali. In the first Mysore War, after some initial reverses, Haider Ali was able to defeat the British. Haider Ali took his army to the outskirts of Madras and dictated peace to the British. According to the peace treaty between Haider Ali and the British, it was arranged that mutual assistance would be provided in case of attack on either side.
However, the British refused to help Haider Ali when the Marhattas attacked Mysore in 1771. Angered by the British refusal to honor a defensive alliance and finding more support from the French in terms of his military demands, he sided with the French. So in 1780, when the English wanted to attack the French at Mahe situated on the west coast of Mysore, Haider Ali did not permit it. In return the English declared war against Haider Ali by forming an alliance with the Nizam and the Marhattas, and thus stared the Second Mysore War.
Haider Ali fought bravely and skillfully with 80,000 men and 100 guns attacking Karnatic. In October 1780 he captured Arcot. Haider Ali boldly continued the war with the British. But in 1781, he was defeated near Madras by Eyre Coote. Haider died a year later in the midst of a campaign but his son, Tipu Sultan, continued the campaign and secured victory over the British in 1783. Like Haider Ali, Tipu also proved to be one of the most formidable rivals the British ever encountered in India.
Haider Ali was a born soldier .He suffered repeated reverses yet he never despaired. Haider Ali never raised a cloud of enemies against himself. It was due to his diplomatic skills that Haider Ali’s enemies never combined against him; he would not fight the British unless he was on good terms with the Marhattas, and he would not go to war with the Marhattas unless he was confident that the British would not join them. Haider Ali was a man of caliber who fought and was killed not submitting to a foreign power. Apart from being a strong willed soldier and ruler, he was also a successful administrator. He was tolerant to other faiths. He carried on numerous public works and construction of a number of roads, gardens and fortification in Bangalore and Seringapatam are credited to his reign.
This article was last updated on Sunday, June 01, 2003