Tipu Sultan, Development of Army Logistics, Agriculture and Environmental Protection


Muneer Ahmed

Director, Urdu Academy, Tumkur, Karnataka, India


I am highlighting some aspects of Tipu Sultan’s wise and rational thinking relating to agriculture, livestock, and horse breeding. I consulted historical documentation, spoke to experts on these topics and conducted primary field-based research, for a period spanning over a decade. I summarize my findings in this paper.

Amrut Mahal Cattle

Tipu was born in Mysore Kingdom, where agriculture, even today, is the basic and most important profession of the masses. According to a publication of Captain Pearse and                     A. Krishna Swami Iyengar in 1912, Haidar Ali- Tipu’s father inherited Benne Chavadi cattle herds from the Mysore Wodeyars.

Tipu reconstituted this department.  He renamed itas Amrut Mahal, expanded the department to a much larger scale and issued ‘Hukum-nama’ or detailed regulations. His officers or amildars had to train young male bullocks and segregate them according to their ultimate utility.  

Tipu initiated an annual “huzoor ginti” (census of livestock). The word Kawal means a keeper in Kannada language.  To encourage livestock upkeep, Tipu rewarded the best of the Kawals with gold and silver presents. It is said that Tipu often personally attended this event where he distributed rewards. Similar procedures are used to this day to count Amrut Mahal. I visited Arsikere town and surrounding areas in Hassan District in April 2009. Here, I came across Kawal-gars or guardians of pastureland who informed me that it was their inherited profession, from the time of Tipu. According to them Tipu reserved specific grazing grounds for cattle. Some of which exist to this day.     

Tipu, like Haidar, used these cattle to haul large cannon. He marched his armies at lightning speed along with support systems, across mountains and rivers. In 1783, Tipu learnt of the inhumane massacres of civilians and unarmed soldiers carried out by British General Matthews in and around the city of Bidnur, also known as Nagar. He covered a distance of nearly 63 miles (about 100 kilometers) in just a couple of days to take the lost territory and capture Matthews.

Kunigal Stud Farm, Mysore

I visited Kunigal Stud Farm, in Tumakuru District in November 2009 and met Dr. Dinesh, General Manager and Veternary Head of the farm. According to him Tipu assessed all variables before establishing a stud farm in Kunigal.

First, he found that the climate of Kunigal was ideal for raising horses. Water was available in plenty with two man-made lakes adjoining it namely Kunigal Dodda Kere and Kunigal Chikka Kere.

Second factor considered was soil fertility. The grass that grows in this region is protein rich.

Third was choice of a site. After an assessment of the climate and the availability of good fodder, a flat site of 1506 acres was selected. A central farm of 1340 acres was established on this site. The entire 1340-acre site was landscaped with a gentle slope to ensure the water did not accumulate in any spot and the firmness of soil was retained with plentiful grass growth. The site was divided into 145 stables wherein horses of different ages and breeds were separately kept. A fence was established around each stable.

Horse is a social animal and likes to be with its comrades. Therefore, to one side, a roofed shed was constructed with rows of stables with the horses facing each other. A veterinary hospital with offices and stores is located on another side of the farm. Surrounding the entire site as well as the stables, tall growing trees were planted that acted as a noise absorber.  

Tipu is said to have established several stud farms around the year 1790 CE. The one at Kunigal is probably the first scientific farm of its kind in India which accorded his horses’ protection, preservation, nourishment, and biological needs. He aimed to have war horses that did not tire easily and could maneuver well. They received specialized training in the movements required in combat, including turning, stopping, lunging after which they were turned over to the army. No wonder the armies of Maratha and British respected Mysore cavalry. Dr. Dinesh stated that the horses are trained with similar principles even to this day. The only difference is that whereas in the old days the horses were raised for war, today they are raised for racing.

Lal Bagh, Bangalore

These days there is sloganeering about green revolution. However, Tipu not only thought about it two hundred years ago but implemented it, converting Mysore into a model agricultural state. Haidar Ali established Lal Bagh at Bengaluru in 1760s, on a site spread over 240 acres. Tipu took the concept of a garden beyond what the Mughals had developed. He visualized that the gardens could be used for the wellbeing of people and the progress of the country

I visited Lal Bagh in November 2010 and met Mr. Tahseen Ahmed, Director of Horticulture – Lal Bagh, Government of Karnataka. His staff educated me with their vast knowledge about this garden and its flora.  Tipu developed Lal Bagh as a modern research center for agriculture. His primary objective was to make Mysore self-sufficient in food, fruit, and vegetables.

Lal Bagh had three types of nurseries. One related to agriculture, the second to gardening and the third concerned aromatic and ornamental plants. In addition, the Department of Forestry was under his supervision. He imported a variety of plants and flower seedlings and established centers to cultivate these seedlings in Indian conditions.

Benjamin Heyne was an assistant to Col. Mackenzie, Superintendant of the Mysore survey in 1800. He came across achiote tree (Bixa orellana) a native to tropical regions of central and South America and attributed its introduction to Tipu Sultan.  R.M. Palanna, a senior forest officer of Karnataka has written that it was Tipu who introduced Eucalyptus in India, in 1790. This was at Nandi Hills near Bengaluru. Tipu also paid attention to cultivate new varieties of rice. He initiated production of clove seeds and their distributed among planters in the mountainous Western Ghats region.

There were many gardens in Tipu’s kingdom, similar to Bangalore’s Lal Bagh.

J.M. Matthew, a British soldier, who took part in the Third Anglo Mysore war (1790-92) wrote of a similar garden around the Haidar Ali’s family necropolis at Kolar. There he saw many European trees and apple trees and grape vines.

Srirangapatna also had two beautiful gardens which were home to agricultural research centers, according to other British chroniclers.  

Francis Buchanan a British surveyor and a doctor toured Mysore Kingdom immediately after capture by British in 1799. He wrote about the gardens laid out by Hyder and Tipu around Srirangapatna. He saw a mango orchard of 2400 trees in Malvalli replete with mangoes. He also came across orange orchards looked after by expert caretakers.   

In Tumkur district, around Kunigal, the farmers still cultivate a mulberry plant called ‘sultan guddi’. Tipu imported this variety from China and trained people to plant and nourish them. Two hundred years after his martyrdom, this region still produces a superior grade of silk.

Tipu laid down ordinances for agriculture and gardening, many of which were documented by Charles Francis Grenville in 1795. He nationalized sandalwood tree. He ordered the planting and care of fruits like mango on the best available ground in each village. He gave tax concessions to beetle-nut and coconut farmers. His Government paid for the cultivation of such land to increase fruiting trees as well as vegetables.

According to Heyne, jack fruit (Artocarpus integrifolia) was planted along roadside on the orders of Tipu. He observed this at Hoskote, east of Bengaluru.  In another edict, those who committed petty offences were to sow two mango and two jamun trees and take care of them for four years.

His kingdom soon became self-sufficient in food, fruit and vegetable. The land was covered with the greenery.

It was for this reason that British Major Moor, who fought Tipu in the battlefield wrote in 1793 and I quote: ‘his country was found everywhere full of inhabitants, and apparently cultivated to the utmost extent of which the soil was-capable’. Unquote