The Rise of Mysore

Under rulers of the Vadiyar dynasty, such as Kanthirava Narasaraja and Chikka Deva Raja Mysore emerged as an important state. However, Mysore was a landlocked kingdom and dependent on trade and military supplies brought through the ports of the Indian east coast.

As these ports came increasingly under European control, Mysore’s vulnerability increased. From the 1760s, steps were taken to change this situation. A cavalry commander of migrant origin, Haidar Ali, assumed effective power in the kingdom in 1761, reducing the Vadiyars to figureheads and displacing the powerful Kalale family of ministers.

First Haidar and then, after 1782, his son, Tipu Sultan, made attempts to consolidate Mysore and make it a kingdom with access to not one but both coasts of peninsular India. Against the Kodavas, the inhabitants of the upland kingdom of Kodagu (Coorg), they were relatively successful. Coastal Karnataka and northern Kerala came under their sway, enabling Tipu to open diplomatic and commercial relations on his own account with the Middle East.

Tipu’s ambitions apparently greatly exceeded those of his father, and he strove actively to escape the all - pervasive shadow of Mughal suzerainty. However, the problem with the Mysore of Haidar and Tipu was their inability to build an internal consensus. Their dependence on migrants and mercenaries, for both military and fiscal expertise, was considerable, and they were always resisted by local chiefs, the so called Poligars.

More crucial was the fact that by the 1770s Mysore faced a formidable military adversary in the form of the English East India Company, which did not allow it any breathing room. It was the English who denied Mysore access to the relatively rich agricultural lands and ports of the Coromandel coastal plain in eastern India. Tipu was also finally killed in 1799 by the English forces.