1902 Encyclopedia > Hyder Ali

Hyder Ali
Mahommedan soldier adventurer
(c. 1702-82)




HYDER ALI, or HAIDAE ALI, (C. 1702-1782), the Mahometan soldier-adventurer who, followed by his son Tippoo, became the most formidable Asiatic rival the English have ever had in India, was the great grandson of a fakir or wandering ascetic of Islam, who had found his way from the Punjab to Kulburga in the south, and the second son of the Arab wife of a naik or chief constable at Budikote, near Colar, in Mysore, and was born about the beginning of the 18th century. The elder brother who, like himself, was early turned out into the world to seek his own fortune, became a naik, and ultimately rose to com-mand a brigade in the Mysore army, while Hyder, who never learned to read or write, passed the first forty-seven years of his life aimlessly in sport and sensuality, sometimes, however, acting as the agent of his brother, and meanwhile acquiring a useful familiarity with the tactics of the French when at the height of their reputation under Dupleix. He is said to have induced his brother to employ a Parsee to purchase artillery and small arms from the Bombay Govern-ment, and to enrol some thirty sailors of different European nations as gunners, and is thus credited with having been " the first Indian who formed a corps of sepoys armed with firelocks and bayonets, and who had a train of artillery served by Europeans." At the siege of Deonhully (1749) Hyder's services attracted the attention of Nunjeraj, the minister of the maharajah of Mysore, and he at once re-ceived an independent command; within the next twelve years his energy and ability had made him completely master of minister and maharajah alike, and in everything but in name he was ruler of the kingdom. In 1763 the conquest of Canara gave him possession of the treasures of Bednore, which he resolved to make the most splendid capital in India, under his own name, thenceforth changed from Hyder Naik into Hyder Ali Khan Bahadoor; and in 1765 he retrieved previous defeat at the hands of the Marhattas by the destruction of the Nairs or military caste of the Malabar coast, and the conquest of Calicut. Hyder Ali now began to occupy the serious attention of the Madras Government, which in 1766 entered into an agree-ment with the nizam to hold the district known as the Northern Circars from him, and to furnish him with troops to be used against the common foe. But hardly had this alliance been formed when a new and secret arrangement was come to between the two Indian powers, the result of which was that Colonel Smith's small force was met witli a united army of 80,000 men and 100 guns. British dash and sepoy fidelity, however, prevailed, first in the battle of Changama (September 3, 1767), and again still more remarkably in that of Trinomalee, which lasted two days; and the nizam's own capital of Hyderabad was threatened by Colonel Peach's expedition sent from Bengal. On the loss of his recently made fleet and forts on the western coast, Hyder Ali now began to make overtures for peace ; on the rejection of these, bringing all his resources and strategy into play, he forced Colonel Smith to raise the siege of Bangalore, and brought his army within five miles of Madras. The result was the treaty of April 1769, provid-ing for the mutual restitution of all conquests, and for mutual aid and alliance in defensive war; it was followed by a commercial treaty in 1770 with the authorities of Bombay. Under these arrangements Hyder Ali, when defeated by the Marhattas in 1772, claimed English assist-ance, but in vain; this breach of faith stung him to fury, and thenceforward he and his son did not cease to thirst for vengeance. His time came when in 1778 the English, on the declaration of war, resolved to drive the French out of India. The capture of Mahe on the coast of Malabar in 1779, followed by the annexation of lands belonging to a dependant of his own, gave him the needed pretext. Again master of all that the Marhattas had taken from him, and with empire extended to the Kistna, he now summoned the French to his assistance, and, descending through the Chan-gama pass amid burning villages, reached Conjeveram, only forty-five miles from Madras, unopposed. Not till the smol.e was seen from St Thomas's Mount, where Sir Hector Munro commanded some 5200 troops, was any movement made; then, however, the British general sought to effect a junction with a smaller body under Colonel Baillie recalled from Guntoor. The incapacity of these officers, notwithstanding the splendid courage of their men, resulted in the total loss of Baillie's force of 2800 (September 10,1780). Hastings, again appealed to, sent from Bengal Sir Eyre Coote, who, though repulsed at Chillumbrum, defeated Hyder thrice successively in the battles of Porto Novo, Polliloor, and Sholingur, while Tippoo was forced to raise the siege of Wandewash, and Vellore was provisioned, On the arrival of Lord Macartney as governor of Madras, the English fleet captured Negapatam, took Trincomalee from the Dutch, and forced Hyder Ali to confess that he could never ruin a power which had such command of the sea. He was directing his attention to the west coast, where he sought the assistance of the French fleet, when his death took place suddenly at Chittore in December 1782.

For the personal character and administration of Hyder Ali see the History of Hyder Naik, written hy Meer Hussein Ali Khan Kirmani (translated from the Persian by Colonel Miles, and pub-lished by the Committee of the Oriental Translation Fund), and the carious work written by M. Le Maitre de La Tour, commandant of his artillery (Histoire d'Hayder-Ali Khan, Paris, 1783). For the whole life and times see Wilks, Historical Sketches of the South of India, 1810-17 ; Aitchison's Treaties, vol. v. (2d ed., 1876); and Pearson, Memoirs of Schwartz, 1834.








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