Kingdom of Mysore

The Kingdom of Mysore was founded in 1399 and lasted until 1947. It was a south Indian Kingdom that was located in the region that is now the modern day city of Mysore.  The Wodeyars were the Hindu rulers of the Mysore kingdom and established their capital there in the early fifteenth century. Mysore remained the capital of the kingdom until Raja Wodeyar moved it to Srirangapatna in the upper Kaveri Valley in 1610 (Ikegame 20). Before the Wodeyar dynasty made this move, it was the Vijayanagar kingdom that occupied this space under the Tuluva dynasty. Once the Wodeyar dynasty began to gain interest in the area, they quickly succeeded in replacing Aravidu Tirumala, the provincial governor resident at Srirangapatna, helping them to gain control of the city. By 1612, the Wodeyar dynasty gained a great deal of autonomy. Their independence from the Vijayanagar state was exemplified when they neglected to make regular revenue transfers, compared to the Nayakas, who continued to transfer revenues to the Vijayanagars until the late 1630s (Subrahmanyam 209-210).

By the 1700s, the Mysore kingdom controlled a reasonably sized territory in the core of southern India. It was around this time that a man by the name of Haidar Ali was gaining power within the Mysore military. In the mid eighteenth century that Haidar Ali took over the Kingdom (Ikegame 20). The Muslim warlord held control of the Mysore kingdom until his son Tipu Sultan took over in 1782, which was the time of the second Anglo-Mysore war, fought between Mysore and the East Indian Company (Masani 12). Tipu inherited his father’s creation, which was one of the largest and most skilled armies in the subcontinent. Tipu was a ruthless leader, recognized as the “Tiger of Mysore” because of stories of him keeping chained tigers outside his palace. A story even surfaced that Tipu wrestled and killed a tiger with his bare hands (Masani 13). With all the power the kingdom held in southern India, Tipu found it very difficult to not attack and defeat his weaker neighbors. With every conquest followed major religious and ethnic cleansing, thousands of Christians and Hindus were killed, enslaved, tortured, and deported (Masani 13). The Mysorean army frequently used nose cutting as a form of punishment and humiliation. The nose was targeted because it was viewed as a central part of a person’s identity. In many cases, the nose also represented a person’s status within society, so destruction of the nose represented victory over one’s enemy (Simmons 178-179). This was just one of the various ways in which Tipu Sultan punished his prisoners.

As seen through Sultan’s fights with the East Indian Company he did not get along with the British. That being said, him and the Mysorean army were not necessarily against foreigners in their realm. In fact, he was willing to take help from foreign powers in order to expel those he hated. He is said to have consulted with the French in order to create an alliance to expel the British from India (Sil 2). Tipu Sultan and the Mysorean army were the last regular Indian force to actually stand against the British in their attempts to dominate southern India (Ikegame 20).

The conflicts between the British and the Mysore kingdom were known as the Anglo-Mysore wars, and were fought in four installments from 1767 to 1799 (Barua 23). The first Anglo-Mysore war began when the British became concerned with the increasing power of Haidar Ali, who was the leader of Mysore at the time. Mysore’s boarder began to threaten key trading posts that belonged to Britain. Britain fought back and began to gather important victories eventually pushing Haidar’s military into the Bangalore plain. Due to the craftsmanship of the Mysore leader, Haidar was able to push back out of Bangalore and consequently forced the British to sign a peace treaty (Barua 29). The American Revolution helped spark the second Anglo-Mysore war when tensions between the British and French were on the rise. This war lasted from 1780 to 1784, which included the death of Haidar Ali and the gaining of power for his son Tipu Sultan.  Although Tipu worked to modernize the Mysorean army he was met with defeat in both the third and fourth Anglo-Mysore wars. The fourth war would prove to be the last for Tipu Sultan, as a British invasion of Mysore would be met with little resistance since most of Tipu’s generals had surrendered to the British. Instead of dealing with the humiliation of defeat Tipu was actually killed when the British seized his capital on May 4th 1799 (Masani 15). This marked the end of indigenous rule over the kingdom of Mysore.

Soon after Tipu’s death came the induction of 5-year-old Krishnaraja Wodeyar III as ruler of the Mysore state. Once the Hindu royal house was restored they shifted from the former city of Srirangapatna to their original home in Mysore (Ikegame 20). After Britain’s victory over Tipu Sultan, they did not rule over Mysore directly but did begin to heavily influence the administration and policies of the Wodeyar government, thus beginning the colonial era (Sivramkrishna 699). In 1831, the British took full control of the administration because of the inability of Krishnaraja to subdue a peasant uprising in the northern section of the kingdom. All administration was then moved to Bangalore, and Krishnaraja’s palace, which once held administrative powers, was to be used solely to house the leader. This was intended to help eliminate any influence by the Maharaja (great king) on state level politics. Krishnaraja’s palace was to deal with private affairs and the state would take care of public affairs. For the most part, the British stayed away from the Palace until the death of Krishnaraja Wodeyar III in 1868.  Britain went on to make drastic changes to the palace. First, with the analysis of Krishnaraja’s debts, followed by the examination of his movable and immovable property, and finally the remodeling of the palace establishment (Ikegame 23). Krishnaraja’s adopted son, Chamarajendra Wodeyar X, gained power in 1881. He was re-granted possession and administration of the country, although the British appointed a guardian to educate him. The Mysoreans gradually started to re-gain power in the state level bureaucracy and with this came reform to the management of the palace. In 1910, a new post was formed called the Muzrai Bakshi, also known as the minister of religious endowments. Religious institutions managed by the palace were considered private, while all others were under control by state administration. That being said, the palace steadily gained more power over religious institutions due, in part, to the fact that officials continuously complied to the religious authority of the Maharaja. The palace came to dominate the religious affairs, which gradually became somewhat of its own state within the kingdom of Mysore (Ikegame 25-27).

The Wodeyar dynasty is the only family in Indian history to rule over a kingdom for more than 500 years. The Wodeyar dynasty and the kingdom of Mysore were under the indirect rule of the British from 1799 to 1831, and later from 1881 to 1947. The period between 1881 and 1947 came to be known as the “golden period” for the state of Mysore. During this time, new developments were happening regularly within that state and by the turn of the century, it was known as a “modern state” (Ramaswamy and Asha. S 202). Mysore became one of the most developed and urbanized regions in India. The kingdom of Mysore finally become part of the Union of India in 1948 after its independence from British rule in 1947 (Baweja 4-5). The Joining of Mysore with the Union of India marked the end of the Wodeyar rule after nearly 500 years.


References and other recommended readings



Barua, Prapeep P (2011) “Maritime Trade, Seapower, and the Anglo-Mysore Wars: 1767-1799: Maritime Trade.” Historian 73 #1 (March): 22-40.


Baweja, Vandana (2015) “Messy Modernism: Otto Koenigsberger’s Early Work in Princely Mysore, 1939-41.” South Asian Studies 31 #1 (January): 1-26.


Ikegame, Aya (2007) “The capital of Rajadharma: Modern Space and Religion in Colonial Mysore.” International Journal of Asian Studies 4 #1 (December): 15-44.


Ramaswamy, Mahesh, and Asha. S (2015) “Caste Politics and State Integration: A case Study of the Mysore State.” International Journal of Area Studies 10 #2 (December): 195-219.


Sivramkrishna, Sashi (2009) “Ascertaining Living Standards in Erstwhile Mysore, Southern India, from Francis Buchanan’s Journey of 1800-01: An Empirical Contribution to the Great Divergence Debate.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 52 #4/5: 695-733.


Ikegame, Aya (2007) “The capital of Rajadharma: Modern Space and Religion in Colonial Mysore.” International Journal of Asian Studies 4 #1 (December): 15-44.


Masani, Zareer (2016) “The Tiger of Mysore.” History Today 66 #12 (December): 11-16.


Sil, Narasingha (2013) “Tipu Sultan in History: Revisionism Revised.” SAGE Open 3 #2 (April): 1-11.     


Simmons, Caleb (2016) “The ‘Hunt for Noses’: Contextualizing the Wodeyar Predilection for Nose-Cutting.” Studies in history 32 #2 (August): 162-185


Subrahmanyam, Sanjay (1989) “Warfare and State Finance in Wodeyar Mysore, 1724-25: A Missionary Perspective.” Indian Economic & Social History Review 26 #2 (June): 203-233.


Related Topics for Further Investigation


Wodeyar Dynasty


Anglo-Mysore Wars


East Indian Company


Tipu Sultan and Haider Ali


Noteworthy websites related to topic


Article written by: Landon Hibbs (February 2017) who is solely responsible for its content.