Correspondence between Zaman Shah Durrani and Tipu Sultan

In the late eighteenth century, the Durrani empire was thought to be the only force that could neutralize the increasing influence of the East India Company or support the waning Indian Muslim power. Shah Zaman’s frequent attacks on India kept the British in a chronic state of unrest. However, because of his internal problems , he could never advance farther than the Lahore. By the end of 1797,  Muslim rajas and nawabs of India had turned their eyes upon Kabul with a hope that it would save them from the impending yoke of the usurping British. From northern Oudh to southern Mysore , Muslim petty rulers had sent invitations to Zaman Shah Durrani, with large promises of aid in money and men. Wazir Ali and Tipu Sultan had encouraged him to declare jihad against the infidels and lead an army of all the Muslims of India reviving the gallant deeds of his grandfather. The Raja of Jainagar offered him a lac of Rupees as soon as the grand army should enter his state.

Lord Wellesley, said:-

“Every Muhammadan , even in the remotest region of Deccan , waited with anxious expectation for the advance of the Champion of Islam”  (J.W.Kaye, “History of the War in Afghanistan”, Vol-1, p-3)

Sir John Shore wrote to Dundas just before setting off on a trip to Lucknow (January 27th , 1797)  ;

“…He (the Nawab of Awadh) has earnestly solicited me to meet him , alarmed probably by an apprehension of Zaman Shah. I can not yet bring my mind to entertain any fears on this account , but i have taken the same precautions as if i was morally certain of the Shah’s approach. If he should reach Delhi , he can have not motive but the plunder of Lucknow…….It has also been suggested that the Shah acts in concert with Tipu and by French intrigues ; I am equally an infidel on this point , but at the same time aware of the influence which his success might have on the resolutions of Tipu and the politics of the Nizam”

Fifteen thousands troops were accordingly stationed along the northern borders until the close of  Zaman Shah’s invasion. (“Tiger of Mysore – life and death of Tipu Sultan” , p-244)

By pitching the Persians against Zaman Shah , the British could forestall his much dreaded invasion of India. It was obvious that while threatened from the west , Zaman Shah could never conduct a successful expedition into India. So, to instigate the Shah of Persia against Zaman Shah, at the end of 1796, Captain Malcolm’s mission was sent to Persia to relieve India from the annual alarm of Shah Zaman’s invasion. In October 1800, he wrote from Isfahan :-

“That Zaman Shah could do nothing in India before the setting in of the rains of 1801. He has no time if he had the power for such an attempt ; and by the blessing of God he will for some years to come be too much engaged in this quarter to think of any other” (J.W.Kaye, “History of the War in Afghanistan”, Vol-1, p-6)

Zaman Shah planned an expedition into India in 1799-1800. The internal strife had exhausted his coffers . He could have led 2,00,000 men into the field if he had money to pay them. Even the Qizalbashes refused to accompany him , apparently on the plea that they needed arms to fight the battles and money to support their wives. In fact they were in league with the King of Persia on whose instructions they tried to weaken the Durrani army. Shah Zaman was continually being deserted at this critical time for the want of sinews of war. His artillery consisted of some twelve brass field guns and five hundreds Zumboorucks or camel guns. There were not more than 500 good horses in his army. Such was the army with which he planned an invasion of India to fight the anti-Muslim forces. The Persian activity in the west and the internal intrigues broke up the Durrani army and kept the Shah at home. Finally the death of Tipu Sultan dampened his designs on India for the time being. (“History of the Pathans” by Haroon Rashid, Vol-1, pp-180-181)

Zaman Shah Durrani in Durbar, surrounded by attendants, Lahore, 1799. British Museum


Zaman Shah Durrani enthroned, circa 1795


Tipu Sultan aged 30 . Artist: Johann Zoffany, 1780



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