HYDER ALI, or HAIDAR 'ALI (c. 1722-1782), Indian ruler and commander. This Mahommedan soldier-adventurer, who, followed by his son Tippoo, became the most formidable Asiatic rival the British ever encountered in India, was the great-grandson of & fakir or wandering ascetic of Islam, who had found his way from the Punjab to Gulljurga in the Deccan, and the second son of a naik or chief constable at Budikota, near Kolar in Mysore. He was born in 1722, or according to other authorities 1717. An elder brother, who like himself was early turned out into the world to seek his own fortune, rose to command a brigade in the Mysore army, while Hyder, who never learned to read or write, passed the first 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 government, 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 Devanhalli (1749) Hyder's services attracted the attention of Nanjiraj, the minister of the raja of Mysore, and he at once received an independent command; within the next twelve years his energy and ability had made him completely master of minister and raja alike, and in everything but in name he was ruler of the kingdom. In 1763 the conquest of Kanara gave him possession of the treasures of Bednor, which he resolved to make the most splendid capital in India, under his own name, thenceforth changed from Hyder Naik into Hyder Ali Khan Bahadur; and in 1765 he retrieved previous defeat at the hands of the Mahrattas 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 agreement with the nizam to furnish him with troops to be used against the common foe. But hardly had this alliance been formed when a secret arrangement was come to between the two Indian powers, the result of which was that Colonel Smith's small force was met with a united army of 80,000 men and 100 guns. British dash and sepoy fidelity, however, prevailed, first in the battle of Chengam (September 3rd, 1767), and again still more remarkably in that of Tiruvannamalai (Trinomalai) . On the loss of his recently made fleet and forts on the western coast, Hyder Ali now offered 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 5 m. of Madras. The result was the treaty of April 1769, providing 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 Mahrattas in 1772, claimed British assistance, 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 British, on the declaration of war with France, 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 dependent of his own, gave him the needed pretext. Again master of all that the Mahrattas had taken from him, and with empire extended to the Kistna, he descended through the passes of the Ghats amid burning villages, reaching Conjeeveram, only 45 m. from Madras, unopposed. Not till the smoke 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 Guntur. The incapacity of these officers, notwithstanding the splendid courage of their men, resulted in the total destruction of Baillie's force of 2800 (September the xoth, 1780). Warren Hastings sent from Bengal Sir Eyre Coote, who, though repulsed at Chidambaram, defeated Hyder thrice successively in the battles of Porto Novo, Pollilur and Sholingarh, while Tippoo was forced to raise the siege of Wandiwash, and Vellore was provisioned. On the arrival of Lord Macartney as governor of Madras, the British fleet captured Negapatam, and forced Hyder Ali to confess that he could never ruin a power which had command of the sea. He had sent his son Tippoo to the west coast, to seek the assistance of the French fleet, when his death took place suddenly at Chittur in December 1782.
See L. B. Bowring, Haidar Ali and Tipu Sultan, " Rujers of India " series (1893). For the personal character and administration of Hyder Ali see the History of Hyder Naik, written by Mir Hussein Ali Khan Kirmani (translated from the Persian by Colonel Miles, and published by the Oriental Translation Fund), and the curious 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 (1810-1817) I Aitchison's Treaties, vol. v. (2nd ed., 1876^; and Pearson, Memoirs of Schwartz (1834).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)