The rulers of the South Indian states established law and order and viable economic and administrative states. They curbed with varying degrees of success.
The politics of South Indian states were invariably non-communal or secular. The motivations of their rulers were being similar in economic and political terms.
The rulers of South Indian states did not discriminate on religious grounds in public appointment; civil or military; nor did the rebels against their authority pay much attention to the religion of the rulers.
None of the South Indian states, however, succeeded in arresting the economic crisis. The zamindars and jagirdars, whose had number constantly increased, continued to fight over a declining income from agriculture, while the condition of the peasantry continued to deteriorate.
While the South Indian states prevented any breakdown of internal trade and even tried to promote foreign trade, they did nothing to modernize the basic industrial and commercial structure of their states.
Following were the important states of South India in 18th century −
Hyderabad and the Carnatic
The state of Hyderabad was founded by Nizam-ul-Mulk Asaf Jah in 1724. He was one of the leading nobles of the post-Aurangzeb era.
Asaf Jah never openly declared his independence in front of the Central Government, but in practice, he acted like an independent ruler. He waged wars, concluded peace, conferred titles, and gave jaws and offices without reference to Delhi.
Asaf Jah followed a tolerant policy towards the Hindus. For example, a Hindu, Purim Chand, was his Dewan. He consolidated his power by establishing an orderly administration in Deccan.
After the death of Asaf Jah (in 1748), Hyderabad fell prey to the same disruptive forces as were operating at Delhi.
The Carnatic was one of the subahs of the Mughal Deccan and as such came under the Nizam of Hyderabad’s authority. But just as in practice the Nizamhad become independent of Delhi, so also the Deputy Governor of the Carnatic, known as the Nawab of Carnatic, had freed himself from the control of the Viceroy of Deccan and made his office hereditary.
Next to Hyderabad, the most important power that emerged in South India was Mysore under Haidar Ali. The kingdom of Mysore had prescribed its precarious independence ever since the end of the Vijayanagar Empire.
Haidar Ali born in 1721, in an obscure family, started his career as a petty officer in the Mysore army. Though uneducated, he possessed a keen intellect and was a man of great energy and daring and determination. He was also a brilliant commander and shrewd diplomat.
Cleverly using the opportunities that came his way, Haidar Ali gradually rose in the Mysore army. He soon recognized the advantages of western military training and applied it to the troops under his own command.
In 1761, Haidar Ali overthrew Nanjaraj and established his authority over the Mysore state. He took over Mysore when it was weak and divided state and soon made it one of the leading Indian powers
Haidar Ali extended full control over the rebellious poligars (zamindars) and conquered the territories of Bidnur, Sunda, Sera, Canara, and Malabar.
Haidar Ali practiced religious toleration and his first Dewan and many other officials were Hindus.
Almost from the beginning of the establishment of his power, Haidar Ali was engaged in wars with the Maratha Sardars, the Nizam, and the British forces.
In 1769, Haidar Ali repeatedly defeated the British forces and reached the walls of Madras. He died in 1782 in the course of the second Anglo-Mysore War and was succeeded by his son Tipu.
Sultan Tipu, who ruled Mysore untill his death at the hands of the British in 1799, was a man of complex character. He was, for one an innovator.
Tipu Sultan’s desire to change with the times was symbolized in the Introduction of a new calendar, a new system of coinage, and new scales of weights and measures.
Tipu Sultan’s personal library contained books on such diverse subjects as religion, history, military science, medicine, and mathematics. He showed a keen interest in the French Revolution.
Tipu Sultan planted a ‘Tree of Liberty’ at Sringapatam and he became a member of a Jacobin club.
Tipu Sultan tried to do away with the custom of giving jagirs, and thus increased the state income. He also made an attempt to reduce the hereditary possessions of the poligars.
Tipu Sultan’s land revenue was as high as that of other contemporary rulers— it ranged up to 1/3rd of the gross produce. But he checked the collection of illegal ceases, and he was liberal in granting remissions.
Tipu Sultan’s infantry was armed with muskets and bayonets in fashion, which were, however, manufactured in Mysore.
Tipu Sultan made an effort to build a modern navy after 1796. For this purpose, two dockyards, the models of the ships being supplied.
Tipu Sultan was recklessly brave and, as a commander was, however, hasty in action and unstable in nature.
Tipu Sultan stood forth as a foe for the rising English power. The English, in turn, too as his most dangerous enemy in India.
Tipu Sultan gave money for the construction of goddess Sarda in the Shringeri Temple in 1791. He regularly gave gifts to as well to several other temples.
In 1799, while fighting the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War, Tipu Sultan died.
At the beginning of the 18th century, Kerala was divided into a large number of feudal chiefs and rajas.
The kingdom of Travancore rose into prominence after 1729 under King Martanda Varma, one of the leading statesmen of the 18th century.
Martanda Varma organized a strong army on the western model with the help of European officers and armed it with modern weapons. He also constructed a modern arsenal.
Martanda Varma used his new army to expand northwards and the boundaries of Travancore soon extended from Kanyakumari to Cochin.
Martanda Varma undertook many irrigation works, built roads and canals for communication, and gave active encouragement to foreign trade.
By 1763, all the petty principalities of Kerala had been absorbed or subordinated by the three big states of Cochin, Travancore, and Calicut.
Haidar Ali began his invasion of Kerala in 1766 and in the end annexed northern Kerala up to Cochin, including the territories of the Zamorin of Calicut.
Trivandrum, the capital of Travancore, became a famous center of Sanskrit scholarship during the second half of the 18th century.
Rama Varma, the successor of Martanda Varma, was himself a poet, a scholar, a musician, a renowned actor, and a man of great culture. He conversed fluently in English, took a keen interest in European affairs. He regularly used to read newspapers and journals published in London, Calcutta, and Madras.