Written by: Sahil M Beg| New Delhi |

Update : 9. May 2020 11:50:39

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Between several allegorical paintings by Abu-l Hassan, the court painter of Emperor Jahangir, there is an image of a Mughal master’s servant firing arrows at the severed head of an Abyssinian slave. The painting, painted around 1620, is a perfect depiction of Jahangir Furor in relation to a man who was considered his sworn enemy, whom he mumbled both the stars and the black, and who remained a thorn in the side of the Deccan empire throughout his life.

The story of Malik Ambar, an African slave who became a warrior, is extraordinary. Sold and bought several times by slave owners in his youth, fate led him miles from his home in Ethiopia to India. In India, the barn not only regained its freedom, but also climbed the social ladder, acquired an army, vast land and founded the city that is now called Aurangabad.

Multiple sale and resale

Ambar is said to have been born in 1548 in the southern region of Ethiopia, Hambata, and was associated with the Oromo tribe, an ethnic group that today makes up more than 35% of the country’s population. It was known as Chapu until it fell into the hands of the slavers. Historians believe he was either captured during the war or sold to poor relatives because of poverty.

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The young Abyssinian is soon paralyzed by other slaves on the markets in the Middle East, where he is bought by an Arab. Subsequently, it was bought and resold several times.

Referring to a modern European source and Persian chronicles, historian Richard M. Eaton wrote in his book Social History of the Dean, 1300-1761 Eight Lives of the Indians, that the chapel of the Red Sea Port of Mocho, Yemen, was sold for eighty Dutch guilders. From there he was taken to Baghdad and sold to an excellent merchant who, having acknowledged Chapu’s exceptional intellectual qualities, raised and educated young men, converted him to Islam and gave him the name Ambar.

In the early 1570’s the barn was delivered to the Deccan, as South India was called at the time. A man named Cengiz Khan bought it here. Khan himself was a former slave, who rose to the office of Peshwa or to become the highest minister of the Sultanate of Nizam Shahi Ahmadnagar in India.

African slave revolt

The barn belonged to thousands of other Habshas (a term referring to members of different ethnic communities in the Abyssinian highlands) who Khan bought when fate led him to the Deccan.

Ethan notes that in the 16th century, Dean Century’s office systematically recruited Habsha as a slave. They were much appreciated for their physical strength and loyalty and were often sent to military service.

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Ibn Battuta, a medieval Moroccan scientist and 14th century traveler. In his books he mentions that Habshi was responsible for the safety of ships in the Indian Ocean. He notes that slaves had such a reputation that pirates, even when on board the ship, avoided them.

However, slaves did not have a permanent status in the dean’s society. After the death of their masters they were usually released and served on their own initiative in the service of the mighty generals of the empire. Some of them even reached such heights that they were soon regarded as political actors, as was the case with Ambar.

Also read | The African leaders of India: That part of our history we wanted to forget.

Five years after taking over the barn, Cengiz Khan, the owner and boss of Ambara, died and Ambara was released. For the next 20 years he served as a mercenary for the sultan of nearby Bijapur. Then he took over a small unit and got the title Malik.

Country of Ambara

In 1595 Malik Ambar returned to the Sultanate of Ahmadnagar and served under another Mr. Habshi. This is the time when Mughal Emperor Akbar saw the Deccan and started a large military expedition to Ahmednagar. It was also Akbar’s last expedition before he died.

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It was during the Mughal invasion of Ahmednagar in the late 1590s that Malik Ambar really came to his senses, writes historian Manu S. Pillai in his book Sultan Rebel: Dean of Hilji to Shivaji.

During the first siege he had less than 150 horsemen under his command and joined the more established Lord Habshi. But when war broke out the nobility and questioned the loyalty of many, the barn kept 3,000 soldiers under its control during the year; by 1600 that number had grown to almost 7,000, now including the Marathas and other Dakhin – a multi-racial and multi-ethnic force that shared a distinct regional identity with the northern Moghuls, writes Pillay.

In the following years, Ambar married one of his daughters in nearby Bijapur to a 20-year-old descendant of the Ahmadnagar royal family and saw him as the future leader of Nizam Shahi’s state against the Moghul people.

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Able to use his muscles when needed and sly when it suits him, the barn has emerged as a great force in the former state of Ahmednagar. At the height of his power, it is said that Nizam Shahi, from the western part of the dean called Ambara land, wrote Pillay.

With the marathas, Ambar’s enmity with the crowd – now under Emperor Jahangir – lasted for decades. It was well known that he had started a guerrilla war with the Mughal army.

The book of Eton mentions that the general was sent south of Delhi to defeat the Ethiopians, but they failed. The more he defeated the superior armies of the Mughals, the more people gathered at his side; in 1610 he even managed to drive the Mughals out of the fortress of Ahmednagar, – Eton notes.

Builders of Aurangabad

The barn was not only an experienced fighter, but also a great manager. After a brief exile of the Mughals of Ahmednagar, Ambar founded a new capital – Hirki (now Aurangabad in Maharashtra) – for the Sultanate in 1610.

The city eventually received more than 2 00 000 people, including the Marathas, hence the name of several suburbs such as Malpura, Helpura, Paraspura and Vitapura.

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Around 1610-11. The barn made Hirky its base, and it gradually developed into a major urban center where, like the barn, most of his Marat nobles and military leaders also built houses and developed settlements, Pillay said in an e-mail interview on Indianexpress.com. Hydraulic works and the underground canal were among the first developments that gave rise to this and many cities in the dry zone of the dean’s house were able to expand. We saw this in Bijapur a few decades ago and it required a lot of experience in the field of engineering and planning.

During the following wars the city fell into the hands of the Mughals, as did the Sultanate of Ahmadnagar. It was the seat of the Mughal monarch Aurangzeb during the reign of the Mughal emperor in the 17th century. For centuries, when the city was renamed Aurangabad. They have also contributed to the city’s infrastructure and made the city grow. This includes the improvement and expansion of hydraulic structures. But there were one or two devastating attacks on the central city, which destroyed much of its beauty, although it managed to recover and rebuild over time, Pillay said.

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Pillay said the barn seems to have primarily celebrated its heritage in the construction of the new town. After all, it was a time of great builders and it is not surprising that the Habshi commander also wanted to follow this tradition. It is also believed that he built the Jama Masjid and the Kali Masjid in Aurangabad, as the city was later called the Mughals.

The Abyssinians are also credited for creating a more efficient income model by selling land at that time, which was used by the looters under Shivaji, whose grandfather (Maloyi) was a close confidant of Ambara. In the years that followed Shivaji, in his great epic poem Sivabharata, also mentions Ambara and calls it brave as the sun.

The barn died in 1626 and was buried in a mausoleum designed by him in Huldabad.

Surprisingly, Mutamid Khan made a recording after the death of Emperor Jahangir’s assistant diarist: He was unparalleled in the war, in command, in reason and in management. History has not recorded any other case in which an Abyssinian slave revolted to such an uprising.

The next story is that of the dean. With the Sultans of India from the Deccan: Opulence and imagination, 1500-1700, Richard M. Eton; Rebel Sultans: The Dean of Hilji in Shivaji Manu S. Pillai; Social History of the Dean, 1300-1761.

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