|Died||13 May 1626|
|Allegiance||Nizam Shah of Ahmednagar|
Malik Ambar (1549–13 May 1626) was an Ethiopian born in Harar, sold as a child by his parents due to poverty. He was eventually brought to India and remained enslaved by the people that bought him. Nevertheless in time he created an independent army that had up to 1500 men. This army resided in the Deccan region and was hired by many local kings. He also founded the city of Aurangabad, Maharashtra on the site of a previous village. He eventually rose to become a very popular Prime Minister of the Ahmadnagar Sultanate, showing his administrative acumen in various fields. Malik is also regarded as a pioneer in Guerilla warfare in the Deccan region. He is credited with having carried out a systematic revenue settlement of major portions of the Deccan, which formed the basis for many subsequent settlements. He died in 1626. He is a figure of veneration to the Siddis of Gujarat. He humbled the might of the Mughals and Adil Shah of Bijapur and raised the falling status of the Nizam Shah.
Malik Ambar was born in the city of Alhura in a Habshi tribe of Maya, the capital of the Adal Sultanate, in modern eastern Ethiopia. However some sources mention the Ethiopian town of Harar as his birthplace. Both Ethiopia and the rebellious (formerly vassal) Adal sultanate were devastated after two decades of war with each other. According to the Futuhat-i `adil Shahi, Malik Ambar then known as Shambhu or Shan-bu was sold into slavery by his parents. He ended up in al-Mukha in Yemen, where he was sold again for 20 ducats and was taken to the slave market in Baghdad, where he was sold a third time to the Qadi al-Qudat of Mecca and again in Baghdad to Mir Qasim al-Baghdadi, who eventually took him to south-central India. Unlike most slaves sold from Ethiopia, he was ethnically Habesha (by the stricter definitions), as supported by the Dutch merchant Pieter van den Broecke's description of him, "a black kafir from Abyssinia with a stern Roman face."
Malik Ambar was the regent of the Nizamshahi dynasty of Ahmednagar from 1607 to 1626. During this period he increased the strength and power of Murtaza Nizam Shah and raised a large army. He changed the capital from Paranda to Junnar and founded a new city, Khadki which was later on changed to Aurangabad by the Emperor Aurangzeb when he invaded the Deccan (1658 to 1707). Malik Ambar cherished strong love and ability for architecture. Aurangabad was Ambar's architectural achievement and creation. Malik Ambar the founder of the city was always referred to by harsh names by Emperor Jahangir. In his memoirs he never mentions his name without prefixing epithets like wretch, cursed fellow, Habshi, Ambar Siyari, black Ambar, and Ambar Badakhtur. Some historians believe that those words came out of frustration as Malik Ambar had resisted the powerful Mughals and kept them away from Deccan. "
Pioneer of guerilla warfare
Malik Ambar is said to be the one of proponent of guerilla warfare in the Deccan region. Malik Ambar assisted Shah Jahan wrestle power in Delhi from his stepmother, Nur Jahan, who had ambitions of seating her son-in-law on the throne. Malik Ambar and Shahji (father of Chatrapati Shivaji) had also restored some credibility to the Sultans of Ahmadnagar, who had been subdued by the earlier Mughals (Akbar had annexed Ahmadnagar).
Malik Ambar and his designs of the neher (canal) system
Malik Ambar is especially famous for the Nahr, the canal water supply system of the city called Khadki now known as Aurangabad. Malik Ambar completed the Neher within fifteen months, spending a nominal sum of two and a half lakh Rupiyahs. This city is situated on the banks of Kham, a small perennial stream which takes it’s rise in the neighbouring hills. " * Qaarun or Alqaaroon is the name of an extremely wealthy but miserly man in the days of the prophet Moses 'Al Musa' as cited in the Koran.
Water was supplied to the city of Khadki from the famous Panchakki (Pan from Hindi paani means water and Chakki means a tread-mill) which drove the water down the Nahr e Ambari (Ambar's canal) from the stream called Kham referred earlier here, to the city. The blades of the Panchakki used to rotate by the water falling on them from that stream and with the aid of a wooden valve turn the flow into that canal, the Nahr, for the city. The tower of this Panchakki housing a valve and air outlet still exists in ruins today in the old precincts of Aurangabad in Labour Colony, Junabazar area along with other relics of Malik Ambar's times .
Conflict with Mughals
Malik Ambar thrust defeats on the Mughal General Khan Khanan many times and attacked Ahmadnagar often. Lakhuji Jadhavrao, Maloji Bhosale, Shahaji Bhosale and other Maratha chiefs had gained great prominence during this period. With the help of these Maratha Chiefs, Malik Ambar had captured Ahmednagar Fort and town from the Mughals. But in one of the battles Malik Ambar was defeated by the Mughals and had to lose the fort of Ahmadnagar. Many Maratha Chiefs and especially Lakhuji Jadhavrao joined the Mughals. Shah Jahan once again laid a crushing blow to Malik Ambar in one of the battles and further decreased his power. Malik Ambar was a great statesman and soldier. He humbled the might of the Mughal and Adil Shah of Bijapur and raised the falling status of the Nizam Shah. Though defeated by the Mughals he was never cowed down by their might.
One of his daughters was married to a prince of the Ahmednagar royal family who was later, through Malik Ambar's aid crowned as Sultan Murtaza Nizam Shah II. The second and third daughters respectively were called Shahir Banu and Azija Banu, the latter of whom married a nobleman named Siddi Abdullah.
Fateh Khan succeeded his father as the regent of the Nizam Shahs. However, he did not possess his predecessor's political and military prowess. Through were a series of internal struggles within the nobility (which included Fateh Khan assassinating his nephew, Sultan Burhan Nizam Shah III), the sultanate fell to the Mughal Empire within ten years of Ambar's death.
The final daughter was married to the Circassian Commander of the Ahmednagar army, Muqarrab Khan who later became a general under the Mughal Emperor and received the title Rustam Khan Bahadur Firauz Jang. He became famous for his involvement in several important military campaigns, such as the Kandahar Wars against Shah Abbas of Persia. He was killed by Prince Murad Baksh in the Battle of Samugarh during the Mughal War of succession in 1658.
Comments of historians
A noted historian Dr. Beni Prasad notes: "The chief importance of the Deccan campaigns of the Mughals lies in the opportunities of military training and political power which they afforded to the Marathas. Malik Ambar, who was a great master of the art of guerilla warfare as Shivaji himself, stands as the head of the builders of the Maratha nationality. His primary object was to serve the interest of his own master, but unconsciously he nourished into strength a power which more than avenged the injuries of the South on the Northern power."
Foundation of Aurangabad
He founded/inhabited the city of Khadki in 1610. After his death in 1626, the name was changed to Fatehpur by his son and heir Fateh Khan. When Aurangzeb, the Mughal Emperor invaded Deccan in the year 1653, he made Fatehpur his capital and renamed it as Aurangabad. Since then it is known as Aurangabad. Two capital cities Viz. ‘Pratisthan’ (Paithan) i.e. the capital of Satavahanas (2nd B. C. to 3rd A. D.) and Devagiri - Daulatabad the capital of Yadavas and Muhammad bin Tughluq are located within the limits of Aurangabad.
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- Mentioned on page 9
- Malik Ambar: A remarkable life B.N. Goswamy
- The Tribune, Chandigarh, 13 August 2006, India Online edition
- The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean World, Omar H. Ali, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture