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Malik Ambar of Ahmadnagar

December 31, 1594
Mirza Firuz Shah
Akbar 1556–1605

Malik Ambar of Ahmadnagar



Malik Ambar (1548 – 13 May 1626) was a Siddi military leader and prime minister of the Ahmadnagar Sultanate in the Deccan region of India. Born in the Adal Sultunate, in present-day Ethiopia, Malik was sold as a child by his parents and brought to India as a slave. While in India he created a mercenary force numbering up to 1500 men. It was based in the Deccan region and was hired by local kings. Malik became a popular Prime Minister of the Ahmadnagar Sultanate, showing administrative acumen. He is also regarded as a pioneer in guerilla warfare in the region. He is credited with carrying out a revenue settlement of much of the Deccan, which formed the basis for subsequent settlements. 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 low status of the Nizam Shah. Early life Malik Ambar was born in 1548 as Chapu, a birth-name in Kabmbata, Southern region of modern Ethiopia or Harar, Adal Sultanate Mir Qasim Al Baghdadi, one of his slave owners eventually converted Chapu to Islam and gave him the name Ambar, after recognizing his superior intellectual qualities. Ambar is believed to be Oromo descent while other sources claim he was from the Maya tribe. Between the 14th and 17th centuries, the Christian Ethiopian Empire (led by the Solomonic dynasty) and adjacent Muslim states gathered much of their slaves from non-Abrahamic communities inhabiting regions like Kambata, Damot and Hadya, which were located on the southern flanks of their territory. Malik Ambar was among the people who were converted to Islam, and later dispatched abroad to serve as a warrior. Both the Solomonic dynasty and the Adal Sultanate were devastated after two decades of war with each other. According to the Futuhat-i `Adil Shahi, Malik Ambar 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 Deccan Plateau. He was described by the Dutch merchant Pieter van den Broecke as, "a black kafir from Abyssinia with a stern Roman face." Malik Ambar was then purchased by Chengiz Khan, a former Habshi slave who served as the peshwa or chief minister of the Sultanate of Ahmadnagar. Carrer Once his master died, Malik Ambar was freed by his master’s wife. He got married, and after getting freed, Ambar briefly served the Sultan of Bijapur and gained the title “Malik” during this time. But Ambar quit this service after citing insufficient support before entering service in the Nizam Shahi Army. Malik Ambar was the regent of the Nizamshahi dynasty of Ahmednagar from 1607 to 1627. During this period he increased the strength and power of Murtaza Nizam Shah II and raised a large army. He raised a cavalry which grew from 150 to 7000 in a short period of time and revitalized the Ahmadnagar sultanate by appointing puppet sultans to repel Mughal attacks from the North. By 1610, his army grew to include 10,000 Habshis and 40,000 Deccanis. Over the course of the next decade, Malik Ambar would fight and defeat Mughal emperor Jahangir's attempts to take over the kingdom. Jahangir considered Malik Ambar his arch-nemesis and had publicly expressed his anger towards him. He criticized Ambar as “the ill-starred” and “the black fated”. Abu’l Hasan, a chief painter at Emperor Jahangir’s court, has created a painting, under Jahangir's commission in 1615, depicting Jahangir shooting arrows at the severed head of Ambar. Malik Ambar changed the capital from Paranda to Junnar and founded a new city, Khadki which was later on changed to Aurangabad by the Prince Aurangzeb in 1650s when he was viceroy of Deccan. Malik Ambar is said to be one of the proponents of guerrilla 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 had also restored some credibility to the Sultans of Ahmadnagar, who had been subdued by the earlier Mughals (Akbar had annexed Ahmadnagar). However, he was defeated later when Shah Jahan led a massive army against the dwindling Ahmednagar. Later Malik Ambar offered full control of Berar and Ahmadnagar to the Mughal as a sign of surrender. Second conflict with Mughals Malik Ambar defeated the Mughal General Khan Khanan many times and often attacked Ahmadnagar. Lakhuji Jadhavrao, Maloji Bhosale, Shahaji Bhosale, Ranoji Wable 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 surrender the fort of Ahmadnagar. Many Maratha Chiefs and especially Lakhuji Jadhavrao and Ranoji Wable joined the Mughals after this. Shah Jahan once again laid a crushing blow to Malik Ambar in one of the battles and further decreased his power. Death He died in 1626 at the age of 77. Malik Ambar had by his Siddi wife, Bibi Karima two sons; Fateh Khan and Changiz Khan and two daughters. 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 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.


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Ismail Mazari

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Very good information.


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