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We often forget the true diversity of ancient India. It wasn’t restricted to the borders of the empire, and a prime example is Sultan Malik Ambar – the African slave who became king in the Deccan! Manu Pillai recounts this legend’s story in ‘Malik Ambar’, which will be available to read for free on the Juggernaut App on 2nd June!

  • Origins as a Slave

Malik Ambar seems to be a figure right out of Game of Thrones! He was born in modern day Ethiopia, in the Adal Sultanate. Historians believe he was either a prisoner of war or was sold as a slave by his parents to be brought to India, the country that would be his home. He was finally sold to a merchant in Baghdad, who recognised his strength and intellect and decided to educate and raise him as a Muslim. 

  • The Habshi Who Became PM

When his patron and master died, he was set free. He developed a mercenary force that numbered hundreds and established himself as a force to reckon with. A brilliant military strategist, he also displayed a keen eye for administration, becoming a powerful prime minister for the Ahmadnagar Sultanate. 

  • A thorn in the Mughal’s path

There is a famous portrait of Jahangir shooting the severed head of Malik Ambar. That’s not how it happened. Jahangir wanted to conquer the Deccan and extend the Mughal footprint across most of India – but Ambar blocked his armies time and time again. Ambar was such a thorn in the Mughal emperor’s side that Jahangir had his fantasy commissioned as a portrait!

. An Able Ruler

Ambar expelled the Mughals from Ahmednagar briefly and established his capital Khirkhi, which is present day Aurangabad. His Maratha courtiers established a bustling city with great infrastructure. 

  • The Legend of Ambar

Malik Ambar found himself immortalised in many ways. Shivaji, whose grandfather was a close aide of Malik, refers to him as ‘’as brave as the sun”. Even Jahangir’s diarist, Mutamid Khan, notes upon his death, “He had no equal in warfare, in command, in sound judgment, and in administration. History records no other instance of an Abyssinian slave arriving at such eminence.” Quite a memorial from an arch enemy!

Read more about the incredible adventure of Malik Ambar and the heights he achieved here!

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