Malik Ambar was born in 1548 as Chapu, a birth-name suggesting that he was born in the Harar region in Eastern Ethiopia. His parents sold Malik Ambar to slavery.
His master sold again for 20 ducats in al-Mukha in Yemen. Later his new master took him to the slave market in Baghdad, where he was sold a third time to the Qadi al-Qudat of Mecca.
Malik Ambar brought to India by a merchant of Baghdad. He sold him to Chengiz Khan a minister of the Sultans of Ahmadnagar. The latter detected Ambar’s capacity and trained him for the service of the Nizamshahi State.
Rise to Power
In a short time he became a power in the Deccan and set at defiance all Emperor Jahangir’s efforts for over fifteen years. He practically re-made the history of the Deccan for that period with the help of many Maratha captains.
He at last kept the new Sultan Murtaza Nizam Shah (1599-1631) secure in the difficult fort of Daulatabad and established a separate city for administrative purposes at Khadki in the vicinity of that fort.
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.
Jahangir resumed his father’s policy of subjugating the Deccan in 1608 and the war thus started continued practically till 1636.
Ambar adapting his tactics to the geographical conditions of the southern regions and boldly opposed the Mughals. He developer a particular method of fighting the enemy, which is known as guerilla warfare. Shivaji later used with such effect against his opponents.
Malik Ambar improved the Nizam-Shahi state in various ways. His genius perhaps appears pre-eminent in so administering the Nizam-Shahi territories as to make the peasantry his best support.
Ambar’s land revenue assessment scheme earned for him a unique reputation and became a model for succeeding rulers to copy. He fostered Agriculture and industry in the country became prosperous and brought in a regular income.
Although he was a Muslim, his rule came to be much appreciated and respected by the Hindus; it was so entirely free from any religious persecution, that the Hindus became his best friends.
Mughal Invasion of Southern India
It is not necessary here to discuss in detail the various expeditions sent by Jahangir to the Deccan and the measures adopted by Malik Ambar to thwart them.
In 1608 Jahangir appointed to the government of the Deccan Abdur Rahim Khan-Khanan, a great and valiant noble of his Court, son of the famous Bairam Khan of Akbar’s days.
When this general who had long served in the Deccan before, arrived on the spot with large forces, Malik Ambar assumed a most submissive attitude and by agreeing to the terms imposed, avoided open war and gained time for preparation.
The Emperor, however, became impatient and sent large reinforcements under his son Parwiz along with several veteran generals. He later recalled Khan-Khanan, and appointed in his place his son Shah-Nawaz Khan.
These two—Parwiz and Shah-Nawaz—brought the vigour of their youth into action and started all-round operations which continued for three or four years before Malik reached a decision.
On behalf of the Nizam Shah, Malik Ambar organized his armies to oppose the Mughals in the vicinity of Jalna. Along with his Muslim commanders he had under him nobles of the Maratha race.
Both sides practised profuse seduction. Prince Parwiz and Shah-Nawaz Khan offered inducements to same of Nizamshahi commanders that ” Adam Khan Habshi, Yaqut Khan, Jadu Rao, Dabaji Kante and Udaram Brahpian deserted their master and accepted the Mughal service.
Battle of Roshangaon
At last Malik Ambar joined a battle on 4th February 1616 at Roshangaon in a bend of the river Dudhna about 10 miles west of Jalna. When Mughals inflicted a crushing defeat upon the Malik Ambar troops.
Malik Ambar fled for life and saved himself by taking shelter in the impregnable fort of Daulatabad. Shah-Nawaz razed to the ground Malik Ambar’s new capital Khadki and carried away enormous plunder to Burhanpur.
Shahzada Parwiz had already been recalled and even the success achieved by Shah-Nawaz Khan did not avail the Mughals much. As soon as the Mughal troops retired, Malik Ambar retuned his former game. Soon he recaptured all the territory that Mughals recently wrested from him.