An African slave who defied the Mughals (14 December 2019)

महाराष्ट्राच्या इतिहासातील एक महत्वपुर्ण व्यक्ती. इथियोपियात जन्मलेला एक निग्रो गुलाम ते महाराष्ट्रात मोगलांना यशस्वी टक्कर देणारा, मराठी बाणा अंगात मुरविलेला महान राजकारणी, एकढेच नव्हे तर औरंगाबाद शहराचा निर्माता, जमीन मोजणी आणि महसूल या विषयातील तज्ञ अशी ओळख असलेले व्यक्तीमत्व म्हणजे मलिक अंबर.

Manu S Pillai

(My column in Mint Lounge, December 14 2019)


In the 1670s, when the Maratha hero Shivaji commissioned Kavindra Paramananda to produce his epic Sivabharata, extraordinary praise was reserved in its verses for a dead Muslim warrior called Malik Ambar. Shivaji’s father Shahaji, like his grandfather Maloji, had been a close lieutenant of this man, so much so that in a battle scene, we read how, “As Kartikeya the gods protected in his battle with Taraka, so did Shahaji and other rajas gather around Malik Ambar.” The general was not only “as brave as the sun” and “wondrous in power”, according to Shivaji’s poet, but also a “man of most-terrible deeds”, before whom enemies quaked in fear. What is not highlighted in this eulogy, however, is another striking detail—that Malik Ambar, who even in death was “like a brilliant setting sun”, was originally a slave, born in Africa.


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