How do empires rise? Why do they fall? And how have they shaped the world around us today? William Dalrymple and Anita Anand explore the stories, personalities and events of empire over the course of history. The first series looks at the British in India, covering the East India Company, the Raj, Gandhi, Independence and Partition.

The Slave who Ruled

The Slave who Ruled

Tue, 23 May 2023 01:00

Born in Ethiopia, 1548, Malik Ambar was taken from his people at the age of 12 and sold into slavery. First he was sold to an owner in Baghdad, where he converted to Islam, but he ended up in India, on the Deccan plateau. From there, his star rose, eventually to become ruler of the Sultanate Ahmadnagar and the arch-rival of the Mughal Empire. Listen as William and Anita are joined by Manu Pillai to discuss this extraordinary figure. Sign up to The Knowledge here: www.theknowledge.com/empire/ LRB Empire offer: lrb.me/empire This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Give online therapy a try at betterhelp.com/empirepod. Twitter: @Empirepoduk Goalhangerpodcasts.com Producer: Callum Hill Exec Producer: Jack Davenport + Neil Fearn Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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This episode is brought to you by Relief Band. If you regularly suffer from nausea, listen up. Relief Band is a clinically proven wearable nausea solution, with no drugs or unwanted side effects. It treats nausea caused by motion sickness, anxiety, migraines, and more, using technology that sends signals to your brain to stop nausea quickly and effectively. Get Relief today! Shop now at Relief Band.com and to get 20% off your purchase, use the code Relief20 at checkout. It's an extraordinary quote, and it's about the main subject of this episode, who is an extraordinary figure called Malik Amba. It comes to India as a military slave, and what we're going to be talking about today is the which tells the story of the Deccan from the end of the 13th to the start of the 18th century. We're really delighted you could take the time to speak to us, Manny. Thank you very much. Thank you for having me. Before we get into the story of Malagamba, which really is a tale of the early 17th century, let's talk about contemporary stuff because you told us both something's startling while we were doing the sound check before we come to record. And it was that your family owned slaves, which in itself is like a wow. And you said until so recently that you met family members of the slaves that your family held, tell us more about that. So in fact, my ancestral village in Kerala, which is on the southwest coast of India, we still have people who live there, who would descend from these families that are linked to us. And slavery is not a word anybody's comfortable using anymore because now many of them are friends, many of them, we meet at feasts and so on. But there is this rather uncomfortable history that exists between them and us. When I was growing up in the 90s and we come down to Kerala for our summer vacations, my grandmother had a lady to help her on the house and her name was Willembee. And I always found the name very fascinating because we all have these names that have all kinds of Sanskrit meanings and so on. And Willembee simply meant fair woman or white woman. And I thought what an odd name. And then I asked a question to my grandmother saying, why is it why should this old lady call Willembee? To which she told me that it, well, you know, the community in which she was born back in the day they weren't permitted proper names. So what would happen is that anytime a baby was born into this family, somebody from that family would show up, they'd stand at the edge of our estate, not allowed to even look at the house because that would richfully defile the house. And they would shout out from there in Malayalam Krati Krabit, which is almost like saying she has laid it. You can't use words like birth or or delivery of a child and so on. And whoever was sitting in the portico or the main porch of the house, which would usually be one of the older male members, they would come up in with some name and that would be the name of the child. So in her case, it was Willembee. There was another man called Karthagur Ten which simply means black boy, you know, those are the kinds of names that were given to them. They all those slavery as an institution was abolished in the mid 19th century. For all practical purposes, people continued to be linked to land. People continued to serve the families that once owned them and the student, legislation didn't mean there was much of a material change in their actual lives. So even in my childhood, there were still older people who had been part of that system. They were essentially bonded laborers attached to the land legally free but practically not so much and still weighed down by centuries of ritual and ceremonial pollution and all kinds of ideas. And you know, it's a form of predial or agrestics slavery that existed in Kerala. So I mean, honestly, that revelation and just the candor with which you're sharing your ear, and we're grateful for it, but it's kind of shaken me to my bone marrow until what point in India were human beings born and sold then? Oh, very recently. If I'm not mistaken in British Malabar, which was further up the coast, their abolished slavery in 1843, but of course, there were lots of princely states which were under Indian Marajas and many of them refused to immediately do what the British were doing. So it meant that there were a lot of negotiations and a lot of back and forth with these local rulers within the subcontinent. So a state like Travel Corps and South Kerala abolished slavery only in 1855 if I'm not mistaken. And that's the formal date. Manu, I think what you're saying will surprise if not shock, not just listeners from around the world, but people in India because I've often heard it said that in ancient India and through most of Indian history, there have been no slaves here. How far can you trace back slavery in Indian history? I think we can trace a very far back because if I'm not mistaken, Emperor Ashoka, the great Moran Emperor, you know, before the common era, I think the second century BCE, he refers, I think in one of his rock-aideds to the proper treatment of slaves or about, give some kinds of instructions how slaves are meant to be treated, which implicitly suggests that slavery did exist in this time. The Sanskrit text that we call Dharmashastra, which is, you know, the source of Hindu laws, it were. Many of them over 2000 years old, they refer to slavery in different forms. So they're slavery by birth, they're slavery in times of famine, they're slavery because of deaths, they're sometimes even slavery if you've lost a bet and you've ended up becoming a slave to a third party. So Sanskrit text that go back 2000 years or even more than 2000 years, do refer to slavery as an institution. Now this is important because there are also texts that some people point such as the visiting Greek ambassador, Megathenis, who comes to the Moran Court at the moment, exactly, or talking about. And he actually says, there is no slavery in India. This historian's now believed to be just plain wrong. It's a traveler not understanding what he's saying, is that right? It is, I think. And also Megathenis was also, I think, restricted in which part of India he was in. He was somewhere in Eastern India, if I'm not mistaken. And if at all he was referring to something, it's possible he was referring to something very local. But if, again, I'm not wrong, I think he also does refer to elsewhere in India, all kinds of magical qualities and people and things like that. I think I have that right. The Megathenis does in his account include a lot of things that seem not just inaccurate. To be way off. Completely way off. Yeah, exactly. And what of, I mean, as a woman and a feminist, I have heard whispers of industrialized sex slavery that took place during, is it the chola dynasty? And what do we have on record of sex slavery in the chola dynasty? What and what did it look like? I think Dow Dali's written something about this. Who is Dow Dali for those who don't know? Dow Dali is a scholar in a based in America. He's written a great deal on courtly practices. He's written a great deal on the Indian subcontinent, as well as the Middle East, if I'm not mistaken. Correct. Great, great scholar based in Philadelphia. Yes. And he has suggested that this was an institution linked to women and to the slavery of women in a somewhat sexual context. It's an interesting provocative article because, you know, this is obviously something lots of people are uncomfortable with. Not something people want to discuss. What I think is beyond question is that you find on the walls of chola temples claims about capturing women. This is where the origin of, I think, this idea, because several chola kings in their sort of very grandiose statements about what they've conquered and where they've been the same inscriptions that talk, for example, about the chola raids astonishingly on Srivajaya and Samatra that you have naval expeditions leaving India and attacking Indonesia. But those same very grandiose inscriptions proclaiming the victories of the chola kings talk at great length and several times about the capture of women. And these women were then used so it's claimed for breeding purposes to breed further troops. Oh, my word. I mean, it's just also unpleasant. It's also, it is fair to say, a political hot potato because there are some people who say, no, that's not true. They just, they just were an elevated culture. They didn't do it. They wouldn't have done it. They couldn't have done it. And this is a big lie. I think that's the thing, right? People, if you use blunt terms like sex slavery, it really makes people very uncomfortable. But it's essentially what the core practice was. Now, you can, you can culture it in all kinds of prettier words. You can give it an institutional name that sounds better, but that the core, what was happening. And perhaps that was a form of sexual slavery. And it's not completely unprecedented because again, if you look at the old Sanskrit texts, you do find references to kings making gifts of 10,000 elephants and 10,000 girls to their paroids, for example. Paroids being their spiritual preceptors. Now, you can take the numbers as exaggeration surely, but clearly the present of animals as well as human beings, especially women. It didn't mean these were women necessarily just sweet their homes or whatever. There's there is something, there is a connotation there, which is open to debate, which people might not like, but it's certainly something we must grapple with. Manu, then we've got to grapple with yet another very thorny issue, which is when the Islamic conquest began after the 13th century, you have the slave kings of Delhi starting with Kutubid and Ibat. What's going on though? How can you be a slave king? What's meant by that? Well, this is to begin with, it's not slavery as we know in the American context, but slavery in a very military context because often kings, especially in cultures where there's clan membership, where there's membership by caste and such similar institutions, it becomes very difficult to sometimes trust your own relatives and kin because potentially everybody's acclimate for the throne. Potentially everybody's as legit images you are. Potentially your sons could turn around and murder you, which has happened in Indian inesities in all kinds of political spaces around the world. So in a situation in a political situation where there is a trust deficit, often relying on outsiders was a given, it was a formula that became very popular. So whether it was in Egypt with the Mamluks there or in India with the so-called slave dynasty or even to come back to Kerala and the South in the 18th century when the local ruler was conquering all the other states in the region, he brought in mercenaries from across the hills and Tamil country and got them to do his dirty business because here the institution stood in his way, whereas people from the outside wouldn't necessarily respect those terms in the same way. Yeah, keep going. So the idea is that these guys are more trustworthy because they're dependent on you. Is that dependent on you? Because they're brought in from somewhere else, all their connections to their home lands have been severed. All they've got is from you, you're the source of bounty, you're the source of prestige, position, all of that, which means that in theory they're entirely loyalty. Of course in practice, this may not always work out that way, but that was a theory. There is a wonderful quote, isn't that from a Seljuk minister who once said one obedient slave is better than 300 sons. Yes, certainly. They let it desire their father's death, the former, his master's glory. Look, this leads us neatly to the man that we are talking about. Malik Amba, before we talk about the man himself, I think it's important to understand what the world looked like. So he is, as William said in the introduction, born in Ethiopia in the 16th century. And at that time, was there a slave system operating widely throughout Ethiopia? What was going on here? There was something happening there because clearly there were slave traders who were going in and abducting young boys and then shipping them off to Baghdad or other parts of the Middle East, which were then transit points from where these boys would be, would be exported to other parts of the world. A lot of them to, to the Indian subcontinent. Now, because William mentioned the slave dynasty earlier, that generation we're talking about, Turkic slaves. These are Turkic slaves who have been brought in by land often, and they've come accompanying all kinds of other warriors, and they eventually rise to become kings. And this again, this sort of Turkish slave kings, they exist also at the same time in Egypt. The Mamluks, I'll turn my buzz, for example. He's of Turkic stock, but he ends up being the ruler of Egypt. Yes. So in India, what happens is you've got Mamluks of God coming in and invading parts of northern India. When he dies, it's his slave, Kutubuddin Eibak, who's been left behind in Delhi, who established as an independent Sultan today. When Kutubuddin Eibak dies in 1210, I think, or during a polo game or something, he has an accident. He ends up, he succeeded by his son-in-law, who was also a slave in an earlier period, and then ended up marrying Kutubuddin's daughter. Much later down in the century, you again have a Turkic slave, Sultan Balban, a succeed him, and the earlier slave dynasty dies out, this chap comes in and sees this power. But these are all Turkic slaves. By the time we come to Malikambar in the 15th century, we're talking about a huge industry of Ethiopian men who trained in battle, who were often brought off to the Indian subcontinent and end up defuse throughout the Indian subcontinent. And this, in fact, traces of this exist even in earlier times. You've got, I forget who said it, it might be able to batuta, who basically refers to how pirates were afraid of ships, which carried these Abyssinian men. It's a lovely quote that, because these guys are super fierce. Yes. In the Delhi, in the slave dynasty of Delhi, in fact, there was a female ruler, Kutubuddin Raziha, Shibha Stoppul, of course, for being a woman, but also evidently for having a lover, who was a Ethiopian, his name was Yakut, and he's supposed to have been a Ethiopian origin. Now that's a good question as to how he ended up there. In Uttar Pradesh, which is today the hotbed of Hindu nationalism in India, there's a place called Johnpur where there was the Sharki dynasty founded somewhere in the late 15th century, again founded by an Ethiopian man who happened to be a Yunaq in one of the North Indian courts, and I'm using the word Yunaq in courts, because that's what you see in the records. And he ends up founding a dynasty, which is then succeeded by Hindus slaves and then their family. In Bengal, in the next century, you've got a short lived Hupsheet dynasty. The very word Hupsheet comes from Abyssinia, which is Ethiopia, and that's why they're called Hupsheet in India. As late as the 18th century. So, when you use the term Hupsheet, Manu, what exactly do you mean by that? Hupsheet comes from Hupsheet, so Abyssinia, and I think it was a word used for people who came from that part of the world. So, when these slaves are brought to India, everybody knew they came from Hupsheet, and that's why they were called Hupsheet, and that becomes Hupsheet over the period of time. So, let's start with Malek Amber. I mean, just who were his people? Where did he come from before he was taken? Malek Amber, as far as we know, belonged to something called the Oromo tribe, somewhere in Eastern Ethiopia, and that's where he was taken from. Are they pagan or Christian Ethiopian? I think they're not Christian. That's why they're also on the fringes of Ethiopian society. They were not part of the mainstream, which would also perhaps have made it easier to enslave them, and I think the existing powers in Ethiopia would not have minded. That's my impression too, that you have a certain amount of tolerance of slave raids on the pagan tribes, but not on the converted Christians. When you talk about Ethiopia and the slave trade that existed there, who were the slaves? Who was coming over? How were they picking up people? Who were they picking up? And what did they do with them? As far as we know, there would have been local slave raids. With Malek Amber, for example, he must have been about 10. The assume date is we don't have a clear date of birth for him, but the general date of birth is that he was somewhere, born somewhere around 1548. And when he's about 10 or 12 years old, he was abducted or potentially sold by someone in his family, two slavers like this. And from there, he was picked up and sent off, I think he had to stop somewhere before he ended up in Baghdad. And it was from Baghdad that his subsequent trip to India takes place some years later. And in the course of this movement from Ethiopia to the Middle East and then of course to India, what happens is also conversion to Islam, because I think that was another way of creating some kind of glue between all these men. And making them part of this Islamic network, creating space for them to join these Islamic courts that dominated from West Asia all the way to the beyond Indian subcontinent. So conversion takes place from Chappu, he becomes Amber 1571 is when he ends up in India. Okay, but conversion, I mean, could be seen by some as a gift because it allows you to progress, because if you are part of this one Islamic family, was it voluntary or involuntary? Why, I mean, would it be seen as something that was given to preferential slaves or seen as something that again is another means of eradicating somebody's entire history and who they are? I think perhaps both, because considering these boys were a doctor when they were pretty young, adolescents at most, if not children, I don't think they would have been entirely, this wouldn't have been a transaction that was entirely consensual. And yet I think it gave them a sense of identity because having been cut off from everything, from their families, from especially from women folk, when they eventually, whenever they ended up late, they didn't have women with them, so they'd end up marrying local women. So having some kind of identity in the absence of their earlier birth identity was something that mattered to them. And of course, just the fact that they became part of a political network of great influence right across the Arabian Sea, through, you know, across the Bay of Bengal and a huge swath of the world. So it was a form of creating identity, but also becoming part of that political economy. So do you expect that when he arrives in 1571 in India, Malikamba is a sort of carring slave, big beaten by his master? Or is he already part of a sort of elite, is he a sort of swaggering warrior arriving, knowing that he's got a career ahead of him, or somewhere in between the two? I think it must have been somewhere in between the two. From everything we know, he was not somebody who served in any capacity, bottom military capacity, which meant that somewhere he managed to get some kind of elementary military training. The personal bism in India, ironically, is also a hub she is also an Abyssinian origin man who also had come off to India as a slave. And he had risen through the ranks in what is called the Ahmed Nagar Sultanate, which is in the deck on the towards the west coast of India. And he became the Peshwather. He was the minister of the Sultan of Ahmed Nagar. He himself a black man. He's the one who actually purchased Malikamba, but the whole other, you know, pretty large set of people who've been brought in as the latest imports from Baghdad. Manu, in an earlier episode of our slavery series, we talked to Mary Beard who was talking about in the Roman world, how there was this whole cast of slaves who were gladiators. Do you get the impression that sort of Malikamba is being trained up very specifically as part of a warrior world, or is he, you know, could he be expected to do a administration, or, or, you know, become a civil servant or like taxes or something? The possibility was there because we do have evidence of other Ethiopian origin men in India becoming revenue farmers. You see them becoming regions of kingdoms. You see them in charge of forts. You see them as steel bearers. The famous Mahmoud Gavan, who was the minister of the Parmini Sultanate Persian, nobleman. His steel bearer was an African man. So there are, there are, of course, other positions that they held. But often these positions came after many years of military service to become a region, what to become a revenue farmer in control of our whole province, meant that you put in a certain number of military years, risen in the ranks, and then become part of the local aristocracy, often by marrying local women from elite communities in India, and then established yourself. So I think Umber would have landed here knowing very much that he was meant to be a fighter. And he was from most of his career till he was almost middle age. He was a sort of middle level or even lower level military entrepreneur. So I, this is something that I need to do to get my head under a subject, but I love looking at images. And there is an image that's painted by a courtly painter, a muggle courtly painter of Mollekamber. And I, he, no, the one I'm looking at is, is of an older man, but you can see just the power in him. I mean, he is very, very dark skinned. He has incredibly broad shoulders. I mean, this is in middle age. So he's got the middle age spread that we all fear in our lives. But, but I mean, as a 20 year old man, he would have been selected because of his physicality. I mean, if that was his destiny to be a fighter, he would have been picked out because he was strong because he looked as though he could handle himself in battle, right? Yes. And in fact, we do have a condemnatory, a traveler from Europe, a brother of the Prime Minister, who says that he was tall and strong of stature. So clearly, this was a very tall, physically imposing man. He would have made a strong impression, even, perhaps even stronger than when he was middle age, when he was a young fighter. And I think that that definitely worked in his favor. This is this wonderful Dutch traveler, isn't it Cornelius? Is it called Cornelius von Ellison? Yeah. And he, and he's shipwrecked and he comes across Mollekamber and gives this wonderful sketch of this character. The only thing he doesn't like about him is his eyes saying that he's a white glasses. I love that. Great. Do we have any, again, I'm looking at another miniature. This is Mollekamber meeting Mordezern, Nizam Shah, the second. He towers above everybody else in the picture. And he's a good sort of half a human hire than everybody around him, which is unusual for a Mugel courtly painter to give him that kind of stature. So to actually make, you know, because we've done, we've done episodes before where we've had portraits painted in the Mugel court of a teeny tiny King James in the corner, you know, sort of trying to shrink the influence of Britain by diminishing the stature. The fact that he isn't diminished even by his enemies in portraiture is telling, isn't it? I think it's symbolic also of the fact that he was the real power in the Ahmed Nagar Saltenit of the Deccan. The Mugels, of course, they're enemies. And for 25 years, they kept trying to conquer the Deccan. And for those 25 years, the one man standing as a wall between them and the conquest of southern India was Mollekamber. And he was taller than the Sultan who actually rate the Sultan's were just puppets in his hands. So Manu, this is the point that we should pause and just sketch the political divisions in India. We're in the 1570s, the what the Portuguese have just arrived in Goa, the Mugels are now running north India. And there is a scatter of smaller Saltenits in the middle of India, the Deccan Saltenits. This is where we're talking about. Yes, there's three Saltenits. There's Ahmed Nagar towards the west coast. Further south, there's Bija put in what is now largely the state of Karnataka, but also parts of what is now Maharashtra state in India. And then on the eastern side, you have the Saltenit of Golkonda. And Golkondas, of course, famous for its diamond mines. There's apparently a small town in America named Golkonda because of the fame of the Golkonda diamonds and so on. And all of these sultans themselves, by the way, come from mixed families. So the Nizam Shahis, or the dynasty that rule in Ahmed Nagar, they partially of Brahmin Hindu descent of the highest caste. But the women, the women they married came partly from Persia, but we also know two sultans at least who were mothered by black bagams who came from Africa. So, way back somewhere in the 16th century, we had black princesses and Queen mothers in the Nizam Shahis Saltenit in Ahmed Nagar. What was the attitude? I mean, because even now India is such a colorist country where, you know, if you're wheatish, when people advertise in matrimonial columns, they always say their dorshries of wheatish complexion, which means their fair skinned. There's a great premium put on having lighter skin. Back in those days, was their prejudice against darker skin? Was it as colorist as it remains today? There was because if you look at the kind of remarks, the Mughal Emperor Jhangi is left of Malikambar himself. He often refers to his skin, the dark-faced man, you know, the wicked man with black skin. You know, I don't remember the exact quotes, but there is always a reference to darkness when Malikambar comes into the picture. And I think that's not just darkness and some metaphorical sense, but he's also playing on the fact that his chief rival in the south is a black man. We also know that these two sultans of the Ahmed Nagar Saltenit who were mothered by black women, they didn't have it easy. Their reins were relatively short-lived. They did have support of all the black noblemen and troops of the Ahmed Nagar Saltenit, but there was also very strong Persian faction. And the Persians did not like the African faction. So there's definitely rivalry on racial grounds in these sultans also. And we haven't put a number on this presence. I mean, I still don't have a sense of how many people from Ethiopian descent or Abesonian descent are in India at the moment. Do we have any idea of numbers? If I had to give it a number, we do have a reference, say around 1610, also about Malikambar's army, which says that he commands the total of about 50,000 people. 40,000 of them are described as marathas, which is local Hindus, you know, sons of the soil as well. But 10,000 are supposedly hubsheets. So it's 10,000 of them. One-fifth of his army was black men. The other four-fifths were Indians. So I would imagine that gives us some sense of what that total number was in India at that time. At least, you know, in terms of military composition. And I mean, there are certain places you can go today. I've been to the the fort of Janjiara, for example, where you still see a lot of black Indians, clearly people of black African descent. Are there many places like that where you can see people who are still ethnically quite different from the local marathas, for example? There are in Gujarat and Maharashtra again on the west coast of India. But as far as I know, these are later immigrants. Some say as late as the 18th century. The Janjiara family that you mentioned is actually interesting because they originated in the 1480s from an African general who was sent by the Sultan of Ahmad Nagar to conquer this fort. He did and his family continued to stay there all the way till 1947. Even under the British, they were what was called an 11-guns and youth princely state. And they were styled in a warbs and so on by then. But even if you look at their photographs, you could tell that they clearly off African descent. So that's a noble family that's continued. What's wonderful, too, is if you go to their tombs which are incredibly beautiful. They sit on this wonderful elevated platform looking down over the sea through palm trees. It's one of them is beautiful places I've seen in that region. And they have around this fort African boobab trees, which I've never seen anywhere else in India lining in a ceremonial square this motury center. And just getting back to Malacamba, I feel like we've sort of leapfrogged something that I still am trying to understand. I understand that forgive me, but I have a child the same age, a frightened little boy of about 12 being taken. He's then traded through the Middle East and through Baghdad. He ends up being traded and traded until he gets to India. And then we've suddenly leapt to, he is the great Malacamba that the moguls fear. I need to understand his path of travel. How is it that he is then trained, promoted in what would have been a pretty tough masculine and also fairly racist as you describe it environment. How does he rise through the ranks to get to the point where he is running a salt in it? Just talk us through that line of travel. So as I said earlier, it's in 1571 that we know he arrives in India. He's obviously in his early 20s at this time, a very young man, one of many African soldiers serving all kinds of military, entrepreneurs and leaders in the area. So his first master is the Peshwara, the minister of the Sultan of Ahmed Nagar. Now this Peshwara is executed by the Sultan a few years down the line. And what's interesting is that Amber, even though it's been less than five or six years, I think, after Amber joined him. Amber clearly made an impression because he was senior enough for the Peshwara's widow to release him from slavery. She says, look, my husband's dead. He's been executed. You are now free to go to what you want. Now for a large part of his life for the next couple of decades, nearly, we find that Amber is a sort of middle level military, military figure in the region. He's got about 150 capital women. He's got this band that's with him and he keeps moving from one's alternate to the other depending on who takes his services. And he is now free by this point. He is free. His first master's widow frees. He becomes a military entrepreneur in his own right. Briefly he serves the Ahmed Nagar Sultanate for a while. He serves the Sultan of Mijapur. He's sort of flitting between. He's a mercenary. He's a mercenary. He is a mercenary. And he's not moved up to ranks very much as the number of people serving in stays more or less constant. And among the people serving him are other black African slaves from the same military world. Yes, they would be half-sheets. The 150 cavalrymen were mostly half-sheets. But what creates opportunity for him is in the 1590s when the Mogul conquest of South India begins through these day consultants. So as well as as well, he was referring to earlier, you've got North India under Mogul domination. You've got the Ahmed Nagar Sultanate abutting the Moguls and then you've got these two other southenites as well. Bijapur and Gulkonda. And obviously Ahmed Nagar sits first in the light when the Moguls want to come down into South India. So in the 1590s, the Ahmed Nagar court is already in disarray. There's all kinds of succession disputes. They're complete chaos. On top of that, Emperor Akbar in 1595 orders an invasion. It's an initial kind of rakey really because they don't intend to really come down into their territories. But there is defeat inflicted on them soon after. By 1600, the capital of the Ahmed Nagar Sultanate has fallen. So the kingdoms, capital is gone. There's various prinselings, fought floating about. There's different power interests all over the place. And this is when Malik Ambar emerges as a great hero because he was clearly some kind of, you know, fabulous military strategist. He clearly had talent. He was physically impressive. And now you start seeing that the numbers of people serving him start to go up. So, you know, from 150 people for much of his career, for a good 20-odd years, he moves up to perhaps 300 people. But by the late 1590s, he's got a thousand people following him. Soon, that turns into 3,000. By the turn of the 17th century, he's got 7,000 people. And these are not just heart-sheets. These are local Hindu manataas as well, who realise that their interests can also be met and served by allowing with this star who's clearly on the rise. Manu, thank you very much for the trajectory there. We're going to come back after the break, where we're going to find out what it was about this man and his battle style, which made him and Marks him out for great joy to us after this short break. Breeze Airways. Seriously nice. This episode is brought to you by Relief Band. If you regularly suffer from nausea, listen up. Relief Band is a clinically proven, wearable nausea solution, with no drugs or unwanted side effects. It treats nausea caused by motion sickness, anxiety, migraines and more, using technology that sends signals to your brain to stop nausea quickly and effectively. Get Relief today! Shop now at ReliefBand.com. And to get 20% off your purchase, use the code Relief20 at checkout. Welcome back. So just before the break, Manu is giving us this very clear trajectory of a man who is destined. Well, I mean, it's not clear that he's destined for greatness, but he's a very effective mercenary. William, I mean, you're fascinated in just how he manages to stamp his mark on battle. Yes, and this I think is why he's an important figure in the deck, and is that he doesn't confront the moguls straight up. Does he, Manu? He doesn't meet them in battle, lining up canon to canon, cavalry regiment to cavalry regiment. He invents the kind of guerrilla tactics which will later be used by the maratas to such effect against the moguls. Yes, because I think Malikampa realized that he didn't, he couldn't match the moguls in terms of numbers or sheer financial resources. So the moguls were this great big empire in the north. They had the resources to really put many into the field. Whereas the Deccan Southernitz were rich, but not anywhere where they could complete on terms of equality with the moguls. So what happens is Malikampa starts using the landscape to his advantage. The Deccan for those who visited is a very dry, upland country. You know, there's hills, there's dry terrain. There are great fortresses, and it's it's a difficult rough kind of space. So even the warriors here was sort of raised to be these rough and hardy figures on their local country horses, sort of, you know, learning that kind of life and learning to it to survive in that kind of environment. And he starts using this to his advantage. So the moguls are handicapped because they have these great massive armies with huge baggage trains and dancing girls and all kinds of, you know, this massive rite in you that comes along with the army, coming down into the into this mountainous zone. And all Malikampa has to do is show up every now and then from one of these, you know, hillsides, come down, attack the baggage train, cause complete chaos and turmoil there, and then retreat. After about three days, he reappears from a completely different direction, attacks the head of the army, and then disappears again. And this becomes a popular means that eventually ends up bogging down the moguls in the Deccan, and some would argue, even shatters the mogul empire a couple of generations later, because the locals in this region used this to their advantage. They used the terrain to their advantage, where you don't necessarily need numbers. You just need to be clever, and you just need to use that the geography to your advantage. Just to give a kind of visual picture of the sort of terrain we're talking about, describe these extraordinary fortresses, which later become associated with Shivaji and the Marathas. Well, it's difficult to even trek up some of these fortresses. Their locations obviously on top of hills. Often they've got cliffs that you simply can't scale, so those sides, they anyway know any making come up. The other sides are fortified very, very well, very sturdy walls that have survived all these centuries. Often if you look at a fort like Dolatabad, even the pathway to the fort is very, very narrow, to the main gate of the fort. So there's no question of a large army being able to move up. It's really just smaller files of men who are able to move up, which means even a smaller army can meet them and keep making effort to push them down the slope as it were. So I think the fortresses definitely helped. The landscape in the terrain definitely helped. And Malikamber was, as I said earlier, was also very good strategist. He knew exactly what to do, how to do it. And he kept his army very loyal to it. You find this even, after the Mogul Khan's best really picks up and the Marathas rise in the same region, all these sultanates collapse, the Moguls have defeated the Sultans, and then it's the local Hindu Marathas who are leading the resistance. And you find that they pay tribute to Malikamber, the great Maratha hero Shivaji. In a court poem compares Malikamber to the gods, he says he was as bright as the sun, these are the kinds of terms that are used. Shivaji says that. Shivaji himself says that. Shivaji in his court poem, the commission of 1670s in the Sanskrit language, does pay tribute to Malikamber. And Malikamber, one of the people who served him, who worked with Malikamber, was Shivaji's grandfather. So you can see that Shivaji didn't emerge in isolation. The great Maratha, hero was in some ways a political successor to Malikamber, which is quite something, right? This great Hindu icon today. I was in many ways inspired by a man born in Ethiopia, was born Chappu in the Oromo tribe, and then lived as a slave before ending up in India. So when we say Shivaji, that's a name that's going to resonate a lot in India. But for those here, who do we have an equivalent in European history of how big Shivaji looms? No, I don't think there's anyone who equals Shivaji or Shivaji in modern Hindu nationalism, certainly. In Shivaji's regarded today as the man who turned the tide back on 400 years of Islamic invasions. And there is a historical basis for this. He took on the Emperor Orangzeb. He reinvents a kind of Hindu kingship. He brings brahmin from Varanasi. He summons the local spirits of the mountains. And he begins a whole new form of Hindu kingship, which fights back against this 400 years of Islamic dominance. He attacks the Mogal Port at Surat. And over the next 100 years, his successors and the wider Confederacy of Marathas, will reach as far as Attakin what's now Pakistan in their northernmost strike. Actually, very hot currency with the present administration. He is a body-mantiff Hindu muskilarity, the bulwark against the invasion of Islam. I mean, he's a very popular figure today. More than a figure, he's considered many quarters to be a god. Yes. And all you need to do is enter Mumbai or Bombay. You'll find the airport, the museums, lots of people, places named after the Tathra Pratishwaj. Because he is a cultural icon. And I think there's nobody in Marathas, at least in Western India who towers over Shivaji in terms of that kind of icon. Shivaji's grandfather served Malakamba and Shivaji himself credits his own military prowess. It raises two questions in my mind. Number one, it seems like this man is an extraordinary fighter, which makes me think there must be many accounts of what he was actually like. Like, as you know, it's always my test of would I want to hang out with him, Manu? I mean, you see, you know, what kind of human was he, first of all? Probably wouldn't because he was also a very brutal figure. For example, during his Ascent in the Deccan, as I said, the earlier, the Salthanet of Amit Nagar collapsed. There's opportunity for him to move up, but that also means there are others who see opportunity. So if you read Richard Eaton's book, called The Social History of the Deccan, you'll read how Malakamba had a rival, popularly called Raju Dhakni. And he essentially had to make sure this rival got out of the way. And he liquidated everybody else. He stood in his way. He got a puppet Sultan installed from the old royal family, a little boy. The boy grows up and starts asking questions. Firstly, Malakamba gets him married to his daughter. So again, what you see is an African slave's daughter, a black woman becoming the queen of which up of Amit Nagar. Except that the Sun and Law, the Salthanet, he doesn't really like his father-in-law. He realizes he's being treated as a puppet and starts asking questions. So Malakamba murders him simple. He installs a puppet again. This puppet also grows up, also starts questioning Malakamba and Malakamba bubs him off also. So this was clearly about power. Malakamba had no loyalty to the king as such. The king was just an instrument for him to wield power. He was the man who was in charge. So I think you'd be having a drink with Malakamba down to the riverside. No, no, no. I think I'll pass on hanging out with Malakamba. Also, he was a very, very devout Muslim. He certainly didn't drink. He didn't allow his army men to drink. He prayed almost every day with them. There are accounts about how he would join them in the prayers and lead the prayers as well. So he was a very devout, very austere Muslim. And I've heard that if any of his soldiers was caught, inebriated, having drunk too much, he would pour molten lead down their throat. Yes, public spectacle, violence is public spectacle to send a message. Yeah, I'll give it a miss then. Okay. Well, crossing that out of my day, pan. But also what is surprising to me is that the Mughals were really, I mean, they were just lumbering and they didn't learn, because we've in previous episodes, we've talked about Mahamachar and Gaeled, turning up with his entire retiny of quarters hands and musicians and chefs and basically Jalaby makers and they're all lined up. And then they get polished off in short order by the swivel guns of Nathesha. It just seems to be that the Mughals don't learn very easily at this point at a time. They do eventually, because into the 16th, and by now Malikambar's aging, he's clearly at his peak. He's founded a whole new city, a place called Kirtki. He's got all these Marathas around them and army of 50,000. But he also, until then, has the support of the other sultans in the area who are also not very keen for the Mughals to start descending into the deck. So you've got the sultan of Bijapur, you've got the Sultan of Kolkonda, they're all financing Malikambar, because they realize that Malikambar's keeping the Mughals at bay, let's send him money, let's enable this resistance that he's leading. So the Mughals do eventually learn that while they can't necessarily beat Malikambar when it comes to his guerrilla warfare techniques and so on, they can pull the rug from under his feet if they directly negotiate with these other sultans. And that actually works. So the Sultan of Bijapur suddenly turns face and becomes a friend of the Mughals and Malikambar loses support and in fact now he's not just facing facing the Mughals coming down from the north, but he's also got an enemy behind him because now the Bijapur sultan's become an ally of the Mughals. And at this point you see Malikambar dust up, he does face a couple of military reversals as well. He needs to sue for peace and come to an understanding with the Mughals. But again, he recovers very quickly, not only does he resume his fight against the Mughals, he goes and sacks the Bijapur sultan's favor down of Norah's support as well, which the Sultan built up from early in his career with great devotion. You can still see the ruins, can't you, to this day outside Bijapur? Exactly. As left by Malikambar. So you know, he does get his revenge and by the time he dies in the late, in around 1627, if I'm not mistaken, 1626, Malikambar's back. He's completely back in charge. He dies. Of course, the Emperor Jahangir has this famous painting. Describe the painting. It's the most wonderful, wonderful painting. I think my memory serves well. Jahangir standing on a globe, he's got a bow and arrow. Not just a globe. It's a globe on a fish. It's a globe balanced on a fish. I'm looking at it right now. It is, it is an extraordinary image. I go on, do go on. And he's taking aim with this bow and arrow at Malikambar's head, which is put up on a spear, if I get right on the left side of the picture. And Malikambar's obviously dead, you know, his head's been cut off. Except this is something the Mughal Emperor never achieved. This is something the Mughal Emperor would have wished had happened. But in reality, Malikambar died somewhere in his 80s, very secure, very confident in a fortress that he had built. And his tomb today in Kulabad. It's a beautiful tomb. I've been there, yes. It is, it is. And it sits in a very beautiful location, not in Kumbhurt, but too many buildings around it, very striking structure. Almost again, you see a sense of austerity to the building also. It's not an overall need kind of tomb, it fits the man who lies inside. And it's in rather dark stone too, in the deck and trap. Nothing more to say about this painting. I just feel I feel I needed to tell you more about what amuses me about this painting. And you know, maybe it explains the Mughal failure to defeat him, because Jahangir is, is starting on a globe, you're absolutely right, which is balanced on a goat, which is balanced on a big fish. So one thing's maybe more stable ground would have helped while he's firing Aris into the severed head of Malakamba in his fever dream of what never is to be. What are the monuments has he left in India? What are the things can we see? And do people know that they're connected? You're in India, I'm not a winner, miss. But do people know that what is left behind belonged to this man, Malakamba? Or has he been erased from the modern historical consciousness? Sadly, he's mostly been erased because even when people talk of the Marathas and their eyes in the 17th century, they don't draw back that that political legacy to Amber. Even if the founder of the Maratha Kingdom Shivaji himself did pay tribute to Malakamba, you don't necessarily see Malakamba discussed in biographies of Shivaji, which I found which I think is a huge gap, including recent biographies. I read a biography last year and it barely makes any reference to Malakamba or traces Malakamba's influence both on Shivaji as a person but also in terms of his military strategies when he was fighting the Mughals towards regenerations later. Malakamba's tomb of course exists but it's a bit out of the way. What remains really is what is now called the town of Aurangabad in Maharashtra. This was this was a village called Kirki. This is where Malakamba built his capital. He named different parts after the Maratha kings. I hadn't taken that in Kirki which Malakamba builds is a ragabad. It is Aurangabad because Aurangabad came down conquered it and of course with with the usual modesty of kings named it after himself and called it Aurangabad. Now of course the the the the the the current government has changed it again. I think now it's called Sambhaji Nagar after Shivaji's son because Aurangabad execute to Shivaji's son there or near there and that's why it's called it's called Sambhaji Nagar but the person who actually founded it is Malakamba and in fact if you enter Aurangabad the old part of the city with its walls and the big gate you will see the gate where that Malakamba is built over there. You will see several other structures from him this time and then structures others have built. I hadn't taken that in I know those walls well how extraordinary that's Malakamba's legacy. That is Malakamba's legacy except nobody knows it now nobody speaks of it now and everybody connects it purely to the Marathas even though the Marathas themselves did not hesitate to credit Malakamba as a source of inspiration. So Manu tell us what happens to this military slavery system? You get the impression this is something which is present in many courts in the in the 60th and 17th century. Does it how long does it last? It fades out because what happens is just as there was a huge it wasn't just a military slave there were a large number of people coming in from Persia they'd become governors here they'd become you know noblemen and fighters here the hub she's would come in through the same trading networks but what happens is that with your opinion colonialism becoming more and more powerful a lot of these old networks and the Arabiancy snap and that's when you start seeing the number of hub she's coming into India as well as the number of Persians immigrating across the Arabian C starts to go down it starts to diminish and slowly over a period of time having a hub she in your court and whatever capacity becomes more of a status thing rather than a game of large numbers so in Malakamba's time there were thousands and thousands and thousands of them in the region by the 18th century you don't have that you still get a few don't you in 19th century luck now still clinging on oh yes you I think you have them in Vajra Dali Shaz court you've got them in the Nizam of Hyderabad's court but in some ways these are ornamental presences these are not you know they don't necessarily have roots in the region they've not set down they've not become part of the of the power structure in fact the big difference is that the earlier military slaves they became part of the power structure in fact in Brijapur in Golkona in Ahmed Nagar in all of these places you have African men becoming regions to kings the kings of puppets if these African men were actually in charge it's a totally forgotten bit of history I mean I think our Indian listeners will be surprised by this does anyone yeah and what happens later is just you know you've got African wives and African haram in may it's a perhaps a few African bodyguards including women bodyguards for the Nizam of Hyderabad they've been old stories to be believed but that that doesn't quite match what was achieved earlier and I'm just sort of minded every time you've said the word Hubshi I have a slight cringe on because I mean the first time I came across this was an a VS Niple book where it's I think it's a scene in Brooklyn where an elderly Indian man is going down some steps and he passes some black youths and he sort of spits Hubshi at them which is obviously you know a curse word it is it is it is not a good thing so to come from you know that is it an insult these days to use that word I think it's an insult on racial grounds maybe ever since the harpsies lost power because then it just they were just reduced to the color of their skin and treated poorly as they were treated and so many other parts of the word but I think when the harpsies were a powerful military elite actually ruling large parts of the Deccan it wasn't an insult it was definitely something that that caused people fear it caused or it caused a degree of dread it got it had a certain amount of prestige associated with it you know the cover of my book rebel sultans shows one of the sultans of bija put writing an elephant but sitting behind him is a Hubshi you know write there in a royal portrait Elkhas Khan exactly Kras Khan he's sitting on the same royal horse so with the sultan writing that royal elephant which I think shows exactly the kind of status Hubshi had back in the day and when the word wasn't some kind of negative cuss word it wasn't something that was meant to be insulting it was a mark of prestige and status and as you said the the state of jangira which is a black african run state continues right up until 1947 just south of Bombay yeah it's that in fact the family still around can we circle back to where we began because I mean just slavery the systems of slavery in india and you started with that astonishing story of um you know your family owning slaves and knowing um some of the the descendants of those slaves what does this tell us about indies relationship with slavery can we draw some broad stroke conclusions from this I think now there's a discomfort with it there are there are there are so-called Twitter intellectuals who claims slavery never existed here and as William was alluding to earlier if it already existed it was because Islamic power came and then enslaved Hindus or mass and sort of exported them to other parts of the world etc etc but the fact truth is there was a drastic slavery to start with by agrastic you mean working the land is that right an agricultural worker yes yes I give you an example from Kerala but it also existed in Tamil Nadu across the water so it existed definitely in peninsula or India I don't know about North India but definitely in peninsula or India and remember these are peninsula and there's also about trading societies so I don't know if there are influences from elsewhere but it definitely existed here until very very recently um it wasn't just slavery in terms of physical enslavement there was also a cast angle to it especially for agrastic slaves there was a ritual aspect to it I remember my grandmother telling me even when she was growing up the polar years which was one of these us while slave communities who as I said earlier were formally free but for all practical purposes continued enslaved at feasts they couldn't have the same lentils that were served to the apacas right so the polar would be served one kind of I think it was called pigeon gram another cast would be served what was called horse gram it was only the apacas to ate what we what William would know moon dial which is you know what what we all eat today but it was only the apacas to permit that there was unapproachability there was uncelebrity which is you know they couldn't look at you they couldn't approach your houses they couldn't touch you they couldn't come near you there were all kinds of rules around it we have we have evidence even for the 19th century of the rates for which slaves were sold six rupees for a slave in fact British rule exacerbated the problem a little bit because what happened is that you know after a period of political turmoil these India company comes in and political powers now settled which means there's greater agrarian expansion in parts that had you know where we have to cut red seas and suddenly demand for these agrarian slaves goes up which means prices shoot up you find that children could be separated from mothers wives could be separated from husbands in some places there were rules in the sense that you couldn't send slaves too far off from where they were born so if you belong to village ex you could be moved around in the district but not sent off somewhere very far where you completely lose touch with your relatives but the very fact that children could be separated from their parents as children I think that tells you this wasn't by any stretch a pleasant system where you know the masters took care of their their slaves and all of that no it was just astromatic it was just as emotionally damaging and it's it's a reality we as Indians have to have to face up and deal with well Manu we are so grateful because this has been really an eye opener of an episode to be a huge surprise to almost all our listeners this yeah we're very very grateful for your time thank you very much Manu with Pillai's fantastic book Rebel Seltons The Deccan from Kiljit to Shivaji is one of the great books on on Indian history and I would recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone till next time then it's goodbye from me Anita Arnon and me William Darampur