An African General Helped Establish 'Aurangabad' Which May Soon Be Renamed

Buzz Staff
·3-min read

Maharashtra's city Aurangabad is rife in controversy now that a proposed name-change project may be up before a committee to pass a resolution.

Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrakant Patil on Monday said renaming of Aurangabad as Sambhajinagar was "acceptable to all" and his party would pass a resolution on this if it came to power in the civic body there. He also chided the Shiv Sena, which has been a votary of the name change for several years, but was now in alliance with the Congress, which has consistently opposed it.

The Sena first made the demand to rename Aurangabad as Sambhajinagar over two decades ago, and a proposal was passed in the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) in June 1995, which was challenged by a Congress corporator in the high court and later in the Supreme Court.

The proposal to rename Aurangabad is opposed by the Congress, which feels that this expression of a majoritarian sentiment will affect its minority votebase, which is under threat from the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM).

Politics aside, the city located is in the Marathwada region after Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj, who was brutally tortured and killed in 1689 by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, after whom it is named now. Aurangzeb, who is known for his religious excesses, and also as the last militarily strong Mughal ruler, is buried in nearby Khuldabad after his death in 1707.

Aurangzeb aside, Aurangabad's history has one pivotl figure who help build it: An African slave turned general.

Malik Ambar, an African slave turned warrior, has an unusual story. Sold and bought several times by slave dealers during his youth, fate brought him miles away from his home in Ethiopia to India. In India, not only did Ambar get his freedom back, but he also rose up the social ladder, got an army, vast estates, and founded the city that today is Aurangabad, reports Indian Express.

In 1610, after briefly expelling the Mughals from Ahmednagar, Ambar established a new capital, a city named Khirki (present-day Aurangabad in Maharashtra) for the sultanate.

The city eventually became home to over 2,00,000 people including the Marathas after whom several suburbs such as Malpura, Khelpura, Paraspura, and Vithapura came to be named.

“It was around 1610-11 that Ambar made Khirki his base, and this slowly emerged as a major urban centre, where like Ambar, much of his Maratha nobility and military leadership also built houses and developed localities,” Manu S. Pillai, the author of The Ivory Throne writes in a column for Livemint. “Waterworks and an underground canal were among the early developments he brought about, which is how a lot of cities in the dry Deccan area were able to expand. We see it with Bijapur as well, a few decades before, and this required considerable expertise in engineering and planning.”

Malik Ambar was succeeded by his son Fateh Khan, who changed the name of the city to Fatehnagar.

In the coming wars, the city along with the Ahmadnagar Sultanate fell to the Mughals. It was under the reign of the 17th-century Mughal monarch, Aurangzeb, that the city came to be renamed as ‘Aurangabad’.

Pillai in an interview with Indian Express also added that Ambar in building a new city in the first place seemed to mark his legacy.

At present, amid the ongoing controversy over renaming of Aurangabad as Sambhajinagar, activists of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) on Saturday staged an agitation in Nashik city by changing the destination board of a state transport bus. The party's city president Ankush Pawar and other activists entered Thakkar Bazaar bus stand and changed the destination board of an Aurangabad-bound bus to Sambhajinagar.

Protestors demanded that the three-party MVA government should change the city's name to Sambhajinagar by January 26. The MNS also criticised the Shiv Sena for softening its stand on the issue due to its alliance with the Congress.