The ‘guzar’ named after great Kamboh general

By Majid Sheikh

Dawn Oct 2, 2016

If you happen to look up old Akbar-era Mughal maps of Lahore, you will notice a ‘guzar’ named Guzar Shahbaz Khan, that constitutes the entire area surrounding the Lahore Fort encompassing the present Badshahi Mosque, including Taxali to the middle of Masti and Kashmiri gates, almost boomerang shaped, or a military arc, designed to protect the emperor and his fort.

The Mughal emperor Akbar divided the newly-constructed brick-walled city into nine ‘guzars’ and the very first he named as Guzar Shahbaz Khan, which area was popularly known among the people of Lahore as Guzar Mang Khan. The word ‘mang’ comes from the Punjabi expression meaning ‘ask, and it will be done’. Shahbaz Khan was Akbar’s fiercest, and most successful military general, and was a Rajput Kamboh. As very little has been written, or researched, about these ‘guzars’, this piece is the first of a few to follow in an attempt to describe them.

Over the years the contribution of Kamboh Rajputs has been under-estimated. If you happen to move along Empress Road past the railways headquarters and pass the Kinnaird School, or the original Kinnaird College, inside this premises is the shrine of a great Kamboh by the name of Muhammad Saleh, writer of the great ‘Amal-e-Saleh’ in which the life and times of emperor Shah Jehan are described in cutting detail and with amazing honesty. He was the tutor of Aurangzeb and an outstanding calligrapher and poet by the name of ‘Kashfi’, he was a staunch Sunni Muslim and the person many hold responsible for the religious extremist views of the last great Mughal emperor. In his days he was known as Saleh Kamboh Lahori. A mosque in Mochi Gate, called the Saleh Kamboh Mosque, is named after him.

The twice-removed paternal grandfather of Saleh Kamboh was the military genius after whom the ‘guzar’ was named, and his full name was Shahbaz Khan Kamboh, who was born in 1528 or 1529. He participated in some of the most difficult military campaigns in the reign of Akbar. Many ascribe the building of the Lahore Fort and city in burnt brick by Akbar as a military suggestion of Shahbaz Khan. The emperor tied this plan in with the free labour that lived off free kitchens only during the Great Lahore Famine that lasted four years. His orthodox Sunni beliefs clashed with the ‘Deen-e-Elahi’ construct of the emperor, resulting in him being imprisoned for almost three years for refusing to accept the emperor’s wishes.


Given his dare and wit, the emperor made him a ‘Meer Tozak’, which in modern day parlance would be the Quarter Master General of the Mughal Army. He rose rapidly from a ‘mansab’ of just 100 soldiers to have a jagir of 5,000 horsemen. Akbar’s ultimate success lay in the fact that he was able to win over the Rajputs, whose fierce cavalry led most battles for the emperor. At one stage, so one account claims, Shahbaz Khan even led 9,000 horsemen. This resulted in him being further promoted and made a ‘Meer Bakhshi’ and a ‘Wakeel’ of the emperor. In his days he was what we would today call the Prime Minister of Mughal India.

In the famous 1581 campaign as Akbar fought to secure the Punjab against tax-ridden peasant uprisings, Shahbaz Khan ran the affairs of Mughal India. As over-spending had hit Akbar’s financial affairs, it was Shahbaz Khan who introduced a branding system called ‘dagh-e-mahali’ which drastically cut corruption within the military. It was an idea he had borrowed from Sher Shah Suri. The growing feudal system was leading to corruption and he cut through it with amazing efficiency, which naturally led to him being hated by the rich and corrupt.

As Punjab consolidated the troubles of Bengal and the south were playing up, and it was to Shahbaz Khan that Emperor Akbar turned to. His success was rather chequered and he took on the royal prince Murad, which led Akbar to confiscate his ‘jagirs’. But his military successes made him an almost indispensable part of Akbar’s army. In 1596 he was imprisoned when the Mughal court felt that he posed a threat to the emperor himself. For three years he remained imprisoned and after paying a huge fine, was released and died in November 1599 at the age of 70.

In Abu Fazl’s ‘Ain-e-Akbari’ there is considerable mention of Shahbaz Khan and how the ‘guzar’ surrounding the Lahore Fort was named after him. The ‘guzar’ was shaped almost like a boomerang and even today if the construct of the ‘ghattis’ and the ‘choobarazas’ are studied they make a perfect defensive formation.

A word about the Kamboh 9,000-strong cavalry of Shahbaz Khan Kamboh. They were all Kamboh Rajputs, both Hindus and Muslims, and all fiercely loyal to Shahbaz Khan. The newly constructed ‘guzar’ saw them being housed within the arc while a lot of them were settled in the belt between today’s railways station and Garhi Shahu. A strong section was housed near Ichhra while a few of the horsemen were placed as far away as modern Amritsar. So it seems that he was always ready to meet any threat to the emperor, or if things went bad to Shahbaz Khan himself.

But two things, both very positive attributes, in the life of Shahbaz Khan ironically played against him. One was his legendary generosity, almost making the people of Lahore and the surrounding areas think that he had unlimited wealth. For this reason he was termed Mang Khan, or ‘ask the Khan and it will be done’.

Amazing that this man was, it seems from several accounts, known as a very pious man, almost an ascetic and seeped in Sunni religiosity. Abu Fazl states that every Friday after prayers he would distribute 100 gold coins in the name of his patron Abdul Qadir Gilani.

That is why when Emperor Akbar was forcing his ‘Deen-e-Elahi’ it was Shahbaz Khan Kamboh who refused to follow what everyone in the court was doing. Many experts believe that this opposition to the new faith worked against him. On his death the emperor Jahangir confiscated his entire wealth and lands. The ‘guzar’ by his name soon was not mentioned in court documents.

With time the great Shahbaz Khan Kamboh has been forgotten and today no person in the burnt-brick walled city, which he was instrumental in getting made, even knows his name. Even his generosity is now not known. Undoubtedly much better known is the poet and calligrapher and teacher of Emperor Aurangzeb, Muhammad Saleh Kamboh, a saint and pious man, just like his great grandfather.



Back To Majid Sheikh's Columns

Back To APNA Home Page