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Lachit Borphukan : The undefeated warrior in Battle of Saraighat who resisted Mughal conquest of Northeast India

Not many of us know about the unsung hero of Battle of Saraighat, Lachit Borphukan, the military commander of Ahom Kingdom who resisted Mughal conquest in Northeast India

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Battle of Saraighat
Lachit Borphukan statue (SM)
  • When Mughal empire was brutally expanding under Aurangzeb, then the commander of Ahom dynasty, Lachit Borphukan made them taste their worst defeat in historic Battle of Saraighat

With mighty army of Mughals Aurangzeb was eyeing at Northeast India. But he was not aware of what fate his army will meet when they clash with Ahom dynasty of Assam under commandership of Lachit Borphukan, the man who shattered dreams of Mughal empire to conquest Northeast India. We are quite familiar with the valour of Maharana Pratap and Shivaji but somehow we were not told much about the unsung hero of Battle of Saraighat, Lachit Borphukan. Battle of Saraighat would always be remembered for the victory of a much smaller Ahom army over the mighty Mughal Army, through a combination of tactical brilliance, guerrilla warfare and intelligence gathering. It was the last attempt by the Mughals to extend their empire into Assam.

The valiant Ahoms had successfully repulsed frequent attacks on their motherland since the time of Muhammad Ghori for around seventeen invasions.

Battle of Saraighat
Lachit Borphukan, commander of Ahom dynasty (Wikimedia)

The Mughals, were comparatively very well equipped, but failed to make any advances towards the Ahom army in the first phase of the war. So they offered Lachit Borphukan a bribe of one lakh rupees to abandon Guwahati but Lachit Borphukan refused to surrender.

From the capital city of Guwahti to the depths of the forests the Ahom warriors fought and held back the tide of invasion. The proud warriors of Central Asia, Mughals and Pathans alike were retreated  by the valiant resistance of the Ahoms.

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An incident in the history of Ahom resistance radiates the spirit which animated their fight for freedom, when Lachit Borphukan, the Army General of Ahom king Chakradhwaj Singha had beheaded his maternal uncle for dereliction of duty while preparing to face the Mughals. His execution of his own uncle for not showing sufficient dedication to the war effort was not just an act of impulse but a reminder to his soldiers that in the service of one’s Dharma, it is not possible to adopt double standards of judgement. This act of selflessness and dedication further motivated the troops, who were charged with full energy and enthusiasm to the battle field. Such examples are not very uncommon in Indian history where Dharma is upheld.

Battle of Saraighat
Lachit borphukan, might warrior of Ahom kingdom (zeenews)

The reason why small Ahom army under Lachit Borphukan defeated mighty army of Mughals lies in the elaborate defense organized by him along the Brahamputra river which denied the use of the waterway to a large army of Aurangzeb comprising 1800 Turkish cavalry, 30,000 infantry and 500 cannons manned by the Portuguese. In the final stages of the battle, despite being seriously ill, he rallied his soldiers and personally led an assault forcing them to retreat. It is recorded that he said:“When my countrymen are suffering from invasion, and when my army is fighting and sacrificing its life, how can I think about resting my body due to a mere illness? How can I think about going home to my wife and children when my entire country is in trouble?”

The Mughal Commander-in-Chief, acknowledging his defeat by the Ahom soldiers and their Commander-in-Chief Lachit Barphukan, wrote, “Glory to the king! Glory to the counselors! Glory to the commanders! Glory to the country! One single individual leads all the forces! Even I, Ram Singh, being personally on the spot, have not been able to find any loophole and an opportunity!”

Lachit died soon after his victory at The Battle of Saraighat due to illness. It is sad that Lachit Borphukan is an unsung hero, let us give him the recognition he deserves, we must tell his tale of valour to coming generations and derive inspiration, he is an example that no matter how strong opponents and barbaric forces were, someone, somewhere resisted and fought against them for protection of motherland.

 

– by SHAURYA RITWIK, Shaurya is Sub-Editor at NewsGram and writes on Geo-politcs, Culture, Indology and Business. Twitter Handle – @shauryaritwik

  • Partha Saikia

    THE FIRST EVER MUSLIM INVASION OF WESTERN ASSAM(THE NAME ASSAM DID NOT EXIST AT THAT TIME AND WAS KNOWN AS KAMRUPA OR KAMATAPUR) WAS IN THE YEAR 1206 BY THE DESTROYER OF NALANDA AND VIKRAMSHILA UNIVERSITY,THE GREAT TURKIC GENERAL AND RULER OF BENGAL BAKHTIAR KHILJI( FROM THE KHIJI TRIBE OF AFGHANISTAN).HE ATTACKED KAMARUPA WITH THE INTENSION OF CAPTURING TIBET.IN KAMRUPA HE HAD TO FACE GREAT RESISTANCE FROM THE KOCH KING PRITHU AND RETURN BACK EMPTYHANDED AFTER A CRUSHING DEFEAT.THE SECOND ATTACK HAPPENED IN 1227 AGAIN DURING PRITHU’S RULE BY BENGAL RULER GHIYASUDDIN IWAJ.THE THIRD ATTACK HAPPENED IN 1228 BY BENGAL GOVERNOR NASIRUDDIN AND THIS TIME PRITHU WAS KILLED.AFTER THAT SEVEN MORE ATTACKS FOLLOWED ON KAMARUPA OR KAMATAPUR.THE FIRST MUSLIM INVASION OF EASTERN ASSAM( ASOM OR AHOM) WAS ONLY IN 1516 OR 1527 BY THE GREAT WAZIRS DURING REIGN OF AHOM KING SUHUNGMUNG .THE AHOMS CAME TO UPPER ASSAM(INHABITED AND RULED BY GROUPS OF KACHARI PEOPLE NAMELY THE MORANS ,BORAHIS AND THE GREAT CHUTIAS) FROM THE BORDER REGIONS OF MYANMAR AND CHINA ONLY DURING THIRTEENTH CENTURY. AT THAT ASSAM WAS DIVIDED INTO THREE PARTS – CHUTIA KINGDOM(UPPER ASSAM).KACHARI KINGDOM(CENTRAL ASSAM) AND KAMATAPUR RULED BY THE KOCHES(WESTERN ASSAM).THE WORD ASOM OR AHOM EXISTED ONLY FROM THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY AFTER THE AHOMS SUBJUGATED THE CHUTIAS AND THE KACHARIS AND BROUGHT THE WHOLE OF UPPER AND CENTRAL ASSAM UNDER THEIR CONTROL.PEOPLE OF KAMATAPUR OR WESTERN ASSAM THEN CALLED THE EASTERN REGION AS THE ASOM OR AHOM KINGDOM.THE BATTLE OF SARAIGHAT WAS THE 17TH AND FINAL ATTACK BY MUSLIMS.IT HAPPENED IN THE YEAR 1671.IT WOULD BE VERY WRONG TO SAY THAT ONLY THE AHOMS DEFEATED MUGHALS ALONE AS THERE WERE THOUSANDS OF KOCH SOLDIERS OF KOCH HAJO.THERE WERE ALSO DAFLA SOLDIERS FROM ARUNACHAL,GARO SOLDIERS FROM MEGHALAYA,MUSLIM SOLDIERS WHO WERE PRISONERS OF WAR . IT WOULD BE BETTER TO SAY THAT THE BATTLE AGAINST THE MUGHALS WAS WON WITH THE UNIFIED SOLDIERS OF VARIOUS TRIBES UNDER GENERAL LACHIT BORPHUKAN.SIMILARLY THE MUGHAL ARMY ALSO CONSISTED OF THOUSANDS OF KOCH SOLDIERS FROM KOCH BEHAR AND RAJPUT SOLDIERS.

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  • Partha Saikia

    THE FIRST EVER MUSLIM INVASION OF WESTERN ASSAM(THE NAME ASSAM DID NOT EXIST AT THAT TIME AND WAS KNOWN AS KAMRUPA OR KAMATAPUR) WAS IN THE YEAR 1206 BY THE DESTROYER OF NALANDA AND VIKRAMSHILA UNIVERSITY,THE GREAT TURKIC GENERAL AND RULER OF BENGAL BAKHTIAR KHILJI( FROM THE KHIJI TRIBE OF AFGHANISTAN).HE ATTACKED KAMARUPA WITH THE INTENSION OF CAPTURING TIBET.IN KAMRUPA HE HAD TO FACE GREAT RESISTANCE FROM THE KOCH KING PRITHU AND RETURN BACK EMPTYHANDED AFTER A CRUSHING DEFEAT.THE SECOND ATTACK HAPPENED IN 1227 AGAIN DURING PRITHU’S RULE BY BENGAL RULER GHIYASUDDIN IWAJ.THE THIRD ATTACK HAPPENED IN 1228 BY BENGAL GOVERNOR NASIRUDDIN AND THIS TIME PRITHU WAS KILLED.AFTER THAT SEVEN MORE ATTACKS FOLLOWED ON KAMARUPA OR KAMATAPUR.THE FIRST MUSLIM INVASION OF EASTERN ASSAM( ASOM OR AHOM) WAS ONLY IN 1516 OR 1527 BY THE GREAT WAZIRS DURING REIGN OF AHOM KING SUHUNGMUNG .THE AHOMS CAME TO UPPER ASSAM(INHABITED AND RULED BY GROUPS OF KACHARI PEOPLE NAMELY THE MORANS ,BORAHIS AND THE GREAT CHUTIAS) FROM THE BORDER REGIONS OF MYANMAR AND CHINA ONLY DURING THIRTEENTH CENTURY. AT THAT ASSAM WAS DIVIDED INTO THREE PARTS – CHUTIA KINGDOM(UPPER ASSAM).KACHARI KINGDOM(CENTRAL ASSAM) AND KAMATAPUR RULED BY THE KOCHES(WESTERN ASSAM).THE WORD ASOM OR AHOM EXISTED ONLY FROM THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY AFTER THE AHOMS SUBJUGATED THE CHUTIAS AND THE KACHARIS AND BROUGHT THE WHOLE OF UPPER AND CENTRAL ASSAM UNDER THEIR CONTROL.PEOPLE OF KAMATAPUR OR WESTERN ASSAM THEN CALLED THE EASTERN REGION AS THE ASOM OR AHOM KINGDOM.THE BATTLE OF SARAIGHAT WAS THE 17TH AND FINAL ATTACK BY MUSLIMS.IT HAPPENED IN THE YEAR 1671.IT WOULD BE VERY WRONG TO SAY THAT ONLY THE AHOMS DEFEATED MUGHALS ALONE AS THERE WERE THOUSANDS OF KOCH SOLDIERS OF KOCH HAJO.THERE WERE ALSO DAFLA SOLDIERS FROM ARUNACHAL,GARO SOLDIERS FROM MEGHALAYA,MUSLIM SOLDIERS WHO WERE PRISONERS OF WAR . IT WOULD BE BETTER TO SAY THAT THE BATTLE AGAINST THE MUGHALS WAS WON WITH THE UNIFIED SOLDIERS OF VARIOUS TRIBES UNDER GENERAL LACHIT BORPHUKAN.SIMILARLY THE MUGHAL ARMY ALSO CONSISTED OF THOUSANDS OF KOCH SOLDIERS FROM KOCH BEHAR AND RAJPUT SOLDIERS.

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  Cloak And Dagger: Indo-Bangla Ties

Irrespective of who wins at the ballot, Bangladesh’s Hindu minority is persecuted by the losing side, as if it was their fault.

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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed

 By:  Tania Bhattacharya           

 

Tania Bhattacharya
Tania Bhattacharya

Twenty-first of February is an important annual date for the peoples of both, Bangladesh, and West Bengal. On that day in nineteen fifty two, students of East Pakistan’s institutions of knowledge like Dhaka Medical College, had been mercilessly struck down, after they were fired upon by the soldiers of West Pakistan. Their crime? Bangla, the indigenous mother-tongue of all Bengalis, irrespective of religion and location, had been the prime focus of East Pakistan’s ‘Language Movement’. The seat of power, despite the East’s relatively larger demographic, had been, for all means and purposes, firmly lodged in the West, separated from the Eastern wing, by thousands of miles of territory belonging to the state of independent India. West Pakistan wielded absolute power over Pakistan’s army, its internal security, administration and the judicial system. Persian, Arabic, Urdu, Punjabi, Saraiki, and Sindhi, were the most recognized and respected lingua franca. Bengali was deemed by the West, to be a ‘Pagan’ language, the tongue of millions of ‘kaffirs’ that worshipped a plenitude of deities.

 

 

indo-bangla
Ansal-al-Islam supporters demand the death of Atheist bloggers.

The Bengalis, a people deeply protective of their cultural heritage, cutting across religious lines, took offense, and thus commenced the movement for the restoration of Bangla, as the legitimate representative of the East Bengalis. What followed, is well known, to South Asian History, enthusiasts. Exploiting the opportunity that had presented itself, and asphyxiated by more than ten million Bengali refugees who had migrated to eastern India in wake of ‘Operation Searchlight’ imposed by West Pakistan on its eastern wing, India had invaded the latter in the early December of 1971. The shortest war of modern history, had ended a fortnight later, with the emergence of an independent homeland, for all Bengali speaking peoples: Bangladesh.

Assam
An Indian publication reporting the Nellie Massacre of Assam.

Bangladesh turns forty-seven on the twenty sixth of March this year. Over the last nearly five decades, much water has flown under the bridge. Significantly, it has taken along with it, a bulk of the initial bonhomie and camaraderie, that Bangladesh and India shared with one another. From trustworthy allies, the two neighbours, have now entered a phase of grudging respect, but that too is often found in suspended animation, once anti-Indian regimes come to power in the other country. There are a number of reasons why India and Bangladesh have experienced a souring of relations over time, and much to the ordinary Indian’s chagrin, not all of the blame can be laid at our eastern neighbour’s door.

Pakistan
The 1971 surrender of West Pakistan.

BANGLADESHI CONCERNS

 

  1. A) WHAT’S IN A PICTURE? EVERYTHING!

Any patriotic Indian, often ruminates fondly over a well circulated photo that emerged in the December of 1971. It was taken during the capitulation of the West Pakistan army to India. The photo is held up by Indian nationalists, like a trophy and proudly referred to as the ultimate symbol of India’s crushing of Pakistan. This historic photo in question, has a sombre Lt. Gen. J.S. Arora, looking on, as a visibly demoralized Gen. A.A.K. Niazi of Pakistan signs the document of surrender. A sea of khaki and army green dot the backdrop of the image. Smiling soldiers of the Indian Defence Forces, can be seen interspersed between high ranking members of the Pakistan Army. However, remarkably, missing from the image, is the presence of the very people, who had had to sacrifice their life, their limb, and their precious dignity, to make their own independence happen.

Indira Gandhi
Bongobondhu Sheikh Mujib with Indira Gandhi. The two shared a close friendship.

As time has passed, millions of Bangladeshis have taken stock of the historic footage that seemed to signal their freedom day, and yet, they have asked: “Where are our people?” Yes, indeed. It is a photograph that, once the euphoria had died down, was bound to reveal its troubling nature. It may have been the defining moment for our own military men, but for the patriots within our newly born neighbour, this image is one of being slighted; of being overlooked, and insulted. Indians should have realized awhile back, that parading the said photo, was not a wise thing to do. The newly liberated nation, did not and to this day, cannot claim the image as their own, due to the complete absence of any East Bengali presence.

 

  1. B) WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE, BUT NOT A DROP TO DRINK!
protests
Bangladeshi atheists and freethinkers protest the murder of their own.

In 1996, Bangladesh and India had signed a treaty over the sharing of river waters. The agreement – known as the Ganges Treaty – had promised to equally divide the volume of river waters shared by the two nations. Waters of the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna mega-basin, constitute the globe’s second largest hydraulic region, with a high population density inhabiting its banks. Simply put, the so-called division of water, is neither fair, and nor useful, to Bangladeshis. Through the Farakka Barrage, India, with its advanced systems of harvesting trans-boundary water, virtually controls the upstream flow of currents, which it then utilises without a care for the consequences being experienced by the people that live around the downstream currents of the barrage. As a result, Bangladesh has become a victim of environmental degradation which is a direct consequence of India’s water harvesting policy and techniques. Flora and Fauna, especially a variety of edible fish, important to our eastern neighbour, have either drastically lessened, or come close to extinction, due to callous and selfish, Indian interests over river-water sharing.

police
A troublesome photo.

INDIAN CONCERNS