During the dark days of Aurangzeb's rule and his atrocities, brave hearts like Lachit Borphukan in the east showed us why our civilization has survived all sorts of onslaught by the Mughals.
Guwahati: Bir Lachit Divas is observed across Assam to pay tribute to the great Ahom general Lachit Borphukan on Wednesday. The brave general defeated the 45 thousand strong Mughal army in the last battle of Saraighat and compelled the Aurangzeb army to run for life. Lachit Borphukan, the brave Ahom general secured the "Bor Asom" (including Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland) from the invasion of Mughals forever was never mentioned in the history books of India. The great warrior was not mentioned in the history book, and not too many Indians knew about his heroic victory against the strong army of Mughals. Even today, his bravery has not found mentioned in the school syllabus in India.
The Mughal army consisted of 30,000 infantry, 15,000 archers, 18,000 Turkish cavalries, 5,000 gunners, and 1,000 canons. Borphukan knew that they would not be able to defeat these vast armies with regular warfare. So the great son of Assam deployed his small strength of navy with 7 small war boats and surprised the enemy with guerrilla warfare. Lachit Borphukan himself commanded the navy in a small boat, even though he was suffering from a high fever.
The Mughals got bogged down in the mud and got isolated from each other due to flowing streams. The Ahoms were at an advantage. They were more used to the terrain and accustomed to the climate. They carried out extensive guerilla warfare, causing heavy losses to the Mughals. Ram Singh, the general of the Aurangzeb army, was very contemptuous of these operations and called it a "thieves' affair". He challenged Lachit Barphukan to a duel. He also offered a bribe of 3 lakhs to Lachit to abandon Guwahati defences. But Bir Lachit refused this and vowed to make Assam free from the invasion of the Aurangzeb army.
When the Mughal Empire was at its zenith, the region of Assam was a big challenge for them. The valiant Ahoms had successfully repulsed frequent attacks on their homeland from the time of Muhammad Ghori on no less than seventeen invasions. This was an anomaly that the most barbaric emperor Aurangzeb wanted to change. As a result, repeated attempts were made to capture Assam.
During a brief period when the Ahom kingdom was facing internal discord, the Mughals took advantage and captured Guwahati intending of taking over more territory in Assam and even reached Kaliabor in central Assam. However, they were badly defeated in the Battle of Saraighat in 1671, and their dreams of capturing Assam remained unfulfilled forever.
During the dark days of Aurangzeb's rule and his atrocities, Bravehearts like Lachit Borphukan in the east showed us why our civilization survived all sorts of onslaught by the Mughals.
Lachit Borphukan was born Born on November 24, 1622, to Momai Tamuli, the first Borbarua that is the 'Governor of upper Assam and Commander-in-Chief of the Ahom army' under the Ahom King Prataap Singha. As was the tradition in Ahom society, the young Lachit was taught philosophy and arts besides being imparted military skills.
Through hard work and dedication, he was considered for appointment to the position of a Soladhara Barua (scarf-bearer) of the Ahom King. That position was the modern-day equivalent of a principal secretary. Gradually Lachit was given other important positions such as the Superintendent of the Stable of Royal Horses (Ghora Barua) and Superintendent of the Royal Household Guards to the Ahom king Chakradhwaj Singha.
King Chakradhwaj Singha, impressed by the intelligent leadership qualities of Lachit, promoted him to be one of the Borphukhan. In the Ahom system of governance, Borphukan was one of the five patra mantris (councillors) who possessed both executive and judicial powers.
To remember the great saviour of Assamese civilization, November 24 is celebrated each year as Lachit Divas (Lachit Day) statewide in Assam, which commemorates the heroism of Lachit Borphukan and the last battle of Saraighat. This valiant warrior who successfully repelled the forces of the Moghul Army and curbed the expansion of the Moghul Empire further east is known only within Assam.
At a crucial stage of the Saraighat battle, Lachit had fallen very ill and was asked by the physicians to not go out on the battlefield. The advance of the strong Mughal army and Lachit's failing health was dispiriting the morale of the Ahom army. But Lachit realized that his duty to protect his people was far more important than his health. 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 army faced a sudden stream of attacks from the riverfront coupled with the charging of Ahom warriors who, inspired by Lachit's gallantry, fought till their last breath. As a strategic move, Lachit had earlier taken the precaution of digging a line of defence at the back of the advancing army to which they could fall back if forced to do so. After facing massive casualties, the confused and beleaguered Mughal army was forced to flee from Saraighat to their last camp in East Bengal, and they never came back to invade Assam again.