Lachit Barphukan is a legend of unmatched patriotism and valour in the annals of the history of India. His name will always be uttered with utmost reverence and love for the valour and sacrifice that he made during the Ahom-Mughal conflict from 1667-1671. Lachit was born on November 24, 1622 near Gargaon, then the capital of the Ahom Kingdom. His mother was Nageshwari Aideo, and his father was Mumai Tamuli Barbaruah, a visionary and the first Barbaruah of Assam who was instrumental in introducing the paik system during the time of King Pratap Singha. Like his father, Lachit inculcated qualities like sincerity and dedication to service in whatever responsibility was entrusted up on him. He received education on Hindu scriptures, politics and military skills at his residence. Though his father was a high-ranking officer, Lachit never used family privilege to gain better position in the ranks of the Ahom administration. Rather he started from a humble position called Ghora Baruah or the superintendent of the royal horses. Subsequently, he also served as Dulia Baruah and as Simaluguria Phukan or the commander of the levy ordinarily stationed at Simaluguri near the capital Gargaon. Later, Lachit was promoted to the rank of Dolakhakhoria Baruah or the superintendent of guards accompanying the king, before he was appointed as Barphukan in 1667 to lead the Ahom army against the Mughals. While he was in the lower ranks, Mirjumla invaded Assam in 1662 and succeeded in occupying the capital Gargaon. Despite their defeat, Lachit and his men continued to wage guerrilla war against the enemy and made them retreat in 1663.
Mirjumla’s victory in Assam was an enormous insult to the prestige of the Ahom kingdom. He compelled King Jaydhwaj Singha to conclude the treaty of Ghilajarighat in 1663, which made the Ahoms a tributary kingdom and annexed the entire lower Assam with the Mughal Empire. Besides, the king had to offer his young daughter Romoni Gabhoru to the Mughal Harem. Soon after the treaty, King Jaydhwaj died in grief. Thus, after ascending the throne, King Chakradhwaj Singha wanted to avenge the defeat and bring back the lost glory of Ahoms by driving the Mughals out of Assam.
Lachit not only prevented the Mughals from occupying Assam but also restricted them from conquering South East Asia. The history and civilisation of those regions would have been different than today had Lachit failed to resist the Mughals
It was Lachit’s patriotism, dedication, sincerity, and military and administrative skills displayed in the previous appointments that attracted the attention of King Chakradhwaj Singha, who was desperately searching for a brave and patriotic leader to fight back against the Mughals. Eventually, Lachit, a farsighted military strategist, was raised to the position of Barphukan, the governor of Lower Assam in 1667 and became the supreme commander of the Ahom army. Lachit assembled an army consisting of almost all the ethnic groups of Assam to fight against the common enemy, the Mughals. In his army, there were Ahom, Tiwa, Khasi-Jaintia, Dimasa, Karbi, Garo, Koch, Bodo, Chutia, Mising, Naga and others. Lachit maintained a close relationship with the founder of the Hindu empire Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and drew inspiration from his successes to fight the formidable Mughal forces.
Lachit brought the Assamese army to the highest pitch of efficiency. Nowhere in recorded history had the Assamese nation shown such capacity for organisation, discipline and combined action as in Lachit Barphukan’s war against the Mughals. The slightest indication of slackness and delinquency was promptly and rigorously suppressed. Commanders and statesmen, grown grey in the service of the state, took their orders smilingly from the tender-aged General Lachit. Personal ease and comfort, consideration for one’s kith and kin, gave way before sleepless vigilance and the long-cherished dream of victory. Lachit started his victory march with the annihilation of the Mughal garrison stationed at Itakhuli in Guwahati in 1667. Mughal’s defeat at Guwahati shattered the dream of emperor Aurangzeb to conquer South East Asia. Thus he ordered Raja Ram Singh of Amber, Governor of Bengal Siesta Khan, general Munawar Khan and Rashid Khan to decimate the Assamese army and clear the route for the further campaign into the territories beyond Brahmaputra. However, Lachit and his men were confident that the victory at Guwahati was consistently successful in resisting the massive Mughal force both on land and water. Finally, a decisive naval battle took place in March 1671, where the Mughal invaders were massacred under the leadership of Lachit.
The stone inscription written in Sanskrit at North Guwahati described the valour of Lachit Barphukan in the following words: “The Barphukan at Namjani (Lower Assam) son of the Barbarua lived with glory in the saka year 1589 after having attained victory over the Yavanas (Muslims) who were equipped with various war-weapons, elephants, horses and captains. The person of the Barphukan is adorned with ornaments and head is enlightened with knowledge of the various branches of learning. He is beautified by attractive qualities which are also free from the evils of the Kaliyuga. The Barphukan shines effulgent in his prowess and is the commander of elephants, horses and soldiers. He is the ocean or receptacle of the highest forms of fortitude, self respect, valour and depth of judgment of gravity”. Historian SK Bhuyan writes, “for lessons of unmatched patriotism and leadership, one should turn again and again to Lachit Barphukan.” Lachit’s glory was such that his adversary, the Mughal general Ram Singha, overpowered and crest-fallen uttered the following eulogy of the Assamese in a spirit of admiration: “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 Singha, being personally present on the spot have not been able to find any loopholes and opportunity!”
Lachit’s glory was such that his adversary, the Mughal general Ram Singha, overpowered and crest-fallen uttered the following eulogy of the Assamese in a spirit of admiration: “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 Singha, being personally present on the spot have not been able to find any loopholes and opportunity!
In many ways, Lachit was not only the hero of Assam or North East India; he was a national hero of India. Given the contemporary political scenario where the imperialist Mughals under fanatic Aurengzeb let lose a reign of terror and torture on the Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhists for forceful conversion to Islam, Lachit’s resistance against the Mughal bears’ great significance. Lachit not only prevented the Mughals from occupying Assam but also restricted them from conquering South East Asia. The history and civilisation of those regions would have been different than today had Lachit failed to resist the Mughals.
The defeat of the Mughals in Assam largely defamed the image of Aurengzeb. He was forced to burn in agony and frustration because of his utter failure in the Assam campaign. Death and destruction of a large number of men, materials and warships severely damaged the strength of the Mughal war machine. Besides, it inflicted a huge blow to the morale in the ranks and file of the Mughal army. Lachits’ victory inspired many petty Hindu kingdoms across India to resist Mughal imperialism which significantly impacted the disintegration of the Mughal Empire.