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Thursday, November 24, 2022

heard of Battle of Saraighat !! - hail Mahavir Lachit Barpukhan !!

 I vividly remember how in 1982 I was in Class 7 and read a chapter on Mahavir Lachit Barphukan as part of my history syllabus. With every re-reading of that chapter, the visualisation of his military heroism became clearer and more impactful. But as I grew older and explored advanced history books, a glaring gap became noticeable. 

Not my words but that of Himanta Biswa Sharma and in case you don’t know – he is the serving Chief Minister of Assam, a five timemember from Jalukbari.   We have read about Battle of Plassey, Battle of Panipat, Ibrahim Lodi, Gajni Mohammad, Babar, Akbar, Aurangazeb  and the like .. ..  ever read about Saraighat battle ???  

Saraighat in Guwahati lies on  the north bank of the river Brahmaputra. Sarai was a small village where the old abandoned N.F. Railway station of Amingaon was located.In Saraighat, it is here that a famous  naval battle with the Mughals on the waters of the Brahmaputra by “feigning an attack with a few ships from the front”, took place.  The Battle of Saraighat was a naval battle fought in 1671 between the Mughal Empire (led by the Kachwaha raja, Ram Singh I), and the Ahom Kingdom (led by Lachit Borphukan) on the Brahmaputra river at Saraighat. Although fewer in numbers, the Ahom Army defeated the Mughal Army by clever diplomatic negotiations to buy time, guerrilla tactics, psychological warfare, military intelligence and by exploiting the sole weakness of the Mughal forces—its navy.  The Battle of Saraighat was the last battle in the last major attempt by the Mughals to extend their empire into Assam. Though the Mughals managed to regain Guwahati briefly later after a Borphukan deserted it, the Ahoms wrested control in the Battle of Itakhuli in 1682 and maintained it till the end of their rule.   “The right-angled triangle of the Brahmaputra (Itakhuli-Kamakhya-Aswakranta) became a complicated tangle of boats and men battling to save themselves from drowning. The Assamese spanned the Brahmaputra by an improvised bridge of boats placed side by side. They also resorted to a wily trick, combining a frontal charge with a surprise attack from behind, that proved decisive”  !!  

The Ahom kingdom (1228–1826)(close to Six centuries)  was a late medieval  kingdom in the Brahmaputra Valley in Assam. It maintained its sovereignty for nearly 600 years having successfully resisted Mughal expansion in Northeast India.   It expanded under Suhungmung in the 16th century. The kingdom became weaker with the rise of the Moamoria rebellion, and subsequently fell to repeated Burmese invasions of Assam. With the defeat of the Burmese after the First Anglo-Burmese War and the Treaty of Yandabo in 1826, control of the kingdom passed into East India Company hands.   The British-controlled province after 1838 and later the Indian state of Assam came to be known by this name.   

Lachit Barphukan (24.11.1622 – 25.4.1672) was a daring  commander and Borphukan, in the Ahom kingdom, known for his leadership in the 1671 Battle of Saraighat that thwarted a drawn-out attempt by Mughal forces under the command of Ramsingh I to take over Ahom kingdom.  He died about a year later due to illness. 

Lachit Borphukan was the youngest son of Momai Tamuli Borbarua, the first Borbarua of upper-Assam and Commander-in-Chief of the Ahom army under King Pratap Singha. His father Momai Tamuli Borbarua, was a bonded labourer against a loan of four rupees, is his early life, later he turned to minister and a noble.  He was chosen for the position of Borphukan by Chakradhwaj Singha.  After being defeated by Lachit and his forces, the Mughals army sailed up the Brahmaputra river from Dhaka towards Assam advancing to Guwahati. The Mughal Army under Ram Singh I consisted of 30,000 infantry, 15,000 archers, 18,000 Turkish cavalry, 5,000 gunners and over 1000 cannons besides a large flotilla of boats.  Ram Singh, the Mughal commander in chief failed to make any advance against the Assamese army during the first phase of the war. An arrow carrying a letter by Ram Singh telling that Lachit have been paid rupees one lakh and he should evacuate Guwahati was fired into the Ahom camp, which eventually reached the Ahom king, Chakradhwaj Singha 

Lachit Borphukan was victorious and the Mughals were forced to retreat from Guwahati.  Today, November 24 is celebrated as Lachit Divas (Lachit Day) in Assam to commemorate the heroism of Lachit Borphukan and the victory of the Assamese army at the Battle of Saraighat.  The best passing out cadet of National Defence Academy is conferred the Lachit Borphukan gold medal every year from 1999 

Now the Nation is celebrating its forgotten heroes correcting the wrongly portrayed history.  PM Shri Narendra Modi ji  will attend the valedictory function being organised in Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan on 25 November to celebrate the 400th birth anniversary of Ahom commander Lachit Barphukon. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Assam government has geared up for the three-day-long celebrations of the 400th birth anniversary of Ahom general Lachit Barphukon in the National Capital.  The first day of the event began  on 23 November with Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman inaugurating an exhibition. Today Union home minister Amit Shah will be the chief guest for the plenary session at Vigyan Bhawan. In February, former president Ram Nath Kovind had launched Barphukon’s birth anniversary celebrations and laid the foundation of a 150-foot bronze statue of the legendary commander being constructed at Hollongapar near Assam’s Teok.  

Hail those great warriors of our homeland, Jai Hind.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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