Assam is celebrating the 400th birth anniversary of one of the state’s greatest sons, 17th-century Ahom general Lachit Borphukan. Assam celebrates Lachit Devas every year to commemorate Lachit Barphukans heroism and the victory of the Ahom army at Saraighat on 24 November.
The best cadet from the National Defence Academy (NDA) is awarded the Lachit Borphukan gold medal. The medal was instituted in 1999 to inspire defence personnel to emulate Borphukan’s heroism and sacrifices.
Who is Lachit Borphukan?
Lachit Borphukan led the Ahom army to defeat the Mughals in the 1671 battle of Saraighat. Borphukan used a brilliant combination of guerilla tactics, subterfuge, diplomacy, daring and psychological warfare to attack the Mughal army. As a result, his army was able to defeat the much larger army of the Mughals.
Borphukan was originally named Lachit Deca. he was born to Momai Tamuli, who later rose to become the first Governor of Upper Assam and Commander-in-Chief of the Ahom army (Borbarua).
Lachit Borphukan rose the ranks to become the head of the Ahom army under King Chakradhwaj.
Lachit Borphukan was also offered a bribe of one lakh to abandon his army, such was the valour and power of the Ahom hero. The Mughals knew that they would not stand a chance against the Ahom army if it was led by Borphukan and this was also proven in the battle.
The Ahom kings ruled large parts of what is now known as Assam for nearly 600 years, from the early 13th century to the early 19th century. This was a prosperous, multi-ethnic kingdom which spread across the upper and lower reaches of the Brahmaputra valley, surviving on rice cultivation in its fertile lands.
The Ahoms engaged in a series of conflicts with the Mughals from 1615-1682, starting from the reign of Jahangir till the reign of Aurangzeb. One of the major early military conflicts was in January 1662, where the Mughals won a partial victory, conquering parts of Assam and briefly occupying Garhgaon, the Ahom capital.
The counter-offensive to reclaim lost Ahom territories started under Ahom King Swargadeo Chakradhwaja Singha. After the Ahoms enjoyed some initial victories, Aurangzeb dispatched Raja Ram Singh I of Jaipur in 1669 to recapture the lost territory — eventually resulting in the Battle of Saraighat in 1671.
The Saraighat War
The Battle of Saraighat was a naval battle fought in 1671 between the Mughal Empire, and the Ahom Kingdom led by Lachit Borphukan on the Brahmaputra river at Saraighat.
The Ahom army launched a massive attack on the invaders and when the Mughal admiral Munnawar Khan was killed by a gunshot, the Mughal naval force became leaderless and they could not maintain the attack and ultimately had to retreat.
The Ahoms chased them up to Manas River, which became the boundary between the two kingdoms. It is said that the loss in the Saraighat battle was one of the factor contributing to the fall of the Mughal dynasty. The Mughals never attempted to capture Assam after the 1671 war.