General Studies IHISTORYMedieval India

Lachit Borphukan


Indian President will inaugurate a year-long celebration of the 400th birth anniversary of Lachit Borphukan.

Who was Lachit Borphukan?

  • He served as a commander in the kingdom of Ahom.
  • Born in 1671, he is most known for his leadership in the Battle of Saraighat, which ended a protracted effort by Mughal troops under the command of Ramsingh I to seize control of the Ahom kingdom.
  • The Engagement of Saraighat was fought on the banks of the Brahmaputra River near Guwahati, and it was the first battle of the Indian Empire.
  • Each year since 1999, the Lachit Borphukan gold medal has been awarded to the cadet who achieves the highest level of achievement at the National Defence Academy (NDA).

Background of Lachit Borphukan

Lachit Borphukan was born on 24 November 1622 to Momai Tamuli Borbarua and Kunti Moran. His father was the commander-in-chief of the Ahom army. The Ahom kingdom was located in the Brahmaputra valley of eastern India. It was first established in 1228. The kingdom was repeatedly assailed upon by Turkic and Afghan rulers of the Delhi Sultanate and later the Mughal Empire

The Mughal-Ahom conflict first began in 1615 and continued afterwards. It was in this backdrop  Lachit grew up in. Upon completing his education in humanities and military strategies, Lachit was given the responsibility of serving as the Soladhara Barua (scarf-bearer) a modern-day equivalent of a private secretary to the Ahom King. He held other important positions such as Superintendent of the Stable of Royal Horses and Superintendent of the Royal Household guards before being appointed as the commander of the Ahom Army.

Byt the time of Lachit Borphukan’s appointment as commander, the Mughals had occupied Guwahati and had forced the Ahom’s to sign the humiliating peace treaty of  Treaty of Ghilajharighat in 1663 which imposed harsh conditions on the Ahom kingdom. King  Chakradhwaj Singha resolved to rid the entire region from Mughal occupation, a will that would be carried out by Lachit Borphukan.

Steps to honour him

  • The Lachit Borphukan gold medal is awarded to the best cadet from the National Defence Academy.
    • It was instituted in 1999 to inspire defence personnel to emulate Borphukan’s heroism and sacrifices.
  • The 35-feet-tall statue of Ahom general Lachit Borphukan in the middle of the Brahmaputra in Guwahati was inaugurated by former chief minister Tarun Gogoi in 2016.

The Battle of Alaboi

  • Ahom kings ruled large parts of what is now Assam, and parts of what are neighbouring states today, for nearly 600 years between the 13th and 19th centuries.
  • Between 1615 and 1682, the Mughal Empire made a series of attempts, under Jahangir and then Aurangzeb, to annex the Ahom kingdom. 
  • In January 1662, Mughal Governor of Bengal Mir Jumla’s forces engaged with the Ahom army and went on to occupy part of the territory under Ahom rule.
  • In 1669, Aurangzeb dispatched the Rajput Raja Ram Singh I to recapture territories won back by the Ahoms.
  • The battle of Alaboi was fought on August 5, 1969, in the Alaboi Hills near Dadara in North Guwahati  between the Ahoms and Mughals in which the Ahoms suffered severe reverses and thousands of its soldiers were killed.

About Battle of Saraighat:

  • The battle was fought on the Brahmaputra River near Saraighat and was the last major attempt by the Mughals to extend their empire into Assam.
  • It is regarded as one of the great battles fought between the mighty Mughal and the Ahom Kingdom in 1671.
    • Ahom forces combined a frontal attack and a surprise attack from behind. They lured the Mughal fleet into moving ahead by feigning an attack with a few ships from the front. 
    • The Mughals vacated the waters behind them, from where the main Ahom fleet attacked and achieved a decisive victory.
  • The battle was a decisive one but it didn’t bring the Mughal- Ahom conflict to an end.
    • Later in the battle of Itakhuli in 1682, the Mughal presence in Assam came to an end.

About Ahom Kingdom

  • Founder:
    • Chaolung Sukapha was a 13th century ruler who founded the Ahom kingdom that ruled Assam for six centuries. The Ahoms ruled the land till the province was annexed to British India in 1826 with the signing of the Treaty of Yandaboo.
  • Political Setup:
    • Ahoms created a new state by suppressing the older political system of the bhuiyans (landlords).
    • The Ahom state depended upon forced labour. Those forced to work for the state were called paiks.
  • Society:
    • Ahom society was divided into clans or khels. A khel often controlled several villages.
    • Ahoms worshipped their own tribal gods, yet they accepted the Hindu religion and the Assamese language.
      • However, the Ahom kings did not completely give up their traditional beliefs after adopting Hinduism.
    • Intermarriage with local also increased assimilation processes of Ahoms in Assamese culture.
  • Art and Culture:
    • Poets and scholars were given land grants and theatre was encouraged.
    • Important works of Sanskrit were translated into the local language.
    • Historical works, known as buranjis, were also written, first in the Ahom language and then in Assamese.
  • Military Strategy:
    • The Ahom king was the supreme commander of the state as well as the Military. The Ahom king himself led the state forces in the time of wars. The Paiks were the main army of the state.
      • There were two types of Paiks i.e. serving and nonserving. The non-serving Paiks constituted a standing militia which could be mobilized at a short notice by the kheldar (an expert military organizer).
    • The full contingent of the Ahom Army consisted of infantry, navy, artillery, elephantry, cavalry and spies. The main war weapons consisted of bows and arrows, swords, Javelins discus, guns, match-locks and cannons.
    • The Ahoms sent spies to the enemy’s camp to study the strength and the war strategies of the enemies before leading an expedition.
    • The Ahom soldiers were experts in guerilla fighting. Sometimes they allowed the enemies to enter the country, then cut off their communications and attack them in front and rear.
    • Few important forts: Chamdhara, Saraighat, Simlagarh, Kaliabar, Kajali and Pandu.
    • They also learnt the technique of constructing boatbridges in the Brahmaputra.
    • Above all, the mutual understanding among the civil and military wings, unity among the nobles always worked as strong weapons of the Ahoms.

Source: Times of India

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