The untold story of Lachit Borphukan, the man who saved Northeast India from Mughal invasion!

India is not just a land of heroes but one of several unsung heroes; who have either been forgotten with time or completely left out of history. There are numerous men and women, from every corner of this country, who have been pushed into oblivion instead of being celebrated and their feats being made public.

If history has been unjust, now is the time to correct it. One such hero of the North East who has been kept away from history books and public memory is Lachit Borphukan. To him goes the credit of stopping the Mughal onslaught and keeping them from invading North East, thereby preserving Hindu culture and local traditions prevalent there. Lachit was the son of Assam’s first governor Momai Tamuli Borbarua. He rose to prominence in the Ahom kingdom due to his bravery that helped him to save his kingdom from the aggression of the Mughals.

Aurangzeb was a fanatic tyrant who had made it the mission of his life to invade and capture kingdoms and convert the people of those places to Islam. He had inherited a huge kingdom from his ancestors however rebellion had broken out across the length and breadth of the Mughal kingdom. Just like Guru Tegh Bahadur Singh and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj revolted against the Mughals in the North and West, Borphukan kept the Mughals away from North East. He displayed exemplary courage and military courage in his battles with the Mughals and wrested Guwahati from them thus irking Aurangzeb further. In recognition of his contributions in keeping Assam free from Mughals, he was made the general of the forces by the Ahom king.

The battle of Saraighat points out not only towards his extraordinary courage but his strategic excellence as well. That he was a military genius was proven in this battle. When Lachit Borphukan recaptured Guwahati, Aurangazeb’s fury knew no bounds. He sent a huge army consisting of 30000 infantry, 4000 troopers, 2000 archers, 18000 cavalries and 40 ships; under the commandership of Ram Singh of Amber. Despite being outnumbered, Lachit and his troops gave the Mughals a run for their money. A good commander knows both his as well as his opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. Borphukan knew it was impossible to defeat the Mughal army on land. He was also aware that the Mughal army would be no match for the Ahom troops when it came to water warfare. He, therefore, had mud embankments built and drew the Mughal army towards Guwahati where he could engage them in warfare on the Brahmaputra.

Just like the Marathas he used guerrilla tactics to chip away at and harass the Mughals. However, in one such skirmish, the tactics of the Ahoms failed and Borphukan lost around 10000 men to the Mughal swords. Ram Singh then sent a proposal for surrender to Ahom King Chakradwaj Singha. The latter refused to accept the offer. Ahoms suffered a setback when Lachit Borphukan fell ill at a crucial juncture of the battle. As an ideal leader he knew it was his duty to keep the troops motivated and he led from the front. He not just entered the battlefield despite his illness but inspired his men with a fiery speech. He refused to rest at home with his family when his country was under threat. He acknowledged that his first duty was towards his country. In the final assault he put to use all the tactics he had learnt over his lifetime and attacked the Mughals from the rear killing their commander Munnawar Khan. Due to the efforts of Lachit Borphukan, Assam was saved from the clutches of the Mughals and continued to be ruled by the Ahoms.

He has a bust dedicated to him and describing his feat at the battle of Saraighat at the National Defence Academy (NDA). Also, a gold medal has been instituted in the name of Lachit Borphukan which is given to the best cadet passing out of NDA. Every year his birthday, 24th November, is celebrated as Lachit Divas in Assam. It is high time we recognize heroes such as Borphukan who played a crucial role in stopping the Islamic onslaught of the Mughals.

Latha Iyer