Of grit, guts and gallantry: Celebrating Veer Lachit
Kangkana Goswami Bharadwaz
They say “It is fatal to enter a war without the will to win it”. Having said that, one can only imagine, the vigour, the valour, the grit, guts and gallantry required to plunge into the battlefield terribly ill and tired, leading a handful of outnumbered exhausted soldiers, facing a massive fleet of much larger and better equipped Mughal soldiers consisting of a humongous 30000 infantry, 15000 archers, 18000 Turkish cavalry, 5000 gunners and over 1000 cannons besides a large flotilla of boats and then, finally gambling with destiny to register extraordinary victory in the battlefield of the Brahmaputra. Almost the last stage of the Mughal pursuance, the ‘Saraighat Battle’ not only witnessed the indomitable spirit of the Ahom Commander-in-Chief, but is also considered as an exemplary record of martial ardour, military acumen, guerrilla warfare, battlefield psychological combat, diplomatic prowess, unconventional battlefield tactics and above all unapologetic patriotic sentiment of Lachit Borphukan.
It is in such high regard for the astute Ahom commander and one of the most revered military icons of the country, that the National Defence Academy has dedicated the ‘Best Cadet’ award attributed to him, for Defence personnel to be inspired by Borphukan’s heroism and patriotic integrity. A statue of Lachit Borphukan also stands tall, right at the entrance of the National Defence Academy, as a symbolic depiction of the unusual fortitude and mettle that a defence personnel should master. However, even though the case of Lachit Borphukan’s victory against Mughal emperor Aurangzeb is considered as one of the most unbelievable, unprecedented, un-paralleled and un-imaginable instance of military triumph, this story of one of the most iconic naval faceoffs in history, remains less told and lesser known.
Lachit Borphukan, a general of the Ahom contingent was the protagonist of the historic win of the Ahoms over the mighty Mughals, and is more prominently known for his guerrilla assault on the enemy leading a contingent of only seven boats in a never seen before naval encounter in the river Brahmaputra. The huge Mughal contingent led by their commander Ram Singh, barged into the edges of Guwahati with a naval convoy sailing upwards the Brahmaputra. Losing the will and courage to confront the enemy, a few from Borphukan’s contingent started retreating. It was at such a crucial point, when a severely ill Lachit Borphukan announced his uncompromising determination to take on the mammoth enemy at any cost and complete the task assigned to him by the king. He also loudly proclaimed that he would “die fulfilling his duty to his king and country, even if it meant he had to do it by himself”. Undeterred by any dissent, Lachit Borphukan boarded a boat and with seven other boats, advanced towards the Mughal fleet, tricked the Mughals in naval warfare and launched an all-out guerrilla assault against the enemy. Such show of gallantry along with the naval prowess of the Ahoms shook the confidence of the invaders, broke their will-power, battering and butchering the enemy’s ill designed imperialist tendencies and forcing them to retreat. Accepting and acknowledging defeat at the hands of the Ahoms, the Mughal Commander-in-Chief Ram Singh wrote, "Glory to the king! Glory to the counsellors! Glory to the commanders! Glory to the country! One single individual leads all the forces!”
The unparallel unapologetic patriotic temperament of the Ahom general is a testament of impenitent love for his land even at the stake of his family. His emotional indulgence and sense of loyalty towards his motherland is intense, so much so, that he did not mind beheading his own maternal uncle for his sluggish, half-hearted and lackadaisical attitude in matters of National security. It was an instance when Borphukan instructed to build several mud embankments in Guwahati to restrict the movement of the Mughal cavalry to trick and subterfuge them to take the naval route, knowing very well their weakness in naval preparedness. One such embankment in Agyathuri was supposed to be completed overnight, failing which the Mughals could barge into Guwahati gaining an extra edge for an ensuing battle on the plains. Borphukan expected his subjects to understand the expediency of the matter and work throughout the night to get the task completed. However, on his midnight inspection visit when he found the soldiers asleep, he rushed to question his maternal uncle who was the supervisor of the project. On being asked about the rational behind such half-hearted attitude, his maternal uncle reasoned that the soldiers were extremely tired. A furious Lachit couldn’t tolerate such negligent, procrastinating and non-indulgent disposition of his uncle and the very next moment chopped of his head ferociously stating, “Dekhotkoi Momai Dangor Nohoy” ! (The country is above all)
Lachit Borphukan was also known for his integrity and adherence to battlefield norms. Lachit’s principled pursuance of war-field rules found expression when he instructed his men not to attack the retreating Mughal contingent while they were taking the route through the Manas River in the western boundary of the Ahom Kingdom.
The Battle of Saraighat can be seen as one of decisive battles because of which, history registered North East India as the only region in India that the Mughal couldn’t invade and inspite of multiple attempts were left licking the dust, vanquished, defeated and made to retreat.
In sincere efforts to place on record the heroic story of Lachit Borphukan on the world stage, the BJP led Govt in Assam has decided to take the onus of accrediting the legend with due honour, regard and attribution. The officials of the Assam Government is working on a war footing to successfully celebrate the 400th birth anniversary of the Ahom General, slated to be staged in Delhi this year. In February this year, former President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind had officially inaugurated the yearlong celebrations and in sync with the same, the Chief Minister of Assam, Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma has urged and appealed other States to include a chapter on Lachit Borphukan in their academic curriculum.
It fills one’s heart with immense amount of happiness, pride, contentment and emotional surge to see posters, banners, hoardings and full train brandings of the National warrior displayed at several prime locations in Delhi, marking the start to a grand and majestic celebration on the 24th of November this year in Vigyan Bhawan. The event is also expected to be graced by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Shri Amit Shah among several other top brass leaders. Given the amount of valiance showed and sacrifice made by the son-of-the soil, it is high time that the story of the unsung hero permeates into the heart of every man of India for them to feel and sense the true essence of patriotism in letter and spirit. On Coming 24th November this year, lets drench our patriotic self in celebrating the saga of the warrior who played the ‘Sentinel’ to the North East. A story Of Grit, Guts and unconventional Gallantry !
The writer is Media Panelist ,BJP Assam Pradesh