The army general who fought a battle even when he was ill – Lachit Borphukan


Assam, at the plains of the Brahmaptura river, with its plentiful bounty and beautiful mountains  was a coveted territorry for the Mughals during their invasion in the 17th century. The Mughals made repeated attempts to capture Assam. During a period of internal dissension, the Mughals had taken advantage of these conflicts and captured Guwahati and never stopped trying to go annex more territory in Assam. However, they were badly defeated in the Battle of Saraighat in 1671, and following that, Assam remained under the Ahom rulers until the end of their rule. The battle of Saraighat was fought on the banks of the Brahmaputra in the Guwahati region.Once, when Lachit was young, the Ahom king Chakradhwaj Singha questioned him about his opinion on the repeated Mughal invasion. Lachit displayed exceptional levels of courage  and strategic thinking while answering the question, following which he was appointed the commander in chief of the Ahom army. The Ahom soldiers, under the genius of their brave commander in chief Lachit Borphukan used very smart military strategies like guerilla warfare, diplomatic negotiations and clever choice of terrain and ultimately won a battle that they had little chance of winning.

While Aurangazeb, the Mughal ruler, sent out his army to further invade into Assam and annex more territory, the Ahom army, under Lachit Borphukan prepared to recapture Guwahati,  and claim that which rightfully belonged to them. Lachit Borphukan won the option to pick the battlefield, and he picked Saraighat due to the favorable terrain that would help the defending Ahom army to engage in guerilla warfare. The incoming Mughal army would have to expend a lot of energy trying to cross the mountains that flanked the Saraighat plains. Also Saraighat was at a strategic position on the Brahmaputra river, and this allowed the Ahom army to attack the Mughal navy. Lachit Borphukan knew that the navy was the weakest part of the Mughal army, and hence he chose to take advantage of the opponent’s weaknesses and decided to attack the opponent from the waters. Lachit was an intense patriot and he strived to fulfil his duties towards his people by using the smartest military strategies also paying attention to causing the least damage to his own army.

When the battle started, Lachit had fallen very ill and was incapable of going out to the battlefield to fight. The advance of the strong Mughal army was scary and it was discouraging the morale of the Ahom army. When Lachit discovered how discouraged and scared his army was, he could not rest himself. He reasoned that his duty to protect his people was far more important than taking care of his health. He immediately ordered that seven boats be brought to him, fully loaded. He dressed for war and got ready to attack from the water. Seeing their ill commander chief gear up for action and listening to his effective pep talks about why the war must be won and why the people of Assam need to be protected, the rest of the army also got inspired and together they set to action. The Mughal army had not expected this sudden attack from the waters. Also, the charged Ahom army had wreaked a lot of havoc and caused a lot of damage to the Mughal side. At this stage, the Mughal army retreated and Guwahati was returned to its rightful rulers.

Shortly after the war, Lachit Borphukan died.  His immense courage and dedication to his people is remembered with great respect by the Assamese people. They celebrate the 24th of November as Lachit Divas (Lachit Day), in honor of their brave leader who died on this day.

It is impossible for many people to strain their body to fulfil a higher cause. Even small problems like a headache or stomach ache can bring people’s morale down. These small pains can draw so much of attention that a man forgets about everything else but his pain.When most people’s minds are so weak, only someone driven by exceptional sense of patriotism and love for his people, would forget his intense pain and be ready to sacrifice his life to fulfill the duty of protecting his people. Such was the patriotism of this great Lachit Borphukan. It is recorded that he said – “When my countrymen are suffering from invasion, and when my army is fighting and sacrificing its life, how can I think about resting my body due to a mere illness? How can I think about going home to my wife and children when my entire country is in trouble?” Saying thus, he got out of bed and prepared to fight, despite his illness.

We do not have any pictures/portraits of Lachit Borphukan anymore. But it is recorded by poets that he had a very handsome face that shined with the brightness of the full moon. A man’s face would no doubt radiate beauty when his heart is filled with pure love. The heart of Lachit Borphukan was filled with love indeed – pure, sincere, fierce and untainted love for his country and countrymen. Such are the kind of patriots India produces.

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  1. #1 by rajanigandhaa on August 29, 2009 - 10:34 pm

    that’s new.. i ve never heard of hime before..
    was a good read!
    thnk u for sharing it!

    -matangi

  2. #2 by srivi019 on August 30, 2009 - 1:49 pm

    Dear Matangi
    I also did not know anything about him. My fiance’s friend had suggested his name and that is when I found out and decided to write something here.
    I am also learning so much by writing this blog. 🙂
    Thanks for reading!
    Yours sincerely,
    Srividya

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