“I know a lot about the Mauryans, the Mughals and the Guptas. I have even written exams on these emperors. I know very little about Lachit Borphukan and the Ahoms who ruled Assam for 600 years defeating the Mughals 17 times soundly in battle,” said 12-year-old Aira Goswami in a letter and video addressed to the Prime Minister that went viral on social media. In it, she makes a simple request – that the history of her home state and the rest of northeast India be included in school textbooks in the country, so she could learn about her own people and their past.
There may be a Lachit Borphukan gold-medal awarded to the best cadet at the National Defence Academy every year, and Lachit Divas celebrated on November 24 every year in Assam, but you won’t find much about the epic battle of Saraighat in our history books. The Battle was fought in 1671 between the smaller Ahom army led by Lachit Borphukan and the greater Mughal army, led by Raja Ram Singh under the rule of Emperor Aurangzeb. Combining his incredible tactical knowledge, guerilla warfare and intelligence gathering, Lachit Borphukan led a downstream expedition on the Brahmaputra, to take back a captured Guwahati.
Aurangzeb was an expansionist, shocked by the loss he sent a huge army with Ram Singh to take back what he saw as his kingdom. The Ahoms were outnumbered and knew they could never win if they met the Mughal army on land. Here is where Lachit’s brilliance shone. He knew their army would be at its weakest in water and forced them into naval warfare. It wasn’t always a win for the Ahoms, they lost thousands of men in skirmishes, Lachit even fell terribly ill, but he didn’t let that hold him back. He ordered all the land and naval forces to attack, even led war boats himself into what is regarded as one of the fiercest river battles ever fought. Lachit didn’t fight for religion, leaders or his own glory, but for his land and people and therein lies his greatness that is celebrated each year in Assam.
The North East of our country is consistently and fatally ignored. Whether it’s floods or uprisings, even in the current day scenario, the North East can barely get a word in edgewise to the mainstream narrative. A little bit of historical conclusion, especially one that proves what a vital force they were in ancient India, is as good a starting point as any.
Read in detail about the battle of Saraighat, Lachit Borphukan and the Ahoms here.
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