Lachit Borphukan And The Battle Of Saraighat - Everything You Need To Know

The Battle Of Saraighat
The Battle Of SaraighatPratidin Time

In 1671, the Mughal Empire and the Ahom Kingdom fought a naval battle on the Brahmaputra River, close to Saraighat and this happened to be the ultimate attempt of the Mughals to expand their dominion into Assam.

The Battle Of Saraighat

Located midway between the mighty Mughal Empire and the very formidable Ahom Kingdom was the Koch Kingdom. The Ahom Kingdom relied heavily on this buffer state to halt the imperialist advances of the Mughals.

When Nara Narayana, the former king of the Koch Kingdom, passed away in 1587, things began to shift. After this, his son Lakshmi Narayan took control of the western Koch Bihar region, while his nephew Raghudev took control of the Koch Hajo region in the east.

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In 1602, when Lakshmi Narayan forged an alliance with the Mughal Empire, the governor of Bengal, aided by the Mughals, launched an attack against Parikshit Narayan, son of Raghudev, at Dhubri. After Parikshit Narayan's loss in a series of conflicts, his brother Bali Narayana fled to the Ahom Kingdom.

Because of this, the Mughals would have an excuse to conquer the Ahom Kingdom. The Treaty of Asurar Ali in 1639 established the Barnadi river (north) and the Asurar Ali (south) as the boundary between the Ahoms and the Mughals. This was the culmination of a series of battles between the two groups that began in 1615 and ended with varying degrees of success for each side. As a result, Kamrup would come under Mughal rule.

In 1660, after Aurangazeb's accession to the Mughal throne on July 31st, 1658, he ordered Mir Jhumla II to conquer all of Assam. In 1661, he led an invasion force that was victorious in numerous engagements against the Ahoms and led to the conquest of Garhgaon, the Ahom capital. Mir Jhumla was debating whether to surrender his recent achievements because of constant guerilla fighting and floods caused by the heavy rains.

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Unfortunately, the Ahom Kingdom's monarch, Jayadhwaj Singha, didn't know this and instead filed a peace treaty. Mir Jhumla took the opportunity presented, and the humiliating Treaty of Ghilajharighat was signed in 1663. The treaty's stipulations were so severe that the Ahoms were even more determined to put an end to Mughal rule in the region forever.

What triggered the Battle of Saraighat ?

After signing the treaty, Jayadhwaj Singha became hopelessly depressed and died. Before he passed, however, he praised his cousin and successor, Chakradhwaj Singha, for his determination to get revenge for the defeat that had so disheartened him.

Chakradwaj Singha, upon becoming king, immediately set about rebuilding the Ahom army, creating alliances with neighbouring kingdoms, and constructing new forts in the strategic corners of the country in anticipation of another conflict with the Mughals. He decided that Lachit Borphukan would be the guy to head his new army.

The Mughals tried to persuade the kingdom via diplomacy to become a subordinate state under their empire, but they were unsuccessful. After the Ahom army was reorganised, Lachit led a march on Guhwati. Lachit wrested control of the territory from the Mughals by conquering the five choukies that protected Guhawati.

During that time, the Mughals advanced on the Ahoms, but constant Ahom raids on their stronghold along the Manas river eventually led to their capitulation. This way, the Manas River, formerly the Ahom Kingdom's frontier, was once again under the right hands.

When news of the loss at Guwahati reached the emperor, he sent Raja Ram Singh and a large force of 30,000 soldiers and 18,000 cavalry to take over Guwahati. Since Lachit's men were outnumbered and outgunned by the Mughal army, Lachit opted to exploit the mountainous terrains of Guwahati to his advantage by employing a hit-and-run strategy and taking advantage of the lack of wide fields, which weakened the Mughal cavalry.

It was impossible to progress eastward without crossing the Brahmaputra at Saraighat, a strategically thin section of the river. With a series of mud embankments, Lachit's idea forced the Mughals to rely on their fleet, which was their weakest point.

The conflict soon deteriorated into a series of back-and-forth skirmishes, during which neither side gained any significant gains. In spite of Ram Singh's victory at Alaboi (1669), the Ahoms persisted in their resistance.

Ram Singh even resorted to deception in an attempt to get rid of Lachit Borphukan, but ultimately failed. Both the Mughal and Ahom sovereigns' patience had worn thin by this point, and they had given orders for a final battle to be conducted at Saraighat in 1671.

Final Conflict in Saraighat

After Ram Singh's diplomatic efforts to oust the Ahom soldiers from Saraighat failed, he launched a huge naval assault against them. Admiral Munnawar Khan spearheaded the assault. With their losses at Alaboi still fresh in their minds and Lachit in critical condition, the Ahoms were in a hopeless bind.

As the Mughal army advanced in technology and numbers, the Ahom army began to withdraw. Lachit proclaimed loudly that he would rather die doing his job than flee from the Mughal army, and he continued to charge them. Their leader's charge toward the enemy energised the Ahom soldiers, and they quickly joined the fight

In close quarters, the Ahom troops' tiny boats proved crucial since the larger Mughal boats could not manoeuvre swiftly enough to engage them with their cannons. An immediate brawl broke out, resulting in Munnawar Khan's death.

The Mughals had to quickly flee after this and the deaths of several more key officials. The Mughals had lost their best soldiers in the river battle, forcing Ram Singh's land forces to retire. Lachit stopped his soldiers at the Manas River, where the Mughals had been halted, to consolidate his victories. With the Ahoms defeated, Ram Singh would soon depart for Rangamati.

The fallout from the Saraighat Battle

In 1672, one year after the Battle of Saraighat, Lachit Borphukan died from natural causes. Despite the decisive nature of the battle, the Ahom-Mughal wars continued for some time afterward. When Lachit's successor Laluk Sola abandoned the city in 1679, it fell under Mughal hands.

The Ahom Army, led by Dihingia Alun Borbarua, defeated the Mughals at the battle of Itakhuli in 1682, and the territory reverted to the Ahom Kingdom. The Mughals' presence in Assam and any additional expeditions they might have planned against the Ahom Kingdom ended with this final fight.

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