Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lachit Barphukan

[I wrote his piece on Lachit Barphukan, in 2003, for a friend who wanted to it for some project or something. I recently retrieved the file from an old CD. I tried to rewrite it, but realised that the piece is so badly written that, it's beyond my powers to do anything about it]

A contemporary to Aurangazeb and Chhatrapati Shivaji, Lachit Barphukan’s claim to fame does not lie in the military glory of Shivaji or in the political masterminding of Aurangazeb. Lachit is more of a symbol of uncompromising patriotism in Asom. History is almost silent about him, except for a brief mention in the context of the war of Saraighat. Thus, we know that there really existed a man called Lachit Barphukan who was a General and the governor of the lower part of Asom, signified by his title Barphukan.

Those days titles were not hereditary. It was given to a person according to his abilities. The majority of surnames that we find among Asomiya people now are the derivations of the original titles conferred to people by the Ahom kings.

Ahom kingdom in Asom was established by King Sukafa, who declared himself king in the year 1228. From that day onwards Ahom ruled Asom till 1838. There was none at home to dispute the authority of the Ahoms. The neighboring tribal kingdoms were dominated by the Ahoms by the power of the sceptre, or by the power of friendship.

In the Ahom kingdom, geographically, Asom was divided into two parts, the Brahmaputra valley, Guwahati and its surrounding areas were called Lower Asom, as it is called today. Beyond this point stretching to the hills of Arunachal Pradesh was Upper Asom. The seat of the Ahom kings was Gadhgaon in Sibsagar district. It was impossible for a foreign army to invade the capital, for if you are coming from the mainland India, you have to cross Guwahati, and before Guwahati numerous rivers and indescribable rain forests. The very reason why Asom is/was accused of being a jungle country, a country of red rivers and blue hills. This is also the reason no outside force could attack Asom. When it happened, the reasons were personal quibbles at home when one commander, another Barphukan, left his country, met the Burmese kings of modern day Myanmar, and invited an army.

The ‘Maan’ people, as Burmese were known in Asom, created havoc and the reigning king had to seek help from the British stationed in Shrirampore in Bengal. British came, the treaty of Iandaboo was sealed and the independence of Asom was gone forever.

Back to Lachit, Aurangazeb is the Baadshah of Delhi, a strong military leader with a greedy dream to become the ruler of entire India, including Asom. He sends 18 military troupes to Asom only to taste failure. He is furious. He wants Asom into his authority at any cost. He sends one of his brightest officers Mir-Zumla, the Governor of Bengal, for one last time with a stern order, “Get me Asom or never return.”

Mir-Zumla is an expert of war. The advantage with him now is that he has all the possible information regarding the climate, people, land and local warfare. He can prepare himself well and this time nothing can stop him from winning.

This is the reign of Chakradhvaj Singh. He is a weak ruler given to pleasure and woman. He is a bad name to the Asom dynasty. But he is a king nonetheless. The lower Asom is governed by Lachit Barphukan. It is not many months since Lachit has campaigned against the Mughals and made them run away. The king is mightily happy with him. After the victory, everyone is taking time to share their sense of victory.

Seems Allah is in favour of Mir-Zumla at last. He faces no serious obstacles in the way and in three months time he almost reaches Guwahati. He has already occupied all the important forts of the lower Asom and Guwahati is within his reach.

When the news of the Mugals coming reaches Lachit, he is severely ill. The spy, who got the news, is surprised by the fact that no preparations has been done to stop the invading army. Lachit is confused. How can he arrange a big army overnight to fight with 12 thousand horses and thirty thousand foot soldiers of the Mughals? Soon the news reaches the king. He sends a massage to Lachit: “Give Guwahati to them and make a truce so that they leave from there.”

This massage angers Lachit. In return he sends a pair of women’s clothing, complete with bangles and all, and a letter asking the king to wear those if he is scared. Lachit writes, till there is the last breath on the last Asomiya soldier, they will not give Asom to the invaders. He asks the spy how the enemy is coming. The spy informs that they are coming by foot and is planning cross the Brahmaputra at Saraighat.

Instantly, Lachit orders his men, “To Saraighat. We are going to build a fort at Saraighat.” His juniors think that the fever has made Lachit delirious. How can you plan to build a fort in one day? Tomorrow, the enemy is reaching Saraighat. It would be wise idea to surrender Guwahati. But Lachit is adamant. He won’t listen to any counsel.

He gets up for his sick bed and marches to Saraighat with all the able-bodied men he could find in Guwahati. Soon men get busy in their job. Even his sickness does not stop him from inspection and encouraging his men.

Soon it’s midnight and the fort is not yet half ready. Lachit’s maternal uncle, who was also in the group, finally gathers some courage, encouraged by his fellow men and approaches Lachit, “The men are tired. It’s midnight. Can they take some rest?”

The whole idea of rest infuriates Lachit. He gets up from his bed, draws his sword and with a single stroke of the sword cut his maternal uncle into two pieces, saying, “Mama is not greater than the motherland.”

The shock and courage of this incident gives a new enthusiasm to Lachit’s men. They work with all their might and as the morning approaches, the fort is ready.

Mir-Zumla arrives and he is caught unaware. He was not expecting a surprise. And after a bloody war that lasted for the whole day he is defeated.
The dream of Aurangazeb remains a dream.

Till date, in Asom, Lachit is remembered for his brave act of killing is maternal uncle, and for his sense of duty and for his unprecedented patriotism.

Here’s the detail account of Lachit Barphukan's exploits >>>>>>

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