Ahom strategic planning and Mughal attacks - Guwahati War

Sep 20, 2021 - 01:09
Sep 20, 2021 - 01:17

Aware of Mughal military might and the weakness of the Ahom militia, especially against the professional cavalry and mounted forces in open fields, Lachit Borphukan and the other commanders decided to choose the terrain of the battlefield with care.

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The choice fell on Guwahati, which was hilly, on the way to the heart of the Ahom kingdom and without open fields where the Mughal forces would not have sufficient mobility. The only way east was via the Brahmaputra river passing through it. The Brahmaputra at Saraighat, at its narrowest 1 km width, was ideal for naval defence.

To check Mughal advance, Lachit prepared a complex system of mud embankments in Guwahati When the Mughals found Guwahati impregnable by land, they would be forced to use their navy, which was their weakest asset.

Lachit set up his headquarters at Andharubali, the sandbanks between the Kamakhya and Sukreshwar hills. The deliberations of the war council were recorded and made into a manual.

When the Mughal march reached the Manas river in March–April 1669 and defeated some Ahom forces, Lachit decided on a strategic retreat to Guwahati.

Three Rajkhowas were asked to meet the Mughal forces and retreat to Guwahati, keeping the Mughal forces in sight but beyond the reach of their weapons.

When the Mughals reached closer, he started a sham negotiation via the captured Firuz Khan with Ram Singh, who had set up camp at Agiathuti, calling the Mughal Emperor the "Bhai Raja" (brother sovereign) to the Ahom king.

And when he was ready for the Mughal attacks, he sent words to Ram Singh that "Guwahati and Kamrup do not belong to the Mughals" since they were taken from the Koch and that the Assamese were prepared to fight to the last.

A period of battles between the Ahom and Mughal forces in the region of Guwahati followed, with varied results with forts changing hands many times. In these battles, the Mughal forces were arraigned in four divisions:

The north bank, commanded by Ram Singh himself.

The south bank, under Ali Akbar Khan, Mir Sayyid Khan, Raja Indramani, Raja Jaynarayan and Marul Khan.

The Sindurighopa entrance, under Jahir Beg, Kayam Khan, Ghanashyam Bakshi, and three Baruah's from Koch Bihar—Kavisekhar, Sarveshwar and Manmatha.

The river, guarded by the naval commanders Mansur Khan, Latif Khan, Iswarpati, firinghees (Europeans) and one Kapidan Raja.

In these attacks, the Ahom allies—the Garos, the Jaintia, the Nagas, the Rani of Darrang, the Raja of Rani, and even the monsoons of 1669—joined the battle.

The Ahom defence was arraigned as:

The north bank, under the command of Atan Burhagohain.

The south bank, under the command of Lachit Borphukan.

Both commanders had a number of pali commanders each defending a specific strategic area, with each pali reorganized in response to the challenge posed by Ram Singh's forces.

Aurangzeb received information of the lack of progress in August 1669 and made arrangements with the Subahdar of Bengal, Shaistha Khan, to provide reinforcements to Ram Singh. This period is also known for Atan Burhagohain's dagga judha (guerilla warfare). Ram Singh protested that these harassing campaigns lowered the "dignity of warfare", and withdrew from fighting (October 1669 – March 1970), to no particular military advantage.

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