General of Ahom King Suhungmung Defeated and Killed Afghan Turbak Khan in 1533 AD
Indian History textbooks hardly glorify the exploits of Indian warriors who won in battles against Islamic invaders. Many freedom fighters, who played an instrumental role in freeing India from the clutches of the British, have not found a place in History. Instead, it is the invaders who are glorified. From the north to the south, east to the west, there are hundreds of winning exploits of warriors, both men and women. It is time History textbooks are rewritten!
It was the year 1533 AD. Turbak Khan, the experienced Afghan general of Nasiruddin Nasrat Shah, the Sultan of Bengal, attacked Assam with a huge army. Nasiruddin Nasrat Shah was the son of Ala-ud-din Husain Shah, founder of the Hussain Shahi dynasty in Bengal. He usurped the throne of Bengal after assassinating Shams-ud-Din Muzaffar Shah, an Abyssinian Sultan. After his death in 1519, he was succeeded by his son Nasrat Shah. The Sultan’s army commandeered by Turbak Khan were armed with guns and cannons besides other weapons used in battle during that time.
According to the book War Drums of Eagle King written by P.W. Ingty, “Turbak was given command over a large army comprising of both land and naval forces, and with this impressive and powerful army he invaded the territories under Ahom influence. The forces led by Turbak Khan were well equipped with sufficient rations and armaments; their soldiers were well trained and seemed unbeatable as they moved steadily on the north bank of the Brahmaputra towards the core of the Ahom-held territories.”
Ahom king Suhungmung was then the ruler of Assam. The 14th Ahom ruler, he ascended the throne of the Ahom kingdom under the title of Swarganarayan, Dihingia Raja in 1497. Under his rule, the Ahom kingdom expanded beyond the previous borders.
Suhungmung’s army was commandeered by his general, Tonkham Borpatra Gohain (Barpatra Gohain is a title given by the king to the 3rd in rank in the Ahom court of ministers). The battle took place at Duimunisila along the banks of the mighty Bharali river. In the words of Leslie Shakespear from his book History of Upper Assam, Upper Burmah and North-Eastern Frontier, the Ahom Raja “sent large reinforcements by land and river. Turbak’s forces were defeated, he himself killed, and his head, as was customary, was sent for burial on Charaideo hill. The beaten and disorganized forces were pursued by the victorious Ahoms through Koch territory to the Karatoya river.”
The battle of Duimunisila in 1533 is the last of a series of battles fought between Turbak Khan and the Ahom forces that started in 1532. The first battle was fought between Turbak and Ahoms at Singri. This battle was commandeered by Suklen, the son of Suhungmung. Suklen was defeated and wounded in this battle. The Ahom forces retreated over to the south bank of the Brahmaputra. The Mohammedan forces followed. Several more battles followed at different places with neither party at the winning end. The Ahoms made a change of their war tactics. They positioned themselves in such a way so as to cut off all supply and communication lines of the army of Turbak Khan with their homeland and headquarters at Gauda, Bengal.
In the words of P.W. Ingty, “The indomitable Turbak Khan, however, decided to press on with his expedition in spite of this setback and also to depend upon locally available resources. Turbak Khan’s forces soon reached the Dikrai river, where they found that the Ahoms had positioned themselves on the other bank of the river under Ahom general Tonkham, an experienced fighter….Suhungmung had entrusted Ahom general Tonkham with the task of driving back the Muslim invaders. At this point of time, Turbak Khan’s army was already running low of rations and there were no fresh supplies or reinforcements coming from Gauda. As a consequence of which the troops under Turbak Khan were in no position to take on the strongly entrenched Ahoms”.
The Mohammedan forces waited and watched. The Ahom forces laid on them a series of guerilla attacks, which not only reduced the numbers of the enemy forces but also dampened their morale and spirits. In a few days’ time Turbak’s army weakened further. And the final battle took place at Duimunisila. The defeat of Turbak’s naval forces weakened the Turbak’s battle strength and he was ultimately killed by the Ahom general. Historical references find mention of the first use of firearms by the Ahoms in these battles.
Leslie Shakespear further writes, “At the fight the recorded Mahomedan losses were over 2500 men, twenty-two ships and many big guns; so that with the losses in the pursuit the Moghul casualty list must have been a long one; while the booty that fell to the pursuers is stated to have been twenty eight elephants, a great number of guns and matchlocks, with a quantity of gold and silver ornaments and utensils. It is now that we find the Ahoms taking to firearms and utilizing the numbers captured from the Moghuls in preference to bows and spears.”
After Turbak was killed, the Ahom forces of Suhungmung pursued the Mohammedan army till the Karatoya river in present day North Bengal. Later, the captured prisoners of war were allowed to settle in Assam.
1. The Comprehensive History of Assam, H.K. Barpujari.
2. War Drums of Eagle King, P.W. Ingty
3. History of Upper Assam, Upper Burmah and North-Eastern Frontier, Leslie Shakespear.
Featured image courtesy (the images shown are for representation purpose only. They may not depict the characters mentioned in the title or the article body): The Northeast Today and ScoopWhoop.