Mula Gabharu: Ahom Warrior Who Killed Two Lieutenants of Muslim Army in 1533 Battle
Have you heard about the brave and valiant Mula Gabharu of Assam? Except few from Assam, not many of you must have even heard her name! She was one of the few warriors who fought bravely in battlefield against Muslim invaders. She killed two Mohammedan Lieutenants in battle until she was treacherously killed by the enemy in the same battlefield. Like many other unsung warriors of India, she finds no place in Indian History text books. Instead it is the feat of invaders that is glorified.
Islamic invaders from Bengal made several attempts to conquer Kamrupa, now called Assam. In 1206, King Prithu of the Khen dynasty that drew their lineage from Narakasura, badly defeated Bakhtiyar Khilji. Do you know Khilji was the first Islamic invader to attack Assam? In 1527 A.D., Rukunuddin Rukun Khan, the general of Nasiruddin Nasrat Shah, the Sultan of Bengal invaded Kamrupa only to be defeated by the Ahoms. Viswa Singha was then the Ahom king of Kamrupa. Hearing about the defeat of Rukun Khan, the Sultan dispatched his general Mit Manik with an army of one thousand horsemen and ten thousand foot soldiers. In this battle, the Ahoms won. Mit Manik was taken prisoner while Rukun Khan fled from the battlefield. The Ahoms captured a large booty including some fire arms.
Nasiruddin Nasrat Shah was the son of Ala-ud-din Husain Shah, founder of the Hussain Shahi dynasty in Bengal. Husain Shah 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. After the failed attempt of invading Assam in 1527, Nusrat Shah again sent a huge army under the commandership of Turbak Khan, an Afghan in 1532 AD.
The Mohammedan army, comprising of both land and naval forces, 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, “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.
A series of battles between the Ahoms and the Mohammedan forces were fought between 1532 and 1533 AD. 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.
In 1533 AD, the Ahom forces in one of these battles were led by Ahom commander Phrasengmung Borgohain. The title Borgohain is the 2nd in rank in the Ahom court of ministers conferred by Sukaphaa, the founder of the Ahom dynasty. Burhagohain was the 1st in rank, conferred by Sukaphaa. Later, Suhungmung added three more ranks, the descending order of which, were Borpatrogohain, Sadiakhowa Gohain, and Marangikhowa Gohain. All of the five ministers were entrusted with supervising certain Ahom territories and of leading armies in battle.
Turbak Khan treacherously killed Phrasengmung Borgohain in battle. The death of the commander demoralized the Ahom forces. Meanwhile, the slain Ahom general’s wife Mula Gabharu heard the news about her husband’s death. Like Goddess Shakti, Mula Gabharu immediately set to action, marching towards the battlefield in a horse with a flashing sword in hand, all ready to strike!
Only a couple of years back, Mula Gabharu had expressed her desire to Phrasengmung Borgohain to get trained in the art of warfare. The Ahom general gave in to her request. Right from riding a horse in battlefield to use of sword and other arms used in warfare, she soon became an expert.
To defend her motherland from the Muslim forces and to avenge the death of her husband, Mula Gabharu rode into the large Mughal forces, striking hard on either side as she marched ahead like lightning amid the dark clouds. Many a soldier was slain. The Ahom forces were greatly motivated and inspired by her feat and they fought with renewed vigor. She came face to face with one of the Lieutenants of Turbak Khan. Without much effort, she struck him with her sword and killed him. Mula Gabharu confronted another Lieutenant of the Mohammedan forces. She struck him and killed him too. And then she confronted Turbak. The Afghan commander treacherously killed her. Neither party won.
The Ahoms, now commandeered by Tonkham Borpatra Gohain, another general, 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. The final battle took place at Duimunisila along the banks of the mighty Bharali (tributary of Brahmaputra) river a few days later. Tonkham Borpatra Gohain defeated the Mohammedan forces and killed Turbak Khan. 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.”
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 after they begged pardon for release. Had the prisoners been under captivity of a Muslim king, they would have been mercilessly killed. Indian Hindu rulers always followed the rule of dharma and they were never harsh on their enemies or prisoners of war.
Mula Gabharu’s brave participation in the war and her sacrifice had raised the spirits of the Ahom forces to fight for victory. They won. Thus Mula Gabharu won! My India My Glory salutes the valor and sacrifice of Mula Gabharu. Jai Hind!
1. Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature: Devraj to Jyoti, Volume 2, Amaresh Datta
2. The Comprehensive History of Assam, H.K. Barpujari.
3. War Drums of Eagle King,P.W. Ingty
4. History of Upper Assam, Upper Burmah and North-Eastern Frontier, Leslie Shakespear.
Featured image courtesy: brandedindians.com (representation image) and Facebook (real image).