Are Ahoms the real Rajputs ?
First off, we should stop saying "Assam" and "Assamese". These are
british coined phrases the Ahom people can never relate to.
Ok, so what ? Why am I talking about the Ahoms ? And what do they
have to do with the Rajputs ? Read on.
The Ahoms have a proud history. They were originally a shan people
(a branch of the mongoloid family). They started migrating from the
region of upper burma into the Brahmaputra valley about a thousand
years back. Over the centuries, they intermingled with natives and
developed a culture which is mixture of various cultures.
The most significant aspect was that though they got absorbed into
hinduism and yet never developed any caste system.
How did this matter ? While the rest of India had capitulated
successively under Turkish, Afghan and Mughal invasions, the Ahoms
did not. They had their own history of aggressive empire building.
Unfettered by caste shackles, every adult Ahom responded to the
King's call to defend their homeland. For three hundred years Mughal
forces repeatedly tried to extend their suzerainty to the Brahmaputra
valley. Hard fought phyrric mughal victories only led to temporary
subjugation. The central asian battle tactics of mughal forces
which worked so well elsewhere, completely failed in these
marshy lands. Midnight boat raids were common and often annihilated
mughal garrisons. The Ahoms managed to preserve their
independence almost all through the mughal period.
The reason I have chosen to highlight this here is that the history
books taught in India are completely silent about this.
What do they teach instead ? That it was the Rajputs that fought
the Mughals. Maintaining silence about the Ahom resistance,
our history books keep eulogizing the Rajputs.
I wish to destroy this myth. Yes, there were was the Rajput
confederacy which fought Babar in Kanwa. But while the battle
is mentioned, it is conveniently omitted that Babar's strength
was one tenth in number. With a force so much smaller, Babar
defeated a confederacy of Rajput kings. So much for Rajput bravery.
If all Rajput kings together could not defeat a much smaller Mughal
army, what were the chances of individual rulers ? Babar is often
wrongly given the credit of establishing the Mughal empire in India.
He did not. It was Akbar. Babar's sole effect in the Indian scenario
was the final destruction of any Rajput chances of a comeback.
After the Kanwa battle, Rajput resistance to Mughal rule was an
exception rather than the norm. Except for Udai and Rana Pratap,
all Rajput kings accepted Mughal supremacy. Far from fighting the
Mughals, a détente evolved between Rajputs and Mughals. Many
Rajput kings accepted ranks within the Mughal ministries. Many
Rajput warriors fought and led wars to help and extend the Mughal
empire (Man singh, Todarmal, Birbal). Many Rajputs created alliances
through marriages of Rajput princesses into Mughal courts. Salim's
mother (Jodha Bai) is the most well known but there were
numerous such cases.
These facts are glossed over in our history books.
Note that nowhere I am saying that Mughal empire was necessarily
a bad thing. Nor am I saying anyone who fought it was good and
anyone who helped it was bad. The peace agreements between the
Rajputs and the Mughals was a blessing for India as it ushered
in some peace in north India. Objective readers of history will
note however, that this was not a friendship of equals.
The subordinate status of Rajputs in this relationship was obvious
due to Rajput kings paying tribute to Mughal emperor and serving
them with arms and men. Also, flow of brides for marriage was
strictly one-way, towards Mughals (i don't condone this attitude but
the reality of our society is that this is a symbol of inferiority).
My goal of writing this post is merely to correct the myth
that Rajputs fought the Mughals and to create an awareness about the