GUWAHATI, March 13 - In the medieval period, Guwahati was a fortified city. For, it was a theatre of war from the early 13th century of the Current Era (CE) or AD, till the end of the 17th century CE. The evidence of epigraphs and the existence of moats and ramparts scattered around the modern city testify this. Thus observed Prof Paromita Das, head of the Department of History, Gauhati University (GU).
Referring to Montgomery Martin�s The History Antiquities Topography and Statistics of Eastern India, (Vol. V, 1976 1st Indian Reprint, New Delhi), she said due to its topography, Guwahati was found wonderfully suited for defensive warfare. While describing the 19th century CE Guwahati, Montgomery Martin writes, �Goahawtee occupies an extent of hilly country on both banks of the great stream; the hills on each side form a specious amphitheatre which have been equally well fortified by nature and art.�
Referring to renowned historian Dr Surya Kumar Bhuyan, Prof Das said Guwahati was chosen as the war base due to its strategic location. From Dr Bhuyan it is learnt that in the 17th century Guwahati witnessed the construction of defensive ramparts on an extensive scale, which encircled the city on both banks as stated in verse 161 of the Kamrupar Buranji and also in the Assam Buranji. Some of these ramparts survive till date. Inscriptions on stone and rock discovered in the city mark the entry points called duars, set up during this period. There were five such duars or chowkis on either side of the Brahmaputra as corroborated by contemporary literature of the time.
The western entrance on the South Bank, called Duar Garila, was at the southern foot of the Nilachal Hill. The eastern entrance, called Jai Duar, was located near Chandmari. The northern entrance was through the Pani Duar at Latasil. It was accessible by the river. Another entry point near the river was at Pandu, to the west of the Nilachal Hill. The southern entrance to the city called Dharam Duar was at Fatasil Ambari.
Montgomery Martin says on the North Bank of the river, the town �occupies the space within the following passes through the fortified hill, namely, � Kanaibarasibowa, Sillar Chowki, Sindurighopa, Pat Duar and Pani Chowki or Korai Chowki.�
Besides the construction of earthen ramparts, which closed the gaps between the hills surrounding Guwahati, barrages and sand ramparts were also constructed along the river bank, as for instance the Shahburuz and the Rangaliburuz (buruz means barrages) on the north and south bank of the river respectively, near the area of the modern Saraighat bridge, right up to Sat Mile and Lankeswar.
It is also recorded in the chronicles that when Mansur Khan had come (to reoccupy Guwahati in 1769 CE), to construct a barrage (paniguj garh) the requirement had been 1,280 ora soukha. Leaf/page number 17 of the manuscript 43 of the city-based Directorate of Historical and Antiquarian Studies states that the ramparts should be constructed between two hills to close the gap and at the corner of each there should be a thana or chowki.
Prof Das said during the above period, for nearly 400 years, Guwahati witnessed a long drawn conflict for its occupation by the Mughal rulers from the west, and the local and regional ruling houses. Following the division of the Koch kingdom after the death of Chilarai, there were continuous conflicts between the descendants of Chilarai and the descendants of Naranarayana.
She said the Ahoms and Mughals were drawn into these conflicts between the Koch rulers and this ultimately led to prolonged conflicts between the Ahom and Mughal kingdoms.