Mahabir Chilarai is the one and only great warrior and legend of South Asia, who is equally respected by all the Koch Rajbanshis of India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan for his bravery, greatness and contribution. Mahabir Chilarai was born in 1510 AD in the Koch Royal Family of Kingdom of Kamatapur, an area presently part of India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal.
Chilarai alias Shukladhwaj Rai was the 3rd son of Biswa Singha, who established the Koch Dynasty in Kamatapur, the erstwhile Kamrup Country. After the death of Biswa Singha, his 2nd son Naranarayan become the ruler of Kamata Kingdom and Chilarai was entrusted with the responsibility of defense and administration of the vast country as both Generalissimo and the Dewan (Prime Minister). He was also the official Prince of the Kingdom. In his capacity as the Generalissimo of the large Koch Army, Shukladhwaj displayed such skills and promptness of action that he was nicknamed as Chilarai or the Kite King. As the Generalissimo of Kamatapur, Chilarai invaded the Ahom Kingdom and conquered the same. The Koches under the leadership Chilarai conquered Kachari Kingdom, Khairam (Khasi Kingdom), Jayantiya Kingdom, Dimorua, Manipur, Tripura, Mymensing and Srihatta or Sylhet. In the later part of his life, Chilarai joined hand with the Mughals and invaded Gauda (Bengal) and divided Gauda between Mughal Empire and the Koch (Kamatapur) Empire. During Chilarai’s time the country of Kamatapur was bounded on the west by the country of Mithila, on the east by the extreme frontier of Assam, on the North by the Himalayans and on the south by the shores of Bay of Bengal. Chilarai had consolidated the power of the Koch Dynasty in Kamatapur and transformed the infant Kingdom to a national domain.
Related: Bir Chilarai Divas - Assam
Chilarai was instrumental in giving shelter to the great Vaishnavite saint Sankardev in Kamatapur, after Sankardev was thrown out from the Ahom Kingdom. Sankardev completed most of his literary work in Kamatapur under the patronage of Naranarayan and Chilarai. Chilarai himself was a great scholar and he himself wrote an analytical annotation of poet Joydeva’s Geet Govinda as Sarabatisar and left an indelible imprint in Sanskrit literature.
Chilarai rebuilt the famous temple of Kamakhya which was in ruins that time. The present structure of the Kamakhya Temple is a contribution of Chilarai and Naranarayan. A stone image of Chilarai still stands inside the temple as a mark of his contribution. Originally called Suklwadev, he came to be known as Sangram Singha, Shukladhwaj, Samar Singha, Chilarai and many more. Mahapurush Sankardev conferred on him the title of Parama Rasiko Guru Raja Shukladhwaj ( King Shukladhwaj, the greatest preceptor of knowledge & art). Chilarai died after conquering Gauda (Bengal) due to small pox in the year 1571. As a mark of his this legendary warrior and Scholar of South Asia, every year his birth anniversary is observed across South Asia.
The birth anniversary of this great warrior and legend is celebrated every year as Bir Chilarai Divas across South Asia. From the year 2005, the Government of Assam (Indi) has been conferring Bir Chilarai Award, the highest honour for bravery to individuals.