GUWAHATI: The State government is keen on promoting the Charaideo Maidams of the Ahom era, and is examining the possibility of inclusion of these maidams in the ‘World Heritage’ list. The State government has already earmarked Rs 25 crore for the preservation, protection, and preparation of dossier for the ‘World Heritage site’ proposal.
Once a site has been nominated and evaluated, it is up to the inter-governmental World Heritage Committee under UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific Cultural Organisation) to make the final decision on its inscription. Once a year, the Committee meets to decide which sites will be inscribed on the ‘World Heritage List’.
On request of the State government, a delegation of the World Heritage cell of the Cultural Affairs Ministry will be visiting the Charaideo site in September or October to study the feasibility of according it the special tag. Prior to the delegation’s visit, the State Chief Secretary is likely to hold a discussion on this aspect with the Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The Director of State Archaeology department and other officials of the State government will be also present on the occasion.
Already State Archaeology Minister Keshab Mahanta has had parleys on this issue with the Union Culture Minister.
Charaideo was the first permanent capital of the Ahom kingdom established by the first Ahom king Chao Lung Siu-Ka-Pha in 1253. Even though the capital moved to other places over the course of the 600 years of Ahom rule, Charaideo remained the symbol of Ahom power. The royal maidams are found exclusively at Charaideo; whereas other maidams are found scattered in the region between Jorhat and Dibrugarh towns.
The maidams constructed in the Ahom style preserve the typically mummified mortal remains of the Ahom royalty and nobles. Structurally, a maidam consists of vaults with one or more chambers. The vaults have a domical superstructure that is covered by a hemispherical earthen mound that rises high above the ground with an open pavilion at the peak called chow chali. An octagonal dwarf wall encloses the entire maidam.
The maidams are stretched over 578 bighas of land in Charaideo of Upper Assam. While the large four are being looked after by the ASI 34 others are under the Directorate of Archaeology.
Sources informed that the State government wants that the maidams should be under one authority or guardian — either the ASI or the State Archaeology department.
The structural construction and the process of royal burials are explained in historical documents called Chang-Rung Phukanor Buranji, which detail even the articles that were buried. Later excavations under the Archaeological Survey of India found some of the maidams previously defiled, with the articles mentioned in the Buranji (Historical tomes of the Ahom royalty) missing. Many of the maidams were excavated and looted, most famously under the Mughal general Mir Jumla who had occupied Garhgaon (then Ahom capital in Sivasagar) briefly in the 17th century, and under the British after 1826.
The Ahom community in Assam considers excavation of the maidams as an affront to their tradition, because the maidams are associated with the Ahom ancestor worship and the festival of Me-Dam-Me-Phi.
A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area which is selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance, and is legally protected by international treaties. The sites are judged important to the collective interests of humanity.
To be selected, a World Heritage Site must be an already classified landmark, unique in some respect as a geographically and historically identifiable place having special cultural or physical significance (such as an ancient ruin or historical structure, building, city, complex, desert, forest, island, lake, monument, mountain, or wilderness area. It may signify a remarkable accomplishment of humanity, and serve as evidence of our intellectual history on the planet.
The sites are intended for practical conservation for posterity, which otherwise would be subject to risk from human or animal trespassing, unmonitored/uncontrolled/unrestricted access, or threat from local administrative negligence.