Assam's Charaideo Moidams Burial Sites Nominated for UNESCO World Heritage Site List
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma announced on Saturday that the central government has decided to put forth the name of Assam’s Charaideo moidams burial sites for addition to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites list. The Charaideo moidams are royal burial sites of the Ahom dynasty, which ruled over much of Assam and the North East from 1228 to 1826 AD.
What are Moidams?
- A moidam is a tumulus – a mound of earth raised over a grave – of Ahom royalty and aristocracy. While Charaideo exclusively contains moidams of Ahom royals, other moidams of aristocrats and chiefs can be found scattered across Eastern Assam, in the region between the towns of Jorhat and Dibrugarh.
- Inside the chambers of the moidam, the dead king would be buried along with items he needed for the “afterlife”, as well as servants, horses, livestock and even their wives. It is the similarity of the Ahom burial rites with that of the ancient Egyptians that give Charaideo moidams the moniker of “Pyramids of Assam.”
Why was Charaideo Important?
- The word Charaideo has been derived from three Tai Ahom words, Che-Rai-Doi. “Che” means city or town, “Rai” means “to shine” and “Doi” means hill. In short, Charaideo means, “a shining town situated on a hilltop.” Charaideo is considered to be the first capital city established by king Sukaphaa in 1253 AD.
- Throughout the Ahom rule, it remained a symbolic and ritual center of power, due to its salience in the dynasty’s founding. After Sukaphaa was laid to rest in Charaideo in 1856, subsequent royals also chose it as their own resting place. Today, these moidams are major tourist attractions.
Relevance of Ahoms in Present Day
- The Ahoms were one of India’s longest-reigning ruling dynasties. At their peak, their kingdom stretched from modern-day Bangladesh to deep inside Burma. Known to be able administrators and valiant warriors, the Ahom dynasty has enduring cultural appeal in Assam.
- Historian Arup Kumar Dutta stated that the Ahoms represented a time when the “Assamese race was united and able to fight an alien, formidable force such as the Mughals”. This has become even more relevant with BJP’s nationalist rhetoric growing stronger.
If selected, the 90 royal burials at Charaideo will be the only cultural heritage site in the North East to receive the coveted status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This nomination reflects the Prime Minister’s love and respect for the rich cultural heritage of Assam and the North East. The IBA will review the model locker agreement and send it to banks by February 28, 2023.
Written by IAS POINT