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About Charaideo Maidams of Assam

Jan 26, 2023

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Enhance your UPSC CSE preparation with our daily dose of Current Affairs wherein we discuss topics that make news at National and International level.

In today's edition of our Current Affairs, we will discuss Charaideo Maidams of Assam. The topic's relevance to the UPSC CSE syllabus is mentioned below.

For Prelims: History of India and Indian National Movement

Historical and Archaeological Findings in News, Ahom Kingdom, UNESCO, World Heritage Sites in India 

For Mains: General Studies Paper I- Indian Culture 

Context

The Centre has decided to nominate Assam’s Charaideo Maidams — the Ahom equivalent of the ancient Egyptian pyramids — for the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list this year.

Probable Question

Explain about Charaideo Maidams. What is a World Heritage Site and how is a place declared as one? (150 words, 10 marks)

About Assam’s Charaideo Maidams

Assam’s Charaideo Maidams
  • Comparable to the pyramids of Egypt, the maidams represent the late medieval (13th-19th century CE) mound burial tradition of the Tai Ahom community in Assam.
  • Located around 30 km from Sivasagar town in eastern Assam, the Charaideo Maidams enshrine the mortal remains of the members of the Ahom royalty, who used to be buried with their paraphernalia- items the dead needed for the “afterlife”, as well as servants, horses, livestock and even their wives. 
  • The Ahoms preferred to place the departed family members at Charaideo where the first king Sukapha was laid to rest.
  • After the 18th century, the Ahom rulers adopted the Hindu method of cremation and began entombing the cremated bones and ashes in a Maidam at Charaideo.
  • Out of 386 Maidams or Moidams explored so far, 90 royal burials at Charaideo are the best preserved, representative of and the most complete examples of mound burial tradition of the Ahoms.
  • Charaideo is also believed to be the place of the ancestral Gods of the Ahoms- abode of God Lankuri, identified with Lord Shiva.

Architectural details

  • The maidam comprises a massive underground vault with one or more chambers having domical superstructure.
  • It is covered by a heap of earthen mound and externally it appears a hemispherical mound.
  • At the top of the mound, a small open pavilion chow-chali is provided.
  • An octagonal dwarf wall encloses the maidam.
  • The height of a maidam is typically indicative of the power and stature of the person buried inside. 

Significance of the site

  • 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.”
  • The nomination of the Charaideo Maidams has attained significance at a time when the country is celebrating the 400th birth anniversary of Lachit Barphukan, who was the legendary general from the Ahom Kingdom who fought the Mughals in 1671.
  • There is currently no World Heritage Site in the category of cultural heritage in the northeast. 
  • The maidams is one of the 52 sites across the country seeking the World Heritage Site tag.
  • Currently, the Maidams are managed by the Archaeological Survey of India and the State Department of Archaeology under the Ancient Monuments and Sites Remains Act 1958, and under the Assam Ancient Monuments and Records Act 1959.

Who are the Ahom people?

  • The Ahom, also known as the Tai-Ahom, are an ethnic group found in the Indian states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. 
  • Members of this group are mixed descendants of the Tai people who arrived in Assam's Brahmaputra valley in 1228 and the local indigenous people who joined them over time. 
  • Sukaphaa, the Tai group's leader, and his 9000 followers founded the Ahom kingdom (1228-1826 CE), which ruled over much of the Brahmaputra Valley in modern Assam until 1826.
  • The Ahoms were one of India’s longest-reigning ruling dynasties. 

Also Read: Assam-Meghalaya Border Settlement

About Ahom dynasty

  • The Ahom Dynasty, a late medieval kingdom, was established in Assam's Brahmaputra Valley in 1228.
  • Chaolung Sukaphaa, the first King of the Ahom Kingdom, crossed the Patkai mountainous region to reach the Brahmaputra valley and laid the foundations of the Ahom Dynasty.
  • Charaideo, more than 400 km east of Guwahati, was the first capital of the Ahom dynasty founded by Chao Lung Sukaphaa in 1253.
  • The rule of this dynasty ended with the Burmese invasion of Assam and the subsequent annexation by the British East India Company following the Treaty of Yandaboo in 1826. The British emperor took charge of the state and thus began the colonial era of Assam.

What is a World Heritage Site and how is a place declared as one?

  • A World Heritage Site is a location  that is listed by UNESCO, for its “outstanding universal value”. 
  • This signifies “cultural and/or natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity”.
  • According to the World Heritage Convention’s operational guidelines, a tentative list is an “inventory” of properties a country believes deserve to be a World Heritage Site. 
  • After UNESCO includes a place in the Tentative List, that country has to prepare a nomination document that will be considered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. 
  • This will be followed by a UNESCO evaluation and an inspection by their representative.
  • India has 40 world heritage sites that include 32 Cultural properties, 7 Natural properties and 1 mixed site.
UNSECO World Heritage Sites inIndia
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO):

UNESCO, born on 16th November 1945,  is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN), aimed at promoting world peace and security through international cooperation in education, arts, sciences and culture.

The Organization has 193 members and 11 Associate Members.

Membership of the United Nations carries with it the right to membership of UNESCO. States that are not members of the United Nations may be admitted to UNESCO, upon recommendation of the Executive Board, by a two-thirds majority vote of the General Conference.

Its headquarters are located in Paris.

Mission: To contribute to the building of a culture of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information.

UNESCO is a member of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group, a coalition of UN agencies and organizations aimed at fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

News Source: The Hindu

https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/pyramid-like-ahom-burial-mounds-to-be-indias-nomination-for-unesco-world-heritage-site-tag/article66416742.ece

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is Ahom maidam?

Comparable to the pyramids of Egypt, the maidams represent the late medieval (13th-19th century CE) mound burial tradition of the Tai Ahom community in Assam. Located around 30 km from Sivasagar town in eastern Assam, the Charaideo Maidams enshrine the mortal remains of the members of the Ahom royalty, who used to be buried with their paraphernalia.

When was Charaideo declared a district of Assam?

Charaideo district is an administrative district in the state of Assam in India. It was formally declared a new district of the state on 15 August 2015 by then Chief Minister of Assam Tarun Gogoi

What is Charaideo famous for?

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 famous for its maidams, which make the district an attractive tourist destination.

Who is the founder of Ahom dynasty?

The Ahom Dynasty, a late medieval kingdom, was established in Assam's Brahmaputra Valley in 1228. Chaolung Sukaphaa, the first King of the Ahom Kingdom, crossed the Patkai mountainous region to reach the Brahmaputra valley and laid the foundations of the Ahom Dynasty.

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