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Ahom burial sites in Assam selected for UNESCO World Heritage tag

Published: 25th Jan, 2023

Context

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

About Assam’s Charaideo Maidams:

  • They belong to the late medieval (13th-19th century CE), built under the mound burial traditionof the Tai Ahom community in Assam.
  • Charaideo, more than 400 km east of Guwahati, was the first capital of the Ahom dynastyfounded by Chao Lung Siu-Ka-Pha in 1253.
  • The country is celebrating the 400th birth anniversary of Lachit Barphukan,a legendary Ahom general whose battle against the Mughals in 1671.

Features of the site:

  • 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 the mound burial tradition of the Ahoms.
  • The Charaideo Maidams enshrine the mortal remains of the members of the Ahom royalty, who used to be buried with their paraphernalia.
  • 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.

The Ahom Dynasty:

  • The Ahom dynasty (1228–1826) ruled the Ahom kingdom in present-day Assam, India for nearly 598 years.
  • The dynasty was established by Sukaphaa, a Shan prince of Mong Mao who came to Assam after crossing the Patkai Mountains.
  • The rule of this dynasty ended with the Burmese invasion of Assam.
  • In external medieval chronicles, the kings of this dynasty were called Asam Raja, whereas the subjects of the kingdom called them Chaopha or Swargadeo.
  • The Ahom rule lasted till the British annexed Assam in 1826, following the Treaty of Yandabo.

The famous battles of Ahoms:

Battle of Alaboi (1669):

  • In 1669, Aurangzeb dispatched the Rajput Raja Ram Singh I to recapture territories won back by the Ahoms.
  • The battle of Alaboi was fought between the Ahom armed force and Mughals trespassers on August 5, 1969, in the Alaboi Hills near Dadarain North Guwahati.

Battle of Saraighat (1671):

  • The battle of Sarai Ghat was one of the most significant warfare in medieval India.
  • The Battle of Saraighat was a naval battle fought between 1671between the Mughal Empire (led by the Kachwaha king, Raja Ram SinghI), and the Ahom Kingdom (led by Lachit Borphukan) on the Brahmaputra river at Saraighat, Guwahati, Assam.
  • Although weaker, the Ahom Army defeated the Mughal Army through brilliant uses of the terrain, clever diplomatic negotiations to buy time, guerrilla tactics, psychological warfare, military intelligence and by exploiting the sole weakness of the Mughal forces (navy).
  • The Battle of Saraighat was the last battle in the last major attempt by the Mughals to extend their empire into Assam.
  • Though the Mughals managed to regain Guwahati briefly later after a Borphukan deserted it, the Ahoms wrested control in the Battle of Itakhuli in 1682 and maintained it till the end of their rule. 

UNESCO Heritage Site:

  • The list of World Heritage Sites is maintained by the international ‘World Heritage Programme’ which is administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.
  • A World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by UNESCO for its special cultural or physical significance.
  • Criteria for inclusion in the List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites:
  • Any heritage or any historical site has to be first on the tentative list to be a part of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites.
  • Once it makes it to the tentative list, then the proposal is sent to UNESCO for inclusion in the final List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, only if the site:
    • Contains significant natural habitats for the conservation of biological diversity, including threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.
  • Associates with events, living traditions, ideas, beliefs, and artistic & literary works of outstanding universal significance etc.
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