Assam’s iconic Charaideo Moidam nominated for UNESCO World Heritage List 2023-24

Charaideo Moidam
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Assam’s iconic Charaideo Moidam is India’s nomination for a coveted spot on the UNESCO World Heritage List 2023-24. If included, Ahom dynasty’s rich history and heritage would be globally recognized and Assam will have three world heritage sites, including Kaziranga National Park and Manas National Park.

These ancient burial mounds, dubbed the “Pyramids of Assam”, are a testament to the Ahom dynasty‘s reign and offer a unique glimpse into their cultural and architectural practices.

Located approximately 30 kilometers from the town of Sibsagar, the Charaideo Moidams have over 90 royal burial mounds spread across a vast expanse of greenery. These earthen mounds, resembling pyramids in their structure, have stood witness to centuries of history.

In response to a question posed to Union Minister for Culture and Tourism, G. Kishan Reddy, in the Rajya Sabha about India’s final list of nominations for the World Heritage site for 2023-24 and the criteria for selecting these sites, he stated, ‘The nomination dossier for ‘Group of Moidams – The Mound Burial System of the Ahom Dynasty’ has been submitted as India’s official nomination for the year 2023-24.’

Reddy further added, “Selection of sites or properties for World Heritage nomination depends upon its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), Authenticity and Integrity. These sites must fulfil one of the criteria of OUV as mentioned in the UNESCO Operational Guidelines, 2023.”

The Tai-Ahom dynasty, which ruled Assam for nearly 600 years (13th-19th centuries), employed a unique burial tradition distinct from other Indian dynasties. These Moidams contain remains of Ahom dynasty royalty.

Out of the 386 Moidams explored so far, only 90 royal burials at Charaideo are well-preserved. Among these, only 30 have been protected by the Archaeological Survey of India. The remaining mounds are in need of immediate preservation due to damage caused by human encroachment.

As per the description given in the UNESCO site, Moidams are vaulted chamber (chow-chali), often double storied entered through an arched passage. Atop the hemispherical mud-mound layers of bricks and earth is laid, where the base of the mound is reinforced by a polygonal toe-wall and an arched gateway on the west. Eventually the mound would be covered by a layer of vegetation, reminiscent of a group of hillocks, transforming the area into an undulating landscape.

Excavation shows that each vaulted chamber has a centrally raised platform where the body was laid. Several objects used by the deceased during his life, like royal insignia, objects made in wood or ivory or iron, gold pendants, ceramic ware, weapons, clothes to the extent of human beings (only from the Luk-kha-khun clan) were buried with their king, according to the website.

The Tai-Ahom clan, upon their migration from China, established their capital in different parts of the Brahmaputra River Valley between 12th and 18th CE, it added.

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