GUWAHATI, Aug 7 - Renowned archaeologist Dr Pradip Sarma delivered a lecture on the royal era maidams of Assam at a function jointly organised by the city-based conservation society Heritage Conservation Society of Assam (HeCSA) and the Assam Higher Secondary Education Council (AHSEC) here today as the first Shishupran Nabin Sarma Memorial Lecture.
Dr Sarma, an authority on the maidams and a well-known writer, said maidams, the graves of the Ahom nobles, are unique to Assam and they form an inseparable part of the heritage of the State. It is a responsibility of the State’s people to conserve these maidams, he asserted.
Portuguese naval commander Mirjumla Granius wrote in his account after the AD 1662 Assam invasion that the booty they collected from the ten maidams, including the one belonging to Swargadeo Pratap Singha, was so enormous that they were highly satisfied. This statement of Granius suggests that the maidams were filled with riches in huge quantities, said Dr Sarma.
Though the maidams are conceptually similar to the pyramids, structurally, they are different, said Dr Sarma. He referred to the history of Changrung Phukan, who was the head of public works during the Ahom rule, to provide an idea of the structures of the maidams and the materials used to construct them.
Though the maidam tradition is there in parts of China and some Southeast Asian countries like Laos and Thailand, the Ahom rulers modified the designs of the structures of these graves, he said. In reply to questions, he said the heads of the vanquished enemies were placed under the staircases of the maidams because of the belief that with such acts the spirits of such enemies could be kept under control forever.
Speaking on the occasion, HeCSA president Himangshu Shekhar Das, who is also the present Chief Information Commissioner of the State, said the State has a lot of items to be conserved. “When we talk about heritage conservation, we need to be selective,” he cautioned.
He pointed to the fact that very less has been discussed on the conservation of the pre-Sankaradeva heritage, in which the Buddhist and Jaina cultures played a dominant role.
The function, presided over by AHSEC secretary Kamaljyoti Gogoi, was also addressed by HeCSA secretary Jayanta Sarma, among others.