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Preparations on to get World Heritage Site status for Charaideo Moidams’ cluster
Ajit Patowary

 GUWAHATI, Oct 14 - Efforts are on to prepare the final dossier of the Charaideo Moidams’ cluster to wrest the UNESCO World Heritage Site status for it. Moidams, the vaulted-mound burial chambers, were the products of the mound burial practice of the Ahom dynasty of medieval Assam. The UNESCO included the Charaideo Moidams’ cluster, located in the district of Charaideo, a part of the old Sivasagar district, in its tentative list of World Heritage Site, following the submission made by India’s Permanent Delegation to UNESCO on April 15, 2014. UNESCO has listed these Ahom era archaeological monuments under criteria-V, cultural category, for according them the World Heritage Site status.

 The State’s Archaeology Directorate has received a special package of Rs 25 crore from the State Government during the 2019-’20 fiscal year, for development of the infrastructure of the archaeological site of the Charaideo Moidams, Director, Archaeology Dr Deepi Rekha Kouli said. She informed that the State Government has constituted an advisory committee to monitor the infrastructure development works at the Charaideo archaeological site and to formulate policies for inscription of this cluster as a World Heritage Site as well. This advisory committee met for the first time on October 12, 2020 at the Conference Hall of the Directorate of Information and Technology, under the chairmanship of Cultural Affairs Minister (Archaeology and Library Services) Keshab Mahanta.

At the meeting, Dr Kouli and the former Director of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) Dr KC Nauriyal made a power point presentation – ‘Moidams – the Mound Burial System of the Ahom Dynasty, A Tentative World Heritage Site of Assam – A Way Forward,’ covering all the aspects of the Charaideo Moidams, including their history and archaeological importance. They also underlined the basic concepts of the UNESCO World Heritage Site status and focused on the success story of the in-house preparation of the nomination dossier of the Queen’s Stepwell (Rani-ki-Vav) in Patan town of Gujarat, besides making a detailed presentation on the conservation, excavation and infrastructure development of the Charaideo Moidams.

A meaningful interaction among the participants of the meeting followed their presentation. The participants included Minister of State (Independent) for Revenue and Disaster Management etc., Jogen Mohon, former Minister Hiranya Konwar, Chairman Assam Higher Secondary Education Council Dr Dayananda Borgohain, Additional Chief Secretary, Cultural Affairs PK Barthakur, Commissioner and Secretary, Cultural Affairs Preetom Saikia and Director of Museum YS Wunglengton.

Some of the committee members, who included Sonari LAC MLA Nabanita Handique, Joint Director General (Conservation and World Heritage) of the ASI Janhwij Sarma, ASI’s Guwahati Circle Superintending Archaeologist D Bhuvan Vikrama and the Deputy Commissioners of Sivasagar and Charaideo districts, participated in the meeting through video conferencing. Prof Jogendra Nath Phukan, who could not attend the meeting, sent his suggestions through e-mail.

Charaideo has remained the only area where the largest concentration of the vaulted-mound burial chambers exist in a cluster, demonstrating a grand royal burial landscape unique to the Ahom dynasty.

Dr Kouli informs, hitherto, 41 moidams have been found at Charaideo, located on the foothills of the Patkai range of hills in the present day Charaideo district. While State’s Archaeology Directorate is looking after 37 of these moidams of various sizes, the ASI is looking after four relatively big-size moidams in this cluster. Most of these moidams are believed to be of the Ahom kings and queens. Moidams here were constructed between AD 13th century and AD 18th century, Dr Kouli said.

The final World Heritage Site dossier will cover all moidams in the cluster and the tanks connected with them. The tanks include the Sa Dhowa Pukhuri (meant to wash the dead bodies), Petu Dhowa Pukhuri (meant to wash the intestines of the dead ones), Kor Dhowa Pukhuri (meant to wash the spade used in moidam construction) etc, said Dr Kouli.

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