UNESCO World Heritage Tag / Ahom Dynasty / Charaideo Maidams

Context: The Centre has decided to nominate Assam’s Charaideo Maidams — the Ahom equivalent of the ancient Egyptian pyramids — for the UNESCO World Heritage Centre this year, said the Chief Minister of Assam, Himanta Biswa Sarm. 

About the News 

  • Centre has decided to nomiate Assam’s Charaideo Maidams, representing the late medieval (13th-19th century CE) mound burial tradition of the Tai Ahom community in Assam, from among 52 sites across the country seeking the World Heritage Site tag. 
  • The nomination of the Charaideo Maidams has attained significance at a time when the country is celebrating the 400th birth anniversary of Lachit Barphukan. 
  • There is currently no World Heritage Site in the category of cultural heritage in the northeast.  

About 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 and the subsequent annexation by the British East India Company following the Treaty of Yandabo in 1826. 
  • In external medieval chronicles the kings of this dynasty were called Asam Raja, whereas the subjects of the kingdom called them Chaopha, or Swargadeo . 
  • Charaideo, more than 400 km east of Guwahati, was the first capital of the Ahom dynasty founded by Chao Lung Siu-Ka-Pha in 1253. 
  • Lachit Barphukan  was a commander in the erstwhile Ahom kingdom and is known for his leadership in the 1671 battle of Saraighat that thwarted an attempt by Mughals to capture Assam. The ‘Battle of Saraighat’ was fought on the banks of Brahmaputra in Guwahati. 

About Charaideo Maidams 

  • Charaideo Maidam was a burial ground of the Ahom monarch and is a sacred place for the Ahom community. Charaideo Maidam, about 28 km from Sivasagar city, is also famously known as the “Pyramids of Assam“. 
  • Charaideo is said to have served as the capital of the Ahom kingdom. There are some 31 maidams belonging to kings and some 160 of queens. 
  • 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. 
  • 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 

About world heritage Sites 

  • World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  
  • World Heritage Sites are designated by UNESCO for having cultural, historical, scientific, or other forms of significance. The sites are judged to contain “cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity” 
  •  As of August 2022, a total of 1,154 World Heritage Sites (897 cultural, 218 natural, and 39 mixed properties) exist across 167 countries. With 58 selected areas, Italy is the country with the most sites on the list. 

Criteria for UNESCO World Heritage Sites:

  • Human creative genius.
  • Interchange of values.
  • Testimony to cultural tradition.
  • Significance in human history.
  • Traditional human settlement.
  • Heritage associated with events of universal significance.
  • Natural phenomena or beauty.
  • Major stages of Earth’s history.
  • Significant ecological and biological processes.
  • The significant natural habitat for biodiversity

Types of World Heritage SitesCultural, Natural and Mixed sites

  • Cultural heritage sites include hundreds of historic buildings and town sites, important archaeological sites, and works of monumental sculpture or painting. 
  • Natural heritage sites are restricted to those natural areas that (1) furnish outstanding examples of Earth’s record of life or its geologic processes, (2) provide excellent examples of ongoing ecological and biological evolutionary processes, (3) contain natural phenomena that are rare, unique, superlative, or of outstanding beauty, or (4) furnish habitats for rare or endangered animals or plants or are sites of exceptional biodiversity.
  • Mixed heritage sites contain elements of both natural and cultural significance. 

UNESCO world Heritage sites in India 

  • As of 2022, there are 40 World Heritage Sites located in India. Out of these, 32 are cultural, 7 are natural, and one, the Khangchendzonga National Park, is of mixed type.  
  • India has the sixth largest number of sites in the world. The first sites to be listed were the Ajanta Caves, Ellora Caves, Agra Fort, and Taj Mahal, all of which were inscribed in the 1983 session of the World Heritage Committee.  
  • The most recent site listed was Dholavira and kakatiya temple at Warrangal, in 2021. 
  • Number of UNESCO sites in Assam is two- Kaziranga National Park and Manas National Park. 
  • One site is transnational, The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier is shared with six other countries. 
  • In addition, India has 49 sites on its tentative list. 

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