Moidams - the Mound-Burial system of the Ahom Dynasty


Moidams is part of the Tentative list of India in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.

Moidams comprise the 12th-18th century Mound-Burial system of the Ahom Dynasty. The Tai-Ahom migrated here from China. The moidams contain the burial places of their royals.

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The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.

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Szucs Tamas

Hungary - 21-Jan-24 -

Moidams - the Mound-Burial system of the Ahom Dynasty (T) by Szucs Tamas

Assam - and the whole of north-east India - is not only now a fairly remote corner of the subcontinent, it always has been. None of the great Indian empires reached here - neither Asoka nor the great Mughals conquered this region. From the 13th century until the beginning of the British Raj in 1828, the Ahom dynasty ruled over large and small parts of the tea belt.Traditionally and culturally the Ahoms are member of the Great Tai (Tai-Yai) group of peoples. In the year 1215 CE, the Ahoms migrated from Mong-Mao or Mong-Mao-Lung (present Dehong Dai Jingpho autonomous prefecture of South-Western Yunan province of Peoples Republic of China). They entered into the Upper Assam region of the Brahmaputra valley through Patkai Hills under the leadership of Mao-Shang prince, named Chau-lung Siu-ka-pha. He became the first king or Chao-pha or Swargadeo (Lord of the heaven) of the Ahom Dynasty, who established the first Ahom capital at Cherai-doi or Charaideo. By the end of the 17th century, the Ahoms had expanded their kingdom over the length and breadth of the Brahmaputra valley in their long 600 years of power, Chau-lung Siu-ka-pha’s able and intelligent successors like Suhungmung (CE 1497-1539), Suklengmung (CE 1539-1552), Pratap Singha (1603-1641), Gadadhar Singha (CE 1681-1696), Rudra Singha (CE 1696-1714), Shiva Singha (CE1714-1744), Pramatta Singha (CE 1744- 1751), Rajeswar Singha (CE 1751-1769), built a strong state in the Brahmaputra valley by defending it from the Islamic rullers including the mighty Mughals and the provincial rullers, which provided this valley an era of peace and prosperity and helped the multiethnic Assamese culture to flourish.

Although the Ahom kings adopted the Hindu faith after a while, they did not always adapt to the Hindu Shoshkasop. For example, their dead were not scattered in rivers after burning, as most of the Hindus did.That is why their funerary practice of placing their dead in burial mounds with substantial grave goods after cremation is unique in India. The Moidams are the burial mounds of the Ahom kings, Queens and Nobles. The word Moidam is derived from the Tai word Phrang-Mai-Dam or Mai-Tam. Phrang-Mai means to put into the grave or to bury and Dam means the spirit of the Dead. Though Moidams are found in all the districts of upper Assam, Charaideo, the first capital of the Ahoms was the necropolis of almost all the Ahom Royals.

Chariadeo is about 20 km from the capital of the Ahoms, Sibsagar, and is not really the most spectacular part of the Ahom monuments. At least three palaces in the town - Kareng Ghar, Talatal Ghar and Ghar Rang - are well worth a visit, and the Hindu temples of the Ahom period are definitely of interest - especially the Siva temple in the centre of town.

Chairadeo is 16 km by car from Kareng Ghar - a good half an hour in Indian traffic conditions. The site itself is apparently ready for the inscription in summer in early January 2024. A brand new I lova Charaidao sign has already been erected at the entrance and the whole site has been extensively renovated. The entrance fee is, astonishingly, just Rs 5 for outsiders - though I have no doubt this will be raised soon. The only downside to the delay in January 2024 was that the entrance to the largest and most spectacular tomb was being renovated and therefore blocked off with a green scaffolding.

It is possible to walk around the mounds for several hours - though don't expect a really big or shocking sight. There is also a small - but well installed - archaeological museum on site.

What I find a bit surprising is why the Indian Heritage Authority only designates the tomb mounds as a World Heritage site - they are really only truly integrated with Sibsagar as a whole. The temples and palaces themselves are spectacular - and an excellent example of the integration of the various cultural influences on north-east India.

As for the practical part of the trip - Sivsagar can be combined with the Kazigranga National Park WhS (about 3 hours on a high quality road), and Majuli Island TWHS. Jorhat, where the ferries arrive from Majuli is just 1.5 hours from Sibsagar.

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2014 Added to Tentative List

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Moidams - the Mound-Burial system of the Ahom Dynasty (T)


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