Questions have also been raised whether the BJP-led state government, which has splurged crores of rupees celebrating the 400th birth anniversary of Ahom general Lachit Borphukan, is truly serious about promoting and preserving Assam’s glorious past.
The first Ahom king, Chaolung Siu-Ka-Pha, migrated to Assam from Mong Mao in the present-day Yunnan in China in the 13th century. Charaideo was the first capital of the Ahom kingdom which lasted for 600 years, until its annexation by the British East India Company through the 1826 Treaty of Yandabo.
The ‘moidam’ or the burial mound of Siu-Ka-Pha (1228-1268) and its surrounding area lie in an utterly dilapidated state. A recent visit by this writer to Lankuri village in Charaideo district revealed that the authorities concerned have paid scant attention to the upkeep of the site, home to a group of tumuli, including those of the first and second Ahom kings.
The absence of a boundary wall has turned this key archaeological site into an open grazing ground. (Credit: Jayanta Kalita)
Interestingly, Siu-Ka-Pha’s tumulus is located barely a few kilometres from the famous Charaideo Moidams, which were first included in Unesco’ tentative list for the World Heritage Site in 2014. It is learnt that an expert group from the UN agency will visit Charaideo soon to make a final assessment of the moidams of Siu-Ka-Pha’s descendants.
The UN culture body defines Ahom moidams as “vaulted chamber, 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”.
“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 and clothes” were buried with their king.
It is alleged that Siu-Ka-Pha’s moidam along with the tumuli of many important kings and queens do not find a mention in the proposal submitted to Unesco, as reported by TOI. Worse, the state government’s conservation effort is just limited to putting up a signboard saying the area has been declared a “protected site” under the Assam Ancient Monuments and Records Act, 1959.
There is neither a concrete boundary wall nor any barbed wire fence, thereby turning the site into an open grazing ground for cattle. Lack of beautification effort by local authorities would spoil its chances from being counted as an important tourist destination.
In 2018, the state committee of the descendants of Ahom princes took an initiative which resulted in the erection of iron fencing around the burial mound to prevent further damage to it. Since then, the authorities have not taken any visible measures for the upkeep and preservation of this important historical site, allege locals.
While some illegal structures were removed from the site, the chances of fresh encroachments can’t be ruled out yet. Another issue flagged by the locals is that Siu-Ka-Pha’s burial mound is much shorter than those at the Charaideo Moidams, which could be due to the damage caused by encroachments over the centuries. According to the Ahom royal traditions, the height of a moidam signifies the power and stature of the buried king.