A few days ago, Sivasagar MLA Akhil Gogoi demanded that his constituency, which is one of the most important historical sites in the state, be declared as a ‘state heritage site’. He also sought Rs 100 crore for the development of the city, the erstwhile capital of the Ahom kings who ruled Assam for more than 600 years before the advent of the British.
Few, if any, would argue against Gogoi’s claims of Sivasagar’s importance in Assam’s history. There are 551 historical monuments or sites from the Ahom kingdom scattered around Sivasagar. “Such concentration of historical monuments at one place is rare in the entire world. Sivasagar is our pride, and it was included in the probable list of World Heritage Sites of UNESCO in 2019,” Gogoi said in the Assembly.
A visit to Gaurisagar in Sivasagar district shows that Gogoi’s demands are neither outrageous nor untimely. Type Gaurisagar in Google Search and the first item on the list is the Gaurisagar tank followed by dols. Gaurisagar features prominently on the website of the Guwahati circle of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
In a 10-km radius of the largest Ahom monument, the Talatal Ghar, lie the 3 dols of Gaurisagar: Devi dol, Shiv dol and Vishnu dol. Built by Boroja Phuleshwari Konwari, the wife of Swargadeo Sibasingha, these 3 dols hold great historic significance. Yet, they are in dire need of maintenance.
These dols are situated on the north bank of Gaurisgar Borpukhuri (Gaurisagar tank). They are situated in a straight line, starting from the Devi dol, the biggest among the three. In between the Devi dol and Vishnu dol, lies the Shiv dol, and even today, devotees offer prayers there to Lord Shiva. Though no prayers can be offered inside the dol, a handful of devotees light earthen lamps regularly outside the dol’s entrance.
One must point out that the conservation and preservation of these ancient monuments is not an easy task. Waterlogging, the growth of vegetation on the walls are just some of the problems that can be seen from the outside. The premises of the dols are covered with long grass, and the Vishnu dol remains locked. According to the locals, no one paid attention to the dols during the pandemic which has further worsened the situation.
During monsoons, the walls of the dols are covered with algae and plants. Babul Nath, who was appointed by the ASI 22 years ago, told EastMojo, “It is difficult to remove the vegetation from the walls during monsoon as the walls become slippery. It’s a risk to clean these high walls during this period.” He pointed out that the sculptures carved on the walls had started deteriorating even before he joined ASI.
Sanjit Borman, an official of the ASI told EastMojo, “Proper renovation of the dols was last done in 1890.” He further added that if any walls wear out, they are built again by the ASI.
When asked about the steps taken for the conservation and preservation of the dols, Amarjit Kumar, conservation assistant, said, “In 2018-19, we took up a project for monument conservation. Under that project, we repaired the broken benches. Moreover, the ancient wall was broken. We have repaired that as well and made arrangements for solar lights.”
One of the words Kumar mentioned is pointing, which is an important part of conservation. Simply put, pointing means if any place is damaged, it is reconstructed as a part of conservation. “We have sent an estimation to Delhi for the water logging inside the dols and vegetation at its wall. We have a provision for re-plastering, but we are yet to get approval. For the Devi dol, we are planning to do vegetation cleaning at the wall followed by chemical treatment for conservation. For public amenities, we will give benches and lights,” Kumar added.
The condition of the dols has also hurt local sentiments. Pratibha Dutta, a resident of Gaurisagar got nostalgic when asked about the dols. “ The dols and the Borpukhuri (Gaurisagar tank) witnessed good as well as the bad times of the place. I have spent my entire life in Gaurisagar, and ever since I was a child, I have witnessed the scenic beauty of the dols and the Borpukhuri.” She also talked about the migratory birds and the seasonal flowers of the area. “Sadly, people are not aware of the history and beauty this place holds,” she added.
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