A 19TH CENT SKETCH OF A HUMAN FACED DOLMEN ON THE RIGHT

A 19TH CENT SKETCH OF A HUMAN FACED DOLMEN ON THE RIGHT
COORG. SOUTH INDIA

The word megalith has stemmed from the merger of two Greek terms of "mega" meaning large and "lithic" signifying stone.

Presently the megalithic tribes of India use various structures of stone as burials or memorials of the dead. However in the past megaliths were not only sepulchral/funerary structures but were also used both as memorials of the dead and to commemorate various events of the family and that of the community. Megaliths were found even to be used as boundary markers and also as astronomical structures.


Each passing day numerous ancient megaliths get destroyed in India and we have no record of this disaster. It is sad that no government agencies like the ASI, the State Archaeological Depts and the District Administrations demonstrate any interest in their protection perhaps for their tribal origin and also possibly because megaliths to them do not appear to be significant relics of our land.

In actuality prehistoric megaliths are a significant source of our ancient history and their preservation is imperative as these monuments are evidences that India was indeed a land of the tribals in hoary times. A few of them however suggests that astronomy and geometry was known to the megalithic tribals millennias prior to the emergence of the Brahmanical astronomer/mathematicians. Obliteration of prehistoric megaliths is bound to erase this verity.

To view a few photographs of megaliths of India visit:

http://www.megalithsindia.com/2010/11/images-of-megaliths.html

The photographs and essays from this website may be used for research purposes giving credit to it.

Come let’s celebrate megaliths…

CUPULES ON MEGALITHS

CUPULES ON MEGALITHS
NAPO. JHARKHAND

Saturday, 27 August 2011

A little about MEGALITHS of INDIA



Megaliths of  Burjahom. Kashmir. North India

Birbir. Jharkhand



That India is a treasure house of  megaliths is not known to many. Although from Kashmir to Kerala and from Itanagar to Gandhinagar India is filled with primitive megaliths yet they have been denied recognition as a source of our prehistory perhaps owing to their tribal origin.
As because these ancient monuments are found in almost in the entire expanse of our country, they therefore are our truest archaeological heritage. 



Inside a cist burial in Kerala. Credit: Sashi Dharan

A megalith is a grave and a memorial of the dead. The term 'megalith' stems from the confluence of two Greek words 'mega' meaning 'big' and 'lithos' meaning, 'stones'. 'Megalith' therefore means 'big or large stones'. Tribes of India such as the Mundas, Sabaras, Oraons, Asurs, Hos, Gadabas, Maria Gonds, Maravars, Kacharis, Bhils, Garos, Angami Nagas, Bondos, and Garos etc have been building various megalithic architectures since Neolithic/Iron/Chalolithic Ages. 
Megaliths have various shapes and forms. Therefore in accordance to their architectures they too have varied names in archaeology  such as dolmen, cairn, stone circle, menhir,  tumuli, barrow, cromlech, center stone etc. Why this diversity, there is no appropriate answere to this. The variety may have for different tribes, for dead people according to their hierchy, for different causes of death. 
A dolmen can have varied shapes but primarily it will have a center stone placed on four or more stones. The center stones could be gargantuan and seem impossible to have been raised by humans therefore they may pass off as natural creations.




A Munda sasandiri dolmen with a table top capstone in Chkahatu. Jharkhand.


 But such enormous stones were placed by the primitive folks, we do not have any idea how; the science may have been lost with time. But these dolmens of the later ages saw a little alteration with the coming of flat table-top center stones placed on erect stone stands. Such dolmens could be seen from Shillong to Jharkhand to Kerala. The primitive dolmens were chiefly memorials raised in memory of the chieftain or perhaps a dead priest.

A dolmen with porthole. Karnataka. Credit: Moti Shem Tov.


Megaliths of Nartiang. Shillong. Meghalaya. NE India.


Commemorative menhirs. Chaibasa. Jharkhand

Dolmens in places like Jhakrkhand where there is a continued tradition of megalithism are known locally in austric Mundari as sasandiri . Earlier sasandiris were family vaults having single portholes through which the bones of the later dead were  inserted after their cremation. However this custom is fading with dolmens becoming smaller in size and they have ceased to be burials  but perform as memorials like in antiquity.
The custom of primary and secondary burials were among many tribes in ancient times and megaliths were raised after the second burial. In excavations often domesticated animals have been revealed buried with humans. Domesticated dogs, horses and even goats too have been found to have received joint or individual burials.


Apart from scarce mentions in the Upanishads, few Dravidian texts and those of the Sangam literature and in the Buddhist Tripitaka, megaliths by and large is not found mentioned in the Brahmanical Sanskrit texts, perhaps for the reason that megaliths were of non Aryan aboriginal origin.
Megaliths were first discovered by the British. Although possibly in 1823 one J.Babington found the Malabar megaliths and brought to light the first megaliths of India but Colin Mackenjie should be credited to have observed the first megaliths in India. The first excavation was conducted by Captain Meadows Taylor who excavated the Sorepur megaliths in 1853. Thereafter the Britishers took sincere efforts to highlight tribal megaliths by writing  about them and excavating them. 


Chronology : Modern day research has pushed Indian megalithism to early Iron /Neolithic ages. The oldest megaliths till date is perhaps the megalithic urns found from the megalithic graves of Mangdu in kollam Talluk in Kerala which . 

The Remains from Excavations :
The burials are of a wide variety as stone lined pits with skeletal remains, terracotta sarcophagi with the dead placed within, urns comprising the skeletal etc. The pits could be having urns with oblong, spit circles or even have fractional burial etc. The dolmenoid cists may have more than one chamber with or without portholes or cists with portholes with a small cist inside. 


A burial from Sanana. Uttrakhand. Credit: ASI



An Excavated cist burial with port holes. Credit: bharatkalyan.blogspot.com

Skeletal remains also show that many of the dead were buried as one lies within the mother's womb.
Various ritualistic pottery, bangles, beads, ornaments and iron implements have been found from these graves as funerary offerings.


i) Pottery : Black and red ware (BRW), black ware, red ware, grey/black wares, micaceous ware, Russet coated ware have been unearthed from megaliths.These ceramics were also of various shapes.  




Various pottery from megalith

Few tombs have also revealed graffiti on the pottery. Many have incised designs. The significant icons on the megalithic pottery are horizontal lines, diagonals, triangles, zigzags, spirals, semi circles, loops and many a time animal motifs too have been found on the pottery surfaces. Many ceramics were wheel made, thread marks are also conspicuous. 
The pottery assemblage could be from Neolithic/Chalcolithic to Iron ages.


i) Iron implements: Iron has always been associated with megaliths. The graves have revealed iron implements as daggers, arrowheads, lances, tridents, lamps, chisels, sickles, hoes, nails, swords, cooking utensils and ploughs etc. 
Asurs, the primitive iron smelting tribe of Jharkhand are a megalithic lot themselves. Whether or not they had invented iron smelting is a dispute among the scholars, but iron slags have been found around many primitive megaliths suggesting the presence of the iron smelting tribes around these primitive temples.
Menhirs or the standing stones are memorials in many states as Chattisgarh, North- EastJharkhand etc.
Many are seen to have ornamented with cupules. To know more on  these cupmarks on the megaliths of India go to: megalithindia.in/p/cupmarks-cupmarks-on-natural-rock-near.html


Modern day research have begun to show that megaliths were not raised only for funerary reasons as normally believed to be but they have also been found to perform as boundary markers, memorials of significant events and even for astronomical purposes to perform as observatories and as calendars.


ASTRONOMY :

Many megaliths around the country as the ones of Burjhaom in Kashmir, Asota in Pakistan, Deosa, Hanamsagar etc were not sepulchral tombs as no burials were found  in them. Quite a few of these primitive shrines confirmed the presence of profound sciences prevalent during this civilization .



Megaliths of Nilurallu. Andra Pradesh is a non-sepulchral megalithic complex, believed to have astronomical implications.

No megaliths is raised with alignments. Many megaliths as the dolmens have either a North-South or an East-West orientations. Megaliths like that of Hanamsagar, Vibhuthihalli, Rola, Punkri Burwadih have been to be aligned to significant sunrises and sets of the equinoxes and the solstices of other significant dates. Menhirs in north Jharkhand is oriented the mid-winter sunrises.

Punkri Burwadih megalithic complex in Jharkhand is created with strict astronomical orientations. The menhiurs though are orientated to the Winter Solstice sunrises but the site was used in the prehistoric era to view the Equinox and Summer Solstice sunrises. Punkri Burwadih is the only megalithic site in  India today where people gather to view the Equinox sunrises.


People gather at Punkri Burwadih to view the sunrise on  Equinox mornings


The sunrise finally rises from between the "V" of the two menhirs on the equinox mornigs

Megaliths like Rola and Punkri Burwadih show significant geometry and mathematics in the positioning of the stones.Megaliths have also been found to be placed in straight line to major peaks and crevices of the hills to which they are aligned .
Megaliths are the most beautiful creation of our primitive humanity. 

Come let us celebrate megaliths.


9 comments:

Very informative website. i learnt a lot from it. thank you.
Sandip Kashayap

India is definitely a treasure house of megaliths as you say and your government does very little to protect them. very sad.

Juliette Hudson

Informative. You've done a lot of work/ putting together. The only suggestion I have is that you put in some local flavour. Right now though the megaliths are located in India, from the descriptions - particularly the names - they could bne anywhere in the world. I am sure there is living lore, names, etc related to these megaliths, or at least some of them. For me, the local connection makes the thing more real and hence, more interesting.

I congratulate you. Well Done!
My interest in megaliths began in my childhood, esp after reading "The World's Last Mysteries" from Reader's Digest, and of late, after reading "Underworld" by the controversial author Graham Hancock. I was intrigued by the line of thinking and ideas proposed in these books, and wondered whether there would be any such megalithic structures in India. And a google search for Indian Megaliths led me to this site. what is needed is a list, including accurate GPS coordinates and a small accompanying sketch, if possible, by visitors to the sites, and on Google Earth by armchair-bound enthusiasts. The picture of the AP-based megalith under the electric pylons was quite disturbing. Its only the weight of these stones that has prevented our citizens from pilfering them for the stones, as in the case of so many other archaeological monuments in the sub-continent, including famous ones like Harappa...

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My sincerest congratulations and profound respect for your astounding work on megaliths to bring to light the foundations of India's history from the pre-historic and tribal to the proto-civilizational in the iron age period. Warm regards, BULU IMAM

I did DNA analysis of excavated human remains from megalithic burials of Telangana. Dating of the remains are 550 BC and their ancestry is local tribal group. Being an Geneticist, I am not much aware about Megalithic burial practices and hence asking your help in this regard. My email id is nirajrai@ccmb.res.in

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