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:


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Come let’s celebrate megaliths…




Pic A. Bumpy rides the elephant while his mother, Bubu looks on..

These are amazing creations of the erstwhile megalithic tribals of India. Why were they raised, it is difficult to assert ,  but there seem to be less doubts that these animal sculptures were once worshipped and these animals  must have been held in very high esteem in antiquity.

Roaming in the woods I have been successful in discovering many stone structures as that of  elephant, buffallo, tortoise among numerous others. These animals must have been revered, so much so that the primitives even made their idols .

In Hinduism, the elephant symbolizes knowledge  which many a times is shown squashing the demon of ignorance. Ganesha, the son of Shiva-Parvati is a combination of an elephant head and a human body, venerated as a deity of good omen, protector from misfortunes and provides blessings to the devotee. The elephant named Airabat is also the vehicle of the archetype Aryan god Indra .In Buddhism elephants represent wisdom, patience and grace.

The turtle in Hinduism is one of the 'avtaaras' of Lord Vishnu.

Pic B.This disproportionate buffalo kneels towards the due west 

Historically speaking  the elephant and the tortoise are tribal in origin as they are the totem or the killi of the tribes across India. 
They were also the symbols of the now defunct fertility cult of the much primitive Mother Goddess religions in hoary antiquity.
Icons of the elephant and the turtle are still used during marriages among many communities in India, reminiscent of their initial tribal days .

Dogs and humans. A nexus perhaps begun since time immemorial. To the tribals, dogs are their most trusted of friends. These animals can be seen accompanying the  adivasis every where from the market to even to their seasonal ritual hunts. In the various austric languages of the tribals, dogs are called barwa, seota, allaha and they are also their killi or their totem. On contrary, dogs are  despised in Hinduism  as they are considered to be lowly  animals .

The buffalo is the vehicle of Yama, the God of death in Hinduism. It was also the most significant domestic animal of tribal India prior to her Aryanisation. 
These animals may also have astronomical/astrological implications as these megalithic stone structures could also be primitive astrological symbols. 

The Sculptures

The elephant (pic A) is oriented towards the due east, it may also be serving nuptial purposes in the deep past for the inhabitants of the vicinity.

Pic C. The head of the buffalo
The buffalo (pic B & C) has been made with a disproportionate body but its head seem exceedingly life-like. The sculptor had taken utmost care of the finest details of the beast's head confirming the high quality of art prevalent in those times.The cheek bones of the buffalo have been made prominent and its lower jaw can even be slided out. The deep sunken eyes are positioned in the right place. Surprisingly only the left part of the beast has been sculpted, why, we have no clue. The  animal has been made to kneel  towards the due west as if displaying its obeisance to the setting sun.

I have found few sherds of Painted Red and Black and Red pottery from near this buffalo suggesting that sepulchral rites too may have been associated with it.

The hybrid dolmen (pic D & E) comprises a turtle's body and a lizard's head. The lizard which stares towards the due east has been sculpted with great care as it has prominent crests and a slit eye. Even this sculpture like the buffalo has  features only at one side i.e. on its right flank. The left side has been left blank.This monument is definitely a memorial and may  have  also been a temple to the erstwhile tribals of the region.

Pic D.The hybrid dolmen comprising a tortoise's shell and the a lizard's head

Pic E.The Lizard Head of the hybrid dolmen. Note the slit eyes and the crest. The head is oriented towards the due east.

 This dog head (pic G) in a village called Bhandra in Lohardagga points to another hill in the horizon. The structure could be a memorial of a dead domestic dog of a family or community or it may have been a memorial of an eminent person belonging to a tribe of the dog totem .

Pic F. The Dog head

Pic G.The turtle. Its head points towards the due North

The snap below (Pic H) is of the famed Hathia Pathhar or the Elephant stone on the sacred river Damodar in Phusro near Bokaro Steel City. 
When I visited the sculpture I found that  it had the least semblance with  any elephant, on the contrary I found it to be a hybrid architecture comprising  of  a frog (perhaps)/squirell and/or a buffalo. The locals averred that it is an elephant and her  trunk had broken off. I tried to find the trace of a broken trunk of which I found none.

The huge megalithic architecture is actually a natural stone on the river having received human touches to give the form of the present sculpture.
The beast (?) faces the Winter Solstice sunrise. On the Makar Sankranti days of 14th/15th Jan also regarded as the Uttarayan which is India's version of the Winter Solstice. Hundreds and thousands gather here as a fair or a  mela is held every year to celebrate the ingress of the sun into the Capricorn from Sagittarius. People take their holy dip in the sacred Damodar and the Hathia Pathaar is worshiped.

Pic H. The Hathia Pathaar
Jharkhand and Bihar has a profusion of huge stones having names of Hathia Pathaar. This megalithic sculpture is one among such hundreds in the region. To my understanding Hathia here may not refer to elephants but to the constellation of Hathia  which arrives around October/November. This is the constellation which according to the farming communities bring the last rains and nourishment to the crops prior to the harvest. But why the Hathia Pathaar is associated to the Makar Sankranti is still an enigma.


It is definitely haunting to know about such unknown sculptures here in HJharkhand. Thank you Subhashis ji for such a grand blog.
Ashok Verma

Thank you Ashok for your inspirational words. They do help me get going.
Subhashis Das

Who created these sculptures ? The elephant and the buffalo are wonderful. How can we go here?

Superb. Thank you for posting these photos and the descriptions.

Excellent stuff as usual, Subhashis! This throws up in my mind, another question... if even rudimentary carving was known to these people, why are their dolmens and megaliths so un-wrought and un-sculpted?.... Kalyan Biswas.

Good and quite a logical question...there can be no definite answers to that but only assumptions Kollan.

It could be that:

1) the rude dolmens are of an even earlier age.

11)The sculptures if you look discreetly are not of proper proportions...but their heads and faces are....perhaps they were gradually learning the techniques of the art from the Bactrians,Achemaninans or Greek contacts in the west which has evidences in the Mauryan sculptures of much later days to come.

111)These sculptures were being done by a separate tribe.

But then you cannot beat them in the astronomical menhirs like the ones of Punkri Burwadih...oh boy that is what you call accuracy in science.


Megaliths of Mizoram:

Blog on Brahmagiri megaliths:

First ever song composed on a megalith in India. Rajat Chandra sings on the fascinating megaliths of Punkri Birwadih:

Megalithic burials of the dolmen kind of Andhra Pradesh:

Rare megalithic sites discovered in Chattisgarh:

More than 200 megalithic sites found in Dhamtari and Mahasamund districts of Chattisgarh. Visit:http://www.deccanchronicle.com/channels/nation/north/rare-megalithic-sites-discovered-chhattisgarh-778