Megaliths of India: A guest feature by Subhashis Das.

India is a treasure house of megaliths of the most stunningly wide, diverse and fascinating kind; megaliths built by our tribal adivasis (आदिवासी)  from hoary antiquity to modern times. These megaliths are not only enthralling local scholars and tourists but also, increasingly, visitors from abroad. Strangely, these megalithic treasures from our ancient past are never promoted as worthy ‘Heritages of India’ and consequently are being deprived of the dignity and protection such ancient monuments demand – that is to say as true relics of our country’s prehistory… so very sad.

Jitendra Tewary has discovered many megalithic sites in the region

The architecture of many of these megaliths varies from one region to another, and many are startlingly similar to those found elsewhere – eg in Britain, China and India. Many are being raised in the same manner since hoary antiquity. Megaliths of Chatra, or more specifically speaking megaliths of Pathalgadda, are typical of the region. The name of the village Pathalgadda is a Hindi name for tribal megaliths. As when the Hindi speaking folks walked this region, after the tribals had started to move away, they must have had been surprised to find so many standing stones in and around the vicinity.

Menhirs in Angarha

The megaliths are in their thousands… look anywhere… go anywhere; megaliths are everywhere. I have never seen a place quite like this… all this was conveyed to me by one young fellow in his late twenties, Jitendra Tewary. Jitendra who is a correspondent of a Hindi daily, and who also owns a studio, has discovered many megaliths around the region. The area is ringed with some spectacular hills in the landscape – for example in Puraniya, Likhlahi, Dasi, Lamboiya etc.

The megaliths are solely burial and memorial stones. They can be found jumbled up at single places suggesting that they were the respective “Jangarhas”, “Hargarhis”, or “Sasandiris” of the erstwhile adivasi villages, for which these burials were once created in the deep past.

The opposite facing tilted stones are inclined towards East and West

The distinctive feature of the megaliths here is that many of the sepulchral stones can be seen placed inclining towards the west and to its opposite, a little to the left there would be another stone tilted towards the west. Such stones are seen placed side-by-side creating a row with a north-south alignment (the orientation of the dead in India).

The sites have revealed iron and copper slags, black pottery, black and red pottery, red pottery, and ochre pottery. Several of the sites can be dated back to the Chalcolithic Period. Most of the sites I saw were damaged by non-tribal villagers scrounging for treasure from below the stones slabs, or the stones themselves had been towed away by them to serve either as washing stones by a well, or to function as drain covers. Jitendra is trying to have the sites protected; a task more than impossible in a country like ours.

A menhir in a ruined megalithic site in Rohma

This is the second in a series of features on the Megaliths of India by Subhashis Das. In subsequent features we hope to look more closely at the archaeology, history and spread of these astonishing structures, the people who made them, and what might be done to protect the structures from further development and destruction.