A guest feature by Subhashis Das
Chokahatu, in the austric Mundaric language (one of the most abundantly spoken languages in primitive India and currently the language of hundreds and thousands of tribals in the east and central part of contemporary India) means ‘the Land of Mourning’. Chokahatu, situated about 80 kms south-east of the capital city of Ranchi, is primarily a megalithic burial ground of the Mundas. Such burial grounds are known as sasandiri, harsali, haragarhi etc in the local Mundaric languages and can be found in almost all the tribal villages in and around Ranchi.
But Chokahatu is different.
It is enormous in size. It is so huge that you can get lost amidst the sea of stones
Chokahatu has only two menhirs and the rest are all burial slabs and dolmens. The dolmens are also known as sasandiri to the Oraons, Hos, Mundas and the Asurs. The site was discovered by one T F Pepe way back in the late 19th century (Mr Pepe like Mr Babington has the rarest distinction of discovering numerous megaliths in India in the 19th century). Pepe reported the site to Col. Dalton who visited here in 1871.
Dalton was bewildered at the enormity of the site. He wrote in the Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal Vol. 42 in 1872 that his helpers counted the sepulchral slabs to be around 8000 and the area was more than a whopping 7 acres. He believed that there must be an under stratum of these graves and this site must be about two thousand years old. The villagers however disagreed with me, they affirmed the site is of about 14 acres and must be more than two thousand years of age. Well that’s for the archaeologists to decide, if they ever arrive here.
The villagers told me that people since very olden times must have been bringing the bones of the deceased for burial in this sacred land from all over the country. Even today people come from far off places for burial in this holy land. They build dolmens over the dead of their relatives, carting the slabs on vehicles.
What makes Chokahatu more significant to the scholars and the common man is its continued use since its inception.
These are modern day dolmens
Chokahatu is one of the oldest historical sites in India, and has been used since ancient times in an uninterrupted manner. Chokahatu is also a place that can claim the status of a ‘continuing living heritage’. Surely, therefore, Chokahatu is a worthy contender as a World Heritage Site. Chokahatu, such a significant site, still lingers in utter negligence like any other megalithic sites in India; but then megaliths, being tribal heritages, are not worthy of respect here.
Read more about the Megaliths of India by Subhashis Das on his website here.