A guest feature by Subhashis Das.

Subhashis Das is well known for his work recording and publicising the rich megalithic heritage of Indian. In this feature he describes how, with the help of local officials, friends and villagers, the fallen megalith of Punkri Burwadih was restored to its original position.

The Punkri Burwadih in all her glory

Punkri Burwadih is perhaps the most eminent megalith of India, yet it is not protected by the government. Here people gather to view the Equinox sunrises twice every year during the vernal and the autumnal equinoxes thereby making it the only megalith in India for this purpose.

The fallen menhir. Aloke Rana stands by (a depressed) me

The Equinox sun rising from between the two menhirs. The menhir M1 is a major stone as along with its partner M2 the Equinox and the Summer Solstice sunrises are visible through the “V” notch procured due to their positioning

7th August 11:30am.

On the morning of 7th August one of the Hindi National Dailies reported the falling of one of the menhirs at Punkri Burwadih. The news was also conveyed to me on Facebook. This was heart-wrecking. I, along with one of my co-workers Aloke Rana, dashed to the site some 23 kms from my hometown of Hazaribagh. What I saw there could not stop my tears from gushing out. One of the main menhirs, M1, which along with the other menhir, M2, enabled the creation of the “V” form, had fallen. Seeing me the villagers immediately gathered. I was told by Krishna Sao, my local help, that village children every day would climb or dash upon it after a race… this being done everyday, and with the earth around it becoming loose due to the heavy rains, were the factors which caused the menhir to fall.

We immediately rushed to the Block Office to meet the local Block Development Officer. He, being absent, the Circle Officer in charge had already read of the catastrophe in the papers and was expecting me. He assured me of immediate help and whatever else I needed. I requested the local administration to immediately have the menhir restored to her original position. The CO agreed to do this under my supervision and the date that was fixed for the job was the next day.

To have the menhir M1 to her earlier place, I was to keep a few things in mind:

1) The azimuth of the stone as it was oriented towards the Winter solstice sunrise.
2) Her incline towards the Summer Solstice sunset so much so that the peak of the Mahudi Hills in the southern horizon was perfectly viewed between the M1 and M2 menhirs.
3) The correct tilt to her left (North) so as to regain the “V” window to view the Summer Solstice and the Equinox sunrises once again.

Would I be able to do it?

8th August 10:00am.

The local administration in response to my plea of yesterday had sent a man named Chotu with a few helping hands. They had shovels, ropes, iron rods and a few other implements.

The villagers help in the digging

I was nervous but even felt blessed to be able to restore this menhir of the ancestors. Aloke kept cheering me saying that the endeavour would be successful. The digging began and soon the broken part of the menhir was exposed. A few more stones which were used to hold the stones at the desired angle too were visible. A small cinerary urn which housed two rusted “singhis” was exposed. These singhis contain the ashes and the bones of the dead. This artefact wasn’t old as it formed a part of the local “satbharwan” ritual.

One of the two singhis found in a broken cinerary pitcher. This was replaced during the cementing of the broken menhir

Aloke supervises while Chotu looks worried

Discussing the tilt and the incline of the megalith according to old photographs

The setting up of the megalith

The villagers too leant a hand hauling the heavy menhir, with Aloke supervising the entire process. Rope and logs of wood were used to restore the stone to its original position. I too meticulously ensured all the alignments I had earlier mentioned and attained the desired positions, only thereafter mortar was put in the pit to secure the stone and finally, by 3:30, she was set. Prior to the pouring of the cement, the broken urn and its contents along, with the excavated stones, were replaced.

The menhir finally stands on the broken segment of the megalith… and there you are… the fallen stone again sits pretty next to her lifelong partner

Part of the triumphant team

Everyone was exhausted after the ordeal but were happy and satisfied seeing the stone once again in her original position… a difficult job satisfactorily done with everyone’s assistance. I wondered how long it will remain safe but I knew I would have a good night’s sleep that night!

A full report on the restoration of the fallen menhir of Punkri Burwadih by Subhashis Das can be found on his Megaliths of India website. See also his Megaliths of India: Part I. Save Rola megaliths from destruction feature here, Megaliths of India: Part II, and Megaliths of India: Part III. The Enormous Megalithic Site of Chokahatu, the Land of Mourning.