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Smog enveloping the Taj Mahal
Image credit Scott Burdick and Susan Lyon
Tann, in The Archaeology News Network, reports on the pollution that’s turning the 366 year-old Taj Mahal yellow –
India’s white marvel, the Taj Mahal, is slowly turning brownish-yellow because of air pollution, says an Indo-US study which also identifies the pollutants responsible for the effect. It says the Taj is changing colour due to deposition of dust and carbon-containing particles emitted in the burning of fossil fuels, biomass and garbage. The study confirms what has been suspected for long – that Agra’s poor air quality is impacting India’s most celebrated monument.
The research was conducted by experts from US universities – Georgia Institute of Technology and University of Wisconsin – as well as Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and Archaeological Survey of India. The paper was published in the Environmental Science & Technology journal in December.
The findings can lead to targeted strategies to curb air pollution in and around Agra and more effective ways to cleanse the marble surface of the 366-year-old mausoleum, which remains by far the most visited man-made structure in the country with footfalls of more than 6 million in 2013.
The equinox sun rising between two menhirs at Punkri Burwadih, India
For a full report on the restoration of the fallen menhir of Punkri Burwadih see our earlier report by Subhashis Das here.
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.
The Zulzul (Seotagarha) pahari (The She-hill). The recumbent pregnant Mother Goddess taken on the winter solstice morning of 2011
Image credit and © Prantik Das
The Scottish Ten project reports that –
A team of experts from Scotland are using laser scanners to digitally record the incredible Rani ki Vav stepwell, near Gujurat in India. Working with the Archaeological Survey of India, they will record the intricate statues in the well. This will allow them to create virtual replica’s of the monument to aid with its conservation and maintenance. It is part of the Scottish Ten project launched by the Scottish Government to record Scotland’s five UNESCO designated World Heritage Sites and five international sites.
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.
In subsequent features on the Megaliths of India by Subhashis Das 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.
Subhashis Das checking the azimuth of a menhir near Obra village
Writing in Megaliths of India Subhashis Das reports that –
Road making has destroyed a significant megalithic site in the outskirts of Obra village in Pathalgadda block of Chatra district in Jharkhand. The site is a primitive tribal memorial site having tall menhirs. The site already destroyed by villagers with many tall menhirs being lugged away by them, the road making has come as a blow to this tribal heritage of our country.
Full article here.