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Megalithic Culture of India: The forgotten Link of Indian History

Even today, a living megalithic culture endures among tribes such as the Gonds of central India and the Khasis of Meghalaya

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Image Source: ancient-origins.net
  • Megaliths are the earliest surviving man-made monuments 
  • Even today, a living megalithic culture endures among some tribes such as the Gonds of central India and the Khasis of Meghalaya
  • The massive endeavour of constructing megaliths required the active involvement of the community

Megaliths, derived from Latin meaning large stones, are monuments that give archaeologists a picture of the megalithic culture which lasted from the Neolithic Stone Age to the early Historical Period (2500 BC to AD 200). Constructed either as burial sites or commemorative (non-sepulchral) memorials, these structures are the earliest surviving man-made monuments we know of.

The burial sites are of different types such as dolmenoid cists or box-shaped stone burial chambers, cairn circles which are stone circles with defined peripheries and capstones which are distinctive mushroom-shaped burial chambers found mainly in Kerala. The urn or the sarcophagus containing the mortal remains was usually made of terracotta. Non-sepulchral megaliths include memorial sites such as menhirs . In India, the majority of the megaliths belong to the Iron Age (1500 BC to 500 BC), though some sites precede the Iron Age, extending up to 2000 BC

At first, the scientific consensus was in favour of the theory that ideas emanated from one cultural centre and spread across the world by migrating populations. Some completely denied the possibility of parallel evolution. Now, modern researchers believe that inventions and ideas across the world have an independent origin.

Tripura India megaliths Image Source :pinterest.com
Tripura India megaliths Image Source :pinterest.com

“Constructing a menhir is one of the simplest things man could have done. However, the similarities are indeed startling in the case of more complex dolmens. The question of why they appear almost coincidentally has not yet been settled satisfactorily, though scientists now postulate that since our brains are constructed in the same way, different peoples came to construct the same monuments independently,” says Srikumar Menon, professor of architecture, Manipal University to Livemint.

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Around 2200 megalithic sites are found in the Indian peninsular, concentrated in the states of Maharashtra (mainly in Vidarbha), Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Even today, a living megalithic culture endures among some tribes such as the Gonds of central India and the Khasis of Meghalaya.

Korisettar, a retired professor of archaeology at Karnatak University says the megaliths were built for the elite or the ruling class and that the very idea of burying the dead along with burial goods indicates a strong belief in life after death and possibly rebirth among megalithic people. “In some instances, we have seen teeth being cut off from the body and buried with the remains for use in the next life,” he says to Livemint.com. Paddy husk found in burial sites shows the commitment of the people towards ensuring the dead a comfortable afterlife. They also believed in some idea of a soul.

A megalith in Karnataka Image Source:megalithic.co.uk
A megalith in Karnataka. Image Source:megalithic.co.uk

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According to the livemint.com report, the Gond people used to connect the past and the present. Their beliefs and traditions help in creating a clear picture of the megalithic culture. “The Gond people believe in life after death, they believe that every human being has two souls: the life spirit and the shadow. The life spirit goes to bada devta but the shadow still stays in the village after the erection of the stone memorial. Gond people believe that the first and foremost duty of the shadow spirit is to watch over the moral behaviour of the people and punish those who go against the tribal law,” notes a paper by S. Mendaly on the living megalithic culture of the Gonds of Nuaparha in Odisha.

The massive endeavour of constructing megaliths required the active involvement of the community, said the Livemint.com report. “Experiment on the reconstruction of a burial from Vidarbha suggests that 70 to 80 individuals were required to construct a burial having 13.5m diameter with a deposit of 80 to 85 cm in two and a half to three days without any leisure… Participation in construction by the community members could be social norm without labour charge. If not by any labour charge, a feast was probably prepared to honour the labour force provided by community members. Animals were probably sacrificed and a feast was prepared beside various other food items,” writes Chakrabarti, emeritus professor of South Asian archaeology at Cambridge University, in the third volume of his History of Ancient India.

There are no plans for preservation of this feat of monumental architecture. These historic and cultural monuments are found in various states of neglect. While some of them are still intact, many have been damaged by real estate development. The stone slabs are taken away for construction purposes and JCBs and mechanical earthmovers clear the way.

– prepared by Ajay Krishna, an intern at NewsGram.

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  • Aparna Gupta

    Megalith monuments are the historical structures with archeological interest. These monuments are need to be preserved, they are our heritage.

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Dynamics of Tourism Growth in India

Ensuring that the tourism infrastructure supply chain is seamless will require not just creating a consistent and informative process

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Tourism, Growth, India
Fundamentally, for the robust long-term growth of the tourism sector, India must ensure that it is offering an eco-system that is attractive and consistent. Pixabay

The dynamics of industrial growth in India, for all ancillary industries, makes for fascinating reading and analysis. India has embarked on a renewed push towards making the country an attractive tourist destination through a variety of measures such as the “Incredible India 2.0” campaign. Both local and international destinations have wooed domestic Indian tourists. Regardless of whether one considers inbound or outbound tourism, the tourism supply chain provides exciting opportunities for investors and provides pointers towards much-needed infrastructure developments.

At a fundamental level, as India looks to develop further this component of the economy derived from tourism, it is vital to focus on the convergence of marketing & branding (read availability of information regarding possible tourist destinations), accessibility and local infrastructure such as hotels, eateries, transportation and medical facilities. Fundamentally, for the robust long-term growth of the tourism sector, India must ensure that it is offering an eco-system that is attractive and consistent.

Ensuring that the tourism infrastructure supply chain is seamless will require not just creating a consistent and informative process that generates tourist interest, but also a back-to-front infrastructure linkage that delivers the experience. For instance, a trip to the Taj Mahal via the Delhi Airport and the expressway linking Delhi to Agra is vital to ensuring that the branding and marketing of a tourist destination deliver value.

A closer look at the example stated above throws light upon the importance of the airline connectivity, highway and airport infrastructure involved. Additionally, the availability of the local hospitality industry that caters to the spectrum of incoming tourists at the tourist destination is vital. One missing piece in the link renders all other assets relatively incapable of realising full value. On the contrary, a seamless infrastructure linkage system ensures that the various components in the supply chain can operate close to full potential to generate value.

Tourism, Growth, India
At a fundamental level, as India looks to develop further this component of the economy derived from tourism, it is vital to focus on the convergence of marketing & branding (read availability of information regarding possible tourist destinations). Pixabay

For example, exceptional air connectivity to a tourist destination and the availability of hotel infrastructure that caters to a broad spectrum of tourists is rendered relatively ineffective in generating significant tourist traffic without the last-mile road connectivity required between the airport and the final tourist destination. It is vital to underscore that the focus isn’t only on the international tourist, but on both foreign and domestic tourists.

Essentially, as the interlinkages mentioned above will improve, so will the volume of tourist traffic. The capacity for both the government and investors to further develop the cornerstone of the tourism infrastructure linkage stated above has significant multiplier effects for investment opportunities in linked sectors. The luggage industry is a classic example of a sector that will provide investment avenues as the Indian tourism industry develops further. Additionally, not only will the ancillary industries such as luggage grow, but they will also grow in terms of segmentation. With gradually rising incomes, opportunities will be created not just by aggregate market size growth but by tapping into segments such as higher-end luggage demand.

The key takeaway is that as basic tourism infrastructure will grow, linked industries such as luggage, banking and foreign exchange service providers will flourish. Opportunities through market disruptions must be viewed by investors as an avenue to get into growth segments that benefit from tourism growth in India. The opportunity to acquire a foreign exchange business from a larger business group or to get a foothold within the luggage industry must be viewed as an opportunity to tap into the tourism potential.

Indian tourism opportunities must be viewed through a wider lens of tourism that not only caters to traditional hospitality but also builds on the niche opportunities available. Medical tourism is an area that has seen significant growth in the past years and with the infrastructure ecosystem providing support will grow further.

Also Read- Vietnam and Australia to Start Collaborating on Science Initiatives

However, segments such as the meetings (both national and international), incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) and wedding destination need more significant focus in India. Infrastructure creation that will allow India to gain a foothold in the MICE tourism space gradually is vital. Not only will there be direct earnings, but existing hospitality assets will be able to ramp up their returns on the back of adequate MICE infrastructure.

The tourism industry going further offers significant opportunities to India to generate jobs, more GDP and investment opportunities. Further building on the available opportunities through a well-planned and holistic approach is urgently required. (IANS)