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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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  • 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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Star ICC Asks Anonymous Accuser Of Sexual Assault Charges To Step Forward

The accuser said that while she was at the company, there were "clear instructions" given to make the sales team fulfil the targets.

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#MeToo: Star India internal panel writes to anonymous accuser to come forward

The Internal Complaints Committee of Star India on Sexual Harassment (Star ICC) has written to the anonymous accuser — who had alleged “sexual exploitation” of women employees — asking her to reach out to the committee or its external member on allegations made by her in tweets.

In a Twitter post on Friday, Star ICC, formed under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 said it had reached out to the accuser through two emails on the ID provided by her through her tweets. The committee’s external member is Veena Gowda, a Mumbai-based woman rights lawyer.

The accuser, who tweeted through handle @ApurvaS17 — saying she would remain anonymous — had made sexual harassment allegations against the company’s officials in an open letter.

Star ICC
Star believes that the allegations made in the tweet without the complainant coming forward and giving any further detail, is a malicious attempt.

Asked to comment on the allegations, a Star India spokesperson said in a statement that despite no response by the anonymous accuser to the messages sent, the Star ICC had “suo moto conducted a preliminary inquiry and found no basis or factual accuracy” in respect of the allegations.

“We strongly urge any genuine complainant to approach the Star ICC. At Star, we stand with women in drawing the line on any behaviour that violates human dignity or the ability for women to pursue their dreams with respect and freedom. We have a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual harassment,” read the statement in response to an email query by IANS.

It also said that the anonymous tweet shared on October 13 raised an allegation that “runs completely counter to everything we believe in and the norms and values that we deeply embrace.”

The statement further said: “Star believes that the allegations made in the tweet without the complainant coming forward and giving any further detail, is a malicious attempt to malign and defame the reputation of the company and the CEO.” It said that Star reserves its right to initiate appropriate legal proceedings in this regard.

Star ICC
The Star ICC had “suo moto conducted a preliminary inquiry and found no basis or factual accuracy.

The accuser in her tweets had said that the #MeToo movement had encouraged her to come forward and that she had quit her job at Star India in the Airtime Sales section after 26 months and nine days and was now a homemaker, “taking care of my baby and hubby in a beautiful country, far away from Mumbai.”

The accuser said that while she was at the company, there were “clear instructions” given to make the sales team fulfil the targets in case they want to continue with their employment contract, “for which even if you have to take the clients to a hotel room and sleep with them for days.”

She said there were many instances when she and three of her female colleagues (interns) had clear instructions to reach a hotel after office hours for a private party hosted for influential friends.

Also Read: India’s Junior Foreign Minister M.J. Akbar Quits Following #MeToo Harassment Allegation By Women

She says the influential friends were “mostly bureaucrats and sometimes politicians and foreign nationals” who were “all ready to violate you, force you to dance against your wishes, drink with them, make drink(s) for them, exchange your numbers and even quietly accompany them to their respective rooms if they want you to”.

Veteran writer-director Vinta Nanda, who earlier this month accused actor Alok Nath of sexually violating her 19 years ago, wrote on Twitter: “I’m neither shocked nor surprised. I salute your courage to have come out and spoken out. The rot runs deep.” (IANS)