By Ibankyntiew Mawrie, Shillong News | Shillong, April 10, 2018:
As archaeologists and historians from across the world continues to collect every piece of pre-historic remains and records to ascertain the significance of Megaliths and Monoliths spread across the globe, an expert and author from Bangalore upheld that the living Megalithic Culture of the Khasi-Jaintia in Meghalaya might hold the key to understanding megaliths all over the world.
Principal Research Officer, Department of Heritage and Humanities, National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, Dr Srikumar Menon stated that because the Khasi-Jaintia have a living tradition which is still being practiced till date, “I think it will help us to understand the pre-historic culture better,” Dr Menon told TNT-The Northeast Today.
Dr Menon was speaking at the Robin Laloo Memorial Seminar on Heritage and Legacy (Khasi History in Stone) organised by the Department of Environment and Traditional Ecosystems, MLCU Shillong at the institute’s campus here on Tuesday.
According to Dr Menon, megaliths—monoliths are found all over the world but in most parts of the world, these are pre-historic monuments. “However, there is a cultural discontinuity and nobody knows about their historical significance and about the people who built them,” he added.
Whereas, in Khasi and Jaintia culture, there is a cultural continuity, knowledge about the rituals associated with them. “That way, Khasi megaliths may hold the key to understanding megaliths all over the world because we know the circumstances in which they were put up, how they were put up and the different purposes they serve,” maintained the academician.
The stone structures found in the Khasi-Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya are intrically woven into the Khasi-Jaintia tribes’ culture and traditions since time immemorial. According to Dr Menon’s presentation, an interesting aspect of the stone culture of the Khasi and Jaintia is the commemoration via a stone structure of an important event. This can be noticed by the names of places given with a prefix of Maw like Mawmluh, Mawsmai, etc.
“I am more familiar with the megaliths of Southern India, but having known and learned about the stone structures of Meghalaya is like an eye opener for me. It’s like bringing in together different perspectives of slightly different monuments but arguably with the same purpose. I think it will go a long way in understanding these structures better,” he added.
In India, there are over 3000 megalithic sites spread across Peninsula India, most of which are found in Southern India and few in some pockets in Maharashtra, Kashmir and Jharkhand. “By looking at these living megalithic cultures of Meghalaya and also at other archaeological remains in other places of the country, we will probably will be able to understand why some places have rich megalithic culture and why some did not,” Dr Menon said hopefully.
Furthermore, Dr Menon explained why megaliths, monoliths of Meghalaya are fascinating. In his presentation paper, he wrote “Another fascinating feature of the Khasi-Jaintia culture is their association of folklore and folktales with many stone structures and stone monuments. Such association is fascinating for these timeless tales of mystery and fantasy – that have successfully elucidated the Khasi and Jaintia philosophical thought on every aspect of their culture and tradition.”
Expressing apprehensions on the possibility of a diluted and lost knowledge, Dr Menon said with the passage of time, it is feared that all knowledge, indications, significance and denotation that each of these structures represent will be lost. “Besides the aforesaid rituals associated with such monuments, a host of folklore is also associated with the stone culture in the Khasi-Jaintia communities which need to be documented and recorded.”
The seminar was also attended by MLCU Chancellor, Dr Glenn C Kharkongor, ICARE president, Toki Blah, HoD of Department of Community and Cultural Initiatives, Dr Fabian Lyngdoh, Associate Professor of History Department of Union Christian College and Archaeologist, Dr Marco Mitri and renowned columnist and President of Society for Urban and Rural Empowerment, HH Mohrmen besides faculties and students of the institute.
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