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Mysterious megalithic-era menhirs of Telangana seek global attention

K V Kurmanath | Updated on: Jun 19, 2022
An arrangement of menhirs that dates back to 1500 BC at Mudumal village in Narayanpet district of Telangana

An arrangement of menhirs that dates back to 1500 BC at Mudumal village in Narayanpet district of Telangana

State govt assures of protecting the site, forming panel before UNESCO’s next meet on heritage sites

The last leg of about five kilometres on this 180-km stretch from Hyderabad to this 3,500-year-old Megalithic site here tests your patience. As you approach this site on the banks of the River Krishna in Narayanpet district, the road gets narrower and bumpy.

Dotted with about 80 tall stones ( niluvu raallu as they are referred to by the locals), or menhirs, the five-acre site that dates back to 1500 BC, also has ‘alignment stones’. As there are no inscriptions left behind, there are two schools of thought that attempt to understand why these menhirs are erected.

Sundeep Mukhta, Founder of Jai Makthala Trust, who has been building a campaign to get a UNESCO Heritage tag for the site, felt the purpose of these stones are to capture the movement of the sun to estimate the time.

About 500 meters away, there is another site comprising mounds of boulders and stones. Believed to be a burial ground, the site also comprises a three-foot rectangular stone, which has a ‘sky chart’ chiselled on it. “Perhaps, they identified and located constellations and astronomical objects using the chart,” he said.

The sky chart chiselled on  a three-foot rectangular stone at the megalithic site

The sky chart chiselled on  a three-foot rectangular stone at the megalithic site

‘Beautiful site’

“The menhirs were arranged in several rows, form alignments and avenues. Studies found that particular rows of menhirs are aligned to the position of the rising and setting sun on the summer solstice and equinox,” said Mukhta. To promote the site, the Trust has been organising tours, bringing students and teachers from nearby schools. A team from the Sejong University (South Korea), too, visited the site recently.

Panduranga Rao, a retired professor of the National Institute of Technology (Warangal) and heritage conservation expert for four decades, described it a ‘beautiful site’. “You don’t really know the reasons why these menhirs were erected in the absence of any inscription. They might have erected it in memory of people or certain occasions. You need to study it,” he said.

Rao, who helped the Ramappa temple receive the UNESCO World Heritage Site tag last year by preparing a voluminous documentation, felt one needed to identify the uniqueness of the site and build a solid dossier to help it get the tag. He said he would chip in too, and help the people involved in preparing a dossier to prove its uniqueness.

‘Preservation on’

The menhirs, which used to be present in an extent of 80 acres until a few decades ago, exist now only in a few acres as the bulk of them were ravaged to make way for farming. The Telangana government has said work towards preservation of the site is on. “We have sanctioned ₹25 lakh and acquired 4.29 acres of land where the last of the menhirs are concentrated,” V Srinivas Goud, the State Minister for Tourism, Culture and Archaeology, said.

Though the menhir side of the site is acquired by the government, the mounds of boulders and the pillar with ‘sky chart’ continues to be in an unprotected area and exposed to vandalism or unintended damage due to land clearing. Goud said the process was on to get the said land transferred from the Revenue department.

“We will do everything to protect the site. We will also form a committee well before the next meeting of the UNESCO that vets applications for heritage sites,” he said.

Published on June 19, 2022
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