Thursday, 27 October 2011

Standing Stones or Mawbynna in Meghalaya- Day 5

As we drove up the hills beyond Shillong, early in the morning, the ubiquitous fog announced the arrival of Cherrapunjee. On a wet, cold and foggy morning, with visibility reduced to near nothingness and very souls seen on the roads, we were moving towards Cherrapunjee.


Standing Stones

We moved on an amazing road along the edge of one of the steep canyons, the open ridge above us was scattered with standing stones, stone circles and dolmen like structures. The hills are dotted with monoliths and old graveyards. We found so many small churches, thanks to the missionaries who penetrated deep inside the forest too! Ok, let me come back to the point.

The Khasis believe that these monoliths are the work of an ancient race of men of Herculean strength, who drove these stones into the earth with just a single blow.

These ancient monoliths reminded me of Veeragallu or Mastikallu, erected in honour of deceased ancestors, found in Karnataka. They are not just found in India, but are also found in Britain and Europe. They are reminder of an ancient spiritual culture that once dominated the entire world. There are thousands of monoliths across the world from Holland to Germany, Scandinavia, Portugal, Spain and the whole of the Mediterranean area such as Majorca, Minorca and Malta, and North Africa, Ethiopia, Syria and Palestine, as well as South and West Africa. They extend eastwards from Egypt to India and are found as far afield as Malaysia, China, Korea, Japan, the Pacific Islands and the Americas, proving the existence of an ancient world culture.
Standing Stones

T. Eric Peet, in his book ‘Rough Stone Monuments and their Builders’ (1912) writes:
“The central and southern parts of India afford numerous examples of dolmens. They are to be found in almost all parts of Lower India from the Nerbudda River to Cape Comorin. 
In the Nilgiri hills there are stone circles and dolmens, and numbers of dolmens are said to exist in the Neermul jungle in Central India. In the collectorate of Bellary dolmens, these and other monuments to the number of 2129 have been recorded. Others occur in the principality of Sorapoor and near Vellore in the Madras presidency. 
These latter appear to be of two types, either with three supports only or with four supports, one of which is pierced with a circular hole. Of the 2200 dolmens known in the Deccan, half are of this pierced type."

Of these megalithic monuments, Adrian Bailey writes in his book ‘The Caves of the Sun’ (1997):
“In Palestine, archaeologists have found Dolmens or ‘chamber tombs’ similar in design and construction to others in Malta, Corsica, Brittany and Ireland.
They cannot be the product of independent invention, for they are alike in size, in shape and location.”

Mawbynna is a generic Khasi word for the many different types of standing stones erected by the Hynniew Trep people. These standing stones are mostly of granite and vary in size from less than a meter high to 7-8 meter in some cases, and can be found either in linear groups (usually comprised of an uneven number of stones) or singly. They are sometimes found in proximity to other types of monuments though they can be isolated in the landscape. Very commonly horizontal table-stones (maw kynthei) are associated with the linear groups of mawbynna and in this case the whole group can be considered a single monument. Other structures found in association with mawbynna are mawbah, which are clan ossuaries, kpep, cremation platforms, and sometimes circular spaces where mortuary rituals are performed. These monoliths are good examples of the unpolished stone technology.

As we pass, I was sweating inside the carefully purchased woolen cap and shawl. I wonder how come it was not cold. But very soon, we reached Sohra or Cherrapunjee. 

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