Indian megalith traditions


Megaliths are not an exclusively European phenomenon. What is more, they still currently play an important role in some societies.

After their research trip to the Indonesian island of Sumba last year (see GS newsletter 3/2015), a team around Maria Wunderlich has undertaken another journey to a remote part of the world to investigate the local customs and traditions focusing on megaliths. From mid-February to mid-March they visited different villages in the Northeastern Indian state of Nagaland. “The cooperation with the University of Nagaland’s department for History and Archaeology was very helpful”, Maria Wunderlich sums up. “Our partners Tiatoshi Jamir and Ditamülü Vasa supported us in many ways, for example, in setting up contacts with the local population.”

Megalith in Nagaland

Many megaliths in Nagaland remain important memorial sites for the local communities. Photo: Jagiolla/ UFG

Most of the megaliths in the mountainous region of Southern Nagaland are monoliths located near the paths which descend from the villages to the lower-lying fields. Although the people do not erect new ones any longe, the big stone monuments partly still play a vital role as sites of remembrance in the collective memory. “We gained insight into the numerous ritual rules and taboos once connected to the erection of megaliths. The vital role that festivities played also became clear”, reports Wunderlich, who is going to incorporate the newly gained knowledge into her dissertation. Although the meaning of the megaliths in Nagaland generally declined throughout the last decades, many are still kept free from surrounding vegetation, serving as memorial places for their builders or for entire families.

Jirka Niklas Menke