Report 1 - Little Flower College Guruvayoor

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HISTORICAL IMPORTANCE OF MEGALITHIC MONUMENTS
IN THRISSUR DISTRICT
SUMMARY OF THE PROJECT
SR.Valsa. M.A, Asst. Prof. In History ,Little Flower College, Guruvayoor
The megalithic sites that dot the landscape of Kerala are the treasure houses of history of the
state. The strategic location of Kerala in the unique geo climatic point of Asia offers numerous
opportunity for research that delves into her past. Archaeological evidences and other traces of prehistoric
period have been causality in this march to progress. Sifting through archaeological evidences to
reconstruct and reinterpret the history of Kerala during the megalithic period is a challenge that has to be
met. Hope, my project will redress this lacunae in a small way.
This field is very interesting and relevant where a lot of research is yet to be done. Monuments
built of granite rocks erected over the burials are called ‘megaliths’. The megaliths
are the most
important archaeological findings in the ancient period of Kerala history. Many megalithic sites are
excavated all over south India. The megalithic culture of Kerala has to be seen as a part of South Indian
megalithic culture. R.D.Banarji and Mortimer Wheeler have suggested that the South Indian megaliths
have many similarities with the megaliths found in the West Asian and Mediterranean regions.
The contributions of Kerala to the cultural heritage of India stands unique in every sense. Recent
finding in various parts of Kerala has provided enough proof of its greater antiquity in the geological
features and pre-historic cultures. The prehistoric evidences obtained from Kerala constitute various
culture beginning from paleolothic to megalithic period. The first set of people of Kerala, can be
identified only with reference to their burial practices. These people constructed burial monuments in
granite, laterite and pottery, most of which are strikingly similar to the megalithic monuments of west
Europe and Asia.
Megalithic monuments have been classified into various types on the basis of their outstanding
features. 1) Menhirs are monoliths usually erected over the urn burials. 2) Hero stones (veerakkallu) and
sati stones (masatikallu) are often sculptured and several of them have inscriptions on them. They are
widely distributed all over south India.3) The dolmens constitute a variant of cists and the only difference
is that the dolmens are above the ground. 4)A port holed cist is a box-like structure, made of four or five
dressed granite slabs kept upright either in clockwise or in the anti clock wise direction on a floor slab
with a cap-stone cover. 5)The rock cut chambers are also called rock cut caves. Shaft graves and rock cut
chamber tombs are of two types- single chambered and multi chambered. These are monolithic
monuments mostly quarried into the laterite beds 6)Topi-kal and Kudakkal are the two terms used by
local people for the monuments belonging to the umbrella stone series, and they were first rendered into
English as ’hatstone’ and’ umbrella stone ‘by J.Babington in 1819. Each topikal or ‘hatstone’ rests upon
four quadrantal clinostatic stones joining up together into a square at the base on the outside and believed
in such a way as to close up along the diagonals of the square. 7)Among the burial systems of Kerala, urn
burials were predominant. The urns are generally found scattered and only rarely in alignments. The urns
and pits are generally scaled by stone slabs and at times by ceramic vessels. 8)A sarcophagus is literally a
legged coffin made of terra-cotta. Tomb-shaped many legged sarcophagi is almost like a bath – tub. After
placing the burial articles and dead body in the tomb sacrophagi have been reported from kattakambal in
Thrissur District.
The megalithic monuments are visible in almost all parts of south India. A lot of megalithic
sites can be seen in Thrissur district such as Cheremanganad, Porkkulam,Kakkad,Eyyal, Kattakambal,
Chowannur,
Ariyannoor,
Kandanassery,
Machad,
Mangad,
Thiruvilvamala,
Varandarappilly,
Ramavarmapuram etc. It represented by funeral monuments created out of huge blocks of stone. In these
monuments, along with the corpus, the most valuable possession of the dead like the tools and weapons,
ornaments, pots, dress, food items, coins, beads etc…were buried. The excavations reveal that there are
variations in the character and style of construction of megalithic monuments from region to region. But
there are numerous common features for all of them.
Scholars studied the megalithic culture in detail and put forward their valuable opinions about
them. Haimendrot, the great Archeologist equates the iron using megalithic people with the Dravidians
who migrated from the west and suggested that the megalithic culture entered in India perhaps between
700 and 500 B.C. This period is generally accepted as the period of the origin of megalithic culture in
south India by the scholars. D.H. Gordan in his work “Pre historic Background of Indian culture” support
the date suggested by Haimendrot. But many other scholars suggested that this culture developed in
between BC 500 to 1000 A.D.
The period marked the transition from the food gathering stage to food producing phase of human
culture in south India. The nomadic and wandering life of people for their food and other essentials
gradually disappeared and they began to settle permanently on the banks of river valleys and the hill
slopes and began to cultivate the soil in their surroundings. The megalithic people were responsible for
the introduction of a systematic and developed agricultural economy based on iron tools and irrigation in
South India .As a result of this, permanent agrarian settlements developed in many areas in South India
during this period. The material remains obtained from the excavation reveals that in south India
chalcolithic culture was changed into megalithic culture using Iron tools and implements. Stone axes,
choppers, scrappers, cleavers, points etc. are the common type of tools.
The discovery of the skeleton of dogs buried along with the skeleton of man obtained from
excavated sites reveals that they practiced domestication. By analyzing the relics from the megalithic
monuments , we got a clear image of rural Kerala. Starting from stone age, Kerala must have been the
site of human settlement. This is evidenced by the presence of a large number of megalithic sites in
Kerala.
Iron tools and implements are common in almost all the burial graves and they are similar also.
Among the most common tools are flat iron axes, shaft whole axe, and a variety of flanged shape hoe,
pick axe ,bill hooks, iron wedges and crowbars. Spear like objects, arrow heads, blades were also found.
These iron artifacts points towards different economic functions of that time. Hunting was a major
economic function of the people at one stage as the tools used hunting was very large among the findings.
Towards the end of the megalithic period the cultural phase was undergoing a transition from pastoralism
to agriculture. From the objects which we got from these megalithic sites, we can interpret the lifestyle of
the people their culture, social structure and religious beliefs. The megalithic people of Kerala might have
led a semi-nomadic pastoral life combined with high land agriculture. Agriculture was practical and iron
tools enables them to clear the forests and till the land is a systematic manner enabling them to produce
results.
The iron objects like arrow heads, spear heads, sword, dagger, tripods etc indicated that warfare
was a common practice at that time. The difference in the size of megalithic burials indicate to the social
inequalities in the society. Some of the burials have precious stones and other objects which denote to the
political and religious importance of the person buried.
Historians generally differ in fixing the period of the megalithic culture of Kerala. From
available evidence, it could be inferred that the megalithic culture existed in Kerala during the period
between BC 6th century and 2nd Century BC. One of the most important finding related to megalithic
culture in Kerala is that the ‘Kudakkallu’ is a unique mushroom – shaped megalithic burial monument of
Kerala. Nowhere else in the world is this kind of megalithic burial site found.
The Archaeological Survey of India is trying to get these sites included in the World Heritage list.
Thrissur district in Kerala is the most important and valuable site of megalithic culture in Kerala. The
megalithic monuments in Kerala have more historical importance. Through the study of megalithic sites
of Kerala, we can reconstruct its early history. By urging the students of history to know about the
relevance and importance we can conserve our historical sense. Encouraging Field visit to all these
megalithic sites in Kerala, we can create great historic potential in the minds of students.
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