Kerala’s megalithic dolmens in a state of ruin

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Hundreds of muniyaras, the dolmens of the Megalithic age, are in a state of ruin here in the absence of proper care and systematic protection over the years.

Muniyara_374681fMuniyaras, made of three or more upright stones and a huge capstone, are believed to be the burial site of the people of the prehistoric period, the earliest inhabitants of the High Ranges. Near the Government High School (GHS) here on the Marayur-Kovilkadavu road, nearly ten muniyaras are in an intact state without any damage.

However, there are a large number of muniyaras here in various shapes and sizes are in a state of ruin due to the onslaught of time and human interference. Without any protection in the overgrown bushes, they remain as a piece of unwritten history.

All the structures have similar features pointing out that they are made during a particular period of time either by a nomadic tribe or the inhabitants of the earlier time. The tombs are the remaining evidence of the living of a tribe who revered the dead.

Though detailed study of the site is yet to be undertaken, individual studies by anthropologists and archaeologists brought to light the remains of pottery and iron metal found inside the chambers.

There are several cluster of dolmens near the school and in Nachivayal. They are different in shape and size. These sites still attract people keen on history but lack of information regarding the period and the features of the muniyaras in the absence of excavations or detailed studies makes one feel that they are an abandoned historical structures. It remains a mystery that how the huge granite slabs were created and how they were lifted to make it the capstone.

K.Chandrakaladharan, headmaster of the GHS, which produced a documentary on muniyaras as part of the non-academic project, said that it was because of the ignorance of the people and lack of protection that pose a threat to the muniyaras.

The school students have held a rally to create awareness on the need to protect the dolmen and highlighting its historical importance. He said that anti-social elements and nomads used the site as a shelter and some of the granite slabs were found destroyed.

A large number of dolmen in Nachivayal are in a more damaged state in the absence of any steps taken towards its protection. According to him, it is high time to protect these structures considering the archaeological importance.

Studies by the Archaeological department in 1985 underlined the importance of the need for protection of the site and also collected remains of pottery and iron metal pieces from the chambers. However, unlike in other sites of archaeological importance, no follow up action or step for their protection was taken up.

The Marayur panchayat had submitted a report to the State government pointing out the need for the protection of the muniyaras and to systematically control the entry in to the archaeological site.

An official of the grama panchayat said that in consideration of the keen interest among anthropologists and archaeologists, the site should be declared as an area of archaeological importance and entry limited.

He said that more archaeological studies should be conducted so that the visitors could be given an official information regarding the history of the muniyaras and the period of the construction.

A large number of muniyaras are spread over a wide area and excavations will unearth more as there are buried sites with earthen urn inside the chambers also believed to be the tomb of the earlier inhabitants.

At the village office here, there are no details regarding the sites where the muniyars are spread over or details of their history.

It is high time to take steps to protect the muniyaras that are the landmark left by a generation that lived here before the first migrants reached the area.


Source: The Hindu © [January 30, 2011]


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