Ancient Megaliths | Hazaribagh

Massive stone structures dotted across the subcontinent provide a fascinating glimpse into India’s prehistoric past. What is the most strikingly common feature of prehistoric cultures, from the icy fjords of Norway to the Hazaribagh plateau? All of them, seemingly independently, struck upon the idea of erecting massive stone structures during the same era in history. These monuments — yes, these are the earliest surviving man-made monuments we know of — are called megaliths, derived from the Latin mega (large) and lith (stone). Megaliths were constructed either as burial sites or commemorative memorials. The origin of megaliths in India is not clearly determined. Although they occur in profuse and bear close resemblance with those of Europe and Western Asia, the cultural link is still far to be established.

Megalithic monuments are among the earliest and most permanent of archaeological structures, and so many of them were used, or more properly, have been used and reused for thousands of years. Their original intent is likely lost to the ages, but they may have had multiple functions as they were used by different cultural groups over the centuries and millennia. In addition, a few probably retain their original configuration, having been eroded or vandalized or quarried or added to or simply modified for reuse by subsequent generations.

Megalithic site at Pankri Barwadih
Megalithic site at Pankri Barwadih, an instance of ancient astronomical wisdom. The megaliths are so placed as to witness the transition of the sun during the two equinoxes. | Photo: Arghya Bhaskar

Taken together, these monuments lend these disparate people the common traits of what we know as megalithic culture, one which lasted from the Neolithic Stone Age to the early Historical Period (2500 BCE to 200 CE) across the world. In India, archaeologists trace the majority of the megaliths to the Iron Age (1500 to 500 BCE), though some sites precede the Iron Age, extending beyond 3000 BCE. The particular people, whose culture had been represented in Megaliths, are not yet clearly identified.

The sepulchral ones were obviously built in the memory of the dead but amongst the non-sepulchral ones, a fair number of such stone structures have been shown to be for astronomical purposes.

Punkri Barwadih megaliths
Each stone here at Punkri Barwadih is positioned in alignment to prime peaks or notches of the surrounding hills, mathematical ratios and even to major sunrises and sunsets.

There is a group of megaliths found close to Barkagaon that is about 25 km from Hazaribagh town, the headquarters of the district in the Indian state of Jharkhand. At Punkri Barwadih, Hazaribagh’s pre-eminent megalith site, there is a calendrical archaea-astronomical observatory that is the axis of a plethora of major megalith sites throughout the Hazaribagh plateau. The megaliths are arranged in such a manner that two of the most distinguished megaliths create the alignment for the formation of an Equinox point. Punkri site is in the middle of a series of concentric circles having a major megalithic cluster on the rim. These sites, in turn, are aligned through other sacred sites to a number of more distant sacred sites.

Punkri Megalith
Sun rises on vernal equinox between two menhirs at Punkri, Barwadih, Hazaribagh | Photo: Subhashis Das

On every March 21 and September 23, many villagers, tourists, and researchers visit this place to observe the Equinoxes. The observation takes place for 30 minutes. It is also known to offer great views of the sunrise and sunset throughout the annual Solstices. The scientists and researchers, who study the movements of the Sun, verify with these megaliths, as observatories from the prehistoric times. Punkri Barwadih megalith site of Hazaribagh has been proven to date back to beyond 3000 BCE.

Sun-oriented megaliths of Hazaribagh
Note how the two menhirs “mirror” the two peaks of the Jugra hill range in the background | Photo: Subhashis Das

A small stone has been made to function as a pointer, is arranged in a North-South position to the west of a larger menhir. This stone is placed in such a manner that it is linear to the crevice between the two larger menhirs which faces the mid-winter sunrise.

Tribals believe the point of sunrise on the vernal and autumnal equinox is considered the true ‘east’. Ancient tribes here erected two stones (menhirs) to form an angle through which the sunrise can be viewed.

The observatory can be reached from Hazaribagh, on the Hazaribagh–Barkagaon Road, just before Barkagaon, the megaliths can be seen on the left side of the road.

Megalith sites across the world
Images of Equinox sunrises in a few megaliths and other monuments across the world.

Hazaribagh based researcher Subhashis Das is working on megaliths of India for two decades. He has published many books on megaliths of India. He is trying hard to get these silent megaliths to get their due recognition. He has reported in his blog that this historic sun-aligned site is currently in danger of being destroyed due to lack of protection from the authorities. Several other sites in this region have already been spoiled due to expanding industrial activities.

Stonehenge, in Wiltshire, England. is perhaps the world’s most famous prehistoric monument. It was built in several stages: the first monument was an early henge monument, built about 5,000 years ago, and the unique stone circle was erected in the late Neolithic period c. 2500 BCE. (Credit: NatGeo)

Belying their historical significance, megalithic sites today are found in various states of neglect. There are no plans for preservation of this feat of monumental architecture. These historic and cultural monuments are found in various states of neglect. While some are still intact, many have been damaged by entrepreneurial folks carrying away the stone slabs for construction purposes.

Megaliths are not protected as heritage monuments, and they are being destroyed constantly by the villagers in the greed of buried treasure. Many ignorant of megaliths, cart away menhirs to their homes, using them as drain covers or as washing stones by their wells. Compare this with the Stonehenge, a world-famous megalithic monument which draws millions of visitors from all over the world. The government should build megalithic parks to help preserve these fast-disappearing monuments.

24 thoughts on “Ancient Megaliths | Hazaribagh

  1. Amazing post. This is really an eye opener. As an ex military guy, we do a lot of map reading and cartography during our service and this is something I had never heard of before, probably one of the most ancient ways one could actually find the true east. With magnetic compasses or lode stones, finding true north is equally a challenge.

    I have bookmarked this post. It is time to point the bearings eastward… 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Sir I also have deep respect for our monuments and strongly think that there is an urgent need to preserve protect and restore them…how can common ppl like us accomplish this….eg. u being a banker is pursuing ur passion by what means ???…how to create awareness among ppl?…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks, Uday. Heritage awareness is an important component of conservation. One of the basic causes for damage of heritage is due to lack of awareness to the public at large and non-involvement of people in the process of conservation as well. Reaching out to as many people we can is probably a thing that we should undertake in preserving our cultural heritage. We need to create awareness among the general public towards the importance of safeguarding heritage assets by whatever means at our disposal. Increased participation of citizens is needed for the protection of cultural heritage.
          I believe that creating awareness and promotion of the cultural heritage is necessary to make the general public understands the pressing need for conservation of cultural heritage. Let’s join in creating awareness and reaching out to the people.


  2. That’s something new for me. I never knew or heard about these ancient stones. Protection of structures is a big issue in India because people have no understanding of its importance. We have already discussed this in comments on one of my post. Thanks for the share.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s even a news to me. I’ve visited Hazaribagh but nobody ever told me about these sun-aligned megaliths! It’s almost a coincidence that just half an hour ago I read another blog post which focussed on “Astro-tourism”. The name is self-explanatory and according to that post, it’s gaining popularity thick and fast. It’s a pity that while we have such amazing spots in our country, they are getting eroded or ruined due to lack of proper maintenance.

    I’m bookmarking this post too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it’s a pity that such sites in India are not getting any governmental support and are being allowed to be destroyed, vandalised. I recently read of another such site, a 7,000-year-old megalithic site that served as an astronomical observatory has been found in Muduma village in Telangana. The stones have been placed there in the shape of Ursa Minor (Saptarshi Mandal) constellation. Such sites should be protected and publicised. We can have a good share of astro-tourism, as you mentioned, in India.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What an informative and enlightening post! I consider myself as widely travelled but what a shame that I had no idea of these ancient megaliths! Thanks for sharing these treasures Indra and those images are superb!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Stonehenge is so famous, but I wonder how many people know about the megaliths of Hazaribagh. I did not know before I read this post. Thank you for sharing such interesting information about these fascinating megaliths. These surely deserve to be protected against vandalism and promoted as well.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Very much, I agree it is a vastly underdeveloped state in terms of tourism.
        If you like , we can join hands in visiting places and showcasing Jharkhand and Bihar, especially the offbeat destinations. I have done a few, want to do more.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s an honor to get the acknowledgement from the very person who is trying to bring the attention of the society and the world towards this megalith heritage of Jharkhand. I salute you.


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