Ancient Hazaribagh megaliths aligned to the Sun

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.

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. (Credit: 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 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 archae-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 (from Breton men, “stone,” and hir, “long”) at Punkri, Barwadih, Hazaribagh (Credit: 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. (Credit: 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 is 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 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 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 has already been spoiled due to expanding industrial activities.

stonehenge
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. 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 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. Government should build megalithic parks to help preserve these fast-disappearing monuments.

11 thoughts on “Ancient Hazaribagh megaliths aligned to the Sun

  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 1 person

  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

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