MEGALITIC INVESTIGATION OF DHAMTARI DISTRICT, CHHATTISGARH
The megalithic culture of India is often describing as the early Iron Age culture. The megalithic sites are reported from all most all over the Indian subcontinent. The megalithic culture are also seen in Europe and Asia and there is striking similarity in the use of megalithic all over the Europe and Asia including Japan, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Gulf countries, Sindh in Pakistan and also SriLanka. The European Megaliths are older than the megaliths of Asia as they have been assigned a broad time bracket from 5000 to 2000 B.C. but in Indian subcontinent the megalithic are generally not older than the 1st millennius B.C. except some sites dates back 3rd/2nd millennium B.C.
The megalithic traits are no more in some regions of India. This type of traditions are practiced by the tribals sections in Orissa, Bastar in Chhattisgarh, Chota Nagpur, Jharkhand and Nagas anda Khasis of the north eastern part of India. Various eminent scholars are worked on Megalithic culture from middle part of 19th century to till today. But the first scientific attempt at classifying these monuments of megalithic culture was made by V.D. Krishnaswami. There are over 1400 Megalithic sites are reported in South Asia, out of which 1,116 are located in Peninsular India. But Moorti claims 2000 sites in South India alone and around more than 100 Megalithic sites have so for been excavated in the entire subcontinent. A number of scholars have attempted classification of the megalithic burials. However these burials types are varied region to region. However, generally the megalithic burials are found in the form of stone circle, cists, rock-cut chamber, sarcophagus, urns, menhir and Alignments, kodakal, and Toppikal etc.
Megalithic in Chhattisgarh :
After Dividation no single research work is done on Megalithic in Chhattisgarh. Before 2000 A.D. very few Megalithic researches are carried out at Madhya Pradesh. Then places like Karakabhat, Chirchari, Dhanora, Majgahan and Sorar in Durg dist. of Chhattisgarh. A new megalithic site is explored by the present author (Atul kumar Pradhan) at Bisrampur which located on the Dhamtari to Gangrel road. Here large numbers of megalithic and remains are scattered which needs a scientific excavation.
This site is dotted with high and low lands. The floral families are generally Sal, Sagon, Saja, Sisham, Bel, and Tendu etc. The most common animal is like Monkey, Mongoose, Jackal, Indian bear, fox, etc.
This region receives tropical climate with almost dry winters. The area is fed by mansoon rains and receives about 130c.m. of rain in a year. This area is mostly of alluvial soils with black cotton. The cultivated cereals are paddy, gram, wheat and rice etc.
The exploration revealed many megalithic monuments in the form of menhirs, alignments cap stones and cairn circles. Menhirs were perhaps created in the memory of the dead which are found in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnatak, Chhattisgarh, Kasmir and in the north eastern region .In this area also a large number of erected stones are arranged in squares. These menhirs are of 10ft to 12ft in heights.
Another type of monument of Megalithic is cairn also noticed in this area. In this cairn circle the body was first excavated and then interred. Grave goods, ceramics and other iron implements are offered. Then single and double stone circles are created around the pit. These types of structures are also reported by the exploration team.
Local Tradition :
There are many local legends are prevailing in this area about these Megalithic structure. The local inhabitants believed that these structures are created by the ghosts and those, who are committed sin, they converted into huge stones. The tradition of creation of these monuments is not seen in this locality. The local villagers offered terracotta figurines and objects to these huge megalithic structures after fulfillment of their wishes.
The Directorate of Culture and Archaeology, Government of Chhattisgarh has undertaken the scientific survey work of Dhamtari district. This operation is carried out by Soberan Singh Yadav and Atul Kumar Pradhan. The exploration of Lillar area comprised the villages of Aroud, Lillar, Saloni, Bhamaramara and Daragahan revealed many megalithic remains in the form of menhirs, cist and burial sites. Besides these many historical remains in the form of later period sculptures are traced out from the excavation.
This site is located on the bank of mighty river Mahanadi. The survey revealed more than seventy menhirs in this area. Some menhirs are ruined in condition.
Majority menhirs are located on the right side of the Lillar-Saloni road. This site is located on the right side of the nallah Jhar jhara. Some intact menhirs are located on the possession of Forest department. Another village named Dargahan which is located on the bank of river Mahanadi. The exploration revealed one scattered menhir.
This Megalithic site Lillar (E 800 40"N 200 39'40") is located 15 k.m. from the district headquarter Dhamtari in Chhattisgarh. The exact mound is situated about 1/2 k.m. from the village Lillar. This particular mound is located about 10 m. height from the general ground level. This mound is locally known as Bhawargad. It is located on the confluence of Mahanadi and Jhar Jhara nala.
This Jhar Jhara Nala serves as a moat and joins to the Mahanadi. Here some megalithic menhirs are also seen, perhaps the Marahatas strengthened this mound by adding the huge megalithic stones. Some scholars identified it to Neolithic period. Here ninety existing megalithic menhirs and cap stones are documented.
The exploration of this area yielded many antiquities i.e. fragmented bone points semi-precious beads, hubs scotch, fragmented iron implements. The ceramic industries basically black and red ware, red ware & black slipped ware are traced out. Besides the menhirs, cairn circles and cap stones are came to lime light.
Trial Excavation :
The license was granted by the Archaeological Surely of India for extensive exploration and trial trench at Lillar to the Directorate of Culture and Archaeology, Government of Chhattisgarh under the directorship of S.S.Yadav, Deputy Director Yadav, S.S.(A Note on Megalithic Investigation at Lillar. In Puratattva, No.39,2009.pp.225-227.) This megalithic research operation was carried out in and around Lillar. So an extensive exploration with trial excavation at Lillar was undertaken to study the megalithic settlement and its nature.
A site is selected for the trial trench to know the cultural sequences and the habitational pattern of Megalithians of Chhattisgarh. This selected site located very near to the existing menhirs. The site is plain and contained yellow medium loose soil on the surface . A trench is opened which divided into four quadrants and quadrant one is first operated and subsequently third one.
The trial excavation at Lillar yielded the vestiges of two cultural periods.
- Period-I : Megalithic Culture
- Period-II : Late Historical
Period - I
The period-I belongs to Megalithic culture. The trial excavation is operated almost 1m. in depth. The excavation did not encounter the natural soil and the soil is so loose that it is difficult to go further deep. The loose soil contains the ashy patches all over the site. The operation of this phase revealed black and red ware, red ware and red slipped ware. The distinct pottery types include shallow and deep bowls and handis also traced out. Conical lids with knobs and large water carriers are found. Other shapes like carinated vases, float base and projecting rims and remains of spouted dishes are reported.
The most common iron tools are flat iron axes, sickles, hoe, chisels are found. The fragmented swords and arrowheads are reported from this cultural phase. Besides many semi precious stone beads and very few copper implements are also recorded. Number terracotta hopscotch are special mentioned.
The remarkable discovery is the bone points which are special mentioned here. There are almost four bone implements are recorded from this limited excavated trench. The agricultural tools are generally found almost all megalithic sites. Because they cultivated rice, barely, wheat, kodo, red gram etc. Archaeological studies have been carried out at a large number of sites, i.e. Maski, Brahmagiri, T. Narispur. Mahurjahri, Naikund, Sangankallu, Raipur etc and others by various scholars to understand the economy and subsistence. Large number of cherd grains and charcole are recovered from this cultural level.
A number of querns and mullers reported from the Megalithic phase. Besides many fragmented quern are found from this site. From here a lagged quern is recovered.
This cultural period belongs to late historical period. There is only 15 c.m. deposit of this cultural phase. From this level historical artifacts and fragmented stone loin are found Beside these, many medieval potteries are traced out.