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M.S.M Archaeological Gallery: Megalithic Culture in Manipur

Chumthang News Service,
Imphal, 3rd June, 2015: Megalithic, derived from two Greek words ( Megas meaning large & lithos meaning stone) is the culture of stone monuments. It is primarily applied to the structures of rudimentary character built wholly or partially of large rough stone but includes comparable structure of a more sophisticated kind in which the stone may be crudely or even elaborately dressed as at Stonehenge.
Tharon Caves, Manipur
A secondary condition is that it fulfills a funerary or commemorative or religious function. The megalithic culture in Manipur can be broadly classified into two categories are menhirs, alignment, avenue, barrow, cairn with or without stone circle, cromlech, dolmen, capstone/flat stone circle, stone circle, stone seats, stone walls and village gate, etc….

Menhirs are monolithic pillars planted vertically into the ground. They may be smaller or gigantic in height. These pillars are either memorials, commemorative or burial stone pillars. They are known by different names, such as Tiisum ( Tasum) among the Marams; Zhosotu or Zhaosochu among the Poumais; Bhamboo and Bamdon among the Kabuis, etc. 

Closely allied to the menhirs are the alignments consisting of a carefully oriented row or series of standing stones in a square or diagonal plan. These type of alignments occur prominently at Willong and Maram Khullen villages. Avenues consist of two or more rows of alignments approximately parallel with one another. Barrow is a mound or tumulus made of earth. It is related with burial. Cairn is a heap of stone. It may be used as watch tower, vantage point or as resting place during leisure time. Cromlech is bent stone ( a menhir surrounded by a number of monoliths). The purpose of its erection is memorial and commemorative. Dolmen is a table stone resting on some supporting stones. Dolmen is always found over the ground. It is associated with head hunting. Stone circle is a cluster of menhirs arranged in circular pattern.

The functional types of megalithic monuments that are commonly found in different pockets of the State are of the following types : (1) Memorial stones / Commemorative stones (2) Stone seats / Resting stones,(3) Watch Tower, (4) Religious stones, (5)  Grave stones, (6) Witness/ Judiciary stones, (7) Village foundation stone and (8) Village gate etc…

The memorial stones are basically of two types, namely, memorial for the dead while the other is for the living, raised during the lifetime of a merit seeker. These are found In areas inhabited by the Anal, Kabui, Koireng, Maram, Tangkhul, tribes. Resting stones are used for taking rest and refreshment. It is found in areas inhabited by the Rongmei, Maram, Tangkhul and Mao tribes. Religious stones are groups of stones comprising several structural types. 

These stones play an important role in the socio-religious life of the tribes. Grave stones are kept directly on the grave of a deceased person. Oath taking ceremony is usually performed on the witness stones with the belief that the culprit would be punished by the spirit of the stone. The tribes consider it as a holy stone and no one dare to swear falsely on such witness stones.
                                             
To be continued next indication Chumthang Chronicle
Courtesy: Manipur State Museum, Imphal Folder.

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