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Megalithic Monuments and Living Traditions in Jharkhand

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Item Code: HAN490
Author: Himanshu Shekhar
Publisher: Agam Kala Prakashan, Delhi
Language: English
Edition: 2024
ISBN: 9789392556210
Pages: 242 (Throughout B/w Illustrations)
Other Details 11.5x9 inch
Weight 1.04 kg
Book Description
About The Book

This book contains detailed study of living Megalithic tradition of the Mundas of Jharkhand along with archaeological study of over 200 Megalithic sites of Chatra, Hazaribagh, Ranchi and Khunti districts. It has a detailed ethnographic documentation of mortuary rituals and associated rites of the Mundas, which is been compared with other two branches of the Mundas; Bhumij and Ho. Anthropological aspect of mortuary rituals are also explained in this book. Archaeological comparison and interpretation is done on the basis of limited excavated data available, and surface exploration of ancient Megalithic sites. Considering the rich heritage of living tradition and its importance to interpret archaeology of megaliths in the region, the author have used ethnographic analogies to understand different aspects of ancient Megalithic communities of the region in lights of ethnographic traditions, considering importance and limitations of ethnographic analogies in Archaeological study.

About the Author

The author of this book, Dr. Himanshu Shekhar have conducted an ethno archaeological research on the Megalithic culture of Jharkhand and studied numerous megalithic sites in Chatra, Hazaribagh, Ranchi and Khunti districts of Jharkhand. The author was awarded with Maltinagar Ethno archaeology Award of Year 2019, for his paper entitled "An Ethno archaeological Study of Mortuary Practices and Megalithic Traditions of the Mundas of Jharkhand", during the Joint Annual Conference of ISPQS, IAS and IHCS. He is a former Junior Research Fellow in Indian Council of Historical Research during years 2017-19 and Infosys Fellow in Born- Infosys Academic development Programme in the year 2022. He has published 23 research papers on megalithic culture and rock art of Jharkhand in peer reviewed and UGC recognized journals and as contributed chapters in different national and international volumes of archaeology. "Megalithic Monuments and Living Traditions in Jharkhand," is author's first published book, derivative form of his PhD Thesis, entitled, "Archaeological Investigations and Living Megalithic Tradition among the Munda Community of Jharkhand."


Ethnographic traditions of raising funerary and commemorative monuments are well documented and studied in the region of North East India, belong to different clans of Nagas, Khasis and Kharbis of Nagaland, Manipur, Assam and Meghalaya. In recent years, Anthropological and Ethno archaeological research on Living Megalithic Traditions of Nagas and Marams are conducted from the scholars of Nagaland ad Manipur University. Besides these, very few attempts are made to understand the Living Megaliths in region of Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand by colonial ethnographers. In the region of Jharkhand, not such work has been done on the regional Megalithic culture, although, few works are carried out with astronomical point of view, besides the colonial and post independence ethnographic documentation. These works not only lacks archaeological interpretation of ancient Megalithic monuments, but also understanding of variations in ethnographic records of rituals associated with death customs and functional aspects of different monuments raised by the direct ancestors and contemporary society. It was important to compile a book on the Megalithic culture of Jharkhand, not because the lack of available data and work conducted so far, but because of lack of a proper archaeological research with background of limited archaeological excavations. Archaeological excavations of Megalithic monuments in the region doesn't have a promising history, as no proper excavation was carried out initially, besides few trenches taken by S. C. Roy and P.Mitra in decades of 1910 and 1930, respectively, Such works were more antiquarian in nature and their main aim was just to collect material culture. Hence, lacks the analytical and interpretative part of research. After independence, an excavation was carried out by mid- eastern Circle of Survey of Archaeological Survey of India at the site of Khuntitoli, which was already disturbed decades before, by S.C. Roy through his unsystematic diggings. A single capstone burial was excavated by ASI, which reveals evidence of multiple burials, represented by secondary interments, kept inside separate urns with offerings of ornaments made of copper, bronze and semi-precious stones. Subsequently, some explorations by ASI have reported some more findings of Megalithic sites in different areas of the state, but no site was considered for proper archaeological excavation. Recently, excavation branch of Patna have excavated a site of Obra to understand the Megalithic archaeology of the region (the excavation report is not been submitted, which means this book does not have the result of the excavation). Considering such limited background of Megalithic research, this book was important to compile as a source book of knowledge on Living Megalithic Tradition of the Mundas, presenting an ethno archaeological model of research to understand the ancient Megalithic culture of Jharkhand, This book comprises in six chapters, as the first chapter presents a brief history of Megalithic research in India, from initial to the recent times. It also provides a brief knowledge of general understanding of the study area with cultural and archaeological background. Second chapter deals with the ethnographic profile of the Mundas along with their subsistence strategies, settlement pattern, socio- political organization, material possession and religious belief. Third chapter gives details of archaeological explorations conducted in four different districts of Jharkhand. It presents details of some new Megalithic sites in the area and result of the surface survey at 216 Megalithic sites in four district of Jharkhand. Fourth chapter provide details of documentation of mortuary rituals of the Mundas, including two case studies in Ranchi and Khunti districts, comparing them with previous ethnographic documentations of some colonial officials scholars during second half of 19º century, cited in Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal, compiled by E.T. Dalton and a documentation done by M. Topno in 1950s. The chapter has two live documentations of case studies with detailed record of mortuary rituals and erection of stone monuments. It also gives detailed information of mortuary variation, based on age, sex, gender, rank and death occur during different circumstances. All these information are collected through various interviews of different individuals of different age groups from over 200 settlements of the Mundas in Ranchi and Khunti districts. Chapter five of this book is most important from research point of view, as it includes the analytical part with analysis of both archaeological and ethnographic data. It also has theoretical part of ethnographic and anthropological research on death customs, for instance, mortuary symbolism, socio-economic aspects of mortuary rituals, ritual economy and at the end, archaeological importance and interpretation of ethnographic data. Discussing various issues on the research, for instance, lack of ample amount of archaeological record, limitations of ethnographic data and key points of Megalithic culture in the region, this book is concluded with a small epilogue in the sixth chapter.

At the end, it also has two appendixes; Appendix I, with details of different interviews carried out in the area of Ranchi and Khunti districts and, Appendix II, with tables having, information of mortuary variation recorded in ethnographic interviews, detailed information of all the Megalithic sites of four district of Jharkhand, details of ceramic assemblage collected through surface survey of ancient Megalithic sites and details of biological remains from disturbed burials, with general identification and primary analysis of bones to understand the nature of funeral custom of ancient Megalithic people.

I hope this book will be beneficial for researchers of Megalithic archaeology in the region and throw some lights on importance of Living Megalithic tradition to understand the Megalithic culture of Jharkhand.


The birth and the death is one of the most sensitive aspects of any mortal being. The emotions attached are represented in various forms depending upon the contemporary ideologies. Hence, the disposal of the deadhas various forms and connotations in different parts of the world and continues to be manifested in various ways. In India the disposal of the dead in known from the Mesolithic period that dates back to around eighth millennium BCE. The disposal of dead by organizing or making monuments in the form of stone appendages are evident from the Early Harappan period dating to about fourth millennium BCE. This kind of monumentality of making burial architecture became quite evident during the Early Iron Age in different parts of the subcontinent; known as the period of Megalithism. It is two hundred years back that the first recording of megalithic culture was conducted by Babington in Malabar Coast. Since then a lot of literature covering explorations, excavations bringing out an enormous data is published. To understand some of the phenomenon it has been imperative to look into the contemporary megalithic buildings and builders thereby revealing some of the aspects, ideologies and other associated activities. The present study will certainly has brought out some of the aspects which may help in furthering studies in this field. Almost 150 years before, James Ferguson has compiled a monograph, "Rude Stone Monuments of All Countries".

He has given detailed information with line drawings of ancient stone monuments of different parts of India and describes them through antiquarian perspective, briefly compared them. with stone monuments of various ethnic groups of South India, Central, Eastern and North East India. Few more works were conducted subsequently by colonial officials on such monuments and they were directly compared with monuments of other parts of World. Such diffusionist approach was rejected by later groups of scholars, who were working on the Megalithic monuments in India. Since then, most publications on Megalithic culture of India is generally published with rich archaeological data of South Indian Megaliths, concerning the material culture of the site, nature of funeral remains, grave goods, typology of burial monuments, Megalithic pottery, antiquity of the burial, craft specialization of Megalithic people and their subsistence strategies. On the other hand in Northern India, few works are compiled as results of excavations of Kotia, Kakoria and Magha of Southern Uttar Pradesh and Adwa valley of Madhya Pradesh by B.B. Misra and V.D. Misra. Besides these, another work is compiled on the Megalithic culture of Chhattisgarh by A.K. Sharma. All these works are based on archaeological excavation but mostly neglecting the ethnographic part of research. It is also important to conduct research and publish on the Megalithic culture of those areas, which do not have the history of extensive archaeological excavations and scientific research when interestingly these areas have their own importance as a rich cultural heritage of living traditions. These are on many occasions closely associated with ancient Megalithic culture. Very few researches are carried out and compiled as a book on ethnographic traditions of Megalithic monuments.

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