With the lockdown restrictions being lifted, life is gradually returning to some level of normalcy. People have already started travelling again, with safety measures in place, of course. The compulsive traveller is looking for offbeat destinations untrammelled by tourists. Discovering the megalith sites of Jharkhand can be a great option for such people. And there couldn’t be a better time to do that. Rural India is by and large untouched by the spread of the novel coronavirus. And monsoon is around the corner.
Megalithism: A living tradition of the tribals
Before we take you through the various megalith sites of Jharkhand, let’s first tell you what megalithism is all about. The term 'megalith' has been derived from the Greek word 'mega' meaning 'large' and 'lithos' denoting 'stones'. The term, therefore, implies a large stone. A megalith is a structural design of dressed or undressed stones, created by tribal people from prehistoric to modern times, and serves as a burial or a memorial stone for the tribal community. In some places, they are also used to mark the entry and exit points of villages, or for astronomical purposes. Tribal communities are known to worship these sacred monuments as many of them enshrine the relics of their ancestors.
Not many people are aware of the fact that Jharkhand is one of the few places in India where megalithism is a living tradition. Megaliths like the UK’s Stonehenge and France’s Newgrange are a huge tourist draw. Jharkhand is among India’s leading megalith destinations whose history is slowly being unravelled, much to the delight of archaeological and culture buffs.
This invaluable cache of megaliths ranging from prehistoric to modern times found in many pockets of Jharkhand has been attracting scholars and tourists from around the globe.
Here are the megalith sites you can easily visit from Ranchi:
Bhut Village, Khunti
From Ranchi, you can make a quick excursion to Khunti’s Bhut village (relax, there's nothing spooky about it), which is just 40km away. It’s best you begin the trip early in the morning. On reaching Bhut village, you will be greeted warmly by tribesmen who are happy to take you around their small village dotted with megaliths, beautiful mud thatched houses and vast green farms.
What’s really fascinating is how these megaliths are such an intrinsic part of their everyday lives as you will encounter them in the courtyards of their homes, in their fields, in the village squares and even in the narrow alleys dotting the village.
This village is home to the largest megalith site in Jharkhand. The tribals of Jharkhand build dolmens over cremated bones which they call 'sasandiris', and Chokahatu is known for them. From table-tops to large menhirs and dolmens, you’ll find varied types of megaliths spread across Chokahatu’s 'hargarhi' or burial ground. Used by the Mundas since ancient times, this living burial site is 70km southeast of Ranchi. Its lazy sprawl of eight acres is dotted with as many as 8,000 stones, of which several are burial slabs and many are dolmens.
On your way from Ranchi to Chokahatu, after entering Tamar, keep an eye out for a megalith site on your left. Tamar is one of the five blocks of the Panch Parganas region, where the Mundas are supposed to have first arrived. The megalith site of Tamar is home to some really ancient megaliths which will leave you fascinated.
The megalith site of Barendah looks straight out of a Pink Floyd video. It has a large tree standing in the middle of a large grassland dotted with megaliths. You must visit this trippy village, located 7km from Chokahatu.
This little village, a few km from Barendah, is home to the most beautiful megalith site of Jharkhand. It would be great to ask locals for directions while scouting this site. Surrounded by verdant hills and a gentle river, the megaliths of Marcadih rest under large trees and the landscape is truly a sight to behold.