The Equinox sunrise in Birbir. Jharkhand

The Equinox sunrise in Birbir. Jharkhand

The author this month is:

KANTI PAWAR of the Deccan College

He writes on his excavation of the large dolmen in Hirapur:

Click on :

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Junapani megaliths

One of the 300 Stone Circles of Junapani. Photo Credit: Wikipedia.

The megaliths of Junapani are precisely Stone Circles and there are around 300 of them. The megaliths are spread to an area of about 10 kms and are on the road from Nagpur in the Vidharba region of Central India, to Katol.

The earliest date of human habitation in the region can go back to about 1000 BCE. Therefore the earliest megaliths here has been dated to 1000 BCE. The monuments were first discovered and excavated in 1879 by J.H.Rivett Carnac. The excavations revealed cairn burials. The grave finds were bracelets, hoes, axes, chisels with long blades and tongs etc.  The datings were done by  these iron finds.

Among the cultural finds were Black, painted Red, micaceous Red and coarse Red pottery. B.K.Thapar  had excavated a few sites in 1961. Two circles revealed human remains and an animal of the horse family. Thapar also found Middle Paleolithic tools and stone pestles. excavation also showed sticky black clay around the funerary finds.

The Archaeological Survey of India have made a detailed study of about 56 of these ancient Circles and have assigned protection to these megaliths and they declared them to be monuments of national importance. 

Cupmarks have been found in about 20 stones of these circles. Profound research by Tata Institute of Fundamental Research have made them opine that these cupules could have  astronomical significance. The orientations noted of these cupmarks are to 118, 208 and 334 degrees towards the north. Research shows that these directions could be that of the rising and settings of certain stars during various seasons as that of monsoon.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Enigma of Nilaskal and Byse megaliths

by Prof. Srikumar M. Menon.
Manipal University.

The NILASKAL megaliths

 One of the largest menhirs at Nilaskal.

Nilaskal (lit. “Standing Stones” in Kannada) is a village near the historic town of Nagara in Karnataka. Nagara is well known for the Nagara Fort, which attracts mostly domestic tourists. Nagara, known as Bidanur in earlier times, was the capital of the Keladi Nayaka dynasty which ruled the region after the collapse of the Vijayanagara Empire in 1565. They ruled as independent rulers till 1763, when they were conquered by Hyder Ali and became a part of Mysore. 

A panoramic view of the site at Nilaskal, towards west.

The landscape around Nagara is littered with vestiges of the Nayakas – forts, temples, a unique “water park” and memorials of the various rulers. However, the history of human occupation of this region goes back much further than recorded history and can be guessed at from the multitude of prehistoric monuments scattered in the landscape.

The winter solstice Sun framed between two menhirs of Nilaskal, at sunset. 

The most magnificent monument in the region is an alignment of menhirs at Nilaskal. The site was reported in 1959 by Narasimhaiah and also studied by Dr. Sundara, who recovered Neolithic pottery from a road cutting which disturbed part of the site. Our studies in this region have thrown up the remnants of more than 100 menhirs, many of them stumps broken off at ground level or slightly higher. Most of the menhirs are quarried slabs of varying heights and sizes, the largest among them being more than 3m wide at the base, and more than 6m tall, but a mere 30-45cm in thickness. There is another menhir of nearly similar size. Several are broken now, but must have been of similar size when intact and some have fallen. These menhirs occupy an area of nearly 100m east-west x 300m north-south.

Nilaskal: a general view (from west to east).

Currently a road divides the megalithic site into two unequal halves and some menhirs have been disturbed/destroyed by the construction of a school in the northern part of the site some 60 years ago. A few menhirs are in a plantation of trees adjacent to the school, but the most prominent menhirs are in a clearing in the western portion that constitutes the largest part of the site. The site slopes up gently to the west and as a consequence there is a raised horizon towards the west.

Nilaskal: showing menhirs disturbed by the construction of a house.

The menhirs which are basically stone slabs are all erected such that the long axes of their cross-sections are oriented north-south. We have discovered several sightlines between pairs of menhirs such that they frame the rising and setting Sun during the solstices. The number of such sightlines is too high to have arisen due to pure chance. The purpose of having multiple sightlines to the same horizon events (sunrises/sunsets of the solstices) is unclear, currently. 

The menhirs are all distributed only till the highest portion of the east-facing slope and none of them are situated after the ridge line – thereby making a strong case for the argument that their builders intended them to be visible against the sky. Moreover, several of the stones have notches cut into them to permit the viewing of the (raised) horizon to the west and other menhirs that constitute the sightlines. All these point to the definite possibility that the menhirs were erected with intentional alignments to the Solar Cycle, but the intent – whether the monument was a calendar device or some “magical” alignment concerned with the cult of the dead is unclear.


The megaliths of BYSE

Byse: a general view.

Byse, which is located to the north of Nilaskal, is another alignment site of similar nature. The number of surviving stones at Byse is only 30, though and it is a much smaller site, occupying an area that is roughly 200m east-west x 600m north-south. 

The largest menhir at Byse: worshipped as “Bhootaraya” by the local populace currently.

A disturbed cairn burial at Byse.

A large fraction of the menhirs at Byse are natural boulders of elongated cross section, oriented in a similar manner as Nilaskal. Byse too boasts of similar sightlines as Nilaskal, leading us to believe that there is a series of such sites that we have dubbed the “Nilaskal series” of sites taking Nilaskal as a type site.



Apart from Nilaskal and Byse, there are three more sites of similar nature nearby – Hergal, Mumbaru and Aaraga Gate, the last of which was discovered during our surveys. It looks like Nilaskal is the grand culmination in design of this series of sites, being more extensive, with larger and better worked stone slabs as menhirs. At least Byse shows the presence of sepulchral megaliths (cairns) too in the same site and a thoroughly planned excavation at Byse is likely to help resolve many of the unresolved issues in megalithic culture of southern India.

 The megaliths of Hergal.

Mumbaru megaliths.

          Map of the megalith sites near Hosanagara.

Srikumar M.Menon.
919844734781 (Karnataka)
919447011826 (Kerala)

Monday, March 17, 2014


We travelled to the Barabar caves through Gaya. The 10 km stretch from Bela to the rock-cut caves of Barabar Hill is perhaps the worst road I have travelled on  so far. The villagers say that the road has not been repaired for decades.

Our local contact Avinash met us midway to the Hills. He accompanied us as a guide and we decided to drive to the Nagarjuna Hill first about 1.5 kms from Barabar where there were about three caves.
The twin hills of Nagarjuna and Barabar comprise of seven rock-cut caves, the oldest of it kind in India. Nagarjuna has  three caves wheres Barabar houses four different caves.

These caves were built for the Buddhist monks during Ashoka and Dashrath (Ashoka’s grandson) during 3rd cent BC. Monks of the now extinct Ajivkas sect too were believed to have resided and practiced their religion in these caves.
The hill is named after the Buddhist ascetic Nagarjuna, the founder of the Madhyamaka School of the Mahayana Buddhism.

The Nagarjuna caves are named as under:

Gopika (Gopi-ka-Kuba)
Vadithika (Vadithi-ka-Kuba)
Vapiyaka also known as Mirza Mandi (Vapiya-ka-Kuba)

The caves believed to be the oldest rock-cut caves of the country reveal the high standard of art that prevailed during the Mauryan period. 
The caves sculpted out of the granite rocks in the hill have been polished to give an extraordinary gloss finish that is seen to be believed.  The perfect semicircles, arcs, spheres, hemispheres and linear edges too are unique.

The glass finish doorways have narrow tops and broadened bottoms and generally open up towards 220 SW of S which could be the direction of Buddha Gaya. This would mean the artisans looked hard to find the boulders whose  sides had such a  bearing in which the caves could be dug in.

The artisans were not only knowledgeable how to create stunning architectures but also how to produce stunning acoustics in these caves, Meaning they created the structural design of the caves in such a way that fascinating echo is generated in here.

Long: 85 deg 4'37.56' E
Lat: 25 deg 0' 51.84' N

         The Nagarjuna Hill, where there are three rock-cut caves.

             The Gopika rock cut caves in the Nagarjuna Hill

            Climbing up the ancient steps with Abhinash to the Gopika caves

                   The entrance to the Gopika cave

The inner sanctum of the Gopika cave. The polished semi circular wall and the hemispherical ceiling is visible.

The glass finish doorway with Brahmi script on the right wall.

The Brahmi script on the left wall of the entrance to the cave with a possible Peepul leaf below  is also visible. Note the  precise right-angled edges .

The amazing science fiction type entrance to the Vadathika rock-cut cave.

Another view of the Star Wars type entrance to the cave. Note the precise edges. The polished doorways narrow at the top and broaden at the bottom.

The inner sanctum of the Vadathika cave. Note the architecture and the gloss shine of the inner sanctum.

The entrance of this cave is on the back wall and not on the side . The shinning side wall of the entrance is also visible. Like all the doorways here this one too is narrowed at its top and is broadened at the bottom.

The Vapiyaka cave is also visible to the left of the Vadathika cave.

The hemispherical back wall of the Vapiyaka cave. Note how neatly the arcs, both at the top and the floor have been crafted.

Note the gloss finish of the doorway of Vapiyaka and the Brahmi script on the left wall. The circular holes both at the floor and the ceiling perhaps points to the fact that a wooden or iron door was fixed here.

                          THE BARABAR ROCK-CUT CAVES

After the Nagarjuna caves it was the time to visit the Barabar caves some 1.5 kms away. Reaching there we began ascending the steps on the hill that would lead us to the caves. Today Hindu temples have been built both at the bottom and at the peak pf the hill.

Avinash narrated that Archaeological Survey of India has put up gates at the entrance of the caves as visitors were desecrating the ancient walls by writing on the cave walls.

The four rock-cut caves in Barabar are believed to have been made between the 3rd to 2nd cent BC during the Mauryan era all of which are dedicated to the Buddhist bhikshus.  The three caves of Karan Chaupar, Lomas and Sudama are in one submarine type monolithic granite stone of which Karan Chaupar is at the North West and the rest two on the opposite side. 

Co ordinates:

 Long: 85 deg 3' 46.8" E
 Lat : 25 deg 0' 18" N

These steps lead to the rock-cut caves

Karan Chauper cave

Built possibly around 245 BC. Has a floor area of about 10 X 4.2. m. The name seems Hindu in origin is possibly later ordained. The Brahmi script on the doorway wall however names the cave as Supiya cave. 
The back wall to the NW has a platform perhaps for the high priest to address the congregated Buddhist bhikshus. The polished entrance to the cave opens to 20 deg NE of N. Great acoustics in this cave.

The Karan Chaupar Cave

The glossy surface of the inner walls of the cave like the other ones is fascinating. Notice the  flash of the camera  being reflected by the shinny back wall. The platform was perhaps meant of the Guru to sit and address the resident monks.

The opposite back wall of the Karan Chauper with the door at its side.

Lomas Rishi cave

Elephants have been carved on the arch type entrance on the facade who can be seen paying obeisance to a stupa (perhaps that of Budha) was perhaps a copy of wooden structures of contemporary times. 
The inside has two chambers which seem to have been deserted leaving the cave unfinished. 

The ceilings  and the floors of both the chambers has distinct chisel marks.  The reason that the cave was deserted is clear as a long crack can be viewed inside. the cave. Rain water still seeps in through this crack and the cave gets flooded during monsoon suggesting that habitation during ancient times was impossible for the monks for this reason hence it had to be left.

The back wall has two horses drawn on them. The doorway which also houses inscription  on it  opens up towards 220 deg SW.

The Lomas Rishi cave

The facade of the Lomas cave. The exquisite carving here shows the elephants offering their reverence to a stupa .

The ASI caretaker opens the gate of the Lomas cave for us.

The unfinished floor of this unfinished Lomas cave.

The roof of the unfinished inner sanctum of the Lomas replicates a circular mud hut.


The linear crack in the unfinished ceiling of the Lomas is visible here. Rain water seeped in through this crack during the monsoon flooding the cave which perhaps compelled the artisans to desert it without its completion.

Sudama cave: 

Located just adjacent to the Lomas cave and behind the Karan Chaupar is supposedly the oldest of them all built around 261 BC.
The cave also has two chambers similar to the Lomas cave. This cave too has been given a Hindu name but according to the inscription on the doorway the cave was originally named "Nigoha Kuba" or the "Banyan Tree cave" .

The mysterious science fiction type inner chamber actually is the copy of a circular mud hut of yesteryears. The circular chamber has acoustics that has to be heard to be believed.The creation of the stunning echo effect inside the inner chamber required for their rituals is perhaps testimony of high skill of science prevalent among these unknown skilled artisans during the Mauryan era.

The shine of this cave wall also known as the Mauryan shine is the best of all the caves. The doorway also opens towards 220 deg SW.

The Sudama Cave is believed to be the oldest of the caves. Lomas can be seen  in the right.

The inside of the Sudama. The cracked back wall has a recess carved in perhaps for a standing Buddha idol to be inserted in there.

The rock art of two horses done on the back wall.

The glossy doorway like all the rest of the doorways has a narrowed top and a wide bottom. Notice the flash of the glossy wall.

This mysterious science type structure inside the Sudama Cave in actuality is a prayer room  duplicating a circular mud hut. The architecture is stunning and  so is the gloss finish on the exterior and even on the circular inner walls. The echo  inside this hemispherical dark chamber is just incredible.

Vishwa Jhopdi cave:

The cave is the smallest of them all and can be reached by steps carved during the Mauryan period known today as Ashokan steps.
The property of the granite rocks here is such that walking on the steps over two millenia has also polished them, therefore one needs to be careful walking on them lest one may skid and fall.
The cave actually comprises of two cubical prayer rooms. the entrance is much different from the rest and also opens up to 220 deg SW.

The Vishwamitra or the Vishwa Jhopdi Cave. The small cave is different from the rest as it also has a different sized entrance way as well.

The Ashoka steps. The steps were sculpted during Ashoka era for the ascetics to ascend the caves. Notice the perforation to reduce the slipperiness.

The musical stone. Avinash demonstrates the musical quality of this amazing stone near the Viswa Jhopdi cave.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The enigmatic petrtoglyphs of Sopore in Kashmir.

by Abhishek Mishra

The petroglyphs

In a visit to a village called Bomai in Sopore tentatively 60 kms from Srinagar in Kashmir I suddenly came across this mysterious panel of petroglyphs. The panel made of volcanic rock measured about 1 x 1 meter. The engraved rock art comprises of a few human and animal figures but what fascinated me most were the five concentric circles of varied sizes.

Three circles of which the middle one is of a larger size can be seen to have been sculpted in a linear fashion in an alignment. The two circles on it either side are of different sizes and so are their distances. Two other concentric circles of varied sizes are placed a little further left and are in an alignment too with the largest circle of the middle.

Various interpretations of the concentric circles have originated from different scholars. One opinion is that these art form are probably depicting meteorites crashing on to the earth at some prehistoric times of which the prehistoric humanity were witness to which they had later sculpted on the stone. The three lakes of Kashmir such as the Dal, Manasbal and Wular believed to have been created by meteorite collision too are in a straight line. According to them the petroglyphs of the circles probable evince the same meteorite crash that created these lakes.

However one can also see that the three linear concentric circles may represent the Orion also.

Whatever be it the meaning of such circles are yet to be deciphered. Whether the human and the animal art forms were create at the same time as that of the concentric circles or were they done at some different period by different people one really does not know.


First ever song composed on a megalith in India. Rajat Chandra sings on the fascinating megaliths of Punkri Birwadih:

Megalithic burials of the dolmen kind of Andhra Pradesh:

Rare megalithic sites discovered in Chattisgarh:

More than 200 megalithic sites found in Dhamtari and Mahasamund districts of Chattisgarh. Visit:

Megaliths of Jharkhand go to

Copper beads found during excavations in megaliths of Kerala. Read on:

A huge mysterious Peru type feature of the letter VI has been discovered on a hillock in Gujarat by Geology scholars. Chances are that the feature could be man made. Read on...

The 'kodakkal' or the 'Umbrella Stones', a type of unique dolmens typical only to Kerala lie in utter neglect. As-Prof Devdas now heads a study on the megaliths of Kerala. Visit:

125 megaliths have been discovered in the region of Junapani in Vidharba.

About 3000 year old megaliths have been discovered in Nagpur Amravati road.

3000 year old megaliths have been discovered in a college campus of Khammam of A.P. College authorities have planned to protect them. Great Job. Hope there were more like them.

The legendary Burjhaom megaliths of Kashmir: