India may have its own version of Stonehenge, Eng-land’s prehistoric monument with astronomical associations, in Karnataka.
Researchers from the Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) and Manipal University have discovered 26 megalithic constructions at Byse, 140 km from Mangalore, which were probably used as an astronomical observatory by its inhabitants.
The three-member team has claimed that the menhirs or stones, dating prior to 1000BC, are the first strong evidence of a monument with intentional solar and possible stellar alignments among Indian megaliths.
Using computer simulations, the team found that the standing stones are aligned to the north, east, south and west directions and also match the two solstices and equinoxes. While the two solstices mark the longest and shortest days of the year, an equinox occurs when the sun is in the same plane as the earth’s equator.
“The megaliths may have helped inhabitants know the various seasons; helping them carry out agriculture and other trade,” said Mayank Vahia, astrophysicist, TIFR. “The study establishes that India had a strong intellectual tradition of precise astronomical observation not copied from any other civilisation.”
The study ‘Stone alignment with solar and other sightlines in South India’ is published in the latest issue of Current Science, published by the Indian Academy of Sciences based in Bangalore.
“Although the site was discovered in 1975, we went back to literature and found that nothing more of them was studied,” said professor Srikumar M Menon from the Manipal School of Architecture and Planning, Manipal University.