Sutradhara’s tales: “Stonehenges” of Pune and Megalithic Man
So, do you think aliens ever landed earth? Were the gigantic pyramids, the mysterious crop circles, Inca civilisation, the giant statues of Ester and formidable looking Stonehenge of England created by them?
There are numerous such architectural marvels scattered across the earth which leave you wondering about who might have created them and how! In absence of modern technology, it is almost impossible to believe that they might be product of human endeavour. And yet, as we dig deeper (literally) with archaeologists’ help, we can find some clues to reveal the astonishing answers to our mystical pasts.
Stonehenge in England is one such fascinating monument comprising 13 giant stones (13 ft high, 7 ft wide) standing in a circle, essentially, representing the burial grounds from Neolithic and Bronze ages of civilisation. All that is indeed wonderful, but what does it has to do with our Pune story?
Did you know what Pune and Stonehenge mega stone circle burial grounds at England have in common? Proto historic Pune folks were not very behind in raising giant projects and have left marks of similar Stonehenge of Pune in the suburb of Bhosari.
When British authors of Gazetteer of Bombay presidency wrote about history of Pune in 1885, they were unaware of enigmatic humans as well as their remains in the vicinity of Pune. But, as we have seen in past articles, the scholars of Deccan College, including Dr Hasmukh Dhirajlal Sankalia, were not a passive lot and proactively hunted in the environs of Pune for clues to past inhabitants.
As the local memory serves, Bhosari is an old settlement known as Bhojpur and had a fortification enclosure called “Kot”. In the old village, the medieval remains were scattered in the forms of Mahadev shrine, Khandoba temple with enclosure, and shrine of folk gods such as Chedoba, Munjaba, Babpuji Buwa along with some herostones. Amongst these medieval remains, Dr Sankalia and his team in 1939 found traces of stone structures which went back many centuries ago.
In proto-historic period, one comes across the structures made of colossal undressed stones, either arranged in a circle called “stone circle”, or an erect, roughly tall triangular flat slab called “Menhirs” standing out prominently. Sometimes, the large three or four stones are arranged at right angles and covered with capping stone called a “Dolmen”. None of these stones show any chisel marks or have cementing material and one wonders how they were moved to particular place and installed in particular manner. These structures mark the proto-historic burial grounds of humans who were aptly referred to as “Megalithic” (of Big Stones).
Till recently, not many habitation sites of these humans have been reported by archaeologists and such prominent burial grounds have been largely reported from Vidarbha region and southern Deccan. So, finding evidence of Megalithic man near Pune was indeed a significant discovery.
Based on the black and red pottery found in excavation of such burial grounds, archaeologists have dated these cultures to Iron Age of India dating roughly to 1000 BCE. The Vidarbha region excavations such as Mahurjhari have reported good amount of iron tools, jewellery, and the remains of humans and horse buried commemorating the dead. This elaborate burial practices indicate that the Megalithic man believed in life after dead and hence, packed goods and vehicle for the journey of departed souls.
At Bhosari, three “Menhirs” of height 4’8” ft, 8’8”ft and two 6’4” were seen near Bapuji Buwa shrine, Chavadi area and Bhairoba shrine, respectively. Two stone circles were reported from Kot area and Kanhoba shrine. Numbers of “Dolmens” were reported in the form of the enclosure of Chedoba and Mhasoba shrine where present day communities have established shrines by placing aniconic symbols. Unfortunately, no burial remains or significant pottery has been reported.
Overall, the entire area seemed to be proto-historic burial ground and the tradition of burial continued till the time of investigation as Mahar community was seen practicing burials. But, Mahars did not erect the huge stones to mark the site as seen above.
It is thus interesting to see that in the time when most Hindu communities practice cremation, it is unusual to find burial grounds except for certain communities such as Mahars, Jangam, etc. It was also fascinating to note that many nomadic communities such as Lamani and Dhangars visit these shrines annually and offer worship. This practice may signify some important ties between Megalithic humans and present nomads. Of course, erosion of tradition and loss of the material evidence on ground has made it difficult for us to trace the continuity of such practices. Some communities in modern period also followed the custom blindly and had erected a “modern dolmen-like” structure to carry the resemblance with Megalithic structures forward without knowing their true nature.
Dr MK Dhavalikar has known to excavate a stone circle yielding Chalcolithic potsherds at Pimpalsuti in Shirur, Pune marking another Megalithic site.
Similarly, due to resemblance in form, Dr DD Kosambi had indicated that the Vetal of Vetal hill in midst of Pune city may be originally a stone circle belonging to the same period. He claimed that Mhatoba and Vetal lie on tracks which yield microliths and were frequented by nomadic communities too and served as pre-historic cult sites. Thus, he also suggested that the place might have served as ancient necropolis or burial ground. He had reported some interesting rock engravings at Vetal hill as Megalithic engraving which were later examined by Deccan college archaeologist and geologists to reveal that majority of them are result of natural erosions. Some which may be made by man could not be dated for lack of context. And yet, it is intriguing to note that Dhangars do pass though this area and venerate the Mhatoba and stone circle like formations as Vetal, even today!
Today, the growing suburb of Bhosari has engulfed most of these remains, including the stone circles and few obscurely survive hidden in narrow lanes. The big stone circle was lost to expansion of Pune-Nasik highway. But thanks to efforts of Dr Sankalia and the communities who still keep the place alive through their veneration, we can witness the fascinating human endeavours of Megalithic Man of Pune!