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Two necropolises in Mizoram, UP to get protected status

This includes four sites from Champhai district where menhirs, megaliths and rock engravings dating back to 15-18 AD have been excavated. The site in UP’s Sanauli dates back to 2000 BC, where a pre-Iron Age specimen of a chariot was dug up.

india Updated: Jun 05, 2019 09:47 IST
Amrita Madhukalya
Amrita Madhukalya
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Mizoram,UP,Uttar Pradesh
The proposal for protected site status for the Champhai sites has been put forward by the ASI Aizawl circle, which has termed the findings “important cultural remains of pre-British era Mizoram”.(HT Photo)

Sites from two necropolises from different ends of the country -- in Mizoram’s Champhai district and Uttar Pradesh’s Sanauli -- are set to be granted “protected site” status, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) officials familiar with the matter said.

This includes four sites from Champhai district where menhirs, megaliths and rock engravings dating back to 15-18 AD have been excavated. The site in Sanauli dates back to 2BC, or the late-Harappan period, where a pre-Iron Age specimen of a chariot was found. Necropolises are ancient cities built around burial grounds in obeisance to the dead.

Under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, once a site is granted protected site status, the area around it is developed with signages, better lighting and other facilities and is promoted for tourism.

The proposal for protected site status to the Champhai sites has been put forward by the ASI Aizawl circle, which has termed the findings “important cultural remains of pre-British era Mizoram”. The proposal is with the Union culture ministry. The notification of the Sanauli site was published last week.

The four sites at Champhai district are Lianpui, Lungfulian, Dungtlang and Farkawn, and lie within a 100km radius from the district headquarters. In 2015, after the world’s biggest necropolis was discovered at a nearby site at Vangchhia village in Champhai, it was declared protected. Currently, it is the only protected site in Mizoram.

At Vangchhia, burial sites, a water pavilion, terrace gardens, remnants of a palatial building, petroglyphs advanced water storage facilities, buttons, and over 300 stairs were discovered. Also discovered were hundreds of megaliths and ‘menhirs’ or, memorial stones put up to commemorate a local chieftain, hunter or hero, some with engravings and carvings. Currently, talks of proposing the site as a World Heritage site is going on.

Lying close to Vangchhia, inside Champhai district are the four sites that the Aizawl circle has proposed be declared protected sites. At Lianpui, 114 ancient menhirs in eight different rows, four in east-west and four north-south, lie 54 kms from the Champhai district headquarters atop a hill. Carvings of motifs of human figurines, animals, mithun heads, hornbills, deer, and fish, which are peculiar only to Mizoram, are found on the stones. Also present is the remains of a pathway to the Tiau river, and a rock mountain with carvings of birds, animals and gongs known locally as ‘Lung Ziak Tlang’.

Similarly, at Lungfulian located 65 kms northeast of the headquarters, 10 megaliths and two boulders with engravings lie on the hillslope of Lungfulian Tlang. One of these menhirs has shoe marks and ‘1912’ engraved on it. On one of the boulders, there are engravings of a semicircle and a necklace while another has a frieze of 12 fish.

Dungtlang, 55 kms southeast of the headquarters, has menhirs with engravings of elephants, tigers and unknown animals. Locals believe that at the site, Lianchhiari, daughter of an 18 AD chieftain would sit on the loom, gazing upon her lover’s village. At Farkawn, 90 kms southeast of the headquarters, four menhirs and engravings of mithun heads, vessels and weapons are found on a huge rock divided in three segments.

What makes these sites unique is that some of these menhirs appear to brought from somewhere else and erected, as per Sujeet Nayan, the deputy superintending archaeologist of ASI Aizawl circle.

“This is a prototype of what was found at Vangchhia, with almost the same culture and similar settlement areas and memorials. Here, emotions are expressed in carvings and motifs, and the lifecycle of a chieftain’s bravery is celebrated. The period saw its fare share of wars, and such pictographs are very rare. Across the globe, they have existed for a while, but are quite rare in India,” Nayan told HT over the phone from Aizawl. He adds that more such sites in the Northeast need attention.

Early this year, at Sanauli, 68 kms from Delhi, excavations by a 10-member team led by SK Manjul of the Institute of Archaeology pointed to existence of a warrior class living at the Pre-Iron or Bronze Age in 2000-1800 BC. Experts say that this led to the redefining of the Mahabharata Age. Coffins and burial sites, rice and pulses in a pot, copper helmets, and cattles bones were dug up at the 4,000-year-old burial site at Baghpat district.

First Published: Jun 05, 2019 01:43 IST