Feb 26, 2014

Prehistoric Stone Alignment of Vibhutihalli

The list of 'types of prehistoric artifacts' keeps growing.. rock paintings, pottery, stone implements, dolmen, petroglyphs, ash-mounds, stone circles and now, stone alignments. Prehistoric folks were really busy bodies; they have developed so many different forms of rock arts; not random drawings but art which had deep meaning. What ever they did had a purpose; what ever they made lasted ages; whatever they did was in tune with nature.

Long back, a time came when humans noticed a cycle in changing positions of Sun and stars. They realized the Sun position in sky was connected with seasonal changes. As years wen by, future generations discovered a way to predict seasonal changes for which it was very important to know their calendric position. They put their heads together, chose a suitable place with a good supply of boulders and created a huge rectangular array of boulders; an array measuring several hundred feet in length and width. This huge array or stone alignment told what part of the year it was and so megalithic men had created their calendar.

In Karnataka there are two such megalithic calendars- Vibhutihalli and Hanamasagar. Vibhutihalli is 4 kms south of Shahapur town in Yadgiri district. Hanamasagar is in Koppal district. While Vibutihalli's stone alignment is a protected site, I have no idea about the fate of Hanamasagar's stone alignment.

November 27, 2013
Locating the site was easy, as you drive from Shahapur to Shorapur, about 4 kms down the road on the right is a small group of hills and on the opposite side is a fenced tamarind plantation. Within that fenced plot is Vibuthihalli's prehistoric stone alignment. 

A frail old man is the care-taker appointed by ASI. However the plot is under Karnataka Forest Department and the tamarind trees belong to the department. Also within the site is a forest nursery.

care-taker rests on a boulder placed here several thousand years ago
An ASI signage near the gate welcomes visitors, its gives out ample information about the history of these stones.

A site made for the living
Vibhutihalli's rows of stones were used to track important annual events such as solstices and equinoxes. Though trees hamper the view today, try facing east at dawn on the day of an equinix, either March or September 21st. Rows of stones running east-west will point directly to where the sun rises. Look west at twilight during either equinox and you will see the sun setting exactly in the dip between the hillocks across the road. This means Vibhutihalli's alignment site was carefully chosen to allow viewing of this astronomical event.

You can also find positions from where you can look along the diagonal to see the summer solstice sunrise and sunset. Can you think of other important events that might have been predicted using the alignment.

When survival depended on prediction
Much planning, knowledge of astronomy and labour were needed to establish this site. But why was it important to keep track of calendric events? Many activities of megalithic societies were closely tied to the seasons, such as sowing, harvesting, hunting and moving to different pastures. People's well-being depended on being able to predict when seasons were going to change.

In India, such stone grids were found only in parts of North Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Vibhutihalli's remarkable stone alignment is one of the largest and best preserved of these sites.

Taylor had spent a great deal of time studying this stone grid and related hillocks in the vicinity.
Meadows Taylor sketch of Vibhutihalli's stone grid
view: East to West
view: East to West
view: North to South
To know more about this prehistoric astronomical monument do read these two articles-
Stone alignment of Vibhutihalli
Calendar set in stone


Feb 22, 2014

Prehistoric Ash Mounds of Budihal

Budhihal village is located in Surpur taluq of Yadgiri district. Budhihal is mentioned along with Hagaratgi and Rajan Kollur in Meadows Taylor's 'Megalithic Tombs and Other Ancient Remains in the Deccan'. The name Budhihal literally means 'old ash'. Hence this village is known for its ancient ash mounds.

November 26, 2013
We drove from Talikoti side, passed through Hagaratgi village and reached Budhihal village. The ash mounds are situated a kilometer to the northern and north-eastern sides.

At least four large ash mounds can be identified in satellite maps; 1½ kms away are three mounds and another 1½ kms fruther is a larger ash-mound. In the picture below is the first group of mounds. Mounds 1 and 2 are nearly 150 meters in diameter. Both are badly damaged.. vandalized would be the right word.

This is Eranna from Budhihal village, he was my guide. Eranna is standing close to the center of ash mound 2. Most of the ash has been carted away.. Eranna said people use it for construction work. Sad.

A closer look at the mound. On the outside it is harder, a crust has formed because of exposure to air and moisture. There are spots where grey ash can be seem clearly. Beside ash the mound seems to consist dirt, stones and lime powder too. The white powdery substance could be lime (see inset).

Here is a close up of the section of the mound. Different layers are visible. Focus on the dark grey patch within the circle - the light grey arc is piece of pottery.

I pulled out the pottery piece to expose the ash inside. I felt it with my finger tips, it is definitely ash.. seems it is wood ash.

I collected few pottery pieces and ash lumps to add to my collection. Eranna is holding the samples.

Artifacts from Budhihal- two ash lumps and three pieces of pottery. The pottery pieces still have a coating of fine ash.

This mound is about 5' at the tallest point.

On the edge of the mound are fist sized stones mixed into the ash. Looks like a ring of stone wall encircled the burning mass. The stone circle might have been created to contain the ash from spreading out and also to contain the fire. It is also possible that a shallow but wide pit existed which eventually filled with ash and became a mound.

What was the purpose of these fires?
Burn limestone to produce lime for domestic use like white-wash dwellings?
An annual ritual where old house-hold articles were incinerated?
A kiln to bake pottery?
To scare away wild animals?

We come to mound 2. As you see a road has cut right through the mound.

This mound is about 3 feet at the highest point. Eranna said if you stood on this mound and pounded it with your feet you hear a dull sound.. as though it is hollow within.

People here are aware of the historical importance of these mounds, yet they vandalize it.

A mound of excavated sand dumped in a fenced farm land. That seems like two or three tractor loads of ash.

This site needs to be protected and preserved.. at least for the sake of Budhihal's name.


Feb 15, 2014

Megalithic tombs of Rajan-Kollur

Philip Meadows Taylor's "MEGALITHIC TOMBS AND OTHER ANCIENT REMAINS IN THE DECCAN" describes Rajan Kollur as a major megalithic site of Karnataka. I could find only two images of the dolmens and they happen to be Meadows Taylor's paintings in British Library Online Gallery- Large Stone Cist Grave and Stone Cist Graves. I was wondering how mush of the site was remaining. During our trip to Raichur in December 2012, we were quite near by but time was a constraint. Finally the day came..

November 26, 2013
The day started early, my first stop was Shivasharane Neelambike memorial at Tangadgi followed by Talikoti fort (I missed Muddebihal fort though we drove by it). Then on the way to Budhihal, we happened to drive by Hagaratgi - hours of research to locate this village had gone in vain but today we found it by chance :) Hagaratgi is another important prehistoric site mentioned in Meadows Taylor's book. After a quick visit to Budihal's ash mounds we drove to Kodekal and then Rajan Kollur.

On the village outskirts my inquires for "Morayara Mane" resulted in blank faces. But when I inquired "Buddara Mane" the term was recognized immediately. Its important to know the local terms.. very handy indeed. We were asked to take the dirt path running parallel to the canal and look on the left.. found it! There were 8 to 10 of them scattered over a small area, the structures were almost the same size as dolmens of Aihole. The site was open with no protection.. no efforts to preserve them??

I went around them and took pictures. Then as I was thinking if these are the only remaining dolmen, I saw two boys walking by, I hailed them and asked if there were any more dolmen nearby. Their answer made me smile.. a little further is the main site, you will see many of them.

If not for those boys I might have missed the main site, thanks to them. Here's the welcome lobby at the site, an infographic gives out basic information about our megalithic culture and megaliths here.

Transcription of some parts of the infographic:
Karnataka's megaliths
Our state has hundreds of megalithic sites that vary tremendously in size and form. Megaliths here were built between 2000 and 3400 years ago. Many coincided with the Iron Age, but few were built before the wide use of iron. Several megalithic sites now have only one or two megaliths. Others like Brahmagiri in Chitradurga district and Hirebenakal in Koppal district have hundreds of different types of megaliths. Some of these also had habitation sites associated with them.

Northern Karnataka has several large megalithic sites, especially in Gulbarga, Raichur, Koppal and Bellary districts.

One of Karnataka's best known sites
Rajankollur is among the most remarkable megalithic sites in South India. There are a variety of sandstone megaliths here. The rectangular structures with side slabs supporting a roof are called dolmens. Notice how there are different kinds, with either three or four sides, and with or without a port-hole. The partly buried, box-like structures interspersed among the dolmens are called cists. All of Rajankollur's cists have their longer side slabs projecting beyond the shorter slabs - this prevents the cist from collapsing inwards.

Resting place of the dead
When megaliths were built here 2600 to 2900 years ago, this site extended almost 360 m - more than three and half times what it is now. Some dolmens stood taller than a man and were more than 3.5m (12 feet) long. Some were surrounded by circles of ash derived from the ash mounds of the earlier, Neolithic period. Others had circles of stones, often with two slabs marking a path to the megalith.

Although these monuments are commonly believed to be houses where people lived, they were actually places for the dead. Archaeological excavations have found that the cists and dolmens held urns containing charcoal, ash and bones.

Meadows Taylor had visited Rajan Kollur in 1850 with Dr. A Walker. A detailed study of the site was carried out. The below sketch is the layout of the site. In the book Taylor says that cromlechs at Rajan Kollur's are similar to the ones at Wales. Going by the sketch, the site had more than 200 dolmens 160 years back but today less then 100 can be seen.

The care-taker has put in efforts to keep the site clean and tidy.

This is one of the largest dolmens here today, 3 or 4 more of similar size can be seen here. Went around it clock-wise..

side-rear view
side-front view
front view
One of the smaller dolmens.

as seen from south-east corner
This 5' high dolmen is probably the tallest here.

Western part of the site has most of the smaller dolmens.

Close to the south border of the enclosure was a shallow pit with matte surfaced white colored stones with violet stripes. While taking this shot from the pit I noticed a binding material between the stones.

This cream-colored material must be mortar; it is not very recent but doesn't seem to be applied when these dolmens were built.

All dolmen are oriented to north-south
View of the site from canal bund. In the background is Rajan Kollur village.

The entire area shown below was a major settlement during Neolithic times. Hagaratgi, Budhihal, and Kodekal are also known for cairns, dolmen and ash-mounds. However, a canal from Basava Sagar (Narayanpur dam) running through this area has disturbed the terrain and must have destroyed lot of evidence.

Someday I will come back here to explore area surrounding Hagaratgi, Budhihal and Kodekal. I think Rajan Kollur is also called as Rayan-Kollur.. goes after the village by name Rayan-Palya.

If you are interested in seeing two more major prehistoric burial sites, do take a look at granite tombs of Hire Benakal and sandstone tombs of Aihole.


Feb 12, 2014

ಶಿವಶರಣೆ ನೀಲಾಂಬಿಕೆ ಐಕ್ಯವಾದ ಸ್ಥಳ ~ Shivasharane Neelambike memorial

Having visited Jagatjyoti Basaveshwara Aikyastala at Kudala Sangama and Shivasharane Gangambike Aikyastala near MK Hubli, a visit to Shivasharane Neelambike Aikyastala was on my list for a long time.  Gangambike and Neelambike were Basaveshwara's first and second wives respectively. Both women had dedicated their lives to propagation of Basaveshwara's teachings and way of life ~ "Kayakave Kailasa" which means "work is worship." Like other Sharanas, Neelambike too composed vachanas...

November 26, 2013
While Basaveshwara Aikyastala is at the confluence of Krishna & Malaprabha, Neelambike Aikyastala is 3.7 kilometers downstream close to the opposite bank just a kilometer away from Tangadgi.

Neelambike memorial as seen from the bridge across Krishna
The structure is much smaller when compared to Basaveshwara's and Gangambike's memorials.

bridge to the temple
A stone plaque dedicated to Madivala Machidevaru, Nijabakthe Neelambike and Jagatjyoti Basavaeshwara.
Madiwala Machideva | Neelambike | Basavanna
Nijabhakte Neelambike
top view of Aikya Mantapa
Aikya Mantapa as seen from floor level
temple on the left
temple on the right
left bank to right bank, across Basava Sagara
across mighty Krishna, 3.7 kms away is Kudala Sangama
To learn more about Basaveshwara and his wives visit this post: Gangambike and Neelambike- Ideal wives of Basavanna by Chandrashekar Salimath.

Another prominent Shivasharane was Akka Nagamma, Basaveshwara's elder sister who attained Aikya at Yennehole near Tarikere.