Lakshmi DAV School principal Subhashis Das inspects the fallen megalith in Hazaribagh on Tuesday. Picture by Vishvendu Jaipuriar
One of the two V-shaped megaliths at Pankri Barwadih, 17km from Hazaribagh and said to have been there since 1500BC, collapsed early on Monday, the reason for which has not yet been established, but its present fate is indicative of the callousness with which prehistoric monuments without religious affiliations are treated in the state.
The 86-inch megaliths attract attention of solar observers from India and abroad twice a year, during spring and autumnal equinoxes, to calculate the angle of sunrays with respect to time. It has drawn comparisons to the famed Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument in the British county of Wiltshire and a Unesco World Heritage Site.
That is where the resemblance ends, feels megalith enthusiast and Lakshmi DAV School principal Subhashis Das, who rushed to the site on Tuesday to see the fallen megalith and then informed block officials.
“The megalith on the right has fallen and is lying on the ground. Seeing it on the ground is painful. I don’t know the reason, though it doesn’t look like foul play. It could be due to rain,” Das told The Telegraph.
Recently, the state art and culture department had announced a Rs 2.78 crore plan to spruce up the site. But not much headway has been made in terms of actual work.
Das said the megaliths were a vital part of Jharkhand’s legacy. “It is a matter of research as to how primitive tribes, through the megaliths accurately tracked the movement of the sun and made exact calculations. The site worked as an observatory for ancient people who also used megaliths to identify their burial places,” he said.
Villagers said the megaliths might have fallen due to excessive rain, Das added, quoting the people he had met in the area.
Das, who also met Barkagaon block circle officer Vijay Kumar, was hopeful that he would take up the matter seriously. “Kumar will visit the site tomorrow. He has assured me of all help to put the stone upright,” he said.
But the DAV principal, a regular visitor to the site since 1998, will be keeping an eye. “If the administration fails, I will take donations from people and erect the megalith back to its position. I know the angle of the position it was standing in,” he said.
For many years now, Das has been pleading with ministers and bureaucrats to develop the site into a unique tourist spot with proper security. “Nothing happened, so I got villagers to put up a board at the site,” said the megalith enthusiast.
Archaeological Survey of India, are you listening?
Why are we enthusiastic about heritage sites abroad but apathetic about our own?