The Chokahatu megalithic site near Bundu in Ranchi district. Picture by Subhashis Das
The demand for world heritage status for Chokahatu is fast gaining ground. Thanks to two online petitions that have gained popularity on social networking sites.
Hazaribagh-based megalith researcher Subhashis Das, who authored Sacred Stones in Indian Civilisation, is the initiator. He first posted an online petition to Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and Unesco, which grants such tags on the recommendation of ASI.
Taking a cue from Das, Ranchi-based writer and social activist Aswini Pankaj posted another petition with the same appeal, but in Hindi. Presently, both the petitions have been posted on Facebook.
“In constant use for over 2,000 years, it is one of the oldest historical remains in the country that has a living heritage and as such deserves the world heritage status,” said Das.
Located near Bundu, the megalithic site in Chokahatu is about 40 km from Ranchi and is the largest in the country spanning over 7 acre. Munda tribal villagers are still using the site to bury their dead.
In 2003, two foreign archaeologists, on a study tour of Hazaribagh, Ranchi and Bagodar, claimed there were remains of pre-Aryan settlements at the sites. Das had accompanied the team comprising Lidya Eakeshwalfe and Australian scholar John Bilton to Bandag, Zebra Road in Hazaribagh, Chokahatu in Ranchi had launched campaign for the immediate protection of the megalithic sculptures. The team had found over 7,600 burial slabs spread over the area in Chokahatu.
Das is worried as these pre-historic sites are under threat from humans. And their guardians are doing precious little to save them. “The experts had traced their origin to a 2000-year-old indigenous civilisation that flourished in the region,” said Das, who is currently working on another project with Terence Meaden of Oxford University.
“Not only sepulchral (burial-related) slabs, I have also found two menhirs (tall standing stones) and a few dolmens (upright stones supporting a roof-stone) there,” added the explorer.
Later, researches, however, proved that megaliths were raised for other purposes also. Like the one at Pankri-Barwadih in Hazaribagh was built for astronomical purposes, there are many that were erected to demarcate a boundary. Many Indian tribes also constructed megalithic structures in memory of their loved ones, added Das.
“I learnt through a media report that ASI has recently recommended to Unesco for granting world heritage status to Hire Benekal megalithic site in Karnataka,” said Das.
If and when that happens, it will be the first megalithic site in the country to earn the coveted tag.
The Chokahatu site was discovered by T.F. Pepe who had reported it to Col. E.T. Dalton who then visited the area in 1871. Subsequently, an article was published in The Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal (Vol 42) in 1872. Chokahatu also found a mention in S.C. Roy’s book, The Mundas and Their Country (1912).