Mizoram’s first ‘monument’ - The menhirs of Vangchhia to be protected by ASI

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  • Published 3.06.12

New Delhi, June 2: Mizoram is about to record a dot on Archaeological Survey of India’s (ASI) map of protected sites — a first for the state that came into existence 25 years ago.

A site — the menhirs of Vangchhia — in the northeastern state has been found to satisfy all criteria required to become eligible for central protection.

Mizoram was the only state in the region that did not have a single site protected by the ASI, which, in a meeting held on May 22 in Delhi, had approved central protection for the site. The ASI is now busy drafting the preliminary notification.

The menhirs in Vangchhia village of the state’s Champai district, which have engravings of hunting scenes, come in various sizes. “These could be several hundred years old. It is necessary, now that these will come under ASI’s protection, to carry out detailed research on the menhirs,” said Indian National Trust For Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach) convener for Mizoram, P. Rohminthanga.

Intach had first visited the site in 2010. In 2011, the ASI officials visited the site twice before preparing the draft proposal. It takes about three hours by road to reach Vangchhai village from the Champai district headquarters. The actual site where the 171 menhirs stand is known as Kawtchhuah Ropui, meaning the Great Entranceway. The Tibeto-Burman population migrated from here. “There is a local folktale that this entranceway is connected to a stone pathway that runs all the way to Tiau river on the India-Myanmar border,” Rohminthanga said.

Over the years these menhirs have seen a lot of damage.

“They have been used for construction of houses or damaged because of natural occurrences. Overall, though the villagers respect the structures, there was no systematic preservation of the site,” he said.

Menhirs or monoliths are found in Meghalaya, Nagaland and Andhra Pradesh but are not common in the rest of India. A monument is declared centrally protected only when the local circle office sends a detailed proposal.

The proposal has to justify the importance of the monument as well enlist the reasons why the monument needs protection. This proposal is then studied at the culture ministry. A preliminary notification is published for local people to raise objections. Finally, with the signature of the director general of ASI, a notification declares the monument as centrally protected.

“Central protection means that the monument will get the entire wherewithal — CISF security, ticketing counters, information boards and so on,” an official said.