Monoliths of Kachari Kingdom

Discussion in 'Indian History' started by Ignorant, Sep 16, 2015.

  1. Ignorant

    Ignorant New Member

    Monolithism is an ancient culture of the north eastern region of India. Nagaland is known for its traditional monolithic culture and different types of monolithic internments are found prevalent in the socio-cultural life of people in Nagaland. Categorically, the north east Indian monoliths are classified as Austro-Asiatic. Typologically, however, the north east Indian monoliths are varied in forms and character. There exists monolithic site on the bank of the Dhansiri in Purna bazar, covering a vast area, within Dimapur township in Nagaland. The term “Dimapur” is a combination of three Kachari terms ‘di’ meaning river or water, ‘ma’ meaning great or mother, and ‘pur’ meaning a city. Thus Dimapur means the ‘city or pur built on the bank of the river ‘Dima”- the other name for river Dhansiri given by the Kacharis.The Kacharis built up a kingdom in the Dhansiri valley, and Dimapur was the capital of their kingdom during the mediaeval period.

    The Ahoms occupied Dimapur from the Kacharis in 1536 and called it ‘che-din-che -pin’ i.e. brick built town. This suggest that the monolithic site of Dimapur was not the capital , of the kingdom of the Kacharis but possibly was located in some other neighboring locality.
    Remarkably, monolithism as a cultural internment of stone columns, is normally not found associated with other settlements of the Kacharis in the north eastern region of India. Besides, the epigraphical records exposed in the Dhansiri valley indicate that the Kacharis settled in this valley was long back Hinduised and Dimapur was earlier known as Lakhindrapur- the city of the Goddess of the wealth. The antiquity of the Kachari kingdom built by the Kacharis in the Dhansiri valley has been confirmed to be very ancient and goes back to CE 400-500,if not earlier.(HND) Besides, in religion, the Kacharis are known to be worshipper of Lord Siva as their supreme God ‘Siva-Brai’ - worshipped in the form of ‘Bathou’ in the symbol of ‘Siju’-a vegetation (euphoria) of five ridges which exudes milk-like juice-the symbol of fertility and production.

    If it was so, the monolithic columns of Dimapur, although a meritorious work of the Kacharis, it represents cultural glory of inter racial socio-cultural elements of a rich tradition that once gained ground in this region. Study the monolithic monuments of Dimapur from this multicultural ethnic belief and practices bear pragmatic value for the study of history and culture of Nagaland in today’s context. Undoubtedly, the numerous floral and tree motifs, carving of varied forms of vertical and horizontal lotus and other forms of art such as peacocks, plant with five long pointed leaves, series of lotus found carved horizontally in the monolithic columns of Dimapur reflect an advanced stage of Hindu view of art, normally not found with the stone culture or in other monolithic structure in Nagaland. In the same time, carving of swords or spear heads, pointing upward in the contour of the monolithic columns at Dimapur, seem to have represented the cultural beliefs and practices of the Nagas. History and tradition of Nagaland indicate that swords or spearhead is cultural insignia of the Nagas. This is confirmed by the exposure of a iron spearhead at Jotsoma village, near Kohima during excavation of a burial site by the Nagaland University in the year 2000. The spearhead, seem to have been laid below the skull of the dead following remote custom and ritual was found during excavation. This evidence may represent some significance related to head hunting, because a custom of spearhead thrust through human skull exists among the Nagas. It may be also recalled that the Rengma and the Angami Nagas inter their dead and place the spear and the shield of the deceased in his grave As such, the occurrence of the of the motifs of swords or dagger in the Dimapur monoliths may represent the number of such swords used by the deceased during his life time, or may represent the trophies recording prowess and achievements won in life and war, which are recorded in form of decorative monolithic art forms. Carvings of swords as art motifs in the mediaeval monolithic internment of the Kacharies in Dimapur, thus artistically represents certain basic elements of Naga tradition and culture.
    The earliest visitor to the Dimapur site was Mr Grange in 1939, followed by Major John Butler in 1841, by Major Godwin Austen in 1875, and offered terminology of Large Isolated Columns, Chessman Column and V-pillar to the structures. Later Thomas Bloch in 1905, added another category of Buffalo Horn Columns and dated these structures to CE 1300-1400.

    The monolithic complex at Dimapur consists of three separate groups of Monolithic alignments and found associated with two historical tanks or pukhuri. The principal group is flanked by two subsidiary groups covering areas of 40mx 23m and 55mx 6m respectively. Each group is found associated with a large Isolated Columns. The Large Isolated Columns of the subsidiary groups are now broken. The approximate height of the Large Isolated Column of the principal group now erect in situ has an approximate height of 4.42m. with a diameter of 2.50m. large Isolated Column have the overall shape of a cylindrical contour and the one now erect is surmounted by a finial at the top. These three Large Isolated Columns recall the existence of large stone called ‘Kepuche’, which is the subject of worship and veneration, erected as a gurdain at the village entrance gate occupied by a particular clan of the Angami Naga. As monolithic columns of this region or in elsewhere are associated with soul matter,it seems that such Large Isolated Columns are closely associated with the Negreto belief of an Avenging Demon guarding the after death path of the soul to heaven and providing for a safe journey of the soul.

    These Large Isolated Columns, as such, are carved larger in size to represent their demonic and powerful feature and erected separately in isolation from the main group of columns erected in rows, as a gurdain of the path of life after death. As traces of Negretos or Negroids are found among the Nagas it is in the fitness of things to believe that, the structural form and plan of the Dimapur monoliths are laid under certain Negreto belief, which is very remote and strong in Nagaland.

    Use of stone in Nagaland is a work dedicated to pay respect to the soul of the dead and it is as a means of promoting the fertility of the earth for which stones were erected for glorification of some individual during his life time, but intended to perpetuate his name when he is dead. The Angami Nagas erected life size wooden effigies of the dead17 Possible belief of this practice was that the souls of the dead are utilized to fertilize the soil to promote good crops of men, stock and cereals.
    The Chessman columns of Dimapur appears to have been erected under similar belief for glorification of some dead individuals whose souls were venerated for receiving good harvest. Thus there are strong reason to believe that, as prevailed among the Angami and other Naga tribes the Chessman Columns at Dimapur might represent human form, possibly initiated in life size wooden effigies of the dead and in course of time transformed to the present abstract forms of Chessman Columns.

    The V-shaped monolithic columns, of which only one structure is found still erect in situ in the Dimapur group, are found ornamented throughout the outer profile except the inner faces between the column. The shape-V emphasizes female principle. The Sema Nagas erect Y-shaped forked posts showing carved mithan head during festivals. Structurally, thus the V-shaped monolithic Columns in Dimapur appear to be proto type of the Y-shaped forked posts of the Sema Naga. V-shaped fork posts are also found protruding from the roof of the wealthy Angami and Sema Naga. The houses of the chief and rich men of the Sema Nagas are adorned with carved forked-posts while others were set on the ground to which mithans are tied and slaughtered during festivals. The V-shaped monolithic Columns of Dimapur could be compared with the Zenna posts of the Sema naga and as such may have certain remote connection with celebration of ceremonial festivals. The shape-V is also used for tattoo marks on body and also reflected in other art forms of the Naga tribes. There exists another form of monolithic structure known as the Buffalo Horn Column, all of which are now fallen down because of their largeness and massiveness and possibly first erected, co-memorizing some meritorious act and celebration of festivals such as killing of mithan (bros frontalis) or buffalo for ceremonial feasting of a village.

    The monolithic columns of Dimapur, therefore, behind the curtain of Hindu art, reflect many of the customs and religious beliefs and practice of the tribes of Naga hills. These monolithic monuments are therefore embodiment of a common cultural glory flourished in this region during mediaeval period focusing a policy of common socio-cultural co-existence by the Kacharis ruling in the valley.

  2. Ignorant

    Ignorant New Member

    Artistically, this group of monuments is rare and the like of these art forms are not to be found anywhere in India. Normally, monolithic internment is a culture in which stone columns are dragged by community people and erected rough and unfinished. But the Dimapur group of monolithis columns are ornamented and profusely carved representing abstract human form decorated in all respects from inch to inch. All these carvings are meaningful and with purpose and needs elaborate study. But the nature of the stone used for the structures are fragile in character. These could be of sandstone found locally. This ground situation, including the present environmental pollution in today’s context, call for the need of taking up special measures of conservation of this group of monumental heritage, for which professionalism and specialization in this discipline of heritage conservation matters the most.
    At present, the Archaeological Survey of India is maintaining and conserving this monolithic site. Development of archaeological park covering the vast area, providing of public amenities as per archaeological norms would promote the standard of the site as a tourists spot. Tourists visiting Kohima War Memorial Site would get a scope to visit this rare monolithic site in Dimapur. Fortunately, the Horticultural Branch of Orissa Circle of the Archaeological Survey of India, has been now implementing schemes of development of gardening in this site.

    On completion of this scheme, this monolithic site of Dimapur would enjoy a face lift and shall be able to attract visitors of all ages and all places. Contrary to that, the present huge high voltage electric line crossing and hovering over the site has been lowering the image of the monumental glory of the site, proclaiming the lack of awareness of the civic society on heritage preservation. It is also against the provision of the Ancient Monument and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Validation and Amendment) Act of 2010, promulgated for the heritage preservation in India by the Ministry of Culture. The local cultural bodies, district administration and native civic bodies need to evolve a common policy for enduring the life span and glory of this group of rare monument in India.

    Source: Dr H.N.Dutta, Vice Chancellor, The Global Open University, Nagaland. (Published at Nagaland Post)

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