Journal article Open Access

Memorial Stones and their Unknown Builders: Archaeology of Lesser-known Facts

Ghosh, Ahana; Sengupta, Tanoy

The Indian subcontinent has a long tradition of erecting commemorative stones for deceased ancestors. This tradition started in the Prehistoric Megalithic and is still in practice today. The purpose of the earthly rituals and rites concerned with death is mainly to eradicate the spread of pollution from the dead body and to transfer the soul successfully to another world. These memorial stones have different names in different regions, such as ‘Viragals’, ‘Gadhegals’ etc. The concept of the death cult is a widely discussed phenomena in Indian archaeology and centres around erected structures such as megaliths, satī-stones, samādhis, chattrīs, vṛndāvanas and unhewn stones. Despite some differences, the architectural features of memory stones associated with the concept of commemorating death have some uniformity all over the subcontinent throughout the time period under discussion. As there is no definite literary evidence, here the question arises as to who built these memorial stones? Was there any homogenous community especially associated with such practices? Uniformity in the execution procedure of these stones suggests a community that had been functional since early times. Our research will look for this lesser-known community, who have never been fully studied. It will further try to understand how these monuments have influenced the present communities and their impact on their daily livelihood.

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