Monoliths of Jaintia Hills

Meghalaya is home to monoliths and megaliths that are spread across the state. They are quite literally scattered everywhere. And, if you take a drive in the countryside, you can’t miss them at all. Whenever I see them, I can’t help but wonder how they would have landed into such positions. Some are certainly manually placed, especially the ones in the city of Shillong. But, what about the others? Those that I see randomly placed in the meadows and hills?

Monolith is a geological feature that constitutes a single massive stone or rock. Megalith, on the other hand, is a structure made of large stones interlocking them in a way that does not require the use of mortar or cement.

Cherrapunji, in East Khasi Hills, has a monolith park. I would have most certainly seen the monoliths during my childhood, when going to Cherrapunji happened at the drop of a hat. I do not recall an organized park though. Guess, it would have been created recently to cater to tourists. Cherrapunji remains overcrowded with tourists, which significantly drowns the yesteryear romanticism of clouds, mist, and rains.

Pic 1: Random monoliths clicked somewhere during a long drive in the countryside.

There is another monolith park in Jowai, the capital of Jaintia Hills. This one had aroused my interest sufficiently because of its historical significance and because it has the biggest collection of monolithic stones in one single area. It also boasts of housing the tallest monolith in the state.

So, when cousin and I visited the temple at Nartiang recently it was quite obvious that we would visit the monolith park too. (Read Here) The park is located just a kilometer away from the Nartiang Durga Temple. We were running late after having spent a good amount of time at the village. Cousin was almost about to drop the plan of visiting the park promising to come back another day. I would have none of it, especially after going all the way from Shillong, and who has seen tomorrow! She agreed after I promised that we wouldn’t spend a lot of time there.

Pic 2: Entry gate to Jaintia Hills

It being the pandemic times, there was nobody around when we arrived at the park. The gates of the park were thankfully open. A prominent plaque and a Meghalaya Tourism signboard at the entrance provided a glimpse into certain historical facts. Most importantly, the monoliths were erected between 1500-1800 AD during the reign of the Jaintia Kings. The menhirs, or the single standing erect monoliths, are locally known as Moo Shynrang (meaning men). The dolmens, or horizontally placed flat monoliths, are locally known as Moo Kynthai (meaning women). The menhirs and dolmens are placed rather haphazardly in the park. Locals believe that each monolith marks a specific event or an individual.

The tallest menhir is about 8 meters high and 18 inches thick. It was supposedly erected by U Marphalangki, a trusted lieutenant in the Jaintia Kingdom, to commemorate his victory in a battle. There’s an interesting legend associated with this menhir. It is believed that Mars were giant sized men with exceptional capabilities. They could perform extraordinary feats and were patronized by the Royal Court of Jaintia Kingdom to defeat the enemies at the battlefield. Some say Mars would have probably been a rank in the Royal Army.

Pic 3: No stepping out without the mask whether alone or with others, a grim reminder of the times we’re in.

Legend Associated with the tallest Menhir

Marphalangki decided to seek God’s intervention after several failed attempts to erect the monolith. He performed Oomancy or egg divination (methods of using eggs for predicting future). Based on that he interpreted that a human sacrifice is needed to appease the Gods for the stone to stand tall. It being a market day, people had gathered to watch Marphalangki’s display of strength in erecting the stone. An idea struck Marphalangki and he pretended to accidentally drop the lime and tobacco gold container (locally known as dabi or dabia). When a spectator bent down to collect the container, Marphalangki dropped the huge stone over him. That incident is believed to be the beginning of human sacrifice among the Jaintia Pnar community. A practice that was later banned and ceased to exist altogether. (Story courtesy HH Mohrmen)

Legend Associated with the Dolmens and Menhirs

A Jaintia King by the name of Luh Lyngshkor was at a village called Raliang when it started raining. He requested an old woman to give him the traditional bamboo umbrella (locally known as knup). The woman refused saying that the king was a well-built man and could use the giant stone slab at the market to shelter himself. The king went to Raliang market, lifted the stone slab and used it as an umbrella to protect himself from the rain. He carried the stone umbrella, and reached Nartiang (Nartiang was the summer capital of the Jaintia kings). After that incident, Raliang market was shifted to Nartaing and that market continues to remain at Nartiang.

Author: neelstoria

Traveling, Gardening, Trekking, Hiking, Storytelling, Writing, Nature, Outdoors, Yoga, DIY

21 thoughts on “Monoliths of Jaintia Hills”

  1. Like most in the U.S. when I grew up, my education was oriented to European and U.S. history, geography etc. I have really enjoyed reading your posts about your travels and India. Now, the town I moved to in August has a large Indian community. If only we could get past COVID, perhaps I could meet more of them than my immediate neighbor.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Many Indians have no idea about these places as they are in the North East of the country, which is not well explored yet. So, when you meet some of the Indian people, you might be able to tell them something they may not know about 🙂
      I am really glad to know that you have enjoyed these posts coming from my hometown.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Interesting history and stories behind the monoliths. I read about menhirs in the Asterix comics, but hadn’t grasped the meaning till now – new learning 🙂
    Near Munnar there is a place, I think Marayur that also has some dolmens, had read the tourist information board while driving through.
    Cherrapunji is a place I never saw but from the photos it looks very beautiful.
    Great information again, nice post, thanks for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have myself learnt certain things while writing this post. The difference between Monolith and Megalith, for example. Had gone for a drive to Cherrapunji this weekend. It was amazing with no tourists around. I will write about that in the next post. So, you’ll get to see a little more of Cherrapunji soon 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting. I have never come across this information or picture. I’m glad you have written about these monoliths. The legends are quite interesting. Are these parks popular even among the tourists?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I have been wanting to explore NE since long and now your beautiful narratives have kindled their passion more Neel 😊

    I love to travel and explore but preferably with friends from those areas. We learn so much about the culture and nuances of a place this way. God willing one day soon this wish too would be fulfilled.

    Stay safe. Stay loved

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you do visit NE some time. It is so very different from the rest of the country. And, there is so much to explore that one/two trips is not enough. I also resonate with your thought of exploring a place with locals and I often have tried to do the same in my travels.
      I am glad that my posts have further aroused your interest to visit the NE. 🙂
      Thank you so much, Ashok for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Very interesting to know about monolith and its associated stories. With your beautiful snaps and stories of Jaintia hills, you made me to regret for not visiting Jaintia hills which is very close to Cherrapunji. Of course, tourists can’t explore everything as the natives of this beautiful place ! Thanks a lot for sharing these stories and looking forward more from you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you will come here again, Ramasamy Sir. Then you can go to this place and many other places too. Thank you for reading my post. I am glad you got to see something you hadn’t seen while here.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This is a revelation! I didn’t know about the Menhirs in Meghalaya (an addition to lot of other things I have learnt from your posts). And 8 metres tall is a huge monolith! Quite a way to commemorate a victory 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Quite natural that you don’t know about this place. Most tourists don’t, neither do the backpackers, hence not a lot of social media posts about it. Thankfully so 😀
      Only serious travelers and those from neighbouring states would be aware. There’s a lot to Meghalaya than just Cherrapunji and Dawki.

      Liked by 1 person

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