mallasandram megalith site – visit plan, notes

23/02/2016

Once in a while, I organize trips to interesting historic / geographical / sciencey kinda of places, for young learners, in association with small schools. This blog-post is one example of what gets organized around these visits – and is posted in the hope that, based on this data,  any adult can take a group of kids on a field-trip of pure and tiring joy! (please do read the postscript too! and of course, this post is also only some 1900 words loooong!)

… come, walk with me in the mud*…

Mallasandram Megalith Site

Visit Plan

Mallasandram (or Mallachandram or Mallasamudram) – some backround details:

This is a Megalithic sepulchral site and is located about 19 kms from Krishnagiri and about 3.5 kms from Saamalpallam; Saamalpallam lies on the Krishnagiri – Hosur – Bangalore Highway (=NH#7). Another way to understand this is, as one proceeds from Hosur to Krishnagiri, there is this AdyarAnandBhavan (=A2B), about 25 kms from Hosur; one has to drive beyond this A2B for about two kms towards Krishnagiri to reach Saamalpallam; at this point one has to take a left turn. This road is also tarred and is in a very reasonable condition.

A round trip from the school to the site and back would log circa 180 kms.

At the southern tip of the village Mallasandram/Beerapalli, there is a clutch of hillocks nestled amidst a bushy reserve forest area (actually a leopard country), commonly referred to as ‘Moeral Paarai’ (=Moeral Rock); on the barren top of these two hillocks, there are these fantastic monuments / constructions – some 100 in number; this is a very major site of Megaliths of various kinds, in a very well preserved, albeit not easily accessible an area; it is not a protected terrain governed by ASI regulations, unfortunately.

I have been visiting this place, taking groups of children there, for more than ten years now, and am really sad that there seems to be little improvement in the condition of the site – but at least, it is not badly damaged or anything. In my opinion, this site should ideally rank as an important UNESCO World Heritage Site and has to be taken care of; it has a variety of Megaliths and much more to offer to our young citizens, who ought to appreciate the history around us!

A GoogleEarth snapshot of the area near Mallasandram, Krishnagiri:

Screenshot from 2016-02-23 08:42:46

(link – https://www.google.co.in/maps/@12.6368985,78.0988714,1085m/data=!3m1!1e3)

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Aims

To sensitize learners to the remnants of the great history around us, in a structured way – by properly preparing/planning for a field visit and executing the plan, and doing follow-up work; to assist the learners to construct and fortify their knowledge with real inputs from the ground.

PrepWork

We have already reached a reasonable (8-9th grade level) high level understanding of the historical context leading up to the settled / city kind of civilizations and a basic grasp of various ages – palaeo, meso, neo, bronze, iron kinds of classifications.

Megalithic culture is associated with the so called ‘Iron age’ (later half of 6000-2000 years ago) and deals with huge stone based constructions, without the use of mortar; these may have been erected for some kind of worship and/or dealing with astronomical symbolisms. The other aspects of Religion as part of culture at that time have been dealt with; the learners already have an overarching set of ideas of civilizational/cultural development axes involving – types of tools and tool materials, adaptation to climate, adoption of agriculture, exploited food resources and drinks, cooking, social organization, settlements.

We have based our development of the aforesaid ideas on a set of underpinnings around the concepts of – surplus value generation, division of labour, specializations, leisure value, domestication of plants and animals.

Classwork (ToDo)

Understanding megalithic culture, in the context of the South Indian timeline of 1500 BCE to 200 CE (Afghanistan: 3000 BCE -> Ahom/Assam: 900 CE). Origins of ancestor worship / ancestor cult. Constructions – Sepulchral Dolmens. Raising relevant questions and finding out relevant and reasonable answers for them. The context would be about recalling the concepts already covered, using and understanding the new information in terms of the two following frameworks. (The learners are already familiar with these frameworks and have applied it in terms of a few ‘historical’ examples)

Understanding the entire context of the topic in terms of relatable data:

Who

Given historical topic (Megalithic Sites)

Where

Why

What & How

When

Why not

Linking this topic to relatable outcomes / understanding:

Wider picture

Given historical topic

(Megalithic Sites)

Judgement / Current level of understanding / Assessment

People in groups

Concepts / issues

Role of individuals

Evidence

We would revisit the above frameworks 
and discuss their relevance to the field-visit.

The following also would be discussed in the class, prior to the visit: Kinds of memorials in South India, related to the Megalithic period – Cairn circles, Dolmens and Urnburials. Adichchanallur examples.

Four following kinds / variants of Dolmens to be observed in Mallasandram:

  1. Four vertical orthostats with a huge round capstone on top.
  2. Double / concentric circles made of vertical slabs around the central Dolmen; the porthole is found in the eastern side of the Dolmen; vertical slabs have a semi-circular top.
  3. Similar to the above (second) type – but the circular passage around the Dolmen is raised up to the port hole level
  4. Smaller Dolmens erected around big Dolmens; a hypothesis is that, the big Dolmen is that of someone important and the rest are those of his deputies.

Work at the visit-site

There would be a 5 minute briefing at the site, and a walk-around in the site, with some explanations for 30 minutes. After this, the learners break-up and do the rest of the work. We would encourage the learners to ask relevant questions based on the first framework and if need be, help them construct their own answers/meanings.

As part of group work, the learners would do the following (an extract of the following + with some notes to be given to them):

  1. Identifying various types of Dolmens, two types of Orthostats, Chamber tombs, Portholes, Capstones, Peristaliths, Forecourts, Trilithons, Tumulus
  2. Measuring the orientations of Dolmen structures with compass.
  3. Measuring the dimensions of orthostats, capstones. Sketching the three types of dolmens.
  4. Understanding the engineering work involved in constructing these monuments.
  5. Sketching roughly, the entire extent of sites and their layout.
  6. Understanding the geological nature of the rocks at the site.
  7. Understanding the difficulties in geological dating technics; how a lot more research has to be done and what could be the reasons for the current state of the site.
  8. Understanding the locational advantages of the site – for the ancestors who built these sites.

Bonus: On the inside of some of the western orthostats, there are some megalithic age paintings (Please note that, I am not referring to the graffiti or vandalization by urban monkeys from Bangalore and Chennai!) which are still preserved. Whoever finds these kinds of interesting stuff will be cheered by all of us. (no other reward!)

Visit details/notes

A weekday – say Friday is preferable. Since it is getting increasingly hotter in these days of February, it is a good idea to leave the school fairly early, say, by 6 AM so that, we can reach the site by 7.30 AM. We can leave by 10:30 AM and reach the school, latest by 1:00 PM, given the traffic conditions in Bangalore.

Paperwork for the vehicles in respect of the interstate trip (KA to TN and back) like one-day permit etc have to be obtained; am assuming that there will be about 25 children; would recommend the taking of at least 5 adults along, including myself, but excluding the driver.

We need to carry two 25 litre filled water cans/bottles, 3 stainless steel tumblers. a properly stocked first-aid box. 3 packets of electrol. Anti nausea/vomiting medicines. If there are children under some kind of medication, that will have to be taken care of too – parental inputs would be needed. A couple of cotton towels. At least 10 compasses and 10 tape measures – children can work at the site in groups of two. (I will bring along 2 compasses and 2 tape-measures)

Children would need to carry their snack box (can be eaten on the bus on the onward trip) and a lunch box (that can be consumed on the return journey) + may be a couple of fruits. A 1 litre water bottle. A cap/hat. Ruled foolscap sheets, unruled sheets, 3 each, all foolscap + writing pad + pens + pencils + eraser. I enforce a no-junk (like chips and namkeen) policy on such trips, but the School can take a decision on this. All these items have to go into a backpack. Both hands should be free.

Loose fitting full hand shirt/upper garment and a full-leg covering lower garment (we will have to walk thru lantana thickets and thorny bushes). A pair of comfortable sandals/flipflops would be okay.

For children: No music players (mp3 or otherwise) or cell phones allowed. No cameras either. (The school teachers/adults may want to carry a camera or two to document the work.)

This is an ancient burial site, therefore we have to approach it in a very solemn manner; we need to respect the sanctity of the place. So, no dislodging/moving stones, no vandalizing, no graffiti, no leaving behind plastics / our traces. No yelling and shouting. Children would need to conserve their energies for careful observation, instead. This is also because the place gets very hot during the daytime, there is no tree cover and so one tends to get dehydrated/tired very fast.

PostVisitWork

The learners have to write the following: (the turn-in days are given)

  1. A detailed visit report of four foolscap pages in the background of the second framework + with a few anecdotes, enclosing the sketches and measurements. (3 days from the visit day; we will give them a structure for the document)
  2. A write-up on: If we were to organize the trip again, what recommendations / advice that you would you have, for the school/organizers + how different you want your own preparedness for the trip. (5 days from visit day)
  3. A write-up on: If you were given unlimited authority, power and funds – how would you go about making the site (A true national treasure) prominent and how would you manage it without harming/disturbing anything, and what would you recommend for further research. (5 days from visit day)
  4. A letter to the collector of Krishnagiri District, Tamilnadu – requesting him to fence off the area and preventing the stones from being taken/carried away by quarry operators and neighbouring villagers. (7 days from visit day)
  5. A letter to the Member of Parliament for the Krishnagiri constituency, requesting him to take this forward as a ‘tourism attraction’ (7 days from visit day)
  6. A representation to the Archaeological Survey of India, requesting it to please take steps to protect the ancient monuments and restore them. (9 days from visit day)
  7. A request to Doordarshan-India to please make a documentary about the site. (11 days from visit day)

Note: Non submissions or late submissions will result in non-inclusion in the future trips.

References

  1. http://www.krishnagiri.tn.nic.in/tourism.htm (the embedded image in the document and a few details (corrected for accuracy) are from this page)
  2. Mallachandram images at wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special:Search&search=mallachandram&fulltext=Search&profile=images
  3. Megalithic culture of South India – Dr BK Gurupada Rao; published by Prasaranga, University of Mysore, 1972
  4. My personal journal entries of the yesteryears

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PostScriptum: I feel that, this fantastic megalithic site needs to be taken care of in a rigorous manner, and have made many a representation to the powers-that-be, in this respect; but, there has been no tangible reaction; and, am now publishing my detailed notes in the hope that, something positive will happen.

So, dear reader of this blog – please do visit the place, and be gentle with this great heritage of ours, drink of it and do whatever you can, to push the agenda towards the securing / restoration / maintenance of the site, will ya?

Thanks!

* “Ideas are clean.  They soar in the serene supernal.  I can take them out and look at them, they fit in a book, they lead me down that narrow way.  And in the morning they are there.  Ideas are straight.  But the world is round, and a messy mortal is my friend.  Come walk with me in the mud.”  – Hugh Prather, Notes to Myself

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3 Responses to “mallasandram megalith site – visit plan, notes”

  1. nparamasivam1951 Says:

    Thanks for detailed details. This is interesting not only for school children but for others also. Being in Bangalore, I will visit one Sunday with family and encourage my Apartment neighbours to plan a visit there. Of course, letters to Collector and MP besides to TN Tourism department be done. Thanks again in enlightening people with rare details.

  2. ravi Says:

    oh .. how come our granite robbers have let off this site !! something fishy !! Ah.. brahminical, fascist,hindutva forces at work
    –> eminent intellectual..


    • Dear Ravi – a good question and there are two possible answers.

      1) There are other quarries ‘with a lot of potential yield’ closeby.
      2) And, though there has of course been some carrying -away of bedding/prop-up stones for ballast and for ‘benches’ – luckily, the granite in this particular place is not of ‘great quality’ and is very flaky. Not much basalt at all! So.

      I like your satirical conspiracy theory angle. ;-) And, I wish you added pantyhminical,briefhmical to your repertoire! :-))

      And, I think in spite of ‘TheHindu’tva, life will generally improve. Oh, the hope!


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