The playground of Elenthikara High School is perhaps the biggest site of burial urns in the State. This Megalithic site remains unprotected even after years of its discovery
Elenthikara High School, near North Paravur, has a history. When Sree Narayana Guru visited this place he exhorted the people on the need for education and educational institutions. Inspired by his words Dr. C. S. Sankaran, a homeopath, built a school on his ancestral property way back in 1948. He later upgraded it into a high school in 1952. When there was a need for a proper playground the area around was cleared. Today this school and its playground houses precious historical evidence of a lost culture.
The playground has a prominent gradient. When it rains the top soil gets washed off revealing the rims of a series of burial urns inhumed in a sort of systematic pattern. This is, as many archaeologists believe the biggest site of burial urns in one single location, in the State. Though the earliest reports of this site were recorded way back in the year 2000, this archeologically and historically megalithic monuments lies unprotected, unknown, unacknowledged.
Nearly 30 years back a huge urn was dug out rather unprofessionally by the children of the school when they were cleaning up the compound. This urn was kept in the school laboratory for some time till it crumbled and the remnants duly disposed. Then, five years back, the ‘Puzha Kuttikootam’ (children’s group), as part of their study of the history and culture of the village, cleared up part of the ground revealing the rims of numerous urns.
“We contacted the authorities of the Tripunithura Hill Palace who came to the site and told us to cover the partially excavated urns and that it needs to be preserved,” remembers M. P. Shajan, former panchayat member. “We exhibited the findings for almost a month and then covered it up. A lot of people, experts, archaeologists, members of Mysore Historical Society, who were here as part of another project, visited the place. They told us that the urns must be from the period dated between 5000 B.C.-3000 B.C.,” he adds.
The importance of this site is that it may unravel secrets of a bygone culture that might have spread its roots to other regions of the district. But sadly this site has been unprotected. Children still use this playground, parts of the exposed urns are very often chipped off and every time the ground is levelled or expanded slices of valuable history has been disappearing.
“I was one of those who visited this site way back in 2002 and its significance was reported to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). It is surprising that no steps have been taken to preserve this site. This place must have perhaps been an important trading place, a sub-centre especially when you consider its proximity to the well-defined water trade route. What happens here is that we get hooked on to one single project, while others of equal or more importance is ignored. It is not late still; something must be done to protect this invaluable site,” feels Dr. Rajan Chedambath, Archaeologist, and Director, Centre for Heritage, Environment and Development.
It is estimated that there are at least 141 megalithic sites in the State. Serious archaeological studies are not taken up at each of these sites. “One needs to see if there are special features at the Elenthikkara findings. A preliminary investigation can be done and samples taken. If the findings are valuable further excavations can be done, otherwise it can be dropped. But the fact remains that some work needs to be done here. It is not proper to leave those remnants of history unprotected,” says P. K. Gopi, former Registrar, Centre for Heritage Studies.
One problem that most research scholars who have seen this site state is the lack of authority to proceed further without a license and the huge expenses involved in excavation work. “Research scholars who report such sites are not licensed to excavate. Moreover, it involves huge expenses. To get an authority to work needs many sanctions. There is no holistic approach, no archaeological culture.
I feel that Elenthikkara can be taken up as a new project and not directly linked to any of the ongoing ones. Perhaps it can be investigated as the Periyar Valley megalithic project. I think there is ample scope for this,” says Dr. Jenee Peter, archaeologist.
Elenthikara is strategically situated at the confluence of the Chalakudy and Periyar rivers. “This is proof that the burial urn site should be historically important. There must have been a settlement nearby and this must have been the burial place. Similar sites elsewhere have yielded valuable objects that are pointers to a lost culture. So, investigations must be done here,” feels Dr. S. Hemachandran, former director, State Archaeology.