Prakasam district was once an indologists’ delight with numerous megalithic sites throwing light on Andhra people’s culture during the first millennium B.C. as these monuments have weathered the storm for centuries.
However, these prehistoric sites are slowly fading into obscurity thanks to intense agricultural and construction activities or sheer ignorance about the importance of the archaeological remains among the locals. They are also vandalised by treasure hunters from time to time.
The nondescript Gollapalli village, near Kanigiri, is one such site with hundreds of menhirs planted in memory of the deceased interred in the burials in the past. Now only a few of the menhirs erected by prehistoric people during the Iron age have survived, 80-year-old P. Narahari Reddy laments while showing the dilapidated huge stones.
The funeral offerings by the prehistoric people included black and red pottery, iron objects, ornaments and terracotta figurines beneath these stones. The situation calls for immediate steps to preserve these artefacts for posterity adds the village Sarpanch G. Narayana Reddy, while showing the menhirs spread over a five-acre site close to Gollapalli Cheruvu.
Among other places, Cumbum, Giddalur, Guntupalle, Jangameswarapuram, Markapur, Naidupalem, Ramathirtham, Ramkur, Tangarapalli, Timmapur, and Tokapalli abound with artefacts. Cairn burials have been prominently noticed at Manikeswaram on the banks of the Gundalakamma river, which has been the cradle of civilisation for centuries. There too the situation is no different, explains local historian Jyothi Chandramouli.
It was A.H. Longhurst who had excavated altogether five burials at Gajjalakonda village. The site is remarkable for the presence of cists with unusually larger dimensions. From this it can be inferred that people then were tall and well-built. Karrola village in Peddaaravidu mandal was home to ‘Maragujjulu’ (pygmy race). According to village elders, Gujjaripeta was the dwelling place of maragujjulu initially. Then they gradually migrated to Karrola, says an elder Thripuranthakudu.
Five megalithic burials have been found in the village, including two dolmenoid cists. The remaining three burials are stone circles filled with cairn packing, according to Raghu Yadav, an academic consultant with the Department of History and Archaeology, Yogi Vemana University. These are referred as ‘‘Rakasi Guttalu” in local parlance. Among them a group of four burials is situated side by side from east to west out of which two on the western side were vandalised by treasure hunters. Within these two, one dolmenoid cist with stone circle is noticed, and on the top of the cap stone, cairn packing has been identified. This cap stone measures 1 metre in width, 2.53 m in length and 19 cm in thickness. Shale rock was used for this cap stone. Except this, the remaining three stone circles are packed with cairns only. Dolerite boulders and Shale boulders were used for stone circles. These monuments are variously known as ‘Pandavagullu’, Pandavaramane’, ‘Pandupare’, ‘Pandavakkuli’ etc. In some places, these megaliths are also referred to as ‘rakshasa gullu’, or ‘rakasi gudi’ (temples of the demons). According to the locals, these ‘rakshasa gullu’ were built in the past by demons to escape from ‘nippula vana’ (the shower of fire).
Laying of roads, digging of a canal and mushrooming of housing colonies have turned out to be a threat for these megalithic burial sites. It is high time a proper survey is conducted by the Union and State governments and an archeology park developed to preserve them for posterity, feels archaeologist Sivanagi Reddy.