The giant menhirs, have been the subject of speculation and awe in the state (IE Photo)
Aizawl, Dec 9 : Mizoram is set to enter India's archaeological map for the first time as the Ministry of Culture issues a preliminary notification that seeks to declare a 9000 sq.m site that hosts 200 stone menhirs embossed with images of humans, animals and hunting scenes and several caves as a site of national importance.
The giant menhirs, many taller than a man, have been the subject of speculation and awe in the state, and locals in nearby Vangchhia village in eastern Champhai district have informally sought to protect them all this while, christening it "Kawtchhuah Ropui" (The Great Gateway) and preventing the siphoning off of the relics.
The Mizoram Chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) had been spearheading a campaign to allot these formal conservation for the past three years now, working with the Archaeological Survey of India and arranging for three visits to the site by ASI expert.
"All the states of the Indian union are now on the archaeological map of the country. Mizoram has till date not had an entry in this map, and now we will hopefully be represented," said P Rohmingthanga, convener of INTACH's Mizoram chapter and retired IAS officer, adding the menhirs are believed to have been erected either in the 14th or 15th centuries AD.
Co-convener Rinsanga, also a retired IAS officer, said further studies on the site will likely throw more light on the history of the tribes that make up the Mizo people, whose migration into what is presently Mizoram and surrounding areas is shrouded in mystery because of an absence of written evidence.
Historians have till now relied on tales passed on by word of mouth, such as songs and stories, and empirical evidences presented by the spread of tribes that now make up the Mizo community. Ethnic Mizos are found in present-day Myanmar, Manipur, southern Assam, Tripura and even Bangladesh.
"The Great Gateway may either add a huge amount to what we already know of our ancestor's migration into this land, or tell us entirely new things as well," he said.
What makes these menhirs extraordinary is not just the intricate embossing, said retired history professor J V Hluna, but that they are erected in a place where there are no rocky patches from which to extract the rocks from, meaning these rocks were ferried from far away, probably from near the Tiau river that serves as the Indo-Myanmar boundary.
According to historian and former Joint Director of Mizoram's Art and Culture Department C Laitanga, the embossed figures on the menhirs resemble to the traditional practices and way of living of pre-modern Mizos.
"The main human image on the mehirs has a large feather tucked into a band on his head, which signifies glory even in old Mizo society. Then the spear that he carries resembles the large, specially crafted spears Mizos used to hunt bisons with. The line of humans may signify slaves or enemies killed in raids and battles, and the wild animals seem to signify the hunting tradition through which Mizo warriors attained glory and reverence," he explained.