Rituals and Practices of Megalith Building: An Archaeological and Ethnographic Study of Megaliths in Oinam Village in Manipur, Northeast India

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Oinam Premchand Singh
https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6726-6899

Abstract

Despite some reports of the living tradition of megalith building among a few communities in Northeast India, the rituals and practices involved in such undertakings have not been studied in detail. In this paper, I present the outcomes of an archaeological and ethnographic study of megaliths in Oinam, a village inhabited by the Poumai Naga tribe (a Tibeto-Burman ethnic community) in India’s northeastern state of Manipur. The practice of the erection of megaliths, albeit in modified forms, is also a living tradition in this village, offering avenues for multidisciplinary investigations. My survey documented and mapped 407 megaliths around Oinam, including 374 menhirs, 5 fallen menhirs, 2 slab graves, and 26 stone circles in the habitation areas and pathways descending from the village to the paddy fields. I also interviewed residents and documented the associated rituals and practices in megalith building. The study reveals that the motives behind the construction of megaliths and hosting feasts by sponsors are associated with ritual fulfilments and personal gratifications. However, while such endeavours are costly, they also bear features of economic redistribution of wealth in society and can be seen as an expression of the identity of Poumai Nagas of Oinam.

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How to Cite
Singh 2024: O. P. Singh, Rituals and Practices of Megalith Building: An Archaeological and Ethnographic Study of Megaliths in Oinam Village in Manipur, Northeast India. JNA 26, 2024, 65–86. DOI: https://doi.org/10.12766/jna.2024.3.