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21 September 2012
Restoration of a fallen menhir in India

Punkri Burwadih is perhaps the most eminent megalith of India, yet it is not protected by the government. Here people gather to view the equinox sunrises twice every year.
     On the morning of 7th August one of the Hindi National Dailies reported the falling of one of the menhirs at Punkri Burwadih. I along with one of my co-workers dashed to the site some 23 kilometres from my hometown of Hazaribagh, in Jharkhand province, northwest of Kolkata, in eastern India.
     One of the main menhirs - which along with another, formed a foresight notch with astronomical alignments - had fallen. I was told that village children would climb or dash upon it every day after a race, and this along with heavy rains caused the fall.
     At the Block office, I requested the local administration to immediately restore the menhir to its original position. The Circle Officer agreed to do this under my supervision, the next day.
     I was to keep a few things in mind: the azimuth of the stone as it was oriented towards the winter solstice sunrise, its incline towards the summer solstice sunset so that the peak of the Mahudi Hills in the southern horizon was perfectly viewed between the two menhirs, and the correct tilt to make the notch to view the summer solstice and equinox sunrises. On the day, the local administration sent a man with a few helping hands. They had shovels, ropes, iron rods and few other implements.
     The digging began and soon the broken part of the menhir was exposed, along with packing stones around the base. A small cinerary urn which housed two rusted "singhis" were exposed, containing the ashes and bones of the dead. This was not old, as it formed a part of the local 'satbharwan' ritual.
     The broken urn and its contents and the excavated stones were replaced, the alignments checked, and the menhir cemented into place.

Edited from Megaliths of India (August 2012), The Heritage Press (September 2012)

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