Oinam Premchand Singh
Very recently, an enigmatic and intriguing archaeological site was discovered by the author of this article at Paringba (local known name of the area), which is located near Khoirok village in Saitu Gamphazol Tehsil, in the Senapati district, of Manipur.
The credit to this fascinating discovery goes to Oinam Sobhachandra Singh, who hails from Thanga Ngaram Leikai and who also happens to be the sibling of the author, on whose trekking trip to the hilly region of Saitu Gamphazol Tehsil, led to the encounter of this particular archaeological site.
Having informed me about the potential of this particular area for archaeological studies, I personally went to this said area to figure out whether it is truly an archaeological site of significance or not, in December 2018.
After reaching the area, it was discovered that the said area had been once inhabited by people.
This point will further be elaborated in the latter part of this article. The GPS coordinates of the newly discovered archaeological site are 24Ú40.0420ÊN and 93Ú43.8920ÊE, having an elevation mark of 1,381 meters above the sea level (MSL). One can reach this site from Bishnupur Bazaar taking on to the road that leads to Charoipandung Chiru in Senapati district, which is approximately fifteen kilometers away from Bishnupur baazar.
To reach to this archaeological site, one is required to take a walk of at least one and a half kilometers on the footpath as there is no motorable routye at the time the survey was made.
At this archaeological site, there are several interesting remnants of the past that can easily bring about unbound excitement and happiness to the laymen in general, and more specifically to the archaeologists and historians who are aspiring to further an understanding of the past.
The very uniqueness of this archaeological site is that there are large numbers of erected monoliths, a stone circle, flat stones, that are found scattering across on the landscape of the site.
The landscape of this site can broadly be classified into two categories: i) northern grassland and ii) southern woods. The grassland section of the site is very beautiful as it is spread to a few hectares of the area in size on the landscape on the northern side of the site, which is also dotted with monoliths that form a stone circle.
It is also the only stone circle which was located during our visit to the site. Near these monoliths are the flat stones placed closely to the foot of the erected monoliths.
There are also evidences of two water reservoirs on this northern part of the site.
The southern part of the site, on the other hand, are covered up with tall trees and thickly grown vegetation. One would be able to see and locate the monoliths, flat stones, evidence of the early settlement, however.
The monoliths at this site are built of sandstone, and some of them are even more than 150 cm in heights.
It is more likely that a number of stone monuments, as well as early evidence of the settlement, would be found if only one aims to carry out an intensive survey particularly in the southern side of the site.
During my visit to this site, engraved mark on the monoliths could not be found.
But, the rock surfaces of monoliths appeared to be eroded to a substantial amount on the majority of the monoliths and flat stones, thereby, giving the impression of a long period of their exposure to atmospheric weathering.
These findings, however, if taken into account broadly, implies that it had been area inhabited by a large number of people.
An interesting fact is that this archaeological site has never been studied nor even mentioned in any of the previous works that deal specifically on the subject matter of archaeology in the state.
Although archaeological researches in the state have been initiated by pioneering scholars, namely, W. Yumjao, O.K Singh, R.K. Tamphansana, Potsangbam Binodini Devi, and many others, the fact is that much of the areas in the State needs to be explored, archaeologically.
As this archaeological site is not an inhabited area, and as of now no research work has been undertaken, several questions are still left to be answered: Who had built these stone monuments? What significance does it have in the past society? What significance can be drawn from these stone monuments if taken into account broadly their specific locations on the larger landscape? What would be the earliest possible date for the beginning of construction of these stone monuments? What would be the early form of social structures that had produced these stone monuments at this site? Furthermore, the Department of the State Archaeology also needs to focus on exploratory work in the unexplored area, rather than confining their projects only to the known and already aware archaeological sites.
Moreover, this site can also be declared as a protected site in the State to establish a minimal sense of awareness among the locals, who otherwise has all the reasons and chances of destroying; when they happen to find it or move around randomly at this archaeological site of specific importance. Lastly, one needs to be acknowledged of the fact that it is only from the material traces and through the discipline of archaeology in particular, that a vast proportion of the unrecorded deep human histories have been reconstructed elsewhere in the world.
The writer is a Research Scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru Univerity, Delhi
Oinam Premchand Singh