Mudumal Menhirs or Niluvu Rallu

Mudumal Niluvu Raallu are an arrangement of menhirs that dates back to 5000 BC located in Mudumal village, Krishna Mandal, Narayanpet district of Telangana State, India. 

Spread across nearly 89 acres, there are close to 80 tall menhirs of 10 to 14 feet height, accompanied by nearly 3,000 alignment stones. Historians and archeologists believe as the only megalithic site in India, where a depiction of star constellation has been identified.

This site has three kinds of burial set-ups which indicate presence of a social division and the practice of revering the departed souls.

The Menhirs also offer insight into how observant and scientific the community was as the Menhirs appear to be tracking the sun’s movement. Based on the kind of shadow cast and based on the location of the sun at sunrise the people in those days might have determined seasons and planned agriculture activities.

Experts have found an inscription of the Ursa Major constellation on a flat rock here. “This is the only depiction of the night sky from the megalithic ages in South-East Asia. It is interesting that they chose to depict the Ursa Major constellation, as two stars in this constellation – Dubhe and Merak – can help identify the North Star and indicate the north direction. This indicates that people in the region had figured out "North direction" using the north star and began voyaging outside their habitat.

The inscriptions on the rocks are in the form of a series of cup markings with each cup denoting a star in the constellation. The marking was possibly done using a stick and sand.

There is a huge microlithic site in the fields to the south of the village on the bank of river Krishna, on an elevated ground. The site extending over an area of roughly one acre is a huge workshop site. The raw materials are chert, chalcedony, jasper, agate, carnelian and quartz. Many fluted cores are noticed but the finished tool component is meager.

To the west of the village, towards the Raichur road, 4 megalithic cairn circles were noticed. On two of the stone boulders of the stone circle the ‘circle – with a – trident’ symbol is found engraved. Still further, to the west of the village there is a vast complex of megalithic stone circles, menhirs and stone alignments. There is also a huge habitation mound. Parts of the mound are under dry cultivation. The pottery from the surface of the mound included coarse red ware, black ware, black and red ware and grey ware of the wheel made variety. Bangle pieces of shell and steatite also occur in the surface collection along with large quantities of iron slag. Despite the dry cultivation, the habitation mound of 2.5 m thickness remains largely undisturbed

The local farmers informed that during the excavation of an irrigational channel which party cut the habitation mound, several pots containing bones along with iron objects were encountered. These could be megalithic urn burials. The megalithis at Mudumula are locally known as ‘Banthi – rallu’ (ball – like stones) and ‘Niluvu rallu’ (standing stones). These standing stones are blocks of stone of 4 to 6 m height are without any chisel marks. They must have been quarried by means of fire setting. The huge blocks of stone are arranged in a circular fashion, similar to the stonehenge of Great Britain. Some of them have fallen down. They weigh around 3 tonnes apiece.

The habitation mound must be a multiculture one ranging from neolithic to megalithic.

Theme of the Rock art
The rock art at this site is very little comprising mainly of a couple of bruisings and engravings on the boundary stones of the megalithic stone circles and adjacent rock boulders and a couple of faint black paintings in are rock shelter. In addition to the bruisings of ‘circle – with a trident’ symbol, Krishna Sastry (1983 : 47) reported some more bruisings and engravings. One of them is mother goddess figure. The figure has out stretched and upraised hands and the legs are shown apart. The breasts are shown hanging sideways. There is one crudely incised humped bull with an upraised tail, the horns curving forward and genitals prominently shown. In addition to these there are 5 more symbols of ‘circle – with a – trident’ in different shapes and sizes. I could not locate these engravings and bruisings described by Sastry (1983 : 47).

The paintings are located in the midst of a rock out crop situated in a tank locally known as ‘yellamma cheruvu gundlu’ (Yellamma tank boulders). The rock shelter is a flat rock out crop that provides no shaded area. The rock is of coarse grained sand stone of brownish grey colour, and contain fragmentary paintings in black colour. The site is located about 2 km north east of the village.

The paintings include a schematic animal figure in outline portion of the head is in flatwash, another animal figure in flatwash with a long neck, a circle – with a – trident symbol partly visible and some other faint traces of thick lines.

This rock shelter is being worshipped in the name of local village goddess ‘Maisamma’. The village perform rituals here praying for rains. They also sacrifice fowls and sheep.

The rock art of Mudumula can safely be dated to the megalithic period. The petroglyphs as also the pictographs revealed characteristic traits of the megalithic rock art in Telangana. Further, the ‘circle – with a – trident’ symbol occur on the megalithic burials themselves, a feature noticed at other sites such as Chagatur in the same district, an evidence which is clinching to date the rock art of Mudumula to the megalithic period.

Sundeep Mukhta, Founder of Jai Makthala Trust, who has been building a campaign to get a UNESCO Heritage tag for the site, felt the purpose of these stones are to capture the movement of the sun to estimate the time.

About 500 meters away, there is another site comprising mounds of boulders and stones. Believed to be a burial ground, the site also comprises a three-foot rectangular stone, which has a ‘sky chart’ chiselled on it. “Perhaps, they identified and located constellations and astronomical objects using the chart,” he said.

The menhirs were arranged in several rows, form alignments and avenues. Studies found that particular rows of menhirs are aligned to the position of the rising and setting sun on the summer solstice and equinox,” said Mukhta. To promote the site, the Trust has been organising tours, bringing students and teachers from nearby schools. A team from the Sejong University (South Korea), too, visited the site recently.

The menhirs, which used to be present in an extent of 80 acres until a few decades ago, exist now only in a few acres as the bulk of them were ravaged to make way for farming. The Telangana government has said work towards preservation of the site is on. “We have sanctioned ₹25 lakh and acquired 4.29 acres of land where the last of the menhirs are concentrated,” V Srinivas Goud, the State Minister for Tourism, Culture and Archaeology, said.

Though the menhir side of the site is acquired by the government, the mounds of boulders and the pillar with ‘sky chart’ continues to be in an unprotected area and exposed to vandalism or unintended damage due to land clearing. Goud said the process was on to get the said land transferred from the Revenue department.

The stones are of two types - one is sisth, which are surrounded by big rocks, and the other is menhirs. "While the big rocks tower at a height of 10-14 ft, the small ones stand 5-6 ft high. The menhirs are scattered all over. One side of stones is worshipped as 'Thimmappa,' a male deity of the village. Nearby a smaller menhir in black stone is worshipped as Yellama the female deity.

Telangana government proposed to recommend the site for a Unesco World Heritage tag