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Nagas and the Monoliths

A giant stone monolith on the Kohima-Khonoma road
A giant stone monolith on the Kohima-Khonoma road
A monolith with some engravings at Khonoma Village
A monolith with some engravings at Khonoma Village
A slab of stone with engravings used as a gate in the olden times
A slab of stone with engravings used as a gate in the olden times
A stone believed to have been planted by demons at Khonoma Village
A stone believed to have been planted by demons at Khonoma Village
Monoliths are a common form of artwork
Monoliths are a common form of artwork
One of the biggest stone monolith in Nagaland is found in Khonoma
One of the biggest stone monolith in Nagaland is found in Khonoma

In Nagaland you’ll see many erected stones. Monoliths were simply part of the Nagas tradition to mark some important events, or could even be as insignificant as showing off their wealth. These monoliths are the oldest historical relics of the Nagas. 

The Nagas built wooden houses, so Morung’s or houses did not last for more than few decades. Monoliths are the only structures which have survived the rubs of time .The carvings and drawings on wooden and stone monoliths are now a great source of Naga culture and are a valuable treasure in cultural studies and research. 

Erecting wooden or stone monoliths were done usually by the rich to demonstrate their status and wealth. Anyone could erect monoliths, but such acts were always accompanied with feeding the whole village at least once. In some cases the whole village had to be fed twice or thrice before erecting such stones. 

Khonoma Village (one of the most famous villages in Nagaland) has the highest number of monoliths among all the places I've visited. Wooden monoliths were quite popular, but with time none have survived to this day. Mr. Tsile, my guide led me to a small outdoor gathering place with a small stone aligned in a circle and a memory stone nearby. He was quick to point out that it was done after feeding the village thrice. Such splendor displays were nothing but to boast about the wealth of the person who had the monolith erected. They had nothing much to spend on and feasting was one easy way of showing off.  

Some of these monoliths were associated with myths too. A kilometer or so from the village, there was this smaller monolith by the roadside. The locals still believed that it was planted at night by demons. According to legend, the locals heard a groaning sound of stones being moved and people murmuring all night from that particular place. When they went there the next morning, they found this stone planted right there, where they had never seen it before. There were some fresh straw littered on top of the stone as well. 

There was this impressive monolith, which Mr. Tsile ( believed might be the broadest monolith in Nagaland. He has been to many places in Nagaland and still hasn’t seen any bigger stone. It was erected as a memorial stone for the richest man who erected the highest number of monoliths in Khonoma Village. The stone is nicely doused with lichens and has great texture and tones. A small way ahead from the rock is a small lake, also dedicated to the rich man’s wife.  The road leads further towards the mountains and there were many monoliths, some of them quite imposing. I would have wanted to see more, but one of our van’s tyres got punctured in the morning so we couldn’t take the risk of being stranded nowhere. The road leads deeper into few other tourist destinations; including the amazing Dzuko valley. 

 

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