khasi memorial stones (india)

Khasi Memorial Stones (India)

The East Khasi Hills region of Meghalaya has a very large number of Memorial Stones set-up by the Khasi people.­

The Khasi people were following their ancient Tribal traditions until a couple hundreds years ago, with Colonization and their conversion to Christianity.­ So this abandoned burial site that I noticed on the side of the road is probably not more than a few hundred years old.­ On the satellite photos, the area around those stones look like the traces of a village that was burned-out.­

There are many similar abandoned burial sites with Monoliths all over the region.­ A few of them that have particularly high Menhirs are protected by a fence.­

Those megaliths are not tombstones or graves but rather they are memorial monuments (Cenotaphs), raised in honor of the spirits of the Tribe elders.­

The Standing Stones (also called Menhirs or Monoliths) are for male spirits, while the Table-Stones (also called Dolmens) are for female spirits.­

I also noticed a large number of small square stone structures (about 20-30 cm side for the center hole).­

From reading various old books about the Khasi people ancient funeral traditions, I believe that those square structures are small burial chamber, i.­e.­ small boxes where the ashes of the dead were kept, temporarily before a big ceremony (that did not take place too often) where they were moved into a larger Cinerarium holding the remains of all the Tribe's elders.­ I believe that this is a cinerarium (or large burial chamber), i.­e.­ basically a communal tomb.­

Here are some books that have more information about the Khasi monoliths and memorial stones:

- Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics: Hymms-Liberty
edited by James Hastings, John Alexander Selbie, Louis Herbert Gray

- The Khasis
By Philip Richard Thornhagh Gurdon

- bWomen and Indigenous Religions
edited by Sylvia Marcos