Megalithic Burrial Urns in Kerala

While the Harappans were known to burry the dead, in South India, there was this custom of burrying the dead in urns. In the past few years there were discoveries of burrial urns in various places in Tamil Nadu. Burrial urns, 2800 years old were found in Adichanallur with the urns having inscriptions in Tamil-Brahmi. Later urns dating from 3rd century BCE to 3rd century AD were found in Palani.  This practice of burrying people in urns was common in ancient Greece as well as in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia.

Now three types of burrial urns, believed to date back to between 6th century BCE and 2nd century AD have been found in Kaladi (Adi Shankara’s birth place) in Kerala.

The urns were excavated by a team of researchers led by B. Ramesh, Director of the Research Centre at Sree Sankara College in Kalady. “Three types of earthen urn burials and some pots were found in a single day’s excavation. Due to heavy downpour, the contents were severely affected. The biggest urn is 4.5 feet high and 2.75 ft in diameter,” Dr. Ramesh said.

He said that its lower half had a height of 2.75 ft. The height of the upper half cannot be ascertained due to the damage that has occurred to it over the years. This was found 2.5 feet beneath the surface. It is a handmade red-and-black ware having a shape similar to that of an egg, with an ovoid lid. A prominent rim is seen on the middle part that joins the two halves.

The second urn (a medium-sized) was 3 ft high and has an inner diameter of 1.5 ft. It was situated on the northeast side of the main urn and three feet beneath the ground level. It also has a lid similar to the big one. But the bottom portion is a flattened one.

The third urn, smaller in size, also was 2.75 ft away from the main urn. Small earthen plates in broken conditions are also seen near the urns. Dr. Ramesh said the research team had conducted similar excavations near the present site on the banks of the Periyar. The team had found tools of varying sizes and shapes belonging to the Neolithic period. Various black and red pots and pot shreds were also retrieved.

The research team is now trying to identify more sites in the area that bear the relics of ancient culture and civilisations. They have also started a project to collect evidence that mark the presence of such age-old remains dating back to the Neolithic and Megalithic periods.

Archaeologists say the burial urns found in Kalady indicate that a civilised society lived there more than 2,500 years ago and the excavation also reflects the typical south Indian megalithic culture. [Burial urns of Megalithic period excavated]