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Jun 24, 2015

 

 

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23 JUNE, 2015 – 14:21 ROBIN WHITLOCK   ancient-origins

A group of Indian archaeologists have discovered the ancient remains of an individual whose tomb contained a marking indicating he may have achieved the state of ‘mukthi’, a belief observed by a number of eastern religious traditions, including Hinduism and Buddhism, in which the individual achieves liberation from the body. The term derives from an ancient Sanskrit word meaning ‘liberation without the body’ and refers to ‘moksha’, a state of liberation achieved after death, according to Hindu belief.

The body of the man was found in a group of five dolmenoid cists in a tribal village in Dindigul, Tamil Nadu. Only two of the dolmens are intact, while the other three consist only of fragmentary, but still visible, remains. Of the two surviving dolmens, one is four feet high and the other six and a half feet high. The larger of the two is covered by a capstone measuring 10 meters across. According to archaeologist V Narayanamoorthy it is likely to weigh around two tons.

One of the dolmens found in Tamil Nadu

One of the dolmens found in Tamil Nadu (TOI photo)

The tomb is marked in the middle with an 8 cm red circle drawn with red ink with a red spot in the centre of the circle. Archeo symbolist T L Subash Chandira Bose believes this marking to be an indication that the person buried within the dolmen had achieved the state of mukti.

“This larger circle with a centre dot signifies what we call ‘parathuvam’” said Chandira Bose, talking to The Times of India. “…that is attaining eternity without rebirth and to my knowledge this is the first time that this sign has been found in Tamil Nadu. Usually there would be two or more circles, under the capstones.”

The belief in reincarnation often accompanies the belief that the cyclical pattern of birth, death and rebirth can be broken, either during life (according to the Hindu philosophy of Advaita Vedanta) or after death, when the soul achieves a state of mukti when absorption of individual consciousness in the self occurs. Sometimes it is contained within the wider philosophy of Samadhi (usually called mahasamadhi).

Many of the world’s major religions preach the goal of liberation. According to Meher Baba, in his book God Speaks, liberation marks the end of the soul’s journey and is therefore often believed to be the ultimate goal, both of individuals and of the whole of the creation. Baba goes on to describe four forms of mukti, called videha mukti, videh mukti, jivanmukti and param mukti.

Two Hindu sadhus near Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal. Usually sadhus live by themselves, on the fringes of society, and spend their days in their pursuit of moksha / mukthi

Two Hindu sadhus near Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal. Usually sadhus live by themselves, on the fringes of society, and spend their days in their pursuit of moksha / mukthi (Wikimedia Commons)

Paravutham is a state in which there is no morning, evening or night and there is no need to eat for there is no hunger. The circled dot is an ancient symbol with a variety of meanings besides that conveyed by Hinduism. It can, for example, be used as a symbol of the Sun in mythology, ancient religion, mysticism and divination. In Ancient Egypt it was the symbol of the Sun God, Ra. In the Hebrew mystical tradition of Kabbala it is the symbol of Kether on the tree of life. Among the Ojibwa Native Americans it was used to represent the ‘horned snake’, drawn on cliff walls in red ochre.

The Indian megalithic age – also known as the Indian iron age was first described in Peninsular India by T. Babington in 1823 but first began to be properly investigated by Wheeler in 1948, followed by other investigations in 1953, 1956, 1959 and 1968. This in turn led to further study by universities during the 1970’s. The period is marked by the dolmenoid cist burials found in numerous parts of India, very similar in appearance to the dolmens of Western Europe. Some of them are often located on elevated rocky regions and other upland areas while others occur on more level ground. These monuments generally consist of dressed granite slabs and often contain human remains along with a variety of personal items such as black and red pottery, iron weapons and tools, including swords, knives, axes and hoes, and jewellery such as beads and other ornaments. Sometimes they form part of larger megalithic complexes which include stone rows and single menhirs.

Megalithic Dolmen (said to be world's large single capstone as a dolmen with 36ft in length and 14ft in width and 2ft thickness) of early Iron Age at Dannanapeta, India

Megalithic Dolmen (said to be world’s large single capstone as a dolmen with 36ft in length and 14ft in width and 2ft thickness) of early Iron Age at Dannanapeta, India (Wikimedia Commons)

There are around 2,000 Dolmenoid cists in total throughout Peninsular India, particularly in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. As in Europe, they usually have an openingfacing east or north, sometimes aligned to the rising sun at particular times of the year. The monuments in upland areas are thought to have functioned as memorials while those on flatter, lower ground, very often function as burials.

Featured image: Hindu devotee practicing jñāna yoga, one of the methods believed to help attain mukthi (Wikimedia Commons)

By Robin Whitlock

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