• Nainika Satish

The Ghost Town of Hirebenkal- Karnataka

Human beings are exceedingly complex creatures that crave intricate concepts and theories. We love intellectual challenges and often subsist off it. The idea of piecing together diverse information and solving enigmatic conundrums exhilarates us. Academic fields like psychology, philosophy, history and political science owe their existence to this facet of human nature. These encounters also reveal another dimension of human behaviour, it accentuates our need to connect with our past,. In an attempt to better understand the aforementioned sentient, we can refer to the eternal Hirebenkal site in Karnataka. According to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the area possesses over 400 megalithic structures that were supposedly built 3000 years ago.

The site remains vastly unexplored by common folk due to its isolated location and poorly maintained roads. It doesn’t enjoy the same popularity as its counterpart, Hampi regardless of their proximity. Hirebenkal, is a treasure trove of historical knowledge and acts as a portal to a time unlike our own. The area is dotted with what experts call ‘dolmeniod cists’, most of them are arranged circularly. These structures are massive three-sided chambers and are almost always covered by a large flat capstone. Academic research revealed that these structures were most likely funerary construction.

Another unique feature of Hirebenkal is its pre-historic rock paintings. Currently, there are over 11 rock edifices as per the ASI’s report. It was also observed that monochrome paintings are generally accompanied by serpentine designs that represent ‘honeycomb’ like patterns. The drawings also comprise of large deified zoomorphic beings that closely resemble a boar. Archaeologists opine that the presence of rectangular and square enclosures in art, have associated its presence to a sacred enclosures or open graves.

Hirebenkal is truly a site that never fails to elicit an audible gasp. It is a testimony to human creativity and is a living example of Iron Age artistry. The existence of the site attests to the unique exchange of cultural knowledge across time within a particular region. The area is shrouded in a layer of mystery. Since the area possess an abundance of granite stone, the dolmeniods don’t seem alien. But further scrutiny revealed certain fascinating questions. For instance, the task of cutting and transporting large slabs of stone is by no means an easy process. Yet, we barely have any information regarding the organisation of labour, and distribution of resources catering to the site. Questions like the nature of these funerary grounds, which facet of society they honoured and the significance behind the structures’ uniformity all remain largely unanswered.

Although the site was declared a ‘protected monument’ in 1955, the ASI has done little to improve its accessibility and preservation. The site is barely frequented by people and its hilly location isn’t easily reachable. Hirebenkal’s value is indispensable and has been proposed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites recently by the Karnataka government.

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