Earlier surveys of megalithic burial sites in the Nilgiris have revealed that there are three distinct tracts, viz., Upper Nilgiris, Sigur Plateau and Eastern Slopes. The recent exploratory survey of megalithic sites conducted in the Nilgiris by the author has brought to light the fact that megalithic burial sites are also available in the Gudalur-Wayanad tract. In this paper, an attempt is made to highlight the Gudalur-Wayanad tract which could also present some more megalithic burial sites, based on this identification of the Goundankolli megalithic stone circle in the Nilgiris.

Earlier works on the megalithic burial sites of the Nilgiris

Nilgiri megalithic sites were studied by various scholars in different perspectives in different periods (cf: H. Congreve: 1847; M. Breeks: 1873: M.J. Walhouse: 1873: W. Francis: 1908: L.S. Leshnik: 1970: W.A. Noble: 1976 and 1985; D.B. Kapp: 1985). Although H. Congreve was the pioneer in studying the antiquities of the Nilgiri hills it is J.W. Breeks who has studied the Nilgiri prehistoric remains both extensively and intensively. As in the line of H. Congreve, M.J. Walhouse also studied certain formerly existing antiquities of the Nilgiris. W. Francis while studying the sculptured Nilgiri dolmens identified the use of spheres and nets by the prehistoric warriors. L.S. Leshnik made a pioneering attempt to date the antiquities of the Nilgiri Plateau. However, it was W.A. Noble who made an exhaustive study of the Nilgiri prehistoric remains in the light of archaeological principles and methods.

While studying the prehistoric remains of the Nilgiris W.A. Noble remarks, “it is remarkable that people in very different parts of the world and in millennia far apart have exhibited a tendency towards the use of stone or earth to fashion circles on the ground”. And in his attempt to study the various stone circles in the Nilgiris he proposes this classification of prehistoric remains: 1) Walled circles, 2) Piled Stone Circles and 3) Non-Piled Stone Circles.

Goundankolli megalithic stone circle – an introduction

On his recent field trips to Goundankolli (a Paniya tribal hamlet in the Gudalur Taluk of the Nilgiris) the author of this paper identified a megalithic stone circle adjoining a peculiar twin rock formation (one above another) with a clear-cut demarcation line known as “Paniya-panichi Kallu”. It is interesting to note that contrary to the already observed fact that the Nilgiri megalithic sites occur only in three distinct areas, namely, Upper Nilgiirs, Sigur Plateau and Eastern Slopes, the author of this paper could come across a megalithic stone circle in the Gudalur – Wayanad Tract.

Certain observations on Goundankolli megalithic stone circle

The megalithic stone circle identified at Goundankolli is significant from the point of view of geographical distribution of megalithic burial sites. As this particular megalithic site occurs just 30 kms away from the Edakkal prehistoric cave dwelling in the Waynad tract, this author conjectures that there could be at least a few more megalithic burial sites available in between Goundankolli megalithic stone circle and the Edakkal prehistoric cave dwelling.


Although only a single megalithic stone circle is identified at the Gudalur – Wayanad tract by the present author, it is conjectured that a few more megalithic burial sites could be available. It is also inferred that there might have been some more megalithic burial sites present in and around the Goundankolli megalithic stone circle, as this particular site is constantly under the heavy pressure of environmental vandalism by the recent migrants from adjoining areas.

If a detailed survey of prehistoric remains both in and around Goundankolli site and in the Gudalur – Wayanad tract is taken up in future, many more discoveries may appear in the horizon of Nilgiri prehistory.

The author of this paper wishes to, record his sincere thanks to Dr. C. Maheswaran, Curator, Government Museum, Coimbatore for his assistance in studying the Goundankolli megalithic burial site in November, 1998.

 Select Bibliography

  1. Breeks, J.W., An Account of the Primitive Tribes and Monuments of the Nilgiris, Government Press, Chennai, 1873.
  2. Congreve, H. 1847, “The Antiquities of the Neilgherry Hills”, Madras Journal of Literature and Science, 14: 77-146.
  3. Fracis, W., The Nilgiris, Government Press, Chennai; 1908.
  4. Kapp, D.B., “The Kurumbas’ Relationship to the ‘Megalithic’ Cult of the Nilgiri Hills (South India)”, In Blue Mountains (ed. Paul Hockins), Oxford University Press, 1985.
  5. Leshnik, L.S., “A Suggested Dating for the Antiquities of the Suggested Dating Nilgiri Plateau, South India”, Acta Praehis torica et Archaeologica, 1: 87-99, 1970.
  6. Noble, W.A., “Nilgiri Dolmens, (South India)”, Anthropos, 71:90­-128, 1976.
  7. Noble, W.A., “Nilgiri Prehistoric Remains”, In Blue Mountains ( Paul Hockins), Oxford University Press, 1985.
  8. Walhouse, M.J., “On Some Formerly Existing Antiquities on the Nilgiris”, The Indian Antiquary, 2:275-278, 1873.

Environmental Educator,
C.P.R. Environmental Education Centre, Ooty

Source: Journal of Indian History and Culture, March 1999.

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