Nartiang is a village famous for ancient stones erected by early human settlers. The history of the place is hazy. I have not been able to find any information on it, nor see pictures of the place. I am going to go there and see it firsthand.
It is a Sunday. Finding transport is difficult. It is unlikely I am going to get a direct ride to Nartiang. I have to make the best of what I get. I leave Jowai by a van to a place named Ummulong 15 kms away. Ummulong is a place of little importance with no decent place to stay, eat or shop. A road branches off to the right. It is the road to Nartiang 11 kms away. It starts to rain as I wait at turning. A fruit vendor informs with nods and gestures that a bus may be going to Nartiang in an hour.
After a wait of thirty minutes I find a jeep going that way. The vehicle is full but he stops long enough for me to jump on to it at the back. As the jeep speeds on this little road, I am clinging rather dangerously, half-sitting on the spare wheel slapped to the back of the jeep. Local boys savour this rare comical spectable and burst into laughter. Along the way we pass a local church. The churches of Meghalaya never fail to interest me. They are always more than what you expect with unique architecture and a modern touch.
The jeep drops me at the entrance to an enclosure protecting the stones. It is a special moment when I first view the stones. It is like entering a space and finding oneself suddenly transported in time. It is like staring into history rather than imagining it. Such is the mood of this place. It is not just a handful of stones. They stand crowded on the ground in their scores. Many are standing stones while others are flat slabs of stone laid horizontally. Of the latter, such flat stones are supported on little stone legs. These are similar to quoits or dolmens found Ireland, England and many parts of Europe.
I am no historian or archaeologist. There is no information board erected here to explain the history of these stones. How old is this site? Is it prehistoric or something more recent? Are there burial chambers within or are these simply cenotaphs in stone for the worship of ancestors? For the lay man, there are no answers, only questions that seek to give voice to the enigma of the place. I stand for many minutes standing in the midst of these stones, the surrounding hills and the cool quiet afternoon.
The stones are mostly of granite. There are some boys playing cards on one large capstone. I ask them about this place. Their replies are not convincing. What they say to me appears a mix of legend and hearsay, nothing factual or historical. Grass and weeds invade the spaces between stones. Moss cling to some places. Little pools of water reflect the trees around. Many of the standing stones end with sharp points and edges. They are roughly hewn without any polish. The way they stand one can imagine anything one wants about their forms. This one looks like the tooth of a shark. Another is the rongue of a chameleon stretched out for a kill.
Under the shade of a tall tree, one standing stone, the most impressive of them all stands erect. It must be about 27 feet, taller than any of the stones of the famous Stonehenge. As I look at it, I can only ask to myself, ‘Who, when and why?’
As I return from this stone complex, I see a rusted signboard that reads,
Stone Memorial of U-Mawthawdur
Without a guide, I have no idea if I have seen this. I assume it is the tallest standing stone that impressed me.