This week we discover an ancient relic in the bylanes of a village in the interior of Maharashtra. Join us on this expedition.
Sameer motions to the driver and hails him to stop the car. We pass by a small village on our way home after an excellent hike in the jungle. It seems he’s found something unique at the village. The road is dusty and we stop and get out of the car, and peer at several carved stones that lie on their sides by the village temple.
The stones look like discarded relics from the past, dusty from being by the road. Sameer explains that these stones are Veerghals or “Hero Stones”. Hero stones were normally erected as memorials to the exploits of warriors who died in battle.
We look at the stone in the front of us and notice the intricate carvings on it. The stone is caked in mud, but gives us a tantalising glimpse of the glory of the past that is buried under the mud. We find some coir and leaves and gently begin brushing away the mud from the stone.
Villagers gather all around us wondering what these crazy city folk are up to. Sameer explains the historic significance of the stone to our gathered audience. They listen spellbound, somewhat comprehending the significance of the otherwise ordinary looking stone. Some of them help get some water to wash the stone clean.
After a quick wash, the story that the stone tells is gradually unveiled through Sameer’s masterful grasp of ancient history.
The top-most two panels depict a hand that seems to be a common feature of most of the stones. Sameer explains that the bangled hand is the hand of Sati, which indicates that after the warriors death his widow(s) accepted ritual funeral pyre. The second panel shows two women which we speculate to be either his wives or his family members.
The next panel depicts our warrior seated on a horse. This means that probably the warrior in question was an accomplished one capable of horse ridden combat. He is seen blessing what seems to be his family.
The panel after shows the warrior in battle. The battle is fierce and is probably how the warrior perished in combat. The final panel shows our fallen soldier on the funeral pyre, thus ending the saga of his life and death.
We find other panels around this stone. Some of them depict elephants and others tell tales of brave female warriors.
After seeing these stones, we move inside the temple where we find other relics on display.To my horror, some of these relics from the past have also been used as foundation stones for the temple.
Finally after this quick journey into the past we bid goodbye to the sleepy hamlet and move onward on our journey back to the city. As the car speeds away, I wonder how many such relics of our past lie forgotten in dusty bylanes of our cities and villages.