on Stone Monuments

A most peculiar and striking aspect is thrown over almost every scene in the upper parts of the country, by the various remarkable monumental stones, which are scattered on every wayside. These are of several kinds, but almost all of them recall strongly those mysterious, solitary or clustered monuments of unknown origin, so long the puzzle and delight of antiquaries, which abound in our native country, and are seen here and there in all parts of Europe and Western Asia. The most common kind in the Kasia country is composed of erect, oblong pillars, sometimes almost quite unhewn, in other instances carefully squared and planted a few feet apart. The number composing one monument is never under three, and runs as high as thirteen; generally it is odd, but not always so. The highest pillar is in the middle (sometimes crowned with a circular disk), and to the right and left they gradually diminish. In front of which is what English antiquaries call a cromlech, a large flat stone resting on short rough pillars. These form the ordinary roadside resting place of the weary traveller. The blocks are sometimes of great size. The tallest of a thick cluster of pillars in the market place of Murteng in the Jaintia country, rising through the branches of a huge old tree, measured 27 feet in height above the ground. A flat stone, or cromlech near the village of Sailankot elevated five feet from the earth, measured thirty-two feet by fifteen, and two feet in thickness.

In other instances the monument is a square sarcophagus, composed of four large slabs, resting on their edges and well fitted together, and roofed with a fifth placed horizontally. In Bell’s Circassia, may be seen a drawing of an ancient monument existing in the country, which is an exact representation of a thousand such in the Kasia Hills; and nearly as exact a description of them, though referring to relics on the eastern bank of Jordan, may be read in Irby and Mangles’s Syrian Travels. The sarcophagus is often found in the form of a large slab accurately circular, resting on the heads of many little rough pillars, closely planted together, through whose chinks you may descry certain earthen pots containing the ashes of the family. Belonging to the village of Ringhot, in the valley of Mausmai, deep in the forest, is a great collection of such circular cineraries, so close that one may step from slab to slab for many yards. Rarely, you may see a simple cairn, or a pyramid some twenty feet in height, sometimes one formed in diminishing stories like the common notion of the Tower of Babel, or like the Pyramid of Saccara in Egypt. But the last is probably rather a burning place, than a monument, or at least a combination of the two.

The upright pillars are merely cenotaphs, and if the Kasias are asked why their fathers went to such expense in erecting them, the universal answer is, “To preserve their name.” Yet a few indeed among the thousands can they attach any name. Many of the villages however seem to derive their appellations from such erections, as may be seen from the commencing with ‘mau’ which signifies a stone; e.g. Mausmai (Mawsmai), the stone of oath, Mau-mlu (Mawmluh), the stone of salt, Mau-flong (Mawphlang), the grassy stone and a score more; Mausmai, the oath stone suggests that these pillars were also erected in memory of notable compacts. On asking Umang, a faithful and intelligent servant, the origin of the name, his answer was a striking illustration of many passages in the Old Testament. “There was war,” said he, “between Cherra and Mausmai, and when they made peace and swore to it, they erected a stone as a witness;” (Sãkhi ke waste, was his expression). Genesis XXXI. 45 “and Jocob took a stone and set it up for a pillar.” Genesis XXXI. 47 “and Laban called it Jegarsahadutha: but Jacob called it Galeed [both signifying that the ‘heap of witness’]. Genesis XXXI. 51, “and Laban said to Jacob, Behold this heap, behold this pillar which I have cast betwixt me and thee. This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not pass over this heap to thee, and that thou shalt not pass over this heap and this pillar to me to do me harm, &c.”

See also Joshua XXIV. 26. The name of maumlu (Mawmluh), the salt-stone, is probably of kindred meaning, as the act of eating salt from a sword point is said to be the Kasia form of adjuration.

These large stones are also frequently formed into bridges for the passage of brooks, and most picturesque they often are; there is at Nurteng a bridge of this kind, consisting of one thirty feet in length.