Guest Author - Preena Deepak
Ancient India has seen several ways of doing away with the dead. While the most prevalent method of dealing with a dead body was to leave it in the wild to be consumed by nature, some other practices can also been observed based on archaeological findings.
In some parts of the country the dead were cremated while in others, the dead were buried with due respect. As far as burying the dead was concerned, two practices can be seen. In one the bodies of the deceased were buried in underground vaults while in another, huge urns made from mud were used as coffins to bury the dead. Evidence for both these traditions can be traced.
Urn burial can be prominently seen in several parts of Southern India. Some of these urns that have been excavated over the years bear witness to their use and have carefully preserved remnants of the deceased and his/her possessions.
The shape of urn resembles that of a mud pot and the dead were always placed in a sitting position within this ancient coffin. Many urns contain smaller pots, ornaments of bronze, beads made with glass, tools and weapons used during those times. These additional elements in the urn suggest that people living in this era had a strong belief in life after death and provided food, weapons and ornaments for the deceased to aid in his/her after life.
Some urns have intricate patterns worked into them, while others are plain. There is variation in the items found within the urn too. All these indications have helped archaeologists reconstruct the life of ancient Indian civilization.
It is believed that urns belong to the megalithic era. Some of these urn burial sites were discovered accidentally as a result of mining operations. Idukki district in Kerala, Pudukottai and Tirunelveli districts of Tamil Nadu have good evidence of urn burial. The Government Museum at Pudukottai has on display some items recovered from Urn Burial sites. The megalithic museum in Idukki, Kerala is a project of the administration to highlight the significance of the ancient custom of urn burial in the district.
Here are additional resources to understand archaeological findings of South India.
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