Megalithic monuments used as memorial stone for the dead are a worldwide feature. While megalithic culture in Europe is related with Neolithic, in India it is by and large, a feature of Iron Age especially in south India.
R. E. M. Wheeler (1956) describes megaliths as “those monuments which are built of rough, large, undressed blocks of stones, usually, though not invariably, of rudimentary character.
Those monuments are connected with burials which fulfill funerary or commemorative or religious functions.” The earliest evidences of megalithic graves and funerary appendages in India came to light in 1872 but concerted archaeological efforts began only in 1944 and since then hundreds of megaliths have been found especially in south India. Such monuments of similar type have been found near Madras, Chingalpur, Akhor and Chitt
Probably these megaliths in the earliest stages were used in the funeral proceedings but later on these were erected as memorial stones. A number of such graves have yielded, beside skeletal remains of the dead, a number of other items as funerary appendages. Megaliths in India have been found mainly of four types:
Menhirs are like large and tall memorial stones erected to give some clue to the presence of a grave at that place. These stone pillars varied in length between one and a half to about five and a half metres. Menhir graves have mostly been found in Maski and Gulbagrga regions of Karnataka.
In the category of Dolmen graves, the dead body used to be placed on a slab of stone on a raised platform covered from all side with a flat stone slab resting on the four legs of stone erected at the four corners of the dead body.
Since it gives a table like look it has been designated as dolmen which loosely means a stone table. Such graves have been found form Brahamgirin in Karnataka and Chingelpur form Tamil Nadu.
Cist graves also follow a set pattern. The dead body was first buried and small stones erected all around it. Then larger stone slabs were made to rest on the pillars,, providing the grave some sort of a shade. Such megalithic graves have been found from Banda and Mirzapur of Uttar Pradesh.
4. Cairn Circle:
Cairn Circle type of megaliths consist of several round shaped stones. It seems that first the dead body used to be buried along with iron implements, clay pots or urns and bones of pets and then rounded stones were fixed all around the grave. Such megaliths have been found from Nayakund and Borgoan (Maharashtra) and Chingelpur (Tamil Nadu).