HUBBALLI: The megalithic site at Hire Benakal village of Gangavati taluk in Koppal is now among the six heritage sites in India that are contending for the UNESCO Heritage tag. India had submitted 48 sites of importance of which six have been shortlisted.
UNESCO will decide on these sites in the upcoming meeting to be held in China in July 2021.
Local historians in Koppal are keeping their fingers crossed as there has been a long pending demand to include this important megalithic site among the list of Heritage sites in India. The Hire Benakal megalithic site contains stone structures that were constructed several thousand years ago and it's the largest such site in the entire country. Out of 12 types of Neolithic burial structures that are found in India eight types are found in Hire Benakal.
The site which is located in the hill ranges on the left bank of Tungabhadra is considered as the laboratory for studying the life history of prehistoric communities. Historians say, these communities lived in small huts but gave immense importance to those who died.
They used to make different kinds of burial structures and most common among them was known as 'dolmens'.
"Nowhere in India one can find large numbers of dolmens in one site like Hire Benakal," said Sharanappa Kolkar, historian from Gangavathi, who has worked on Hire Benakal site and discovered several rock paintings.
"There are many sites around Hire Benakal where such burial structures can be found. At Hire Benakal in one place about 75 dolmen structures can be seen. This is the uniqueness of this site. The dolmens are iron age burials and different kinds of structures are found in Hire Benakal. Though they look similar from outside they are different when it comes to the interiors," he explained.
Currently the Hire Benakal site is under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and recently it has been shifted from Dharwad to Hampi circle. The site is getting neglected and several factors such as terasture hunt and cattle grazing are harming the sanctity of the site. The locals are demanding protection for the site and they hope that UNESCO tag could help restore the site.
"There are several such structures in the 10 km radius of Hire Benakal and they must be preserved. Many structures are outside the protection area of ASI in villages such as Chikkabenakal and Mallapur Doddi. The government must ensure these sites are protected and we hope UNESCO considers the site for the final tagging of heritage sites," Kolar said.
Top Six Contenders From India
Besides Hire Benakal Megalithic site, other five sites that are shortlisted are Maratha Military Architecture in Maharashtra, Satpura Tiger Reserve, riverfront of the Varanasi, Bhedaghat-Lameta Ghat in Narmada Valley and Temples of Kanchipuram.
Karnataka has two UNESCO heritage sites Hampi in Vijayanagara and Pattadakal in Bagalkot district. Karnataka also shares a site of UNESCO Westen Ghats with other states as well.