(GIST OF YOJANA) Memorial Stones of Jammu and Kashmir

(GIST OF YOJANA) Memorial Stones of Jammu and Kashmir


Memorial Stones of Jammu and Kashmir


  • Memory is existed a deep There a culture human has of memorialisation. One such noticeable expression is seen in the pan-Indian ancient practice of erecting the memorial stones to commemorate important events and persons.

Memorial Stones of Kashmir:

  • The earliest examples of memorial stones recorded from Kashmir date back to circa 2nd-3rd century CE. Seen in every nook and corner of the Valley, these memorial
  • stones reflect a widespread practice based on the tenets of ‘hero worship’ as well as ‘ritual death’ like ‘Praya’ and Sati. Thanks to Pandit Kalhana’s Rajatarangini, the 11th century chronicle of Kashmir Kings, we get a clear idea as to how Sati and Prayopavesa by Purohits were institutionalised in Kashmir since the early historic period.
  • The widespread practice of raising memorial stones seems to have been discontinued after Muslim rule in the 14th century. Extant examples from early historic times to 14th century show that memorial stones as an edifice were non-sepulchral and purely commemorative in character, raised in memory or honour of the deceased.

Memorial Stones of Jammu:

  • One of three divisions of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, Jammu region is the name given to the part of the outermost hills of the Himalayas that stretch from Himachal Pradesh to the Pothawar in Pakistan. The region can be found on the Atlas roughly between 32°17 to 36°58 North Latitude to 73° 26 and 83° 30 East Longitude.
  • Known in the Puranas as Darva Abhisara and situated between the ancient Madhya Desha on the one hand and the Gandhara on the other, the region, since ancient times has been an active meeting point for diverse socio-cultural races, different religious beliefs and varying art traditions. 
  • Marked by natural boundaries of river Ravi in the east and the river Jhelum in the west, the area of Jammu has played an important link in spreading the religions and cultural ideas from Indian mainland to Central Asia via Kashmir Valley.
  • The archaeological evidences found right from the Paleolithic period to Indus Valley Culture, through IndoGreek, Muurynn. Kushan and Gupta eras, early medieval kingdoms, the formation of Rajput states, Moughal supremacy, the period of Pathan dominance and the British rule, speak of a perennial How of culture in the region of Jammu.
  • Due to its strategic location, the region, while being a part of the pan-Indian ethos, also imbibed influences which came in the form of numerous waves of migrating tribes from the north and north-west. With the result, the Himalayan interiors of Jammu have been serving as a propitious place for the flowering and fusion of diverse socio-cultural and artistic traditions.
  • Notwithstanding the diversity of races and ethnic communities which included the races from the hoary past such as Pishaca, Naga, Kinnara, Gandharva, along with races from the early historic period like Audumbara, Madra, Vahlika, Darva, Abhisara, Yavana, Saumantikas, Kiras et al, the Jammu region’s socio-cultural legacy which is seen in the shape of a living tradition of folklore, music, and art, reflects the typical socio-cultural milieu wherein man and the environment; the lands, pastures, cattle, birds all are woven into an organic whole.
  • Found all over Jammu region, memorial stones provide an insight into the ethnic character, customs, belief and practices of Dogras, who have a distinct identity, language and traditional mode of living. 
  • Despite continuous political instability in the area since ancient times, when it came to social mores the martial communities of Dogras adhered to a set of values with its emphasis on valour, honour and chivalry. The valiant deeds of such martyrs recounted from generation to generation are part of living folklore. Many ballads and songs sung by the folk singers called Gardi, Yogi and Darcies, are a characteristic feature of Jammu folklife.
  • In the historic context, the most frequently found type is that of Hero/Warrior Stones which as part of pan Indian practice are raised in honour of warriors. Locally called as mohras, these memorial stones are invariably found near a water source like ponds and baolies-the freshwater springs and especially in the post-17th century freshwater springs.
  • In such stones, the hero is shown either riding a horse or standing. He and his horse are shown wearing armour. The hero usually holds a lance or a sword. In another variety, the hero is also shown as standing and holding a sword and a shield. In another type, the hero is depicted along with a Sati who generally rides a palanquin carried by bearers, while the hero rides a horse. 

Types of Mohras:

  • Other types of hero stones are the commemorative tablets of legendary folk heroes like Baba Jilto, Data Ranpal, Mian Dido ct al. Yet another most prevalent type of memorial stones in Jammu region are those of Satis, Kuldevis, Kuldevtas and Shaheeds. These are not ancestor stones in the strict sense but tenets of the ancient cult of ancestor worship and associated rituals have contributing towards such memorials a practice in vogue even today.

Sati Stones:

  • The ‘Mohras’ of ladies called as Satis, Shilvantis, Syabatis are one of the most commonly found forms of memorial stones. 
  • This category of memorial stones relate to the age old practice where women used to immolate; with her dead husband (Sahagamana) or after receiving the news of the death of her husband (Anugamana), or at the death of a brother, son or any other hero or to save her honour or of the family, clan, village or for some social cause.
  • Such stones depict a figure of standing women holding a kalasha in one hand while the other hand is raised quite high. Sometimes, in later varieties, she is even shown holding a
  • fan in her one hand.

Concept of Hatya:

  • The memorial stones also are raised in the honour of a dead ancestor, or one who has died an unnatural death or died for a cause or all those whose spirits demand setting up of a mohra. The wish of the spirit of the dead to set up a mohra so that it rests in peace or appeased is known through dreams of a family member or a relative or all those who get affected by the turn of untoward events in their day to life and linked with the wandering spirit.
  • The ultimate confirmation is done through a ritual of jalar’ or ‘kart cchatna’, where a medium called as clayala or doala goes into a trance at the request of the affected party and makes known the wish of the dead spirit by a spiritual communion. This particular shamanistic belief is a commonplace factor of the life of the Dogras.

Memorials for the Childless:

  • Another form of memorial stones which were raised in the past was for those family members who die as childless. Locally called as ‘autar’ mohras, in these memorial stones a half-standing man with a folded hand is shown. 
  • These stones are not kept inside the house as there is no one to remember them. These mohras are worshipped on special sacred days and festivals. The stone is washed and tilak of sindoor is applied to it. Some portion of new crop or food made for happy occasions is first offered to it, as he is also a shareholder of the family land.

Time Frame:

  • Unlike memorials stones of Kashmir some of which are also inscribed, no inscriptions on the memorial stones of Jammu region has been reported so far. 
  • While the practice of raising memorial stones dwindled at a fast pace with the advent of Muslim rule in the Valley, surprisingly raising of memorials stones seems to have proliferated in Jammu region alter the 15th-16th century and continues till today as a living tradition.

Form and Style:

  • Jammu memorial stones exhibit two distinct varieties. One which in continuation to the pan-Indian tradition is three-dimensional structures shaped like a miniature temple to be viewed frontally.
  • Such tall stones fashioned like a small temple are divided into three segments. The lower register depicts the dramatis personae while its upper part tapers into a conical spire. Such examples dateable between 14th to 17th centuries are mostly reported from upper reaches of Jammu region.
  • Another variety is of those stones that are in the shape of a rectangular relief. The dimensions mostly range from three to four feet to smaller versions which measure between two to one and a half feet.
  • As far as the artistic style of the carvings on the memorial stones of Jammu is concerned, one finds an amazing variety with a range from semi-classical to folk. 
  • But as a rule, the early examples seem to have been carved by sculptors well versed in ‘Marge traditions entrenched in aesthetics of Shilpa Shashtra. But in later day examples, a gradual predominance of the folk idiom is noticeable.


  • With fast-changing socio-cultural scenario where large scale migrations from villages to urban centres are taking place, the construction of memorial structures and stones is on the wane. Memorials stones are now no more created by traditional carvers locally called as ‘Buiede’ or ‘Slaede’, as these families have abandoned their ancestral trade.
  • Instead, masons, carpenters are making stones as either simplified and crude carvings of human forms or in a popular style and a medium like marble, concrete where figures are incised with a stylus and coloured with emulsion, thus presenting a total contrast from the past practice.
  • A large body of memorial stones and structures dotting the nooks and corners of the Jammu region, especially those carved on the friezes of enclosing walls of ancient springs are important socio-cultural documents awaiting a thorough study and exposition in terms of distribution, typology and style



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Courtesy: Yojana