Stone seen at Pambirikunnu, in
Koyilandy Taluk of Kozhikode District of
Kerala is a rare monument the like of which
are seen in a few places of Kerala. This
tomb is preserved by the Post Graduate Dept
of History, C.K.G. Memorial Govt.
College, Perambra. The growth of
grass and other plants and ivies make it
a part of the vegetative landscape. But
this is a remnant of Megalithic culture
supposed to have flourished about 2000 BC
to 1500 BC IN Kerala. The special feature
about the monument is its shape. It is called
umbrella Stone, most probably not from its
shape. It has a shape of mushroom rather
than an umbrella. It is a huge mass of latourette
shaped in the form a mushroom hood supported
by its stem-like pillar growing upward in
a conical shape. This pillar is actually
constructed with four concave pillars constructed
of latourette. The bottom part of the pillar
thus creates a cave in it, within which
the burial relics are placed. The hood and
pillar are finely shaped and polished so
that it contains the life of a soul that
would have to live for the eternity to come.
Below we give a write-up on the umbrella
stone or Kodakkallu as it is known in these
parts of Kerala. The write-up is prepared
by Prof. C.P.Aboobacker with the help of
the Dept of History, CKG Memorial Govt.
Stones- A Megalithic Remain
A typical umbrella stone stands like a giant
Mushroom in the Kodakuthi compound owned
by Sri Kodakuthiyil Rajan nair of Pambirikunnu
in Cheruvannur Panchayath. The term Kodakuthiyil
is indicative of the presence of the umbrella
stone. Koda means umbrella. There are scholars
who believe that Koda pertains to the funeral
offerings; according to them the term is
derived from Kodukkal (offering) or Kodu
(again, offering) in Malayalam and Tamil
languages. They argue that the shape of
the stone is that of a mushroom and not
that of an umbrella and therefore identifying
the Kodakkallu with an umbrella is untenable.
As the scholars generally agree that the
Kodakkallus were post burial tombs during
the megalithic period, the argument on the
shape and etymology of the tomb is not solicited.
However, this is not to deny the right to
argue. For the people, the tombs have always
been umbrella-like although resemblance
to mushroom cannot be ruled out categorically.
Kodakkallus are mentioned by Sewell and
Logan in their works. They are deemed to
represent the great megalithic civilization
in the different parts of Kerala. The kodakkallus
are sparsely located in different parts
of Kerala. The ones in Quilandy Taluk represented
by the Paithoth Kodakkallus and Pambirikunnu
kodakkallu are deemed to be made by about
1500 BC. The presence of the iron implements
within the Kodakkallus shows that they were
made after iron came into use and therefore
they represent an advance stage in human
But how could we ascertain the date and
antiquity of the tombs? Whose remains were
buried in these tombs? The second question
seems easy to answer. The privileged in
the society were the ones that could have
been buried in these tombs. The kodakkallus
are a real marvel of architecture. The mushroom
like hood is a giant block of latourette
polished and shaped into an umbrella form.
It is supported by four blocks of latourette
that also are polished and refined, and
also shaped in to one-fourth of a conical
pillar. Four pillars support the hood to
stand erect. When the four pillars are joined,
it becomes a conical pillar the bottom of
which is a chamber. It is in this chamber
the burial remains along with iron tools,
ornaments, vessels etc. are placed. The
presence the tools, vessels ornaments etc.
shows the belief of the people in life after
death; in the life after death, man requires
tools, ornaments, implements and food. Food
grains also have been unearthed from a few
Umbrella stones. This much attention to
the dead could be given only in the case
of the well-to-do in the society. Only the
wealthy could afford to construct such huge
tombs. Although, compared with Egyptian
or American pyramids, these stone tombs
are small in size, its construction required
great attention and technological skill.
Thus the presence of the umbrella stone
in an area shows the crude form of a religion,
which was totally based on life after death.
So two things are clear in this problem:
1. the well-to-do people arranged for the
construction of the tombs in t5he umbrella
or mushroom shape, 2. the people of the
society had belief in life after death.
This was the beginning of religion in Kerala
On the question of ascertaining antiquity,
the only way out is to ascertain it by subjecting
the tombs for chemical examination, like
carbon test. On examination, it is generally
understood that the umbrella stones are
as old as 2000 BC to 1500 BC.
And if this much skill in latourette technology
was in vogue some 4000 years ago in our
localities, why didn’t our ancestors
leave any other evidence of a civilized
life? The question is easy to ask, but very
difficult to answer. Only guesswork will
have to be relied on to get an answer. The
people of the period were so much involved
rites and practices as preparation for the
life after death; they were almost absent-minded
as far as life in this world was concerned.
Another possibility is that the affluent
rains always washed off the micro-level
implements and materials from the soil.
The umbrella stones withstood the ruinations
of rains and time.
The Examination of the social strata prevalent
in the localities where umbrella stones
are seen will not help us because there
have been a great intermingling, desiccation,
and disappearance of human races and types
through millennia. So, the presence of a
particular trade or craft group in these
areas today will not take us anywhere. May
be, trading is prevalent, or industrial
communities live in the area today. But
this does not mean that they are descendants
of people who inhabited the place some four
thousand years ago. Human habitats have
changed, human races have changed, migrations
led to intermingling and changes in climate
have brought out even total extinction of
the people that inhabited a place in the
Still the places where umbrella stones are
found, the presence of trading communities
is a noticeable factor. Just for the fascination
of imagination, let us think of a people
who had migrated into these places from
some sources, for example, a foreign source.
And then we will find that South India witnessed
immigrations during the Iron Age. It was
on the basis of this theme that Dr. K.K.John
of the University of Calicut addressed the
students of the college, while he was inaugurating
the Centre For The Study And Research In
Local History organized under the auspices
of the Dept of History of our College on
5th July 2006.
Inaugural Address by Dr. John
Historians and scholars like Sewell and
William Logan have clearly stated about
the importance of local history and also
about the richness of the history of Malabar.
People who knew the uses of iron immigrated
to South India during the ancient times.
Following this a new culture was evolved
in the peninsular India. This is generally
christened as the Megalithic Culture. The
Sangam literature refers to certain types
of burials. The Sangam age reached its culmination
during the famous Troika of Cheras, Cholas
and Pandyas. The Megalithic culture normally
must have preceded the Moovendras (Troika).
The Moovendra period witnessed the rise
of a number of trading centres dominated
It can be aptly said that the foundations
of Kerala culture were laid down by the
Megalithic culture. This originated from
the reverence for the dead. The society
was characterized by belief in life after
death. They must have believed rebirth was
possible if the dead were not properly buried.
Rebirth would be the result of sins and
rebirth would be a kind of punishment. Moreover,
after rebirth, the dead souls would disturb
the peace of the living ones. In order to
avoid rebirth to the dead, the burial was
arranged in such a way that the dead received
all facilities in life after death. The
burial tomb was furnished with all kinds
of necessaries and materials that would
be useful in normal life. Thus the megaliths
were the shelters of the dead.
The customs of payamkutti, kodukka etc.
prevalent in different parts of Kerala are
the remains of the megalithic culture. Payamkutti
means the old debt. Payamkutti is performed
for the dead. Muthappan Daivam is one of
the most widely worshipped gods in Kerala.
Muthappan is nothing but Grand Father. Payamkutti
is the worship of Muthappan or Grand Father.
Thus payamkutti is the fulfillment of the
old indebtedness to the grandfather.
Likewise, Kodukka is observed in Hindu houses
even today. It is the consecration of things
the dead liked most, generally. The things
the consecrator likes most also are some
times offered. The souls of the dead are
pleased by this. This is a remnant of the
Several types of burials have been discovered.
Rock-cut caves, umbrella stones, hat stones,
dolmens, urn burials etc are a few of them.
Of these rock-cut caves, hat stones and
umbrella stones are seen only in Kerala.
These are remains of megalithic culture
in Kerala. The various types signify the
difference in the land types of Malanadu
(mountains), Idanadu (midlands) and plains.
The tombs in the highlands are generally
made of granite and carved in granites.
It is not possible to construct a kodakkallu
with granites. Kodakkallus are found generally
in Idanadus (midlands). This is due to the
availability of latourette in the midlands.
IN the plains burial was in urns made of
earthen ware. The examinations of urns have
revealed that the remains of women and children
were generally buried in them.
The dead were buried inv various types.
Of them two types are very predominant in
most of the societies. First is the direct
burial known primary burial. In this method,
dead bodies are directly buried. The next
is the secondary burial in which ashes or
skeletons after cremation or some other
process are buried. The difference in burial
methods might be due to the existence of
different social strata. Likewise, the difference
in tombs also might be due to some kind
of stratification in society.
Megalithic burials existed in countries
from Ireland to Japan. We do not when this
practice reached in India. We also do not
know whether this practice was taken form
India. But one thing is beyond doubt and
speculation: South Indian burial systems
and megalithic culture are similar in many
ways to the Mediterranean culture. Gordon
Childe has categorically stated this.
IN Kerala megaliths are seen northwards
from Thrissur. IN Malappuram District there
are a lot of Kodakkallus. In Kozhikode district
also Kodakkallus are seen in many places.
The structure of Kodakkallus proves beyond
doubt that they were meant for burial. Thus
kodakkallus are the remains of a society
dedicated to a worship of the Dead. Kerala
has a number of historical remains. Unfortunately
most of them are being destroyed without
their values being realized. All people
must have a sense of history, an awareness
of history. It is in this context that the
work of the Centre for the Study and Research
in Local History becomes significant.