I was reading about the Stonehenge of England the other day. It reminded me of my childhood days in my village with my grand mother. I used to pester my grandmother with all sort of questions like, why the sun is so hot and why is it following us wherever we go, why the tamarind is so sour, when will I grow. She would answer everything with patience except for few times when I tried to eat a poisonous fruit imagining it as a banana while playing kitchen game. I would never get bored of her bedtime stories. Sorry I digressed.
The structure of the present day stonehenge is similar to that of the Sumaithaani Kal( translated as the load bearer), two upright stones balancing a horizontal stone on the top. We had a sumaithaangi Kal (the load bearer) in our village. I remember asking my grandmother what it was while returning home after buying things from the next village(we had to walk several kilometres to buy the provisions). It looked like a bench to the five-year-old me. I told my grandmother that they made a mistake while building the bench and asked her how a person would sit on such a high bench? My grandma smiled and explained.
They were unique structures built on the sides of the mud path at the border of a village for the usage of the passersby to relieve the loads on their head and rest. The structure was usually built to the average height of a person so that anybody can unload and reload the weight without help.
I came to know that sometimes they were also made in the memorial of pregnant women who died during the childbirth symbolically representing that she carries her load forever and helps others with theirs.
When I started searching for the articles about this load bearers I could find very few. These beautiful uncomplex structures are becoming obsolete. I don’t remember seeing it the last time I visited our village. My cousins didn’t even know that such structures existed.
Another forgotten structure which took a form of today’s bus stops and sunshades is the roadside resting place for travellers. We can see many dilapidated stone buildings with four pillars and a roof on the sides of the roads of Tamil Nadu. In olden days they were built for the travellers to rest at night and provide protection from heat and rain. If we move closer and look, we could find the notes, about the time it was built, engraved on the stone.
I have seen such structures in southern parts of India. I am eager to know if you have seen similar structures in your place. If so, please share it.