Bhimbetka Rock Shelters

Raisen, Madhya Pradesh

#Historical and Heritage


BEEN HERE

WANT TO VISIT

ADD TO LIST

The Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka are in the foothills of the Vindhyan Mountains on the southern edge of the central Indian plateau. Within massive sandstone outcrops, above comparatively dense forest, are five clusters of natural rock shelters, displaying paintings that appear to date from the Mesolithic Period right through to the historical period. The cultural traditions of the inhabitants of the twenty-one villages adjacent to the site bear a strong resemblance to those represented in the rock paintings.

As reported in the UNESCO citation declaring the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka a World Heritage Site, Bhimbetka was first mentioned in Indian archaeological records in 1888 as a Buddhist site, based on information gathered from local adivasis. Later V. S. Wakankar, while travelling by train to Bhopal, saw some rock formations similar to those he had seen in Spain and France. He visited the area with a team of archaeologists and discovered several prehistoric rock shelters in 1957.

Since then more than 750 such shelters have been identified, of which 243 are in the Bhimbetka group and 178 in the Lakha Juar group. Archaeological studies revealed a continuous sequence of Stone Age cultures (from the late Acheulian to the late Mesolithic), as well as the world’s oldest stone walls and floors.

Barkheda has been identified as the source of the raw materials used in some of the monoliths discovered at Bhimbetka.

 

Rock Art and Paintings

The rock shelters and caves of Bhimbetka have a large number of paintings. The oldest paintings are considered to be 30,000 years old, but some of the geometric figures date to as recently as the medieval period. The colors used are vegetable colors which have endured through time because the drawings were generally made deep inside a niche or on inner walls. The drawings and paintings can be classified under seven different periods.

  • Period I - (Upper Paleolithic): These are linear representations, in green and dark red, of huge figures of animals such as bison, tigersand rhinoceroses.
  • Period II - (Mesolithic): Comparatively small in size the stylised figures in this group show linear decorations on the body. In addition to animals there are human figures and hunting scenes, giving a clear picture of the weapons they used: barbed spears, pointed sticks, bows and arrows. The depiction of communal dances, birds, musical instruments, mothers and children, pregnant women, men carrying dead animals, drinking and burials appear in rhythmic movement.
  • Period III - (Chalcolithic) Similar to the paintings of the Mesolithic, these drawings reveal that during this period the cave dwellers of this area were in contact with the agricultural communities of the Malwa plains, exchanging goods with them.
  • Period IV & V - (Early historic): The figures of this group have a schematic and decorative style and are painted mainly in red, white and yellow. The association is of riders, depiction of religious symbols, tunic-like dresses and the existence of scripts of different periods. The religious beliefs are represented by figures of yakshas, tree gods and magical sky chariots.
  • Period VI & VII - (Medieval) : These paintings are geometric linear and more schematic, but they show degeneration and crudeness in their artistic style. The colors used by the cave dwellers were prepared by combining manganese, hematite and wooden coal.

One rock, popularly referred to as “Zoo Rock”, depicts elephants, Barasingha, bison and deer. Paintings on another rock show a peacock, a snake, a deer and the sun. On another rock, two elephants with tusks are painted. Hunting scenes with hunters carrying bows, arrows, swords and shields also find their place in the community of these pre-historic paintings. In one of the caves, a bison is shown in pursuit of a hunter while his two companions appear to stand helplessly nearby; in another, some horsemen are seen, along with archers.

#

22.9395461, 77.6124331
Directions