Hidden in the rocky terrains of the Vindhyas, amidst the thick forests and rugged formations, lie the rock shelters of Bhimbhetka, around 50 kms from Bhopal on the NH 46 which connects Bhopal with Hoshangabad. An archaeological site of incredible value, it is dated from the Paleolithic period (Paleolithic : denoting the early phase of the Stone Age, lasting about 2.5 million years, when primitive stone implements were used ). Over 600 rock shelters have actually been discovered in this complex, which points out to evidences from early human habitations that existed millions of years back, in the then existing form of cave art.The vibrant paintings on the walls of these rock shelters portray as well as illustrate the lives of ancient Indian early occupants who lived in the caves and are an immensely precious chronicle of the history of man. It might appear that this site is implied purely for the historical connoisseurs, however even a commoner will be delighted to be here, for it is difficult to stay unsusceptible to the sheer appeal of the spectacular artwork} which transmits back to thiose times. The paintings are basically categorized under seven different periods of time, varying from the Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic age, to the early historic and medieval ages. Safeguarded, Ssecured} and preserved by the Archeological Survey of India, Bhimbhetka is one of the three UNESCO World Heritage sites in Madhya Pradesh, the other two being Sanchi & Khajuraho.
Bhimbetka refers to “Bhima’s sitting place”. Bhima was a heroic God from Mahabharata. The rock shelters of Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh are considered to be the Paleolithic archeological site. They exhibit the erstwhile traces of humanity from the inception of Stone Age in Indian Subcontinent. Bhimbetka is located in Dist.Raisen in Madhya Pradesh. Bhimbetka Rock Shelters were occupied around 300,000 years ago by the Homo erectus. In these rock shelters, some of the rock paintings of South Asian Stone Age are around 30000 years old. You can also find the earliest evidences of dance in Bhimbetka Cave. In 2003, Bhimbetka Caves were declared as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Moving around Bhimbhetka is very well defined by extremely well placed arrows for directions to complete the circuit of all ther caves which are easily understandable.
There are also display screens & motifs showcasing relevant information about the paintings.
These really assist a visitor offering a fantastic understanding of the historical & archeological perquisite theses caves and paintings offer.
The paintings at Bhimbhetka are amongst one of the earliest transcribed exhibition of human expressions, creativity and imagination.
Worth appreciating is the fact that the paintings were specifically drawn in the crevices, walls and the sheltered hollow spaces so that they endured the test of time. This forth sightedness ensured these drawings and paintings were not exposed to the weather and the rains which would have surely damaged them by now.
The paintings have actuall been carried out primarily in red and white colours, with the periodic usage of green and yellow. The colours were infact prepared by integrating locally available manganese, redstone and even the fat of animals sometimes. Apart from human figures, animals such as bisons, tiger, wild boars, dogs, elephants and crocodiles have actually been frequently replicated.
Of the primary groups of shelters, the one on Bhimbhetka hill on the top is quickly assessable and even noticeable from the national highway 46 running close to it.
One of the very first noticeable painting is that of a child’s handprint in red inside a cave.
You might have to strain your eyes a bit up until you see it,however it will captivate you – just because, for the visitor, this is the very first evidence of human existence at the shelters. In reality, there is even a trench here in which human skeletal remains were apparently discovered. As you venture ahead, you will see representations of numerous scenes from the lives, dreams and creativity of the cave inhabitants who painted these brilliant images.
Common practices during those times, events such as ommunity dancing, animals & human fight engagements and battles are depicted.
Remarkably, there are a couple of symbols that are frequently depicted more often in the paintings. The very first of these are of human figures participating in various activities. The most fascinating specimen is a displayof a painting of a celebratory scene – stick figure dancing around a main figure, who is playing a musical sort of instrument. Animal images has been frequently used in almost all the paintings.
Despite the fact thata few of the paintings are a little faded, one still acknowledges the showcasing of numerous species of animals used extensively — deer, Bull, ox,tiger and elephants. Another most prominent amongst these is a painting on a mushroom shaped rock which exhibits a figure of an animal that resembles a huge boar with a big snout, which literally appears to be a legendary animal. Just across the snout of the boar, there is a relatively tiny drawn figure of a human, probably depicting the huge size of the boar, and in front of this figure is a crab – an diverting drawing undoubtedly.
Symbols of individual and community hunting as well as combat scenes are frequented enough in the drawings.
A brilliant example of this is the graphic illustration of an elephant and a bull, injured by the arrow of a Hunter. These figures have actually been superimposed on an earlier drawn illustration of a horse rider coming face to face with a soldier. This can be interpreted as how the same locations were utilized by various individuals at different time zones. Paintings of royals, soldiers and horse and elephant riders are all evidences of combat scenes. Painting number 7 reveals 2 riders participating in a battle.
Bhim Baithaka or Bhimbetaka rock shelters are located at the southernmost part of Vindhyachal Mountain Ranges and around 45 km south of Bhopal. Dense green vegetation covers the entire area of Bhimbetaka. The rich flora and fauna, natural shelters, perennial water supplies, and natural resources are found here because of its recurrent supplies of water. It stunningly resembles the Kakadu National Park and several rock art sites in Australia, paintings in Lascaux Upper Paleolithic cave in France and Bushmen paintings in Kalahari Desert.
History of Discovery
According to the citation of UNESCO which declares Bhimbetka Rock Shelters as World Heritage Site, the rock caves of Bhimbetka was mentioned first in the archeological records of India as Buddhist site in the year 1888, according to the data collected from locals. Later on, some rock formations were found by V.S. Wakankar when he was traveling by train. They were similar to the rock caves he had seen in France and Spain. In 1957, he gathered an archeologists’ team and visited the site and found a lot of primeval rock shelters.
Meanwhile, over 750 other rock shelters were identified and 178 of them belong to LakhaJuar Group and 243 of them belong to Bhimbetka group. According to the archeological studies, a frequent sequence from the late Mesolithic and Acheulian age was revealed. Some of the oldest stone floors and walls of the world from Stone Age were also found in Bhimbetka.Some of the monoliths found at Bhimbetka have the raw materials which were used at Barkheda.
Rock Paintings and Arts
A lot of paintings are found in the caves and rock shelters of Bhimbetka. Some oldest paintings are believed to be around 30000 years old. But they are estimated to be from mediaeval period as per some geometric figures. They used vegetable colors for paintings and drawings and they are made deep on the inner walls or inside a niche. The paintings and drawings over here are believed to be from 7 individual periods.
Upper Paleolithic (Period 1) : In dark red and green, the linear symbols of animals like tigers, bison and rhinoceroses are from Upper Paleolithic Period.
Mesolithic (Period II) : The stylized figurines are quite smaller in size. These human figures represent the linear decorations. These figures exhibit the hunting scenes and give clear insight of weapons used in Mesolithic period, such as pointed sticks, barbed spears, arrows and bows. You can find rhythmic actions in the form of portrayal of birds, communal dances, children and mothers, musical instruments, men lifting heavy and dead animals, pregnant women etc.
Chalcolithic (Period III) : The Chalcolithic paintings exhibit the relationship between cave dwellers and agriculture-based communities during that period in the Malwa regions. In these paintings, they are bartering goods with each other.
Early Historic (Period IV and V) : In this group, the figures have a decorative and systematic style. They are basically painted in white, red and yellow. They depict the cultural symbols, riders, tunic dresses and scripts from several periods. These figures are believed to be of tree gods, yakshas, and enchanted sky chariots.
Medieval (Period VI and VII) : These paintings are schematic and geometrically linear. They exhibit crudeness and degeneration in artistic manner. The cave dwellers were mixed hematite, manganese and wooden coal to prepare colors to use in these paintings.
The Zoo Rock exhibits several animals like sambar, elephants, deer and bison. On another rock, the paintings of a snake, peacock, deer and the sun were made. In these medieval paintings, some of the structures of arrows, bows, swords, and shield carried by hunters while hunting are depicted.
For Indians, the entry fee is INR 25 & for foreigners, it’s INR 50.
The Bhibhetka Rock Shelters are open from 6.30 am till 5.30 pm.
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