The rock paintings of Bhimbhetka

The rock paintings of Bhimbhetka

Submitted by alvin on Tue, 2016-11-15 12:20 Graphic depiction of how paintings came about It was 7am when we arrived at Bhimbhetka. We had driven for an hour from Bhopal to see the World Heritage Site known for its rock paintings. I had imagined the paintings at Bhimbhetka to be similar to Ajanta caves but was surprised when told that while Ajanta dates to 2nd Century BC, these paintings are almost 30,000 years old; and that was the reason for my curiosity. Situated on Satpura hills within the Rapani Wildlife Sanctuary, Bhimbhetka Rock Shelters are of Palaeolithic age and contain traces of early human life in the Indian subcontinent. Therefore, they are very significant. It helps us understand the way of life of our ancestors and their relation with their environment. Animals in red paint Zoo rock   Bhimbetka is a rock terrain. At first it looks like Hampi, but unlike Hampi it is surrounded by a dense forest comprising saal and teak trees. Bhimbhetka was discovered by accident. An archaeologist by name Dr. VS Wakankar while travelling by train to Bhopal in 1957 saw rock formations similar to those he had seen abroad. His curiosity aroused, he went with a team of archaeologists and discovered several rock shelters which contained paintings. He thought these paintings were similar to those in Kalahari Desert in Australia. Author in front of a rock shelter Birds - use of yellow paint Depiction of Human Being   Subsequently, archaeologists identified over 750 rock shelters, of which 243 were in Bhimbetka area alone. Studies revealed that the rock art was over 30,000 years old and covered Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Chalcolithic and early historic and medieval ages of human race. The successive use of the rocks by different generations is indeed rare. As of now, public are allowed access to 15 rock shelters. Since we were the first visitors of the day, the place was calm and quiet. As we began the tour, we were taken to a cave which the Archaeological Survey of India (which controls the area) has setup for visitors to shed light on the paintings. Entrance Hunting Scene Man riding elephant       A woman with a girl is shown making the paint used for the paintings and her husband is shown painting the wall using a brush made of a twig. The paints were made using vegetable dyes, coloured earth etc. We first entered the auditorium section where a skeleton of a man had been discovered. The skeleton was said to have been seven feet tall, which indicates that people living in those ages were quite tall indeed. The skeleton has now been shifted out. The fifteen rock shelters consist of different pictures painted on rock walls. The predominant colours used are white and red. But there is an attempt made to use green and yellow colours also.  The paintings comprise of themes taken from everyday life. Animals find a major mention. Horses, elephants, bisons, lions, wild boar, dogs, lizards and crocodiles are generally depicted. There are scenes of dancing, drinking, religious rites and fighting. Most of the paintings are very small in size and some paintings have been superimposed over earlier ones, which show that they were painted during different periods of time. The most popular rock shelter in the area is the zoo rock, which depicts a large number of animals. The most appreciated is the painting of a huge wild boar attacking a hunter. With the help of these paintings, we get a picture of various activities of our ancestors, of which the most important one seems to be hunting. One often wonders how these paintings have remained intact even after ten thousand years. The common explanation is that since the paintings were not subjected to vagaries of nature like water seepage etc., they have remained intact. Some of the rocks at Bhimbetka have beautiful shapes. One rock is in the shape of tortoise and is widely photographed. Bhimbetka has been declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is the largest treasure-house of prehistoric art in India. According to a local legend, Bhimbetka owes its name to Bheema (of Mahabharata) who is said to have sat on one of the rocks in the area. We were told that there is a small temple nearby dedicated to Bheema, but we couldn’t visit it. Bhimbetka must be visited to get an inkling of how our ancestors lived aeons ago. Author: Dr.Guruprasad joined the prestigious Indian Police Service (IPS) in 1976. Before that he worked for a short while in Steel Authority of India as Management Trainee and Canara Bank, Bangalore as Vice Editor of the Bank’s house magazine. During his 35 years of Police Service, Dr.D.V.Guruprasad worked as Superintended of Police of districts, Commissioner of Police, Hubli-Dharwad, Head of State Intelligence, Head of CID, Head of Police Recruitment