Sunday, 1 March 2015

The Pre-historic Art Gallery



Not many people may have heard of Bhimbetka or the rare paintings. Bhimbetka is 45 km from Bhopal, in Madhya Pradesh in India. The Bhimbetka Rock Shelters are a glimpse into a Paleolithic civilization. The oldest painting at Bhimbetka goes back 30,000 years. The name Bhimbetka comes from the Hindu epic Mahabharata. The Pandav Bhim, as legend goes, had rested here during his travels. However UNESCO decided to grant it a World Heritage Site status as late as 2003.


The Bhimbetka Rock Shelters are an archaeological site of Paleolithic civilization, exhibiting the earliest traces of human life on the Indian subcontinent. It is located in the Raisen District, 45 km south of Bhopal at the southern edge of the Vindhya hills, in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh; it is near Abdullaganj town and inside the Ratanpani Wildlife Sanctuary. South of these rock shelters are the rangers of Satpura hills. At least some of the shelters were inhabitated by Homo erectus more than 100,000 years ago. Some of the Stone Age rock paintings found amongst the Bhimbetka rock shelters is approximately 30,000 years old. They were declared a World Heritage Site in 2003.

The name Bhimbetka is associated with Bhima, one of the Pandavas in the epic Mahabharata. The word Bhimbetka is said to have derived from Bhimbaithka, meaning – the sitting place of Bhima. The entire area is covered by thick vegetation with abundant natural resources with perennial water flow, natural shelters, rich forest with flora and fauna, and it bears a striking resemblance to similar rock art sites as in Kakadu National Park in Australia, the cave paintings of the Bushmen in Kalahari Desert and Upper Paleolithic Lascaux cave paintings in France.


 Bhimbetka has over 750 caves with only fifteen open to visitors. Etched on the walls are paintings, most of them depicting sample sketches of animals, both domestic and wild, including bison, tiger, rhinoceros, elephant, wild boar, monkey, antelope and peacock. There is also a depiction of hunting scenes and battle. The more recent paintings depict dance resembling the formation of the Gond tribes that inhabit the region. A mixture of vegetable dyes, animal fat, manganese, red stones were used for the paintings. It was only in 1957 that Indian archeologist VS Wakankar discovered these caves. They lay hidden deep in a forest, and it is the reason for their late discovery and preservation.

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Picture Post:

Penha De Franca Church across river Mandovi, Goa in India
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