Bhimbetka - Cave Paintings _ Sandhya Manne

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Bhimbetka - Cave Paintings _ Sandhya Manne

Text of Bhimbetka - Cave Paintings _ Sandhya Manne

  • 7/7/2014 Bhimbetka - Cave Paintings | Sandhya Manne 1/11

    Submitted by Sandhya Manne on December 22, 2012 7:53 AM

    The sprawling caves of Bhimbetka are located about 45 km northeast of Bhopal, the state capital of

    Madhya Pradesh in India. The northern fringes of the ancient Vindhyachal ranges are home to the

    extraordinary rock shelters and paintings, the rocks fortifying an ancient treasure within. Seated

    amidst lush greenery in dense forests, rocky terrain, craggy cliffs, with the lofty rocks guarding the

    ancient premises, the caves of Bhimbetka present a breathtaking view.

    Bhimbetka - Cave Paintings

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    The Caves

    The Bhimbetka shelters exhibit the earliest traces of human life in India. A number of analyses

    suggest that some of these shelters were inhabited by hominids like Homo erectus more than

    100,000 years ago. Some of the Stone Age rock paintings found among the Bhimbetka rock shelters

    are approximately 30,000 years old ( Paleolithic Age).

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    The Caves

    Bhimbetka owes its name to the character from the epic Mahabharata. It is believed that when the

    five brothers, called Pandavas, were banished from their kingdom, they came here and stayed in

    these caves, the massive rocks seating the gigantic frame of Bhima, the second Pandava. However,

    these claim still remains to be corroborated with concrete evidence.

    The Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka is a World Heritage Site. Bhimbetka was first mentioned in Indian

    archeological records in 1888 as a Buddhist site, based on information gathered from local tribes.

    The caves were eventually discovered in 1957-58 by accident. An archaeologist from Ujjain, Dr.

    Vishnu Wakankar, strayed too far from the beaten path and found himself amidst this prehistoric

    treasure trove.

    Since then more than 700 such shelters have been identified, of which 243 are in the Bhimbetka

    group and 178 in the Lakha Juar group. Archeological studies revealed a continuous sequence of

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    Stone Age cultures (from the late Acheulian to the late Mesolithic ). It also has the worlds oldest

    stonewalls and floors. The earliest paintings on the cave walls are believed to be of

    the Mesolithic period. A broad chronology of the finds has been done, but a detailed chronology is

    yet to be created.

    Up high in the ceilings...

    The caves have evolved over time into excellent rock-shelters, ideal sites for aboriginal settlements.

    The smooth shape of the rocks has led some scientists to believe that the area was once under water.

    The rocks have taken on incredible shapes in several stunning hues and textures. Apart from the

    central place the aboriginal drawings have in human history, the caves themselves offer interesting

    material for a study of the Earth's history.

    The rock paintings have numerous layers belonging to various epochs of time, ranging from the

    Upper Paleolithic, Mesolithic Age to the early historic and medieval periods. The most ancient

    scenes here believed to be commonly belonging to the Mesolithic Age. These magnificent paintings

    can be seen even on the ceiling of the rock shelters located at daunting heights.

    Executed mainly in red and white, with the occasional use of green and yellow with themes taken

    from the everyday events, the scenes usually depict hunting, childbirth, communal dancing,

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    drinking, religious rites, burials, horse and elephant riders, animal fights, honey collection,

    decoration of bodies, disguises, masks and different type of animals etc. It depicts the detail of social

    life during the long period of time, when man used to frequent these rock shelters. Animals such as

    bison, tiger, rhinoceros, wild boar, elephants, monkeys, antelopes, lizards, peacocks etc. have been

    abundantly depicted. One rock, popularly referred to as Zoo Rock, depicts elephants, sambar,

    bison and deer.

    A Ceremony painted in Red

    It is a marvel that the paintings have not faded even after thousands of years. The colors used by the

    cave dwellers were prepared by combining manganese, hematite, soft red stone and wooden

    charcoal. Perhaps, animal fat and extracts of leaves, vegetables, and roots were also used in the

    mixture. Brushes were made of pieces of fibrous plants. The natural pigments have endured through

    time because the drawings are generally made deep inside a niche or on inner walls. 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 rock art of Bhimbetka has been classified into various groups on the basis of the style and

    subject. The superimposition of paintings shows that different people used the same canvas at

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    different times. 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 and boar beside stick like human figures.

    Line Drawings and us of green color

    Period II (Mesolithic): Comparatively smaller in size, the stylized figures in this group show

    linear decoration on the body. In addition to animals, there are human figures and hunting scenes

    giving a clear picture of the weapons used in those times. These included barbed spears, pointed

    sticks, bows and arrows. The depiction of communal dances, birds, mother and child, pregnant

    women, men carrying dead animal etc. are seen in this rock shelter range.

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    Human Figures in a hunting seen

    Period III (Chalcolithic): Similar to the paintings of Chalcolithic pottery, these drawings reveal

    the association, contact, and mutual exchange of requirements of the cave dwellers of this area with

    the agricultural communities of the Malwa plains.

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    "Zoo Rock"

    Period IV & V (Early Historic): The figures of this group have a schematic and decorative style

    and are painted mainly in red, white and rarely green depicting riders, religious symbols, tunic-like

    dresses, and the scripts of different periods. The religious beliefs are represented by figures of

    yakshas (nature-spirits), tree gods and magical sky chariots.

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    Layers of paintings from different time periods. The most recent seems to be painted in red.

    Period VI & VII (Medieval)These paintings are geometric, linear and more schematic but show

    degeneration and crudeness in their artistic style. Now paintings of Brahmanical gods like Ganesh

    and Natraja appear for the first time in these rock shelters. Thus, the high sloping face of the ceilings

    of these extraordinary rock shelters bear scenes, frozen in action of a long expanse of time starting

    from the period when man was a hunter gatherer to the time when iron technology had become

    quite significant.

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    A War Scene...

    A study of these painting gives rare glimpses into the activities of the prehistoric man, his clothing,

    the animals, and numerous other facets of the then day to day life.


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    Keshav Kedia Presidium was great help for my project work :):):):):)

    Reply Like Follow Post July 1 at 10:04pm

    Pooja Kedia

    thank you!!! it helped in my project!! :)

    Reply Like Follow Post June 21 at 1:47pm

    Mohan Mokhariwale Indore, India

    Mahabharat happened during 3500 BC as per astronomical formations but from archeologicalreferences it was around 1500-2000 BC. where as these caves are 30000 thousand years oldwith paintings as old as 12000 years. so how come name was assigned as Bhimbetka??? Didit have some other name before it was assigned as Bhimbetka???

    Reply Like Follow Post June 15 at 12:53pm