Newly Discovered Rock Art Sites in the Malaprabha
Basin, North Karnataka: A Report
Mohana R.1, Sushama G. Deo1 and A. Sundara2
1. Department of Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology, Deccan College
Post Graduate and Research Institute, Deemed to be University, Pune – 411 006,
Maharashtra, India (Email: [email protected]; [email protected])
2. The Mythic Society, Bangalore – 560 001, Karnataka, India (Email:
Received: 19 July 2017; Revised: 03 September 2017; Accepted: 23 October 2017
Heritage: Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies in Archaeology 5 (2017): 883‐929
Abstract: Early research on rock art in the Malaprabha basin began in the last quarter of the 20th
century. Wakankar explored Bādāmi, Tatakoti, Sidla Phaḍi and Ramgudiwar in 1976. This was followed
by Sundara, Yashodhar Mathpal and Neumayer located painted shelters in Are Guḍḍa, Hire Guḍḍa abd
Aihole region. They are found in the area between the famous Chalukyan art centres of Bādāmi and
Paṭṭadakallu. The near past the first author carried out field survey in the Lower Malaprabha valley as
part of his doctoral programe during 2011‐2015. The intensive and systematically comprehensive field
work has resulted in the discovery of 87 localities in 32 rock art sites. The art include geometric designs or
pattern, Prehistoric ‘Badami Style of Human Figures’, human figures, miniature paintings, birds, wild
animals like boar, deer, antelope, hyena, rhinoceros, dog etc.
Keywords: Rock Art, Badami, Malaprabha, Karnataka, Engravings, Elevation,
Introduction: Background of the Research
1856 CE is a remarkable year revealing the visual art of distinction of our ancestors in a
cave at Almora (Uttarkhand) in India around by Henwood (1856). This happened two
decades before the discovery of rock art and initiation of research in Western Europe in
the year 1879 CE. Since then rock art have been discovered and studied for the last 150
years. The year 1867 would remain as a milestone in the history of Indian rock research
mainly because Archibald C. Carlleyle , the first assistant in the Archaeological Survey
of India who under Alexander Cunningham discovered rock paintings along with
microliths near Sohangighaṭ in the Kaimur range, Mirzapur district, Uttar Pradesh.
Carlleyle has not published any account of his discoveries apart from his field notes
left with his friend Rev. Reginald Gatty. Those notes were later published by Smith in
1906. By the same time there was another discovery and systematic survey of rock‐art
sites in Mirzapur region by Cockburn (1883, 1989). In South India, initial investigation
ISSN 2347 – 5463Heritage: Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies in Archaeology 5: 2017
began around 1842 by Capt. Newbold, in and around Kappagallu but he was silent
about those pictures (Foote 1916). However, the first report on the petroglyphs at
Kappagallu seems to have been made known by F. Fawcett in 1892, in the Asiatic
Quarterly Review. He was also discovered Edkal cave in Kerala in 1901. Foote (1916)
also briefly addressed the Kappagallu rock art in his book on The Foote Collection of
Indian Prehistoruic and Photohistoric Antiqueties, Notes on their Ages and Distributions. In
the early decades of the twentieth century mostly officers of the Geology, Archaeology
Departments and even an individual here and there and they would report them in
reports as well as journals.
It is only with the incomparably extensive, sustainable and indomitable work in 1957
by Wakankar (1957) that the subject of rock art came prominently to limelight as a
branch of study worth pursuing for the better understanding of the human thinking of
the past and their society. He worked intensively in the Bhimbetka and surveyed
around 700 shelters of them 300 with paintings. His Ph. D. thesis entitled Rock Paintings
of India in 1973 from Deccan College Post Graduate and Research Institute, Pune was
on these investigations and he also discovered most of the sites in many parts of India.
Later, it followed by many scholars of the respective regions. In course of site more
than 6000 rock art cave/shelters have been reported from Indian subcontinent.
In Karnataka, it was undoubtedly Fred Fawcett (1892) was the first at the instance in
Kappagallu‐Sanganakal area near Ballari in 1890s. Munn (1915, 1994, 1935) a British
officer in 1915 amidst an extensive megalithic burial site dotted with about three
hundred port‐hole chambers, three painted rock art shelters in the terraces of extensive
granite hill ranges with countless natural caves and rock shelters near Hire Benkal.
Krishna (1931) recorded an engraving of a tiger in Chandravalli in his explorations in
late 1920s. R. S. Panchamukhifound an engraving of a pair of bulls facing each other on
vertical side of a sandstone hill in Kullolli.
In early 1950s Allchins couples (19in the course of their field study of the
archaeological remains in the region of the Raichur doab. Allchin (1960) and Sundara
(1974, 1978, 1984) threw light on rock art sites like Sivapura, Bilebhavi, Ānegundi, Emi
Guḍḍa and at Piklihaḷ (with the kind assistance of the Director of Archaeology for
Hyderabad, Dr. P. Sreenivasachar, he did a small excavation). Here numbers of
paintings and bruising were found in association with Neolithic evidence (Gordon and
Allchin 1955; Gordon 1951, 1958).
Raymond and Bridget Allchin (1994‐95) conducted a detail study of Maski and Piklihaḷ
rock art sites. Wakankar (Wakankar and Brooks 1976) brought to light a few paintings
in Badami. Similarly Nagaraja Rao (1964) noticed paintings of a row of humans hand in
hand engaged in folk dance in Tekkalkota. Yashodhar Mathpal and Neumayer located
painted shelters in Are Guḍḍa and Hire Guḍḍa by 1978. Little later by Neumayer (1983,
1993, 2010). Since 1961 Sundara (1994) has been reporting painted caves and shelters
especially in Anegondi‐Hire Benkal area (1987), Badmi‐Aihole area; Bellary‐Hospet
Mohana et al. 2017: 883‐929
area, Billamarayanagudda (1985), Chitradurga‐Chandravalli‐Jeṭṭinga Rāmēśvara area
near Brahmagiri; Ankola coastal Karnataka and studied them along with the already
known sites during his frequent field explorations for varied purposes in North
Karnataka. Lakshman Telagavi (2004, 2006) has been noticing some rock art sites here
and there as for instance in Hampi region and Middle Vedavati (Hagari) basin.
Sharana Basappa Kolkar has been mainly on the rock paintings in Hire Benkal area, his
Ph. D. thesis and later he published a monograph in Kannada entitled Shilayugada
Gavichithragalu (Prehistoric Paintings: In Kannada).
In coastal Karnataka Gururaj Bhat (1975) and Vasanta Shetty (1983) were probably the
first to report the existence of rock engravings at Gavali. Mention should be made of
an important discovery of a rock engraving panel in Sonda by Raghunath Bhat. Many
more sites are being discovered since then. Particular mention should be made about
the discovery an extensive rock engraving site in Buddhana Jeddu, Basrur, Mandarti
and Subrahmanya and further exploration in known sites e.g. Gavali, Bole, Sonda from
2009 and onwards by Murugeshi and his team (2014). And in January 2011, they have
discovered isolated engravings at Mandarti and Subrhmanya.
The most recent systematic and full‐fledged exploration of rock art sites in the
Malaprabha basin is being carried out by the first author (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and
2017) as a part of his Ph.D. research: Reading Rock Art: Interpreting Temporal and
Geographic Variability in the Middle Krishna Basin: Karnataka in the Deccan College Post
Graduate and Research Institute, Pune. He has noticed for the first time some more
sites in the region. Many of them are of the Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic period
(Mohana 2013, 2014a, 2014b, 2014c, 2016, 2016a; Mohana and Hemant 2015).
This paper presents newly discovered rock art sites with picture and ot