23
September 2019 - 9:43 pm IST

Travel

The Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka

The Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka

Published:20 August 2019

# Spl Correspondent Bhopal 

The Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka are in the foothills of the Vindhyan Mountains on the southern edge of the central Indian plateau. Within massive sandstone outcrops, above comparatively dense forest, are five clusters of natural rock shelters, displaying paintings that appear to date from the Mesolithic Period right through to the historical period.

The Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka are in the foothills of the Vindhyan Mountains on the southern edge of the central Indian plateau. Within massive sandstone outcrops, above comparatively dense forest, are five clusters of natural rock shelters, displaying paintings that appear to date from the Mesolithic Period right through to the historical period. The cultural traditions of the inhabitants of the twenty-one villages adjacent to the site bear a strong resemblance to those represented in the rock paintings.

The name ‘Bhimbetka’ is derived from the historic tale of Mahabharata. Legends have it that Bhim, one of the Pandavas sat (‘baitha’ in Hindi) in this place during their exile, and thus, the place got its name ‘Bhimbetka’, the sitting place of Bhim. An excavation in 1957-58 by Dr. Vishnu Wakankar, a native of Neemuch, brought him to this historic masterpiece. He was an artist by education (G. D. Art from Mumbai), however, he switched over to history / prehistory, archaeology and numismatics and earned worldwide fame for his contributionsDr. Wakankar compared these caves to those he saw in Spain and France.In one of the interviews from a book he said "In 1956, I was going from Bhopal to Itarsi by train and felt that the mountains hid great history in them. I got down in the next station and walked up here.



The very first cave I entered had paintings in it! This place has artifacts dating back to 500,000 years." He stood on a mount and said "This is a Buddhist stupa; there are two of these. Emperor Ashoka's entourage must have come this way. Do you see those ruins over there? They are the remnants of a dam built by King Bhojaraja. He had built the biggest lake of his time. The boats could come here from Bhopal." He paused. "This location is archaeologically important not just from India's point of view, but from the humanity's.

These caves are an invaluable chronicle of history. Made in different periods of history, some paintings are around 30,000 years old. The paintings are an insight into the first traces of pre-historic mankind like lifestyle, festivals, hunting and agriculture. Out of the many, however only 12 caves are open for public viewing, and have been a topic of interest for several archaeologists since its discovery.Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2003, it is home to more than 500 caves and rock shelters, all of them adorned with paintings.The use of natural colors has ensured that the paintings have endured better over time.


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