Rock Shelters at Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh consists of some excellent rock painting which dates back to time period between Paleolithic to Mesolithic age and Chalcolithic to Mediaeval age. The excavations carried out here provide excellent evidences of presence of a developed society. The rock shelters here are located in Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary which consists of excellent landscape and plenty of natural sceneries. The paintings exhibit presence of early human habitat in India; these paintings are considered one of the oldest in history of mankind.
The total area consists of four hundred shelters in five hills. The paintings are predominantly based on animal life that existed during that period and also these paintings provide an insight to society and rituals followed during that period. Colors like red and white were largely used. The paintings of later periods indicate use of various weapons like swords, knife, arrows, spears, shields, and bows. Some paintings indicating processions on horses and elephants specify presence of a developed society.
The site has been declared as a cultural landscape due to a fact that it depicts cultural progression of art form from Paleolithic age to medieval age. The ancient caves of Bhimbetka were accidently revealed during the period between 1957 and 1958 when Dr. Vishnu Wakankar visited these sites. Some common archaeological findings after excavations were undertaken between the 1970s and 80s included floors, hand axes, knives and chopper tools.
Location of Rock Shelters
The Bhimbetaka Rock Shelters are found in Central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. It is located in Raisen District and forty five km from state capital of Bhopal. The Rock shelters provide an ideal tourist destination at the foot of Vindhyachal hills. The archeologists have identified some of these rock shelters as part of Satpura hills.
The complete area in and around rock shelters are covered with dense vegetation and provide excellent view for tourists amidst the perennial rivers and natural landscape. The rock shelters found here bear good similarity with rock art sites of cave paintings made by Kalahari Desert Bushmen, cave paintings of Upper Paleolithic Lascaux in France and Australian Kakadu National Park.
Only fifteen shelters are open for public viewing. This would take a maximum period of three hours to visit Bhimbetka Rock Shelters. Presence of guide would help in better understanding the artistic creations.
Selected shelters at Bhimbetka include
Zoo Rock Shelter
The Zoo rock shelter has a great prominence. It is one of the most heavily painted shelters depicting paintings ranging from Mesolithic period to medieval period. Some paintings available in this shelter are animals like spotted dear, elephants, rhinoceros, snakes and Mesolithic boar. The paintings of medieval period include scenes of battle portrayed in red color and a white color elephant.
Auditorium Rock Shelter
The rocks are engraved in form of cup shapes at many places. When we reach the tunnel end we can find a cluster of paintings. The designs of tiger, hunter and deer can be found there. Paintings found in this shelter are much more stylized.
Boar rocks are last shelters which can be viewed by tourists. The main attraction of this shelter is a mythical boar which contains horns. The boar is shown to chase a man very small in size compared to its own size.
The other attraction of this place is a ruined citadel which is located close by. The site also contains few mini stupas which clarify authority of Buddhist religion during the Sunga and Mauryan ages. Tourists can also see few beds cut on rocks for Buddhist monks.
Discovery of Rock Shelters
The ancient caves of Bhimbetka were accidently revealed during the period between 1957 and 1958. Dr. Vishnu Wakankar a courageous archaeologist belonging to Vikram University in Ujjain lost his way on trip and landed in the prehistoric site. The excavations that followed here provided important evidences of this place having relation to the period ranging from Lower Paleolithic Age to early medieval period.
The complete painting and drawing found in this region can be classified into seven different periods. They are:
The drawings of this period basically contained linear representations and were huge in size. Colors like dark red and green found prominence. The drawings mainly revolved around animals like tigers, bison and rhinoceroses.
The size of drawing came down and linear decorations were restricted to body only. Apart from drawings of animals, figures of human beings in various actions also were visible. The drawings provided an insight to the use of weapons like bows, arrows, pointed sticks and barbed spears. The developments of society, dance forms, use of musical instruments, burial rituals, pregnancy, children, drinking etc were visible through the drawing.
Period III – (Chalcolithic)
The drawings of these periods were similar to the Chalcolithic period. The drawings brings out that cave occupants of tht region had contact with farmers of Malwa plains. They indulged in barter system.
Period IV & V – (Early historic)
The drawings of this period followed a diverse decorative style and schematic pattern. The paintings were made with only three colors yellow, white and red. The paintings were mainly associated with religious symbols, riders and dresses in the form of tunic. The paintings revealed existence of a script during this period. Also religion gained prominence and were displayed using symbols of chariots, trees and figures of yakshas.
Period VI & VII – (Medieval)
The paintings of this period displayed improved linearity and schematic design. However, the art style underwent roughness and deterioration. It could also be understood that occupants of cave prepared colors using a combination of wooden coal, manganese and hematite.
Some of the popular rock paintings include a rock which is called “Zoo Rock” and it represents animals like deer, sambar, bison and elephants. Similarly another rock displays paintings of sun, snake, peacock and deer. One another rock contains paintings of elephants with tusks and various scenes depicting hunting sequences, use of bows, arrows, swords and spears. Among various caves, one cave has a painting of bison looking at a hunter and two of his friends standing in helpless condition. Another painting displays a horseman standing along with an archer.
Best Time to Visit
The summer season are most tiresome with temperatures reaching extreme. If you are planning to visit Bhimbetka, it is better to avoid months from Mar to May.
Baring summer months all other months are ideal for visiting Bhimbetka. The monsoon season enhances scenic beauty of the place. Post monsoon season is also very pleasant and ideal to visit the area.