Rock Shelters

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India >> Madhya Pradesh >> Bhopal >> Attractions >> Rock Shelters

Rock Shelters

History

The Rock Shelters at Bhimbetka are located in central India just about 45 kms south of Bhopal. Declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2003, the Rock Shelters house 600 rock paintings and are 9000 years old making them the world’s oldest.

Set above the dense forests of the Vindhya Range stand five clusters of natural rock formations that house the most amazing paintings. The rock shelters and caves of Bhimbetka have a number of interesting paintings which depict the lives and times of the people who lived in the caves, including scenes of communal dancing and drinking, religious rites and burials as well as the natural environment around them. The 600 rock shelters (the largest group in the world) have revealed around 400 paintings that go back to the early Stone Age. The Rock Shelters stretching for almost 10 kms belong to the Neolithic age.

Archaeologists claim that different people inhabited the same site at different times and this reflects in the themes of the paintings. The paintings are broadly classified under seven different periods: The Upper Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Chalcolithic, Early Historic and medieval, and each period had its own unique artistic and decorative style.

The paintings have been made mainly in white and red colours with the sporadic use of green and yellow. These colours were made with the combination of hematite, manganese, soft red stone and wooden coal with the occasional addition of animal fat and leaf extract to the mixture.

Apart from depicting scenes like hunting, dancing, horse riding and other everyday activity, popular religious symbols and animals like bisons, tigers, elephants, lions and reptiles also appear in the paintings. Fortunately the paintings have been well preserved because of the dense foliage surrounding the caves and also because the paintings were made in the inner walls preventing them from exposure to sunlight and extreme weather conditions that could have destroyed them.

The Bhimbetka caves are evidence to the fact that pre historic man existed and lived here and a visit to this place gathers wonderful insights into the psyche and action of the man that inhabited these caves 15,000 years ago.

Best time to visit

The best season to visit the place is between the months of July to March as these are the ideal months for sightseeing.

Trivia

The Rock Shelters were discovered as recently as 1957-58 by archaeologist Dr. Vishnu Makankar. He noticed the rock formations while train bound to Bhopal and noted that they were similar to ones he had seen in far off countries like Spain and France. He returned to the site and made the discovery of the first Rock Shelters.

The 600 rock shelters are the largest group in the world and have revealed around 400 paintings that go back to the early Stone Age.

Timing

Sightseeing is possible from sunrise to sunset.


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