It was Mid April 2022 and idea came to visit somewhere in MP. Pachmarhi was long in "to do" list along with Satpura Tiger Reserve, so quickly we planned for same. On the way from Bhopal to Pachmarhi, the road passes close to Bhimbetka, so it was decided to include it into itinerary.
Its about 40 KMs South of Bhopal.
The Bhimbetka Rock Shelter has the oldest known rock art in India, as well as is one of the largest prehistoric complexes to be seen. From Bhopal, we booked a cab to visit Pachmarhi and Satpura Tiger Reserve. On the way we took a detour to visit Bhimbetka. It was quite hot and trees had shed their leaves. Perhaps right time to visit the place is Feb/March or Sep/Oct. We took a quick breakfast at Bhopal and in next about an hour and half, we were at Bhimebetka.
The Bhimbetka rock shelters exhibits the earliest traces of human life in India and evidence of Stone Age. It consists of seven hills and over 750 rock shelters distributed over 10 km area. At least some of the shelters were inhabited more than 100,000 years ago. The rock shelters and caves provide evidence of a rare glimpse into human settlement and cultural evolution from hunter-gatherers, to agriculture, and wars etc. Bhimbetka rock art is considered oldest petroglyphs in the world, some of these similar to aboriginal rock art in Australia and the paleolithic Lascaux cave paintings in France. Of the 750 rock shelters, only 15 are open to visitors. Braving the mighty Sun, we started exploring the 15 caves, one by one.
The first archaeologist to visit a few caves at the site and discover its prehistoric significance was V. S. Wakankar. He visited the area with a team of archaeologists and reported several prehistoric rock shelters in 1957. Since then, more than 750 rock shelters have been identified. According to Archaeological Survey of India, the evidence suggests that there has been a continuous human settlement here from the Stone Age to the late Mesolithic until the 2nd century BCE in these caves. This is based on excavations at the site and the discovered artifacts and wares, as well as the rock paintings. ASI has done good job to preserve these rock shelters. Against each shelter, description is mentioned. I was wondering can these painting be sealed inside some glass cover etc to preserve them further...Of the numerous shelters, the "Auditorium cave" is one of the significant features of this site. This is the largest shelter at Bhimbetka. It was so cool inside! Its open from both sides and at the end, a few paitings are there. It was infested by Langurs, who were there to save themselves from that summer heat. The rock shelters and caves of Bhimbetka have a large number of paintings. The colors used are vegetable colors which have endured through time because the drawings were generally made deep inside a niche or on inner walls.One rock, popularly referred to as "Zoo Rock", depicts elephants, barasingha (swamp deer), bison and deer. Paintings on another rock show a peacock, a snake, a deer and the sun. On another rock, two elephants with tusks are painted. Hunting scenes with hunters carrying bows, arrows, swords, and shields also find their place in the community of these pre-historic paintings. In one of the caves, a bison is shown in pursuit of a hunter while his two companions appear to stand helplessly nearby; in another, some horsemen are seen, along with archers. The paintings are classified largely in two groups, one as depictions of hunters and food gatherers, and in others as fighters, riding on horses and elephant carrying metal weapons. The first group of paintings date to prehistoric times while second one dates to historic times.
In one of the rock shelters, the painting of a man holding a trident-like staff and dancing has been nicknamed "Nataraj" by archaeologist V. S. Wakankar. One by one we explored all 15 caves, it took us almost two hours. It is a good place to be for anyone with interest in History or Archeology. Satisfied and happy, we took the road to Pachmarhi.