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Bhimbetka: human autobiography on stone
Bhimbetka: mammoth rock-skyscrapers on hill-tops, standing the weather for ages. Where man took shelter under rocks and – as if in return – gave the rocks the bold existence they deserve.

Bhimbetka is a village forty-five kilometers from Bhopal. As the
road leaves the plains and starts meandering in the hills, the huge rocks start inviting the eager visitor.

Located in the thick forests on the northern fringe of the Vindhya range, Bhimbetka must have appeared to the stone age man a choice location for settlement. If the caves and rock shelters gave him protection against wild animals and enemies, they gave him relief from bad weather and chilly winters too. In his leisure time, he tried to make sketches on the enormous inners walls of the rock shelters. He used paints made out of the available colouring material like ground read-stone. In red and green, he [more likely, she] drew wild animals like tiger and bison, the most awe-inspiring subjects for him.

As time passed, the prehistoric cave artist showed interest in many more subjects like barbed spears, bows, arrows and pointed sticks (the weapons used by him); musical instruments and dances and other social activities of his pristine civilization. Later on, this site was inhabited by the historic man who used the same rocks – sometimes the same canvas – for depicting his life-style and surrounding. He added while and yellow to the hitherto used range of colours. Swords and shields, pets, horse-riders in procession, hunting scenes and religious symbols are among the more conspicuous recent themes.

These paintings together weave a vivid story of the ancient man. An autobiography in pictures, indeed. For an inquisitive mind they are a gold mine of information and for a casual tourist, a glimpse of the remote human past: for both a treat for the eyes.

[This article has been adopted from IFR, an India-centred magazine, with author's permission. Photographs have been added later.]

Details about the place:

* How to reach Bhimbetka?

By air: The nearest airport is Bhopal (connected with Delhi, Jabalpur, Indore, Gwalior and Mumbai).
By rail: The nearest railhead is Bhopal on Delhi-Chennai and Delhi Mumbai routes.
By road: Regular bus trips from Bhopal.

* Open: sunrise to sunset

* Paintings in Bhimbetka caves have been divided into 7 periods: PERIOD 1 – Upper Paleolithic: linear representations in dark and red color. The major drawings are of animals such as bison, tigers and rhinoceroses. PERIOD 2 – Mesolithic: smaller drawings. Animals as well as human figures, hunting scenes with weapons like barbed spears, pointed sticks, bow and arrows. The scenes of communal dances, birds, musical instruments, mother and child, pregnant women, men carrying dead animals, drinking and burials appear in rhythmic movement. PERIOD 3 – Chaleolithic: these paintings reveal the close connections of the cave dwellers with the agricultural communities of the nearby plains. PERIOD 4 and 5 – Earlier History: mainly in red, white and yellow, the figures have a decorative style and have religious symbols, dresses, and scripts of various periods. PERIOD 6 and 7 – Medieval: crude in their artistic style, but schematic. In all there are 700 rock shelters, 400 of which have paintings. Auditorium Rock Shelter, Zoo Rock and Boar Rock are of special attraction.

[Bhopal is almost in the middle of India and is the capital of Madhya Pradesh state of India.]

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