The Bhimbetka rock shelters are an archaeological site of the Palaeolithic period, which exhibit the earliest traces of human life on the Indian subcontinent. These are also an evidence of the Indian stone age.
Some of the rock paintings found here are said to be almost 30,000 years old; the caves also show an early evidence of dance. The caves were recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in the year 2003.
The name Bhimbetka is associated with Bhima of the Pandavas. The word Bhimbetka is believed to have been derived from Bhimbaithka which means the sitting place of Bhima.
Winters and monsoons are the best seasons to visit. The winters are from October to March and monsoons from July to September.
Bhimbetka was first recorded in the archaeological records in the year 1888 as a Buddhist site after gathering information from the local tribes. At a later time, V.S. Wakankar who happened to be travelling by train to Bhopal happened to see some rock formations which were similar to the ones he had seen in Spain and France.
Also Read : Bhimbetka - The World Heritage Site
Later on, he visited the area with a team of archaeologists and discovered several prehistoric rock shelters in the year 1957. After the findings of Wakankar were recorded, more than 750 such shelters came to be identified, out of which 243 were in the Bhimbetka group and 178 in the Lakha Juar group.
The studies by archaeologists revealed a continuous sequence of stone age cultures, and also the world's oldest stone walls and floors.
Rock Painting And Art
The rock shelters and caves at Bhimbetka have a large number of paintings. The oldest is considered to be around 30,000 years old. The colours used in these paintings are vegetable colours which have stood the test of time as the drawings were generally made deep inside a cavity or on the inner walls.
The drawings and paintings are classified under seven different periods.
These are linear representations in the colours of dark red and green. These paintings are mainly of huge figures of animals like tigers, bison and rhinoceroses.
These paintings are relatively smaller in size with stylised figures which show sequential decorations on the body. In addition to animals, there are human figures and hunting scenes which give a clear understanding of the weapons they used.
There are depictions of communal dances, birds, musical instruments, mothers and children, pregnant women, drinking and burials which all appear in a rhythmic movement.
The drawings show that during this period the cave dwellers of this area were engaged with the agricultural communities of the plains and used to exchange goods with them.
4 & 5. Early Historic
In this group, the figures have a very schematic and decorative style and are predominately painted in the colours of red, white and yellow. Here there is an association of riders, depiction of religious symbols, dresses and the scripts of different periods.
Religious beliefs are also represented here, with depictions of tree gods, yakshas and sky chariots.
6 & 7. Medieval
The paintings during these periods are very geometric and more symbolic; they also show degeneration and crudeness in their artistic style. The colours which were used by the cave dwellers were prepared with a combination of manganese, hematite and charcoal.
A rock, popularly known as the Zoo rock, has depictions of elephants, barasingha, bison and deer. On another rock one can find a peacock, snake, deer and the sun. Paintings on another rock show two elephants with tusks and hunters carrying bows, arrows, swords and shields.