An archaeological site and a World Heritage Site, the Bhimbetka rock shelters provide an exhibition of the earliest art of human life. The heritage site boasts Stone Age rock paintings, which are nearly 9000 years old. The name Bhim betka is derived from the mythological association of the place with Bhima, one of the Pandavas.
The Rock Shelters Of Bhimbetka is located 45 kilometers of Bhopal at the southern age of Vindhyachal Hills. The place is rich with natural shelters, rich forest flora and fauna.
In 1888, Bhim Betka was first mentioned as a Buddhist site. Later V.S Wakankar discovered some rock formations, alike Spain and France. After several visits with a team of archaeologists, he discovered traces of prehistoric rock. Since then nearly 700 shelters have been identified. Further studies revealed a continuous sequence of Stone Age cultures.
Surprisingly, time has not been able to cast its spell on the paints as they remain as it is, without giving any signs of fading. Archaeologists have traced the recorded scenes of everyday lives of people who lived in the rocks. Remarkably, the paintings will present you the whole spectrum of time, right from Paleolithic to Medieval period. The paintings of everyday life have helped the archaeologists in tracking the progression of the human life throughout the ages.
The drawings and the paintings can be classified under seven different periods.
Period 1 (Upper Paleolithic)
This period is mainly marked by linear representations of huge figures of animals such as bison, tigers and rhinoceroses in green and dark red.
Period II (Mesolithic)
This period has comparatively small but stylized figures. It shows linear decorations in the body. The animals, human figures and hunting scenes provide an idea that weapons like barbed spears, pointed sticks, bows and arrows were used. The paintings from this period also depict communal dances, birds, musical instruments, mother and child, pregnant women etc.
Period III (Chalcolithic)
The paintings of this period resemble reveal agricultural activities and exchange of goods.
Period IV & V (Early historic)
Having a schematic and decorative style, the figures of this period were dominated by colors like red, white and yellow. The paintings also reveal facts like association of riders and the existence of scripts. You would also notice figures of yakshas, tree gods and magical sky chariots.
Period VI & VIl (Medieval)
You would notice more geometric, linear and schematic shapes in the paintings of this period. Cave dwellers used Manganese Haematite, soft red stone and wooden coal to make the colors. In addition to that, animal fats and extracts were used in mixtures. One of the main reasons for the colors to remain intact for so long is the chemical reaction resulting from the presence of oxide on the rock surface.
The cave dwellers used pieces of fibrous plants to make brushes and natural red and white pigments for their work. Archaeologists also speculate the oldest paintings to be nearly 12,000 years old. Truly enough the cave paintings of Bhim Betka represent the social evolution of mankind.