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A World Heritage Site, Bhimbetka Caves in Madhya Pradesh are known for their prehistoric art and architecture.

Bhimbetka Caves

Location: 46 km from Bhopal
Founded In: 1958
Status: World Heritage Site

Bhimbetka CavesBhimbetka caves of Madhya Pradesh, located 46 km south of Bhopal, is a valuable repository that acts like a sentinel to the prehistoric art and architecture of India. Infact, these caves claim a distinction as the largest treasure house of prehistoric art in the country. Dr V. S. Wakankar, one of the most renowned of Indian archeologists, discovered these caves. It was by a fluke of luck that he noticed these caves dotting distant hills, while on his way to Nagpur, in 1958. The word 'Bhimbetka', derived from 'Bhim Baitka', has mythological connotation. These caves are named after 'Bhima', one of the five Pandavas of Mahabharata.

The discovery of Bhimbetka caves has indeed opened the floodgate of the immense popularity of the region of Bhimbetka. The entire region peppers with caves, more than 600 in number. Shaded in a thicket of teak and sal, amidst rock-strewn cliffs, they find enlistment as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Some of these caves also preserve paintings that traverse various eras. There are enchanting rock paintings that dates back to the Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic periods adorning these caves.

Infact, these cave paintings are the prime attractions of Bhimbetka and show striking similarity to the aboriginal rock paintings of the Savanna regions of Australia, the paintings done by pygmies of the Kalahari Desert and the Paleolithic Lascaux cave paintings of France. Since these caves actually formed dwellings for primitive people belonging to various ages, the paintings here demonstrate their lifestyle and mundane everyday activities. Inventive designs & deft handling of colors have brought to life the remote activities of our ancestors.

Various community activities, like birth, burial, dancing, religious rites, hunting scenes, animal fighting and merrymaking, find a place in these paintings. Pictures of animals like rhinoceros, tigers, wild buffalo, bears, antelopes, boars, lions, elephants, lizards etc also find intense depiction. It is quite a marvel that the colors of the paintings at Bhimbetka have skillfully avoided the vagaries of time. Natural red and white pigments are common colors used in these paintings. Often green and yellow are also used.

The colors are a combination of manganese, hematite, wooden coal, soft red stone, plant leaves and animal fats. These chemicals have, over the time, reacted with the rocks and contributed in preserving these precious artworks of Bhimbetka. Scrupulous observation shows differences in patterns, which are archetypal of various periods. Huge linear figures of animals are the trademark of Paleolithic paintings. With the passage of time, paintings became smaller, precise and more delicate.

Slowly, religious images were interspersed, which delineates the change in psychological make-up of the people. The oldest of all the paintings dates back to around 12,000 yrs back, while the most recent is around 1000 yrs old. Out of the many caves in Bhimbetka, only 12 caves are open for visitors. These caves are like the colorful shards of a broken mirror that unite to provide a rich glimpse to the lives of our predecessors. If you plan a trip to Madhya Pradesh, Bhimbetka Caves definitely merits a visit.

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