Video: Walking into the Past in Madhya Pradesh’s Bhimbetka Rock Shelters

Welcome to the Stone Age version of the Louvre.  
Photo Courtesy: M.P. Tourism

Walking through Bhimbetka Rock Shelters is like walking in a Stone Age version of the Louvre. It is the largest repository of prehistoric art in India, and also the only which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Out of an estimated 750 rock shelters, over 400 are adorned with paintings, and 15 of the best have been made accessible to tourists via walkways and signposting.

Although most of the art is between six to nine thousand years old, archaeological researchers think that the site was in use as early as 100,000 BC, well before the art of painting evolved. The most current artwork seen here dates to 400 years ago and is comparatively modern, showing kings on horseback, and sword- and shield-wielding soldiers. From that time the caves were forgotten, until everything was rediscovered by Indian archaeologists in 1957. The first archaeological dig was only in 1971.

The artwork here tells stories and provides a window into the lives of prehistoric men: there’s hunting, dancing, royal processions, the drawings are spellbinding and thought-provoking in equal measure. Most of the artworks are in white, but some artists also used ochre, red, and green. About 12 styles of two-dimensional painting have been identified, from silhouettes to X-ray style drawings and outlines filled in with geometric patterns. The rocks themselves have been windblown into fantastical shapes too.

Take a glimpse through the marvels of Bhimbetka through the video below:

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