In the scenic UNESCO heritage site of the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, one can enjoy looking at art from early Stone Age.
The Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka goes back to the times of the Indian Stone Age and was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2003. The shelters or caves, famous for its paintings, contain several interesting visuals that record the lives of human from the Stone Age, and the oldest paintings there have been estimated to be around 12-15,000 years old but some believe there are paintings which also date back 30,000 years. Located amidst lush greenery, the site of the shelters in itself is quite picturesque and the nearest town can be found around 10 kilometres away. A site that speaks of history, art and nature lovers amongst others, it is yet to be a widely popular choice for tourists.
In around 760 caves spread across a large area, the Bhimbetka caves showcase an impressive array of prehistoric art, however with limited numbers open to visitors. Over 500 of the caves are said to contain art that has been made from early stone age to medieval times. Historians have classified the art into several periods, across which depictions of ancient weapons used for hunting, such as spears and bows, as well as animals such as bison and tigers can be found here. Additionally, in shades of red, yellow and the occasional green. The transformation of life for those who lived here comes alive. Festivities with chariots, depictions of soldiers on horses, dances, of birds and animals as well as deities with special powers.
As with all things that are old, mysteries and beliefs over the caves origins, its inhabitants and specifically its age have emerged. Though the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka have been reported to be first mentioned as early as 1888, only recently has there been intensive archaeological studies and research over the stories and tales within these caves. In the past decade itself, several discoveries have led to claims such as the possibility of Bhimbetka being one of the longest continuously inhabited human settlements in the world.
A scenic day trip
To visit this enchanting site that traces what could be the earliest traces of human settlement, one can begin the journey from Madhya Pradesh’s capital city Bhopal. Located at a distance of around 40 kilometres, the visit to the caves makes for an ideal day trip. As it is situated on the foothills of the Vindhayan Mountains, it makes for a picturesque drive, as the caves are also a part Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary in the Raisen district. Visitors recommend visiting between the months of October to March to avoid rains during the monsoon as well as excessive heat.
What is important to note though is that not all of the caves are open to the public for visit. However, approximately fifteen caves that are quite spectacular allow visitors inside and these have left quite an indelible impression on those who visit. Mysteries remain over the significance and possible implications of new discoveries, which can make these caves even more special than they are.
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