Imagine walking amidst a place which is now named as Bhimbetka Caves, where ancient humans showed their creative expression for the first time around 10,000 years ago. How would it have been ? What would they have used to create those depressions, marks and paintings? How would they have perceived the idea of drawing something? What was their inspiration? All these questions kept running in my head when I walked through the caves of Bhimbetka.
About Bhimbetka Caves
When I googled about the first place, Bhimbetka on our Times Passion Trail itinerary of Madhya Pradesh, I figured out that these are no ordinary caves because these are listed under the cultural sites of UNESCO heritage sites of India. When I dig deeper, I got to know that some of these caves were inhabited more than 100,000 years ago. I was already mind blown at the mere thought of visiting the oldest place of Indian subcontinent.
Prof. K.K.Muhammed, a renowned archaelogist who was also our guide for the trail told us that Bhimbetka caves exhibit the earliest traces of human life in the form of cupules, depressions and rock paintings spanning through the period of prehistoric paleolithic, mesolithic to historic times. He told that Bhimbetka is one of the places where human evolvement from an ape to becoming an ancient human would have happened. The paintings on caves give a clear indication that he could use his thumb for opposing force and also started making tools for various purposes like hunting etc.
I remember him telling us that its only at Bhimbetka, that proof of initial cognitivie development of mankind found. He also went ahead to explain the credibility of the facts he mentioned by scientific proofs of dating method like radiocarbon dating method. Honestly, that quite bounced off my head but I was intrigued to know more and impressed at the expression of this man’s conviction.
Also read – The perfect itinerary to visit Madhya Pradesh
Discovery of Bhimbetka Rock Shelters
If you wonder a team of archaeologists went on a mission to find the first impressions of ancient man, then I am sorry to disappoint you that nothing of that sort happened. Bhimbetka was an accidental discovery. Yeah, you read it right! Accidents can be good as well 🙂
Prof. K.K.Muhammed told us the interesting story of the discovery of Bhimbetka Caves. The times were of March 1957, a train on its way to Hoshangabad saw some problem at a place around 40 kms from Bhopal. Dr. Vishnu Shridhar Wakankar travelling on this train noticed some hills and these intriguing caves from a distance. With the help of a local who took him around helped him discover more about these caves and ancient humans who once resided here.
My Experience of Bhimbetka Rock Shelters
When we reached the entrance of Bhimbetka after crossing quite a barren landscape, these caves looked quite underwhelming which was already told to us by Professor. He had mentioned not to expect some intricately cut rocks or fine designed rock paintings but he also had mentioned about the importance of these caves. Almost at the entrance, what caught my eye was a description board for visually impaired people and that my friends won me over.
We started walking towards the caves with the thoughts in mind that our ancestors of ancient times would have walked these same paths several several years ago. There were so many things in the caves which caught my attention like difference in the color of paintings, paintings at a lot of height, paintings till intact with a tad bit deterioration even after many thousand years and the message these paintings conveyed. The experience of visiting and observing these caves was extremely enthralling to say the least.
Few caves and paintings which I remember and which fascinated me the most are as listed below –
- The first cave we saw had a board which mentioned the types of layers of earth which came out during excavation. The findings of the excavation included paleolithic tools, pottery and some stone tools as well.
- Another peculiar cave was Zoo Rock cave which had over 250 animals of various species drawn on it along with some human figures as well. We tried figuring out which animals were those, but couldn’t make out all those were drawn. I wonder if animals we see today have also evolved over time!!
- The cupules or depressions are the first creation expression which ancient man created much before he started painting. Woaaaah, imagine I stood there looking at the first ever art of mankind!
- Another one was the Boar Rock, we had a long discussion about his painting. So, a huge boar is chasing a tiny man in this one. We discussed if the idea was to show the intensity of the scare of the man by making such big boar or were animals really this big in scale.
- One view point where everyone wanted a picture was Turtle view point as the rock looked like a turtle.
- The Auditorium cave is a very significant one which is surrounded by quartzite towers which are visible from quite a distance. It is also the largest rock shelter of Bhimbetka.
- The paintings drawn on these caves can be easily classified majorly in two categories, one as expression of hunters and food gatherers which dates back to prehistoric times while other one as warriors, riding on animals and carrying weapons which date back to historic times.
Things to know before your trip to Bhimbetka Caves
It’s only convenient if you go prepared to these caves and make the most of your time. Here are few things to know which might help you.
- The nearest airport Bhimbetka Caves is Raja Bhoj International airport situated around 45 kms away in Bhopal. The nearest railway station is also situated in Bhopal. The road connectivity is good till Bhimbetka and can definitely be covered from Bhopal in half a day.
- Those are rocks and thus the rock shelters get very hot during the days, so it’s better to visit early in the day.
- I didn’t find any eating joints or shops in close vicinity, so it’s better to take your own food as well as water.
- Sunglasses and caps will help if you are going during the peak day time.
- It’s advisable to hire a guide to know the details of the paintings and enjoy the stories around every cave.
- You will have to walk quite a lot, so wear a comfortable pair of shoes.