Location: 40 kms from Bhopal
Known For: Its historical cave paintings
Surrounded by the northern fringe of the Vindhyan ranges, Bhimbetka lies 40 km south of Bhopal. In this rocky terrain of dense forest and craggy cliffs, over 700 rock shelters were recently discovered, belonging to the Neolithic age. Here, in vivid, panoramic detail, paintings in over 500 caves depict the life of the prehistoric cave dwellers, making the Bhimbetka group an archaeological treasure, an invaluable chronicle in the history of man.
Executed mainly in red and white with the occasional use of green and yellow, with themes taken from the every day events of aeons ago, the scenes usually depict hunting, dancing, music, horse and elephant riders, animals fighting, honey collection, decoration of bodies, disguises, masking and household scenes. Animals such as bison’s, tigers, lions, wild boar, elephants, deer, antelopes, dogs, monkeys, lizards, crocodiles etc. have been abundantly depicted. In some caves, popular religious and ritual symbols also occur frequently. The superimposition of paintings shows that different people used the same canvas at different times.
The drawings and paintings can be classified under seven different periods:
Period I- (Upper Paleolithic): These are linear representations, in green and dark red, of huge figures of animals such as bison’s, bears, tigers, and rhinoceroses.
Period II - (Mesolithic): Comparatively smaller in size, the stylized figures in this group show linear decoration on the body. In addition to animals, this group shows human figures and hunting scenes giving a clear picture of the weapons they used: barbed spears, pointed sticks, bows and arrows. The depiction of communal dances, birds, musical instruments, mother and child, pregnant women, men carrying dead animals, drinking and burials appear in rhythmic movement.
Period III- (Chaleolithic): Similar to the paintings of Chaleolithic pottery, these drawings reveal that during this period the cave dwellers of this area had come in contact with the agricultural communities of the Malwa plains and started exchange of their requirements with each other.
Period IV & V - (Early Historic): The figures of this group have a schematic and decorative style, and are painted mainly in red, white and yellow. The association of riders, depiction of religious symbols, tunic-like dresses and the existence of scripts of different periods, classify this group as being within the historical period. The religious beliefs are represented by figures of Yaksha, tree gods and magical sky chariots.
Period VI & VII - (Medieval): These paintings are geometric, linear and more schematic but they show degeneration and crudeness in their artistic style, The colors used by the cave dwellers were prepared by a combination of manganese, hematite, soft red stone and wooden coal. Sometimes the fat of animals and extracts of leaves were also used in the mixture. The colors have remained intact for many centuries due to the chemical reaction resulting from the oxide present on the surface of the rocks.
How to Reach
By Air: Bhopal (28 km from Bhojpur, and 40 km from Bhimbetka) is the nearest airport. It is connected with Bombay, Delhi, Indore and Gwalior. By Rail: Bhopal, on the Delhi-Madras and Delhi-Bombay mainline is the most convenient railhead.
By Bus: Both Bhojpur and Bhimbetka are connected by bus with Bhopal. Bhopal is also the most convenient base for visiting Sanchi.
Best Season: September to March.