Bhimbetka

There are a total of 750 caves spread over a 10x4 km area. The caves depict paintings belonging to the Paleolithic (10,000 BC), Mesolithic (5,000 BC) and the Chalcolithic (2,000 BC) periods.

The most famous cave is the Zoo Rock where one can see paintings dating back to 10,000 BC made with limestone and also some paintings made between 5,000 years and 7,000 years ago with vegetable colors and iron. The Zoo Rock depicts a variety of animals from horses to elephants and from bulls to antelopes. There is a distinct difference in the paintings made in 10,000 BC and those made in 5,000 BC. It makes one wonder if the animals themselves evolved or was it that man just became a better artist.There are also caves that depict paintings of man�s daily life thousands of years ago. You have paintings showing group dance and others depicting hunting scenes.

Some caves have paintings, which date back to 2,000 BC. Here, man is shown wearing clothes and the weapons are more sophisticated. The paintings too have improved. For instance, while horses were shown as nothing but line sketches in the 10,000 BC paintings, a horse painted in 2,000 BC.

The superimposition of paintings shows that the same canvas was used by different people 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 bisons, tigers, and rhinoceroses.

Period II - (Mesolithic): Comparatively small in size, the stylised figures in this group show linear decoration on the body. In addition to animals, there are 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 the period the cave dwellers of this area had come in contact with the agricultural communities of the Malwa plains and started an 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 is of riders, depiction of religious symbols, tunic-like dresses and the existence of scripts of different periods. The religious beliefs are represented by figures of yakshas, tree gods and magical sky chariots.

Period Vl & Vll - (Medieval): These paintings are geometric, linear and more schematic, but they show degeneration and crudeness in their artistic style.

The colours used by the cave dwellers were prepared combining manganese, haematite, soft red stone and wooden coal. Sometimes the fat of animals and extracts of leaves were also used in the mixsure. The colours have remained intact for many centuries due to the chemical reaction resulting from the oxide present on the surface of the rocks.