Lines on Stone

Lines on Stone  (Interesting places to see in India published in Australian Magazine Desh-Videsh: 1997)           by Dr. Bharati Mate
It holds your breath. Not even in your wildest fantasy could you ever have imagined, the existence of more than 1000 rock shelters. Such a place, out of which 500 rock shelters are depicted by Paintings- by nameless masters of humanity's earliest artistic past.

'Bhimbetka'- the above said place is situated 43 kms away from the south of Bhopal, (Dist Raisen, Madhya Pradesh, India) surrounded by the northen fringe of the Vindhyan Ranges. In the rocky terrain of dense forest and craggy cliffs, over thousands of rock shelters are spreaded. In the area of Bhimbetka, rock art extends over 10kms & includes 7 hills.
1. Vinayaka 2. Bhornavali 3. Bhimbetka 4. Lakha Juar (East) 5. Lakha Juar (West) 6. Jondra and 
7. Muni Babaki-Pahari

On the Bhimbetka hill 200/300 rock shelters were discovered by Dr. Wakankar (in 1972) belongs to neolithic age. He worked on the site for nearly 13/14 years & made then cleaned. Paintings in over 500 caves depict the life of prehistoric cave dwellers, making the Bhimbetaka group an archaeological treasure, an invaluable chronicle in the History of Man.

Paintings are mainly in red & white, little use of green & yellow with the themes of everyday events of aeon's ago. Main themes for paintings are hunting, dancing, music, horse & elephant riders, animal fighting, honey collection, (decoration of body) masking & household scenes. In prehistoric paintings only wild animals & hunting scenes are drawn,while in historic period domesticated animals are drawn.

Animals like tigers, lions,wild boar, elephants, deer's antelopes, dogs, monkeys,lizards,crocodiles are depicted. We also found ritual symbols in some of the paintings & superimposition of paintings on same rock canvas in different times.

Rock Paintings in this area are classified in 7 different periods:
Period 1 (Upper Palaeolithic):
There are linear representations, in green & dark red, of huge figures of animals as wild bull, tigers & 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 & hunting scenes giving clear picture of weapons they used: barbed spears, pointed sticks, bows & arrows. The depiction of communal dances, birds, musical instruments, mother & child, pregnant women, men carrying dead animals, drinking and burials appear in rhythmic movements.
Period III ( Chaleolithic)
Similar to the paintings of Chaleolithic pottery there 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 & decorative style, and are painted mainly in red, white & 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 use 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 use in the mixture. So the colours have remain intact for many centuries due to the chemical reaction resulting from oxide present the surface of the rocks.

When in 1990, I visited Bhimbetka, fascinated by the rock paintings and the huge craggy outlines, created a different atmosphere. From my childhood i was deeply interested in the folk art, and always work with it, in every form of drawing paintings-murals, sculptures etc.

These rock canvasses inspired me a lot 7 after that i focused & concentrated myself in the study of Human Life and Development. These rocks gave me lot of dimensions regarding universal expressions& communication of human thought since the dawn of humanity. Rock art has profoundly influenced the beliefs and artistic conventions of subsequent societies to the present day. It is an integral part of humanity's collective memory. It is one of our greatest surviving art treasure, where the most spectacular & biggest sight in Central India, consists of pigmented paintings, in the rest of the world paintings. Indians are fortunate by having largest concentrations of this world Heritage of Great Civilizations.

I am a Pune -based women painter, mu work subject & themes are related to Indian Culture & rich Heritage of the land-Indus the civilization and  Rock art the origin of Art. When you visit India, Please do visit to Bhimbetaka & also to my Studio which is situated at-
Dr. Bharati Mate:
Studio 7, Suhrud Apartments, 15 Tapobhumi CHS, Dattawadi, Pune: 411030 (Mobile: 9890722120)
Email: Website:



  1. Excellent collection of information on such good paintings!! Must have taken up good amount of efforts to describe them so nicely. Good job done. Please keep it up.

  2. Very nice paintings and good information. Congratulations keep it up

  3. Very informative and interesting information even for readers who have no idea about the rich heritage of rock paintings.The article inspires one to visit Bhimbetka.


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