Madhya Pradesh is a rather underrated state when it comes to tourism. It doesn’t ever claim the limelight that Goa and Kashmir seem to do, yet it is home to some of the most incredible places that one can witness in this country.
This travelogue begins in Bhopal, the capital city of Madhya Pradesh. Now there isn’t really much to see in Bhopal except for a couple of really huge lakes, which have given Bhopal, the name – city of lakes. However, Bhopal is close to one extraordinary natural history spot, which has been declared a World Heritage Site for its sheer brilliance.
Only forty odd kilometres to the south of Bhopal, this place, is called Bhimbetka; and it is home to some of the oldest cave paintings known to man. Ten thousand or more years ago, these rocks were shelters to the early men, and in their leisure time, the early men painted on the walls of these rocks. Overlapping and superimposition of paintings imply that these were used as canvas for art by different people from different periods – from the Upper Paleolithic, through the Mesolithic and Chalcolithic periods, right up to the early historic to the very recent Medieval age.
The amazing thing about these paintings is that they weren’t etched into the stone. Rather, they were actually painted using prehistoric forms of dyes and pigments; and given that they were painted, it is a wonder how the paintings haven’t fallen prey to erosion and other natural processes. In fact, recent marks made by the Archaeological Survey of India on the same stones, only 60 years back are faded and discoloured.
These rock paintings were discovered by VS Wakankar in 1957 when he saw some unique rock formations while travelling by train. Hundreds of such rock shelters were discovered of which fifteen caves have been opened for sightseeing. Most of these paintings depict animals like bison, boars, horses, and lions while others depict the culture of the early Homo sapiens, their festivals, rituals and the like. It really is marvellous, considering the fact that at this juncture in pre-history, the early man was coming out of an animal-like existence and learning the art of self expression in the form of art, that which has survived till today.
And these rocks bear witness to what is possibly the first ever form of human expression.