Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka

The Prehistoric Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka are in the foothills of the Vindhyan Mountains on the southern edge of the central Indian plateau, located about 45 km southeast of Bhopal on the road to Hoshangabad in Madhya Pradesh. The site spread over 10 km in length and about 3 km in width has more than 700 rock shelters, of which over 400 have paintings.

At Bhimbetka, the earliest human activities are known from the numerous stone tools including hand axes, cleavers and also pebble tools. The continuity of human evolution from the Lower Palaeolithic period is noticed by the smaller size of stone tools in the following Middle Palaeolithic period, besides new tools like scrapers. In the Mesolithic period there was a clear change in the materials and tool typology.

The Mesolithic culture at Bhimbetka continued much longer as understood by the presence of Chalcolithic potteries in otherwise Mesolithic contexts. The interactions with the surrounding cultures are evidenced by the presence of rock-cut beds. It resembles the Sallekhana spots observed in South India.

The cave also has a small inscription of the Maurya / Sunga period. Within the general area of Bhimbetka group of rock shelters, small stupas have been found. There are a large number of Shanka Lipi inscriptions in the Bhimbetka cluster of rock shelters. Of particular interest to the tourist are the rock paintings of Bhimbetka, Auditorium Rock Shelter, Zoo Rock and Boar Rock in Bhimbetka Cluster.

The earliest endeavour here is the engravings of small cup-like depressions at the end of the Auditorium Rock Shelter, which is dated to nearly 100000 years. Near the end of this tunnel, there is a cluster of paintings depicting a hunter, deer, tiger cattle and stylized peacock.

Zoo Rock Shelter qualifies as the most densely painted rock shelter with paintings spanning from the Mesolithic to the Medieval. The paintings here include those of a Mesolithic boar painted in dark red, animals like: elephant, rhinoceros, boar, barasingha, spotted deer, cattle and snake. Later paintings include battle scenes painted in red and an elephant painted in white.

The Boar Rock, which is the last among the rock shelters accessible for tourists, has a depiction of a mythical boar with horns that is many more times larger than the human being chased by it.