Bhimbetka Rock Shelters: lesser known Madhya Pradesh

Bhimbetka Rock shelters
                                            Bhimbetka Rock shelters
Rock shelters and paintings at Bhimbetka (22° 56'05"N: 77036'41" E) were discovered in 1957-58 by Dr Vishnu Shridhar wakankar. Out of the 750 rock shelters, 500 are adorned with paintings. The site remained a center of Human activity right from lower Paleolithic time up to medieval period. the subject of paintings include linear depiction of human figures hunting, riding, communal dances, warfare, and other scenes, depicting details of the day to day activities of the ancient man. The mineral colors used for painting are green, red, ochre and white. The cup marks made on the rock surface at Bhimbetka has been dated to 100000 B.P. This pushes back the date of the cognitive development of man at Bhimbetka to many thousand years earlier than that of similar sites in various parts of the world making it one of the earliest cradles of the cognitive human evolution.

Other antiquarian remains include fortification walls, minor stupas, stone, built houses, inscription of sunga gupta period, Shankh inscription and evidence of temples of parmara period. These rock shelters and paintings are under central protection of archeological survey of India, Bhopal circle.
Bhimbetka Rock Caves
                                         Bhimbetka Rock Caves
It rising over 100 meters above the Deccan traps amidst the Ratapani Wild life sanctuary. The area is rich in heritage. There are over 700 rock shelters in this region. Of these, more than 400 rock shelters are distributed over the five hills in the core area.
Location of Hills at Bhimbetka
                                            Location of Hills at Bhimbetka
These hills are:-

I.            Bineka,
II.           Bhonrawali,
III.          Bhimbetka,
IV.           Lakha Juar (East) and
V.            Lakha Juar (West)

Another group of rock shelters (VI) located in the Buffer zone known as Muni Baba ki Pahari. Bhimbetka (group lll) consist 243 rock shelters in which 133 have rock paintings.

Due to its integrated entity the painted rock shelters at Bhimbetka were inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage list in 2003. Two of criterions for selection were:

III. Bhimbetka reflects a long interaction between people and the landscape, as demonstrated in the quantity and quality of its rock art.

V. Bhimbetka is closely associated with a hunting and gathering economy as demonstrated in the rock art and in the relics of this tradition in the local adivasi village on the periphery of this site.

Inscription on Bhimbetka on world heritage list confirms the exceptional universal value of the cultural or natural site which deserves protection for the benefit of all humanity.
Bhimbetka World heritage site map
                                           Bhimbetka World heritage site map

Location:                                 

                                             Bhojpur Temple                     
                               |----------------------------- ---|
                               |                                         |
Bhopal--NH-12---|----Mandideep------Obaidullaganj-------------Shahganj/Hoshangabad
                                                                                           |
                                                                                           |
                                                                                        Bhimbetka

* Bhopal to Bhojpur temple: 29 km
* Bhopal to Bhimbetka: 45 km
* Bhimbetka from Bhimbetka T point (NH-12): 4 km
* Hoshangabad to Bhimbetka: 47 km
* Narmada view point to Bhimbetka: 40 km (Towards Hoshangabad)

 

How to reach Bhimbetka: Reaching Bhimbetka by public transport will take its toll and you must be up for a long walk before stepping out. If you are in a group then I will recommend you to hire a taxi from Bhopal. For hard core budget travelers, here goes a long day ahead.
 

- Catch one of the painfully slow busses going towards Hoshangabad. Tell the bus conductor that you want to get down at the T-Junction of Bhimbetka which is some 41 km away from Bhopal. Bus will take at least 2 hours to reach there. From the T point, Bhimbetka rock shelters are some 4 km and it’s difficult to get a private auto/taxi on this route. Madhya Pradesh State Tourism department runs a guest house and restaurant at Bhimbetka T junction beside the railway crossing. I will recommend you to stretch your legs at the restaurant before heading towards Bhimbetka site. If lucky, you may get a free ride from the locals.
 

Reason of recommending a private taxi: However I always recommend the public transport to cut down the travel expenses but road transport in Madhya Pradesh is really poor with no government busses on the road. The stretch of NH-12 which connects Bhopal to Bhimbetka is completely deteriorated and journey on those fully packed private busses will exhaust you badly. There is no connectivity to Bhimbetka rock shelters from Obaidullaganj or NH-12 so you need to walk another 4 kms (8 km return). If you are going by Taxi, it may not only be an easier ride but you also will be able to cover other nearby attractions such as Bhimbetka Tal, Cauvery Viewpoints etc.

Bhimbetka Tal
                                                 Bhimbetka Tal

* Bhimbetka Tal (Waterbody near Bhimbetka, 4 km) is one of our pick for those you are ready to go a bit off route and want to experience “Life in a remote village of Madhya Pradesh”.  It’s a picturesque waterbody surrounded by dry hills of Satpura range in the backdrop of lazy villages. I personally found it irresistible.
 

Where to Eat: Madhya Pradesh Tourism has opened a restaurant and hotel at Bhimbetka T junction on NH-42. It is very close to the railway crossing. This restaurant is your best bet considering other roadside Dabbas those you will find along the way.  If you want to buy water bottles, it’s the closest deal.
 

Where to Stay:  Although MPTDC runs a guest house very close to Bhimbetka site (4 km) but most of the travelers prefer to stay in Bhopal. Being the Capital city of Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal is blessed with a wide range of accommodation including many budget lodges, hotels at Hamidia road.

Entrance fee at Bhimbetka
                                         Entrance fee at Bhimbetka

 

Entrée fee for Bhimbetka world heritage sites:
10 INR/ Person (Indian), 100 INR/ Person (Foreigners)
Light motor vehicle: 50 INR (Indian), 200 INR (Foreigners)
Mini bus: 100 INR (Indian), 400 INR (Foreigners)

* Photography and Videography is free

 

                                  Under the hood (Intended for field researchers)
 

Bhimbetka is being a habitation of man from early time. The excavations carried out at Bhimbetka have yielded evidence of continuous human occupation from Lower Palaeolithic till Medieval times. In the long span of time, there were numerous changes took place in the social and cultural life of human being. The cultural remains such as stone tools, pottery, burials and significantly rock paintings depict the development in the human life. Of these rock art is the best source to know about the contemporary society from the time of Mesolithic to medieval period. In general, the subject matter of the paintings are human and animal figures, composite figures such as hunting scenes, battle scenes and cultural scenes that Include dancers and musicians, daily life and many more, painted with mineral colours mainly ocher and white. The untouched natural settings of Bhimbetka, water bodies and landscape add the scenic beauty and splendor of the area.
Map of Bhimbetka rock shelters
                                   Direction to Bhimbetka rock shelters
Here, you will see:

You will see 15 rock shelters occupied by the early man, and life depicted in paintings. The habitation deposit emerge the cultural sequence from Lower Paleolithic to Mesolithic, you will find in the trenches of shelter 1 and 3. Rock Shelter 3 has some cupules made on the huge rock on the western end, considered by some scholars as the man's earliest manifestation of creativity, probably associated with one lakh year before. An elaborately painted shelter 4 known as zoo rock, comprises 252 animals of 16 different species. From here walking towards north one can enjoy the watershed of Betwa River and natural ambience. Noticing many painted rock shelters you will reach at the rock shelter 15. Here, an amazing scene of a giant mythical animal chasing a human, painted with ocher color, can be seen on the upper surface of the rock shelter. You may experience here natural geological formations, various shaped rocks and other painted rock 5 shelters with their natural environment including flora and fauna. Watching all these, you will walk 1400 meter.
Bhimbetka rock shelter
                                             Bhimbetka rock shelter
Discovery of Bhimbetka:

Bhimbetka was brought to the notice of the academic world by Shri V.S. Wakankar (Vikram University, Ujjain) in the year 1957-58. He was conferred Padamshree by Government of India for his discovery and researches.

 

This landmark discovery led to further research in the area of rock art. Subsequently different academic scholars and institutions discovered many more sites and which threw light on the dynamics of shelter life by excavations and analysis.
Rock Shelter one at Bhimbetka
                                        Rock Shelter one at Bhimbetka
Rock Shelter one:

This shelter has paintings mostly of historic period. On the upper ceiling there are silhouetted paintings of two elephants. The smaller elephant is driven by a man standing on its back holding a goad in one hand, a spear in the other and a sword in his waist. Both the elephants are shown with long uplifted tusks.
 

Drawings of a horseman and a soldier are seen higher up to the left and two men are on the left. In the depression on the rock face below, the elephants and a bull is depicted, wounded by the arrow of a hunter. The figures are painted on the earlier drawing of a horse rider facing a soldier. To the far left another rider is shown on the back looks like a feline. There is several stick like human figures shown engaged in brisk activities.
 

This was the shelter where one of major excavation was carried out by V.N. Misra between 1973 and 1976, exposing nearly 4 meters cultural deposit in 8 layers with the evidence of human occupation from late Acheulian to the end of the Mesolithic period.

                                                   Trench 111 F-23

Layer Description                                                                   Findings                          

1 .Yellowish brown gritty sand                                           Microliths and pottery             
2. Yellowish brown gritty sandy silt                                    Microliths                           
3. Brown gritty silty sand                                                    Microliths                          
4. Brown gritty clayey sand                                                 Upper & Middle Paleolithic tool
5. Dull reddish brown sandy blocky rubble                          Middle Paleolithic tools
6. Bright reddish brown silty blocky nibble                           Late Acheulian tools
7. Bright reddish brown clayey blocky rubble                       Late Acheulian tools
8. Orange sandy, blocky rubble                                           Late Acheulian tools
Animal figures in rock shelter three of Bhimbetka
                              Animal figures in rock shelter three of Bhimbetka
Rock Shelter three:

The cave is known as auditorium due to its shape. It is about 39 meters long, 4 meter wide and 17 meter high at the western end.
 

The painting composition portraying bulls, buffaloes, deer, antelopes, a peacock, a tiger, a left hand print of a child, and a unfinished basket like object depicted over older faded lines are the most attractive depictions in this shelter. Further to its left, at a lower height there are a number of human and animal figures depicted in line drawings.

You can scale your hand on the palm impression of a Mesolithic child. Cupules on rock surface. Besides, the cave also has a number of cupules depressions on stone, which are the man's earliest manifestation of creativity, probably associated with lower Paleolithic period.
Zoo rock shelter Bhimbetka
                                        Zoo rock shelter Bhimbetka
Zoo-rock shelter:

This shelter is semicircular in shape with a large projection. There are 453 figures in this shelter comprising 252 animals of 16 different species. Due to large number and variety of naturalistic and elegant animal paintings, it is popularly known as Zoo Rock.
 

Apart from animal figures 90 human figures engaged in several activities, 1 bird, 6 decorative designs, 2 enclosures identified as snares, 1 inscription in Shankha script and 99 fragmented figures are also identified in this shelter. Except a few that belong to the mesolithic period most figures belong to the chalcolithic and historical period. The shelter is richly depicted with as many as ten layers of superimposed figures which raise curiosity about the significance of this rock shelter.

Figures of the historical period are painted mainly on the right side of the shelter in ochre color. In the line drawings, warriors are depicted having big and straight sword and shields in their hands.
 

The depiction of a royal procession can be seen in the lower portion of shelter painted in dark ochre color. The horsemen and warriors are shown with long hair and typical head dress. They are bows, arrows, swords and shields. The horse riders are accompanied by two drummers and a man carrying a staff.
Alluvial Plain of Betwa river near Bhimbetka
                               Alluvial Plain of Betwa river near Bhimbetka
View point and river basin:

There is a rock mass which looks like a tortoise. The uncommon shaped rock formation in this area and natural formation of shelters and caves are due to the enlargement of cavities through physical and chemical weathering and erosion.
 

In one of the shelters nearby, geometrical designs are painted. In India, alankaran, chaowk, rangoli and mandana depictions are continued as tradition since ancient time.
 

On the other side of the hill one can see large alluvial plain of Betwa river. Bhimbetka and its adjoining hills form a significant watershed. The drainage on the north of Bhimbetka and its adjoining hills flows into river Betwa. To the south the drainage network eventually joins the river Narmada. Apart from rivers there is a Jamunjhiri nullah that flows south-east of Bhimbetka.
 

Besides, there are three perennial springs locally named as Ban Ganga, Gupt Ganga and Pandapur largely used by the local inhabitants till today.
Boar Rock Bhimbetka
                                        Boar Rock Bhimbetka
Bear Rock:

This mushroom shaped shelter is known as Boar rock due to a gigantic figure painted on the rock surface. The boar like mythical animal depicted with two crescent shaped horns, a massive snout with whiskers and bristles on the back. Near its snout is the figure of a fleeing man and that of a crab. There are three human figures near its forelegs and a fourth behind its hind legs. Apart from this, many animals and human figures are also depicted.
Boar Rock Shelter Bhimbetka
                                         Boar Rock Shelter Bhimbetka
Excavations and Cultural remains:

The Mesolithic (C. 10,000- 2,500 years) people used to bury their dead within the caves in the living areas. The dead body was placed either in an extended position or in a crouched position with head usually to the east, but sometimes also to the west. Stone querns, rubbers, antlers, bone tools and hematite nodules were placed with the dead as grave goods. Usually the skeletons are found in a disintegrated state.  
 

Bhimbetka is being inhabited from early days. To study the cultural development of human beings many excavations were carried out. Summarizing the evidence from all the excavations the following cultural sequence emerges at Bhimbetka:

 

-In the Lower Paleolithic period (C. 1,00,000-40,000 years) evidence of Pebble Tool assemblage below the Acheulian deposit with a sterile layer in between is a remarkable finding. The notable feature of Middle Palaeolithic (C.40,000-20,000 years) is that a number of tools are made on flat natural stones instead of on flakes.The characteristic feature of Upper Palaeolithic period (C. 20,000-10,0( years) is the increase in the proportion of smaller and slender blades.
Bridge on the river Narmada near Hoshangabad Madhya Pradesh
               Bridge on the river Narmada near Hoshangabad Madhya Pradesh

The Mesolithic (C. 10,000- 2,500 years) people used micro lithic tools on siliceous material like chert and chalcedony. During this period maximum number of shelter caves were occupied, that clearly show an increase in human population.

The Mesolithic people regularly fire as is testified by the presenc ash, charcoal and charred bones and antlers. These people made flows with flat stone slabs and stone wall to partition the cave into compartments.
 

After the discovery of metal such copper and iron, the hunter- gatherer way of life slowly transformed to life slowly transformed to life on the plains to practice of agriculture.
Locationless in Madhya Pradesh
                                          Locationless in Madhya Pradesh
Bhimbetka Natural Settings:

Bhimbetka outcrop sprinkled with painted rock shelters rises over 600 meter above the mean sea level and over 100 meter above the surrounding plane.The hillocks are formed of sandstones of the Vindhyan Super group, one of the oldest geological formations. These sedimentary rocks has been differentially metamorphosed and turned into orthoquartzite. The outcrops with painted rock shelters run east-west for a length of more than eight kms. Its eastern and southern slopes are steep, while northern and western slopes are gentle. The hill is topped by a chain of dissected vertical tors rising sometimes up to twenty meter high that are eroded remnants of a former continuous rock mass.
Ratapani Wildlife Sanctury
                                              Ratapani Wildlife Sanctury
Living Environment of Bhimbetka:

On the trunk of this Papada tree (local name), a tree of Kari (local name) is growing. From ancient time the bio-diversity of this place always invited the human to take shelter here. Besides common trees, this dry deciduous forest contains many varieties of edible flowers, fruitsjplj seeds and tubers that form part of the subsistence economy for the local inhabitants. Apart from Mahua, Saimal and Tendu the area is also rich in medicinal plants.
 

Bhimbetka falling within the Ratapani Wildlife Sanctury is rich in animal species. These include tiger, panther, bear, wild boar, hyaena, wolf, fox, swamp, deer, chital, chinkara, neelgai, langur, jackal, porcupine, hare, mongoose etc

Many kinds of birds are also seen such as peafowl, partridge, quail, hoopoe, blue kingfisher and Indian robin. Beside the area is rich in reptiles such as python, cobra, viper and many species of butterflies, moths, bees, wasps, beetles, and other insects.
Rock Shelter 11 Bhimbetka
                                             
Rock Shelter 11 Bhimbetka
Evolution of Mankind:

Millions of years after Ramapithecus, the species Australopithecus and its subspecies came into existence. Due to the continuous handling of stone, his hands evolved enabling him to handle and fashion stone tools of increasing sophistication from the time of Homo habilis. Much of the early pebble tools are attributed to this hominid. The evolution continued and the hominid was now standing and walked erect he was now a skilled stone tool maker and also handled fire. In scientific parlance he is known as Homo erectus. After gradual development, over many lakh years, Homo sapiens evolved with sophisticated stone tools, languages and other cultural equipments including art on stone, bones and rocks etc. Neanderthal and Homo sapiens contributed extensively in the march of civilization. Some evidences of the diverse activities of the early man are seen at Bhimbetka.
Paintings in Bhimbetka
                                                Paintings in Bhimbetka
Rock Paintings:

Rock paintings are made on bare rock surface without any preparation of the base ' by plastering, grinding or smoothening. The naturally existing soft and smooth fibers, hair and fingers might have been used as brush so as to run on the uneven and unprepared surface of the rock. Figures at considerable heights were probably painted by artists standing on some sort of scaffolding or on branches of trees. In some cases projected platform as part of the shelter that might have existed and have since collapsed was used for painting at higher elevations.
 

Sometimes the earlier painted surfaces were used several times by artists of later period(s) without obliterating the older figures. The super impositions of such paintings of different styles and periods can be seen in many of the rock shelters at Bhimbetka. As many as fifteen layers of superimposition have been recorded at Bhimbetka.
A Village in Madhya Pradesh near Bhimbetka
                                A Village in Madhya Pradesh near Bhimbetka
More on Bhimbetka:

Bhimbetka displays paintings that appear to date from Mesolithic period right through the Historical period. The paintings show gradual development of social-cultural life of mankind. The rock paintings of early phase comprise human and animal figures in line drawings.
 

The rock paintings of Mesolithic period are demonstrated by hunting scenes whose painter could have been a hunter gatherer. Most of the hunting scenes belong to the earlier phase confined to Mesolithic; and Chalcolithic periods whereas horse riding, elephant riding and battle scenes which appear more refined are associated with Historical period.
 

The colors were derived from locally available minerals such as ochre color from hematite and white color from lime. The corroborating evidence of the use of various mineral colors for paintings has also come from the various excavations at Bhimbetka.

The binding medium used for pigments are both water and fixative like animal fat and plant extract like gum etc. In the presence of water and other solvents minerals get oxidized so as to leave their color on rock surface.
 

this has been so useful for

this has been so useful for my schoo project

 

thanks alot man

Glad to know that I was of

Glad to know that I was of any help.

Simply superb. With excellent

Simply superb. With excellent narration. very useful and informative. u have covered everything beyond the needs of first-time (going-to-be)visitiors. After reading this, im planning a trip next month. Very enthusiastic. Thanx for expalainging with details and pics. God bless u!

Glad to read that you find

Glad to read that you find this post informative. keep dropping by.

This site is famlliar to

This site is famlliar to students of prehistory.  We have a site of this stuff viz., Herebenakal in Karnataka. It is also fmous for rock shelters and pre historic drawings and paintings.

Would do research on

Would do research on Herebenakal as well... Bhimbetka is brilliant..

This is a comprehensive

This is a comprehensive article on the rock shelters of Bhimbetka. Great work!

Thanks...

Thanks...

nice

nice

Hi, Thanks for the post. Can

Hi,
Thanks for the post.
Can one get a taxi for Bhimbetka from Obaidullaganj or the T point?

Are you looking for shared

Are you looking for shared Taxi or private one... If you are looking for public transport then there are painfully slow buses (from private operators) those ply between Bhopal and Hoshangabad (via Obaidullaganj)... These buses will drop you at the T point to Bhimbetka...

Thanks for providing these

Thanks for providing these things and pictuires but please you send my email in hindi also of bhimbetka's discription.

Sent you description in

Sent you description in Hindi.... let me know if you need more detail...

thankyou soo much...! this is

thankyou soo much...!
this is very much helpful during my exams..
m searching here there.... couldn't get the impressive information... i glad to get this...

thankyou soo very much,...

I am happy that you find it

I am happy that you find it useful.... seems like this blog is becoming favorite for research scholars... Bhimbetka caves are certainly an intriguing subject...

Hi! I am an architecture

Hi! I am an architecture student from Mumbai. Firstly, hats off to you! Truly a great all-inclusive review!

I am currently working on the project wherein we are designing interventions at world heritage sites to make them more universal (disabled - friendly). Can you give me some insight into -

How tiresome is the walk there? In the view of accessibility to the disabled, how would you rate this site?
Are there stairs / steep slopes that ight prove a problem for someone in a wheelchair? Or on crutches?
Are there any current facilities provided there for the visitors?
What suggestions would you give if you were to design something there?

Really looking forward to interactng with you...

Hi Dhruvang... Welcome to

Hi Dhruvang... Welcome to Thinking Particle.... Thanks for your appreciation...

* How tiresome the walk there ?
- Vehicles goes all the way till main site so its not hiking at all.. It would be nearly 1-2 km walk covering all the rock shelters... not tiresome i would say...

In the view of accessibility to the disabled, how would you rate this site?
- It's not a steep hike... all one need to walk following a concrete promenade.. Views are spectacular...I would rate it quite easy for disabled tourists...

Are there stairs / steep slopes that ight prove a problem for someone in a wheelchair? Or on crutches?
- There are no stairs while navigating through rock shelters however at times its sloppy (but to a very high degree) and the concrete promenade mostly fine to carry some on wheelchair...some of the sites are bit off route...

Are there any current facilities provided there for the visitors?
- Nope... There is no facilities for disabled tourists...

What suggestions would you give if you were to design something there?
- I think if wheel chairs can be provided at the Tourist help center opposite to Bhimbetka entrance gate, it would a great idea... more work on promenade will also help...

let me know if you are looking for more information...

Regards
Vishnu Kumar

Hi my name is neda from Iran

Hi my name is neda from Iran and Iam ph.D student in archeology i need some information such as geology,climate drainage system,flora and fauna of behimbetka region and m.p. it's a part of my thesis
could you help me?

Thank you

Sent you an email... will be

Sent you an email... will be glad to help you...

hi vishnu, i read some of ur

hi vishnu, i read some of ur travel blogs , excellent details and very useful to those who are planning vaccation trips. the photo shots were nice but you should concentrate more on angles and sharpness. Have a nice day.

Thanks Geetha... I am glad

Thanks Geetha... I am glad that my travel blogs are useful for fellow travelers.. Your inputs are certainly a great help and i will try to work on those fronts... will keep improving write ups to make it up to our viewers and promoting independent budget traveling in our country...Have a nice time...

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