Blast back into the past: The Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka
All it takes is an hour and a half drive from Bhopal city to get transported back in time. Set in the Ratapani Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh’s Raisen district is the archaeological wonder that is the pre-historic Bhimbetka Rock Shelters. Evidence of pre-historic art remains sprawled across 15 very well preserved rock shelters; some of which date back to nearly 30,000 years before present!
From everyday hunting to ceremonial processions , the shelters transport us thousands of years back in time. One of the more recognized pieces of art depicting two elephants and a man atop one of them greets us at the entrance. A walk through the ‘auditorium’ takes us into the forest enclosure, leading the way into crags and crevices frequented by early man. A 10-minute walk from the auditorium takes one to the ‘Zoo Rock’ (Shelter No. 4) which houses close to 450 overlapping figures of humans and animals, drawn at different periods of time.
Natural colours from locally available materials such as ochre and lime have been used along with animal fat fixatives by our ancestors to express their creativity. As many as 15 layers of superimposition have been noticed in the region. Paintings from the Mesolithic era to the more recent historical period remain displayed untouched by time in the shelters of Bhimbetka. The progression in quality and aesthetics is also visible with time. While paintings from the paleolithic era seem simpler and cruder, techniques and design elements show refinement in paintings from the Neolithic era. If you are a archaeology or anthropology enthusiast, give yourself at least 3-4 hours time to wander around and drink in the history.
Though buses run in the Bhopal-Obaidullaganj route, taking a cab from the city is a better option as the buses stop on the main road and a good 3.5 km trek separates you from the shelters from that point. Madhya Pradesh Tourism’s Gateway Retreat Lodge has rooms and a small restaurant to cater to tourists’ needs right before the trek uphill starts.
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