Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka are listed under cultural sites of UNESCO Heritage sites of India, but don’t expect elaborate rock carvings or sculptures.
They are not as impressive as the beautiful sculptures of Khajuraho Group of Monuments or majestic Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi but these caves have their own historic value, he elaborated further.
At a personal level this is now the oldest place I have visited on earth. Prior to this my record of visiting the oldest place was Epidaurus in Greece of 5th BC.
Earliest Traces of Prehistoric Human Existence
The Rock Shelters found at Bhimbetka show the earliest traces of human existence in India. According to archaeologists, these caves were inhabited in Lower Paleolithic period over 200,000 years ago. Evidences were found in these caves of Bhimbetka Rock Shelters. This was the art gallery of early man.
Human development, the transition from ape to becoming a human, started 200,000 years ago. The cranium capacity of ape was 400cc; the ape evolved to being thinking human as the brain capacity increased to 500cc. He was up on his feet, his hands got freer and with opposing strength of his thumb he started using his hands effectively. He started chipping stones to make tools.
In Europe human development took place 40,000 years back but Bhimbetka was way more advanced by then. Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka has all the evidences that this development took here 100,000 years back. Such is the importance of this place!
This is not any mythological belief but established fact by correct scientific absolute dating methods like Radiocarbon dating method.
5 Interesting Facts of Rock Paintings in Bhimbetka Caves
Bhimbetka is famous for a number of prehistoric rock paintings. But why do they exist here in such huge numbers, how did they survive so long, what do the paintings signify? Know the answers to these questions –
Concentration of Rock shelters – Early man flourished more in this region because the place is fertile, weathered rock formation provided shelter. Thick growth of trees, abundance of animals for hunting must have enabled easy survival. Plenty of natural water sources too.
Paintings at a height – Prehistoric man who resided here must have used some scaffolding to reach those heights. They were not tall people. Averagely they had a height of around 5ft. So it assumed that they would have used some kind of stone steps to reach those heights.
Another reason could be they wanted to protect their paintings from water so ceilings of caves were the best.
Colors used for paintings – As you explore the caves of Bhimbetka you will notice a myriad of colors used. At some places they are bright red, at other places there are green, yellow and some were shades of orange too. White and red were the most commonly used colors.
Evidences establish the fact that by combining manganese, hematite, wooden coal, soft red stone, and plant leaves the cave dwellers here could create these colors. These evidences were found in prehistoric layers during excavations.
Faded Paintings – When these paintings were discovered they were much brighter. Since these paintings have been sheltered from rain and rough weather, they could survive over the centuries. Over a period of time some deterioration has taken place. There is study on now on how to preserve the paintings. (paintings in Cave 2 and Cave 10 have faded the most)
What the paintings represent – Early man expressed his feelings like conquests, fear, submission, community activities through these paintings. These paintings are valid documents that provide a glimpse into man’s prehistoric past, their clothing, culture, nomadic and agricultural lifestyle.
Mythological connection to Bhimbetka
The name, it is believed, is from the Mahabharata, an epic of Hindus. The second of the Pandava brothers, Bhima, stayed in these caves after he and his four brothers were banished from their kingdom. “Bhim betka” translates to the place where Prince Bhima sat.
Tips to Visit the Bhimbetka Caves
- There are written descriptions of the paintings beside each cave, yet hire a guide to learn certain nuances and for a better experience.
- Take your own water bottle, cap and shades. Go full stomach because there are no eateries nearby.
- Wear good walking shoes, the entire stretch is uneven and 3km to and fro.
- Not differently able friendly. There is just one Braille board at the entrance but not near the individual caves.
- The place is very clean and has a toilet as well as drinking water.
- Avoid summers and midday visits.
Location and How to reach Bhimbetka caves
These caves are located in Raisen district of Madhya Pradesh, at the southern edge of the forested Vindhyachal Range. Bhimbetka Caves is accessible easily by road and rail. Nearest airport is in Bhopal, 40km away. You can hire private(more convenient) and public transport(often crowded) to get to the place.