The Bhimbetka rock shelters is an archaeological site of the Paleolithic, exhibiting the earliest traces of human life on the Indian subcontinent, and thus the beginning of the South Asian Stone Age. It is located in the Raisen District in the Indianstate of Madhya Pradesh, near Abdullaganj town and inside the Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary. At least some of the shelters were inhabited by Homo erectus more than 100,000 years ago. Some of the Stone Age rock paintings found among the Bhimbetka rock shelters are approximately 30,000 years old.The caves also deliver early evidence of dance. They were declared a World Heritage Site in 2003.
The name Bhimbetka is associated with Bhima, a hero-deity of the epic Mahabharata. The word Bhimbetka is said to derive from Bhimbaithka, meaning “sitting place of Bhima”. The Rock Shelters of Bhimbetaka lies 9 km from Obedullaganj city in the Raisen District of Madhya Pradesh and 45 kilometers south of Bhopal at the southern edge of the Vindhya hills. South of these rock shelters are successive ranges of the Satpura hills. The entire area is covered by thick vegetation, has abundant natural resources in its perennial water supplies, natural shelters, rich forest flora and fauna and bears a striking resemblance to similar rock art sites such as Kakadu National Park inAustralia, the cave paintings of the Bushmenin Kalahari Desert and the Upper Paleolithic Lascaux cave paintings in France.
The rock shelters and caves of Bhimbetka have a large number of paintings.
The oldest paintings are considered to be 30,000 years old, but some of the geometric figures date to as recently as the medieval period. The colors used are vegetable colors which have endured through time because the drawings were generally made deep inside a niche or on inner walls. The drawings and paintings can be classified under seven different periods.
In one of the desolate rock shelters the painting of a man holding a trident like staff and dancing has been named “Nataraj” by Dr. Wakankar. Pluvial erosion mark most of the paintings in this shelter and the Archaeological Survey of India use chemicals and wax to preserve them.
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