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Bhimbetka Rock Shelters

General Information

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22°56′18″N 77°36′47″E
General Description
The Bhimbetka rock shelters are an archaeological site in central India, Madhya Pradesh, that spans the Paleolithic and Mesolithic periods. It exhibits the earliest traces of human life in India and evidence of the Stone Age starting at the site in Acheulian times. A UNESCO World Heritage Site that consists of seven hills and over 750 rock shelters distributed over 10 km (6.2 mi). At least some of the shelters were inhabited more than 100,000 years ago.
Bhimbetka images

Bhimbetka Caves


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The Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka is 45 kilometres south-east of Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, at the southern edge of the Vindhya Range. The site consists of seven hills:
  • Vinayaka
  • Bhonrawali
  • Bhimbetka
  • Lakha Juar west
  • Lakha Juar east
  • Jhondra
  • Muni Babaki Pahari


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  • Bhimbetka: Meaning "Bhima's resting place" or "Bhima's lounge", derived from Bhima (one of the Pandavas from the Mahabharata) and Baithaka (seat or lounge). According to native belief, Bhima used to rest here during his exile to interact with locals.
  • First mentioned by W. Kincaid, a British India era official, in 1888. He referred to Bhimbetka as a Hinduism site based on information from local adivasis (tribals).
  • First archaeological exploration by V. S. Wakankar in 1957, who discovered the prehistoric significance of the rock formations.
  • Scale and true significance of Bhimbetka rock shelters discovered and reported in the 1970s.
  • Over 750 rock shelters identified, with 243 in the Bhimbetka group and 178 in the nearby Lakha Juar group.
  • Evidence suggests continuous human settlement from the Stone Age through the late Acheulian to the late Mesolithic until the 2nd century BCE.

Auditorium Cave

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  • Auditorium cave: One of the significant features of Bhimbetka site. Described as "cathedral-like" with Gothic arches and soaring spaces by Robert G. Bednarik.
  • Surrounded by quartzite towers visible from several kilometres away.
  • The largest shelter at Bhimbetka.
  • Its plan resembles a "right-angled cross" with branches aligned to the four cardinal directions.
  • Main entrance points to the east.
  • At the end of the eastern passage, there is a distinctive boulder known as "Chief's Rock" or "King's Rock".
  • The boulder with the Auditorium cave is the central feature amidst 754 numbered shelters and nearly 500 locations with rock paintings.
Bhimbetka images

Dance Painting at Bhimbetka

Zoo Rock

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  • Zoo Rock Shelter: Notable feature at Bhimbetka known for its combination of cupules and paintings.
  • Named after its prehistoric paintings featuring large and small size animal figures including bisons, tigers, lions, wild boar, elephants, antelopes, dogs, lizards, peacock, and other creatures.
  • Combination of cupules and paintings makes it significant, according to Bednarik.
Bhimbetka images

Closer look of one of the caves at Bhimbetka

Rock Art

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  • The rock art of Bhimbetka is classified into various groups based on style, technique, and superimposition.
  • Oldest paintings are in green and dark red, mainly executed in geometric forms.
  • Subsequent periods depict images of dancers, hunters, animals, and horsemen.
  • In later periods, paintings become more sophisticated with depictions of daily life, religious symbols, and war scenes.
  • Colors used by cave dwellers were prepared by combining manganese, hematite, soft red stone, and wooden charcoal.
  • Paintings were created using fingers, brushes made of fur or feathers, and even twigs.
  • Colors endure through time due to chemical reaction with oxide present on rock surfaces.
  • Mainly depict animals, human activities, and a variety of figures including bison, tiger, lion, wild boar, elephant, antelope, dog, lizard, peacock, and creatures of various kinds, along with scenes from daily life.

Animal Depictions

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  • Oldest paintings depict animals and geometric forms, using green and dark red colors.
  • Successive periods show human figures engaged in hunting, dancing, and daily activities.
  • Later paintings exhibit more complex scenes, including battles and rituals.
Bhimbetka images

Closer look of one of the caves at Bhimbetka