Bhimbetka: A rocky canvas, thirty thousands years old

Incredible India!

Incredible India, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India

An archaeological wonder, Bhimbetka Rock Shelters take tourists back in time. Located 45 kilometres south of Bhopal, the rocky terrain of the Vindhya ranges has over 600 shelters from the Neolithic Age.

This World Heritage Site dates back to over 3000 years. Legend has it that Bhimbetka is derived from 'Bhim baythka' meaning 'the seating place of Bhim', the strongest of the five Pandava brothers from the epic Mahabharata.

Bhimbetka attracts tourists from far and wide. The site houses 500 or so paintings, and they have a stark resemblance to the ones found in Australia’s Kaakadu National Park, the cave paintings of Kalahari Desert’s Bushmen tribe and France’s Upper Palaeolithic Lascaux cave paintings.

Bhimbetka’s paintings were created with natural colours and have stood the test of time. They were discovered by V.S. Waakankar in 1957, during an excavation expedition, and showcase the lives of a lost community that lived thousands of years ago.

Some of Bhimbetka's paintings have been determined as being 30,000 years old! Scenes of horse and elephant riding, honey collecting, hunting for food, rearing children, dancing and more can be seen in intricate detail.

Set against a rocky canvas, Bhimbetka is considered to be the largest rock painting complex in India. It comprises about 700 caves and huge rock shelters, of which 400 are replete with images and motifs

The Bhimbetka Rock Shelters are a marvel warped in time. As you stroll through the empty rock structures, you are struck by the image of how the area must have been abuzz with activity about one hundred thousand years ago! Some of the motifs in the shelters are believed to be about 30,000 years old.

The first cave in the series is the Auditorium Shelter that makes for a beautiful start to a thrilling exploration. You can spot a variety of art here, including a faded tiger, the palm imprint of a child and wildlife motifs.

The Auditorium Cave has a long tunnel that leads into a cavernous chamber with high ceilings and three exits. The map of the cave resembles a cross, with a huge rock called Chief’s Rock, at its centre. A large vertical boulder in the cave hosts 10 cupules that are cup-shaped hollows and they are believed to date back to prehistoric times.

Cave 15 looms like a giant mushroom and is one of the most impressive rock shelters in Bhimbetka. On the western face of the rock, you can find a large image of a boar with a massive snout and horns. Don’t miss its moustache and bristles that are easily distinguishable from the image.

The grand towering rock structures of Shelter 8 are accentuated by several white paintings that depict images of chickens, stags, dogs, horses with riders, a lion and a scorpion. It is a thrilling experience to trace the silhouette of the images and try to identify them.

Credits: Story

Virtual Tour courtesy Archaeological Survey of India

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Wonders of India
A showcase of India's finest cultural treasures. Ancient monuments, spiritual healing, regional arts and crafts, myths and folklore: be inspired by the wonders of this incredible country.
View theme
Google apps