Bhimbetka as the name stands is corruption of the Hindi word Bhimbaithka meaning seat or sitting place of Bhim, one of the Pandava's brother. Bhim is still worshiped as deity to several tribes residing in forest and villages of surrounding areas. It all started when Dr Vishnu Shridhar Wakankar, the discoverer from Vikram university, Ujjain when travelling along the hills on a train, noticed the spectacular sandstone rock formations along the ridge, He got fascinated by them and their surrounding landscape. He got down from the train to explore and strayed too far from beaten path and thus found himself in treasure trove and discovered the greatest heritage of India. This was in 1957. Even imagining about the moment when Dr Vishnu would have taken a first glance on this rock paintings gives me goosebumps !!
Spread across 1892 hectares covering five hills withing the Vindhyan range, shelters are spread over 5 hills but only 15 shelters are accessible to general public. Filled with narratives of hunting, battle, festive scenes, daily life, royal processions, dancers and animals and birds of all kinds, these paintings shows the dynamics between humankind and nature in all its complexity. Colors used were mainly ochre from haematite and white from lime, plant extracts, animal fat and even rubbed stones.The cover of dense forest and vegetation has protected these rock paintings so far from being lost to vagaries of nature.
During excavation of one the caves some skeletons were also found in disintegrated state. The Mesolithic people (10000 - 2500 years) used to bury their dead within the caves in the living areas. The dead body was placed either in an extended position or in a crouched position with head usually to the east. Stones, rubber, antlers, bone tools were placed with the dead as grave goods.
The earliest drawing of a men which reminded me of good old school days when we as kids have also drawn something similar looking male figures.
Shelter no 4 is one of the most elaborately painted one known as "Zoo rock" due to large number of animal species painted on the rock. There are total of 252 animals of 16 different species seen here.
Historic warriors with different kinds of weapons as seen in below pic. Sometimes the artist has used the same painted surface used earlier without obliterating earlier paintings.Superimposition of such paintings can be seen at many places.
The most famous of all the Bhimbetka paintings below which shows some procession with soldiers, dancers and various animals, birds as well as a scorpion on top left corner.
Panel where a flying bird is shown along with peacock and a snake with some humans forming a chain. Some men painted in white are the probably the newer paintings while one painted in natural dye are from earlier era.
Another masterpiece shown below is that of a mythical boar chasing a man while it is surrounded by armed men, men shown here are quite small in size as compared to the animal. A local tribe called Korkus living in the fringes of the forest still worship wild boars.
A line of galloping horses with horsemen brandishing their swords seen in rock shelter no 7.
Human chain seen here seems to be part of some dance ritual with one person holding some musical instrument.
At the few distance before the cave, there is situated a flat bed of rocks which gives a beautiful panoramic view of the dense Ratapani wildlife sanctuary, area rich in varied animal species.
Nature has also played its part by creating some unique rock formation, There is a rock mass which looks like tortoise, the uncommon rock formation are due to enlargement of cavities through physical and chemical erosion.
The ideal season to visit would be from November to February as temperatures are cooler. An early morning visit gives you ample time to explore the place with less crowd, ASI guides are available and at times the security guards also act as guide. Each rock shelter has been marked with sign board but it takes a lot of effort to spot and view the paintings. Though there are only 15 shelters for public viewing which requires a walk of 1.5 kms in well marked pavement, it took us close to 5 hours to view the spectacular heritage of Bhimbetka.
Nearby attractions: Bhimbetka tal around 4 kms from cave site who can't resist taking off beat route.
Bhojpur: On the way return to Bhopal one can also visit the half built Shiva temple of Bhojpur which is a heritage town. The temple is famous for it's unique Shivling which is 18 ft tall and is built out of a single rock.
Bhopal - Bhojpur: 29 kms
Bhopal - Bhimbetka: 45 kms
Bhimbetka - Bhimbetka T point: 3.2 kms
Bhopal NH12 - Mandideep - Obdellatif ganj - Bhimbetka - Shahganj / Hoshangabad