Somewhat surprisingly for such a wide continent, Indian rock art has often been considered as pertaining to a “cultural unity”, as is the case for Upper Palaeolithic cave art in Europe. Disparities do exist according to the areas, so that regional groups have been and will no doubt be defined (see for example Chandramouli 2002 for the rock art of Andhra Pradesh in the south of India, or Mathpal 1985 for that of Kumaon in the north). However, “in spite of the great distances of the different regions Indian rock paintings bear surprising affinity in forms, subject matters and design elements to their contemporaries” (Kumar 1992: 56).

 The only petroglyphs (i.e. rock engravings) we have mentioned are cupules, because we hardly saw any other engraved motifs during our trip. Still, it is necessary to recall their existence and their importance in many parts of India, even if we are here focusing on pictographs (i.e. rock paintings). Among the colours used red is overwhelmingly dominant, at all periods. It comes from iron oxides such as haematite. White (from a white clay like kaolin) has also been widely used. ImageOther colours are scarcer, like “green and yellow derived from copper minerals” or “blue or coal black obtained from manganese or charcoal” (Chakravarty & Bednarik 1997: 46). Painting was carried out “by rubbing the colour nodule dry, or with water, without any visible use of organic binding material, using finger tips, twigs, hair brush or by spraying with the mouth” (id.).

he earliest discovery of prehistoric rock art was made in India, twelve years before the discovery of Alta Mira in Spain. Archibald Carlleyle discovered rock paintings at Sohagihat in the Mirzapur district of Uttar Pradesh in 1867 and 1868. Unfortunately he did not publish. J Cockburn rightly commented that Carlleyle’s knowledge died with him (Smith, 1906: 187). Fortunately, Carlleyle had placed some of his notes with a friend, Reverend Regionald Gatty, and V A Smith published these later, which is the only record of his discovery of Rock paintings. In his note he wrote “Lying along with the small implements in undisturbed soil of the cave floors, pieces of a heavy red mineral-coloured matter called geru were frequently found, rubbed down on one or more facets, as if for making paint. Geru is evidently a partially decomposed hematite (Iron peroxide). “On the uneven sides or walls and roofs of many caves or rock shelters, there are rock paintings apparently of various ages. Though all evidently of great age, done in red colour called geru.  Some of these rude paintings appeared to illustrate in a very stiff and archaic manner scenes in the life of the ancient stone chippers. Others represent animals or hunts of animals by men with bows and arrows, spears and hatchets. With regard to the probable age of these stone implements I may mention that I never found a single ground or polished implements not a single ground ring stone or hammer stone in the soil of the floors of any of the many caves or rock shelters I examined.” (Smith 1906: 187).

Central India is the richest zone of prehistoric rock art in India. The highest concentration of rock art sites is situated in the Satpura, Vindhya and Kaimur Hills. These hills are formed of sandstones, which weather relatively faster to form rock shelters and caves. They are located in the dense forest and were ecologically ideal for occupation by primitives. They were used for habitation in the Stone Age and even in the later periods. Inside the caves on the walls and ceilings artists painted their favourite animals or human forms, symbols, daily life hunting and fighting.


  1. Pingback: INDIAN ROCK PAINTINGS | poulamiangel

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