Bhimbetka – A journey through India’s Prehistoric Capital

Miles and miles, as far the eyes can stretch, there are dry deciduous forest and low hills of Satpura range. Forget urbanization, though it is merely 40 km from Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh’s bustling capital, even rural hamlets are sparse here.

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In the past I had visited Bhimbetka twice, but this time, it appeared more insightful, may be my thought process has become more matured now. The site, which is open to tourists and scholars, is only a fraction of a larger complex (out of 700 rock shelters spread over 27 square km, only 15 to 20 are allowed). Over years I had developed a weakness for landscape archaeology and no doubt Bhimbetka is best appreciated for this.

The hills of Satpura are low with table land on their tops. The sandstone floor on hill tops could have provided platforms for a number of outdoor activities, prominently stone tools making by the Prehistoric community.

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The majestic rock outcrops often with hollows through them are nowhere to be seen in India in such large numbers. Here the Mesolithic humans lived and socialized. There were perhaps a large group of bands inhabiting different hill tops overlooking the valley underneath.

The valley has not changed much even after 10,000 years. It is densely covered with forest, an ideal habitat for herds of herbivores and variety of birds. No doubt, from all these hill tops our Prehistoric ancestors could have made a sweeping 360 degree view every day and spot easily animals that were meant for their diet. It was also ideal for gathering fruits, tubers and roots. Often after a successful hunt, there was celebration among band members, which we also see in some of their paintings.

Bhimbetka is a world heritage site and easily accessible from Bhopal. However, a number of locals come here with hope to see the remains of some ancient temples built by Bhim, the Mahabharata hero. But those who know what this site offers, often leave with many questions than answers on India’s prehistoric capital.

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