Bhimbetka rock shelters come alive in stone and colour

Bhopal: The rocks of Bhimbetka could almost be heard as some 23 artists from across the country tried to bring the early man`s life and times depicted on them alive on canvas and in stone here.

The rock shelters of Bhimbetka are in Madhya Pradesh`s Raisen district, some 45 km south of Bhopal. The site was discovered by VS Wakankar in 1957. Since then, more than 700 such shelters have been found in the Vindhya mountain ranges.

The rock shelters and caves have a number of rock paintings which give the Stone Age man`s life and times a perspective. Some are from an even earlier period - 7,000 BC and beyond - but there is no unanimity among archaeologists about their exact period.

Some studies identify Bhimbetka as the world`s oldest stone walls and floors.

Titled ‘Punah: Bhimbetka’ (Revisiting Bhimbetka), a total of 23 artists from across India got together to put up an exhibition of paintings and sculptures on the Unesco World Heritage site, held at the Bharat Bhavan art centre here June 22-27. The exhibition was dedicated to VS Wakankar.

"It was in December last year when we planned to visit Bhimbetka and do something on them. We had held a two-day camp there. As you enter Bhimbetka caves, you almost enter the ancient period and start thinking like those cave men," Vandita Srivastava, a folk and tribal artist who coordinated the show, told reporters.

The artists came from all age groups, from 23-year-old Bharti Singh, to veteran artist Dinanath Bhargav, 85.

"The place is not only historic but different as well. It shows the intellectual maturity of the people who lived there that time," says Shahenshah, whose three paintings are being displayed at the exhibition.

Sculptor Gourav Kulshrestra created his work from waste materials.

Artist Basant Bhargav said the caves are so intellectually enrinching, every artist must visit them at least once.

"Earlier, even though it`s a world heritage site, most people used to think of Bhimbetka as a picnic spot. But now, as we try to depict it on canvas, they are realising the cultural significance of the place. This was the main objective of our exhibition," Bharti Singh said, adding that she was satisfied from the response the event received.

"If Unesco did a wonderful thing by declaring Bhimbetka a world heritage site, we should also thank these artists who made people realise the beauty and importance of the site," Shiv Sharma, an art lover, told reporters after watching the exhibition.

Vandita has now started thinking ahead.

"There are several kinds of paintings, but we found that the works in Bhimbetka have their own form. I will study more and research on them and popularise the form," she added.


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