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| Last Updated:: 12/03/2016

Chhattisgarh government to protect ancient rock art sites in Bastar and Surguja







Chhattisgarh government has for the first time decided to protect rock art sites on hills and caves of Bastar, Surguja and Raigarh districts from getting vandalized.

Talking to TOI, archaeology and culture department director Rakesh Chaturvedi said, "Experts have identified many rock art sites and would submit the report soon. We had a discussion with principal chief conservator of forests AA Boaz for protection and conservation of sites, as these are located deep inside forests. Forest department has already decided to initiate the process."

Rich in tradition and culture, most of the rock art sites remained undiscovered before two experts from Madhya Pradesh and France — Meenakshi Dubey Pathak and Dr Jean Clottes — explored these areas for two years to identify over 30 such sites. The experts spotted some unusual rock paintings of Mesolithic period that urgently call for conservation. Following their research and requests, the state government has decided to protect the art sites.

Rock art expert Pathak who has been awarded by French government said Chhattisgarh has many rock painting sites that remained undiscovered and unexplored. Speaking to TOI, she said they found many sites were in ruins and added, "Though there's still a lot of scope to explore, we spotted nearly 37 sites dating to 8000 BC during our research."

She said, "Most unusual aspect of these paintings in Chhattisgarh is that they depict state's tradition and culture unlike ancient paintings in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan that mainly have war scenes of kings, horses and weapons. Here, arts show human beings dancing while hand prints and paintings of huge animals are commonly found in the region."

Unique spray-painted hand stencils are main attractions in Dharamjaigarh block of Raigarh district.

Tribals make pictures on walls not as paintings but as a ritual and there is this continuity of culture connected to these paintings since Mesolithic period as they worship the paintings. "When there's no rain, people climb hills and sing bhajans for whole night in front of these paintings that leads to continuity of tradition and adds to conservation of rock to some extent."

She said, "Earlier, we found Balod and Raigarh districts have many rock art sites but exploring Bastar was a novel realization. Here, paintings were made of natural colours — usually red and white — and easily found in forests.



"After travelling from Keshkal ghats, I climbed several cliffs to identify new rock art sites and researched on the existing ones. Being a Maoist-dominated region, Bastar hasn't been explored much. Locals assisted me when they said there's one 'likha pathra' (carved rock) at the top. It was sad to find few of them vandalized either with overwriting or due to water or natural weathering."



Expressing urgent need for protection of these paintings, Pathak said she has sent a request to state government.



The expert who has explored several sites in Spain, France and parts of Europe said that it is important to conserve such sites in India as most of them are in the open and not in caves, which is why we don't find many Paleolithic paintings.



"I insist that a chapter explaining significance of rock art should be included in school curriculum to spread awareness among students," she said.






Source: Times of India