Cave Paintings in India

Cave Paintings:

Cave paintings in India dates back to pre historic era. Some of the most beautiful cave paintings that are present even to this date are the Ajanta caves, Ellora, Bhimbetka. There are no proper written records of the cave paintings of prehistoric era. However still many ancient cave paintings are still preserved and well maintained in India. Here are some beautiful cave paintings in India.

Bhimbetka Cave Paintings

It is an archaeological site that is present in Central India which dates back to Palaeolithic and Mesolithic period. It is a UNESCO world Heritage site located in Raisen District in the state of Madhya Pradesh India. Some of these Bhimbetka Rock Shelters has beautiful cave paintings. 

These paintings were based on the themes of animals, hunting, dancing and many more. Some of the cave paintings belong to Mesolithic period. The paintings have been classified into seven different periods namely Palaeolithic age, Mesolithic age, Chalcolithic age, Early historic and Medieval period.

The paintings during the medieval period were mostly geometric. Some of the paintings during this period include paintings of animals like elephant, deer, peacock and snake. The paintings also had hunter and gatherers, carrying metals, riding horse, fighting and many more.

Some of the caves and the shelters are as old as around 100,000 years old. These rock settlements show us different period of human life history right from the hunter gatherers to settlers.  The drawings and the beautiful paintings are classified into seven different periods. 

Bhimbetka Caves

Period I belongs to Upper Palaeolithic age where in the paintings are of animals like Bison and tiger which is painted in green and red colour.

Period II belongs to Mesolithic period. In this period the paintings were not only of animals but it also had paintings of humans and the weapons they used like the spears, pointed sticks, bow and arrow and many more. There was also painting of war between two tribal groups.

Period III belongs to Chalcolithic period where in the paintings were quite similar to the previous period of Mesolithic age. During this period there were paintings of agricultural communities.

Period IV and V belonged to early historic period. In this period the paintings were more stylish and decorative. The colours used in this period were mostly red, white and yellow. The paintings were of religious gods like tree gods and chariots.

Period VI and VII belonged to medieval period. During this period the paintings changed slightly and became more geometrical and more schematic in nature. During this period the colours were used by mixing black manganese oxides, red hematite and charcoal.

There is one rock which is “Zoo Rock” which has paintings of bison, bear, deer, peacock, snake and the sun god. There are also paintings of hunting scenes with hunters having bow and arrow.

The paintings are divided in to two large groups one as hunter and food gatherers while others as fighters who are riding horses and carrying metal weapons.

Ajanta Cave paintings in India

Ajanta Cave Paintings

They are located at a distance of around 100 Km from Aurangabad, Maharashtra, India. This UNESCO world Heritage place has 30 rock cut caves which dates back to Buddhism period from 2nd century BCE. The caves has paintings of life and rebirth of Buddha along with his preaching’s. It is believed that Ajanta Caves belonged to two different periods. The first period belonged from 2nd century to 1st century and the second period was after many centuries. The first period caves were 9, 12, 13 and 15A.  

In these caves the murals were based on the Jataka stories and one can see the influence of Gupta period. The second period caves were 1 to 8, 11 and 14-29 which belonged to Mahayana Buddhism. Majority of the caves are viharas or resting halls with symmetrical plans. Mural paintings are present in both the earlier and later caves. These caves have some of the magnificent paintings with bright colours. Cave 19 is a worship hall and Cave 20 to 25 are all a monastery hall belonging to different period. Most of the paintings have deteriorated and various attempts have been made to maintain the paintings neatly.

The most beautiful and important painting of Satvahana period at Ajanta is the Chhadanta Jataka which is in Cave 10. It is a painting of an elephant named Bodhisattva with six tusks which is related to mythological stories. The Hinayana caves were excavated during Satvahana period.

Ellora Caves

Ellora Caves

Ellora Caves is another UNESCO world Heritage site located at a distance of around 19 Km from Aurangabad Maharashtra India.  It is one of the largest rock cut temples and monasteries in the world which has Buddhists, Hindus and Jain monuments. These monuments date back to 600 CE periods. There are over 100 caves which are excavated from the basalt cliffs in Charandari Hills. Cave 16 is the largest single monolithic rock excavation in the world which has Kailasha temple.

The Ajanta and Ellora caves are closely located and are one of the major tourist’s attractions of Maharashtra. Cave 1-12 which is located on the Southern side has Buddhists monuments were created between fifth and eighth century. Out of 12 Buddhists cave 11 cave have viharas with prayer halls. 

The caves also have shrines and carvings of Gautama Buddha, Bodhisattvas and saints. Cave five is comparatively different as it has a hall with a pair of benches in the front and Buddha statue behind. Cave 2, 16 and 17 has some beautiful paintings even to this date. Cave 1,4,17,19,24, and 26 have some divine beautiful sculptures and paintings all around. Cave seventeen is famous for flying Apsara painting and image of Buddha preaching. 

Cave 13-29 have Hindu monuments that were built during Kalachuri period. Caves 14, 15, and 16 were constructed during Rashtrakuta period. Cave 16 has the famous Kailasha temple which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The credit for the construction of this temple goes to Rashrakutas King Krishna I.

Cave 30-34 belongs to Jain monuments. Paintings can be found only in five caves now. It is believed that paintings took place in two stages. In the first stage the paintings revolve around Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi while the second stage the paintings revolves around Apsaras, Holy men who belonged to Shaivism.

Armamalai Caves

It is a natural cave located in the Vellore District of Tamil Nadu. This cave is converted in to the Jain temple and is the protected monument by the Archaeological Survey of India. The cave contains Jain paintings which belong to around 8th century. The walls and the roof is surrounded by mural paintings. the paintings were made by applying lime surface over thick mud surface. These beautiful paintings were usually of Jain stories and also images of Astathik Palakas.

Bagh Caves

They are the group of nine rock cut caves situated in the Dhar District of Madhya Pradesh India. The wall paintings date back to between 5th and 7th century during Satvahana dynasty. These caves are famous for the mural paintings. These paintings were not spiritualistic and were more materialistic. One can see beautiful wall paintings on the portico of cave 4.

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