A few years back I had been to Bhimbekta near Bhopal and found these oldest surviving cave paintings there. Being a world heritage site, the premises at Bhimbetka is well preserved and paintings well documented. Earlier this year I discovered similar paintings in Chhattisgarh but in a dilapidated state. Most of them covered with modern graffiti with young couples trying to immortalize their love on stone. The presence of pre-historic caves with paintings indicates that this area has been inhabited for a very long time. And has a continued cultural tradition. Like most other archaeological heritage in the country, the British discovered these caves in the early 20th century and started documenting them.
Prehistoric Cave Paintings in Chhattisgarh
Tourism department’s literature lists about 22 sites in Chhattisgarh with pre-historic cave paintings. We visited only two of them – Ongna and Kabra Pahad. Kabra Pahad is very close to Raigarh city while Ongna is about 70 odd km’s from here. There is no proper access way to both these caves. You have to negotiate your way through the vegetation and stones.
Ongna & Kabra Pahad Caves Raigarh
In fact, we visited Ongna after it was dark. Thankfully we had some locals helping us reach the caves. Otherwise, it would have been difficult to locate the cave. Ongna’s paintings were better preserved than Kabra Pahad that actually is a tall, wall like a stone. You wonder how the painters painted in the first place and then how the graffiti makers rose to those heights.
Some of the motifs that I could make out in both the caves were.
- Humped Bull, groups of humped bulls
- Geometrical Human Figures – some of them with tall headgear
- Dancing groups
- Other animals – probably Deer & Pig
- A lizard
- A chakra
- Geometric Human Figures
At Ongna, paintings have been done over paintings that mean the same surface has been used by many generations to express their creativity. I could not see it on-site, but a close examination of some of the photograph shows a lower layer painted in white and an upper layer painted in red. You see the same very clearly at Bhimbetka, where the first painting is subdued. And the color used on the next layer of the painting is darker. The colors used in paintings are primarily deep red or Gerua or both at Ongna and Kabra Pahad.
If you look at the drawings closely, you would see that the way we draw has not changed. Maybe till about 100 years ago, the subjects of drawings had also not changed much, at least for the rural folks. Even the modern wall murals in the state seem to be inspired by these figures.
Are we on the verge of disconnecting with our past suddenly? Are we about to lose our identity in a bid to be global citizens?
Recommend you to read following Tourist Places in Chhattisgarh.