T. S. SUBRAMANIAN
40 rock paintings were recently discovered in the Kondane caves in Raigarh district in Maharashtra.
A hunter stands poised with a bow and arrow. A barasingha (swamp deer) stands nearby. Then there are footprints, palm impressions and some trees. These were some of the depictions in the 40 rock paintings recently discovered in the Kondane caves in Raigarh district in Maharashtra.
The images were found in both natural caverns and man-made caves. The man-made caves also feature Buddhist architecture such as a ‘chaitya’ (prayer hall) and a monastery.
Kantikumar Pawar, a specialist in rock art, called it “an important discovery because we were not aware of the existence of rock art images in the western region of Maharashtra where the Kondane caves are located.”
Maharashtra was absent on the rock art map of India before 2003. However, detailed surveys by the Deccan College Post-Graduate and Research Institute in Pune led to the discovery of several rock art sites in the Chandrapur and Nagpur regions of Vidarbha.
New research area
“Rock art has now been found in the Kondane caves in western Maharashtra as well, which will compel students of history to have a re-look at these cave groups,” said Dr. Pawar, assistant professor of archaeology, Deccan College.
The rock paintings, in red and black hues, were found in the corners and the ceilings of the caves.
A striking image found was that of a mythical figure, perhaps a demon. Other paintings reflected everyday life and occupations such as hunting deer.
“The style and articulation of these paintings suggest that they have been drawn during the late historical period of second century B.C. onwards” because some of the caves [where these images have been found] were excavated in the first century B.C., said Dr. Pawar.
The images were found by a team drawn from the Deccan College, Maharashtra State Archaeology Department, Pune division, and R.K. Talreja College, Mumbai University. The team included Vilas Wahane, Jaya Gholwe, Rupali Mokashi, Pankaj Samel, Pramod Waghmere, Arvind Asabe, Mohana R. and Dr. Pawar. The caves are under the jurisdiction of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
Rupali Mokashi and Pankaj Samel termed it “an accidental discovery because we had visited these caves several times to study the epigraphical records there” but during one of these visits, “we noticed a few drawings on the ceiling of a natural cave.” Mr. Vilas Wahane, assistant director, State Archaeology Department, said there were many paintings plastered over with mud. “We do not know when this vandalism took place. But the ASI can conserve these important heritage sites because it has its own Chemistry branch and trained conservators. Since the paintings are on basalt rock surface, exfoliation is a problem. So the images require proper chemical treatment,” he added.
Specialists in Buddhist studies are familiar with the Kondane caves. An unfinished Buddhist chaitya and a vihara were found in two man-made caves in the group. A chaitya is a Buddhist prayer hall with a stupa at one end. A vihara is a monastery. The Buddhist rock-cut architecture found in these caves belongs to the Hinayana phase of Buddhism.