As we drove past the highway, we entered the narrow road lined with “flame of forest” trees in full bloom. Green fields dotted with small hamlets, suddenly giving way to the arid landscape. Tall trees devoid of leaves, pale yellow grass surrounding strangely shaped rocks under the grey sky. Flame of forest trees here and there, adding orange hue to the otherwise dull landscape. Finally arrived the gateway to the mysterious world! Massive, unusually shaped rocks surrounded by tall leafless trees, ready to welcome us to the mystic, intriguing and a little spooky world of the past.
My first encounter with the iconic Bhimbetka rock shelters, “Home to our ancestors- The early man” as I like to call it.
If the idea of visiting a place inhabited by humans about 100,000 years ago and the 10,000-year-old rock paintings showcasing the glimpse of life during that time, fascinates you, then you must read this article.
Recently, during my visit to Bhopal, I visited Bhimbetka shelter rocks. It was one-of-a-kind experiences. Standing the test of time, these rock shelters have preserved some of the most precious prehistoric rock paintings. Here is all that you need to know about Bhimbetka.
Must visit place near Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh– Bhimbetka Rock Shelters
If you like to explore offbeat places or if archaeological and historical sites are of your interest, Bhimbetka, the world heritage site is a must-visit
What is Bhimbetka?
Declared as the UNESCO World Heritage site, Bhimbetka is the name given to the area consisting of seven hills (in Vindhyachal mountain range) with more than 750 rock shelters and many prehistoric cave paintings.
The rock shelters and cave paintings in Bhimbetka belong to the Prehistoric, Mesolithic as well as historic period. Some of the rock shelters were inhabited as early as 100,000 years ago. Many of the rock shelters feature paintings from the prehistoric and historic era, giving a glimpse into different aspects of life and cultural evolution. The Oldest known rock paintings in India, some of them are about 10,000 years old. These rock shelters are distributed over an area of 10 km.
An exquisite collection of cave paintings depicts animals, scenes from hunting, dancing and warfare.
Recently, a group of Indian and International paleontologists spotted what could be a 550-million-year-old fossil called Dickinsonia. A complex early form of life. First-ever to be discovered in India.
Where is Bhimbetka
Bhimbetka is situated in the Raisen district of Madhya Pradesh. It is about 45 kilometres from Bhopal, which is the capital city of Madhya Pradesh.
How to reach Bhimbetka from Bhopal
By Road: Bhimbetka is well connected to other places by Road. Public & private buses, auto rickshaws are available. However, the best option is to hire a cab for a day.
By Flight: The nearest Airport that connects Bhimbetka to the rest of India is The Raja Bhoj Airport in Bhopal.
By Train: The nearest railway station to Bhimbetka is also Bhopal.
Best time to visit Bhimbetka
Cave visit timings: 6.30 a.m. to 5.30 pm
Monday to Sunday
October to March is a good time to visit Bhimbetka Shelter rocks as the weather is pleasant and not too hot. Bhimbetka is open for visitors throughout the week. It’s better to visit the caves in the first half of the day during warm and sunny days. However, during the winter’s afternoon is better.
Entry fee to visit Bhimbetka
Bhimbetka Rock Shelter Entry: Rs. 25 for Indians, Rs. 500 for Foreigners, Rs. 100 for 2-Wheelers, Rs. 300 for Cars
Time required to explore Bhimbetka
Out of 750 caves spread across an area of 10 km, 15 rock shelters are open for the visitors. It will take around 2-3 hours if you want to closely observe each rock painting and visit the nearby temple too. The unusual rock structures and all the wilderness around makes it an excellent site for photography.
Places to visit in Bhimbetka
Some of the highlights that you should not miss while visiting Bhimbetka
All the 15 shelter rocks open to the public, display rock art paintings from prehistoric to historic eras. These fascinating paintings depict different facets of community living during the stone age. The paintings include scenes from hunting, celebration & dancing, wars, animals etc. Some of the prominent exhibits in Bhimbetka include –
1. Auditorium Cave
Largest of the 15 shelter rocks, Auditorium cave or Cave no. 3 is situated right at the entrance. With its Gothic arches and high ceiling, the Auditorium cave resembles a “cathedral-like” atmosphere. The cave has a tunnel that branches into three passageway exits. The distinctive boulder structure (resembling sphinx) at the entrance is visible from a distance and in all directions. This boulder is also known as ‘Chief’s Rock’ or ‘King’s Rock’.
2. The Zoo Shelter Rock
Among all the rock paintings, the Zoo Rock Shelter, also known as cave 4 has a large number of animal paintings. The paintings exhibit, around 450 figures including 252 animals and 90 human figures. The animals include Elephants, Bison, Sambhar, all varieties of Deer, Peacock, a Snake, and the sun.
3. The Boar Rock
Also known as cave no. 15 has the most prominent and intriguing painting. It is painted at the height of 9.85 meters from the ground on a peculiar mushroom-shaped rock. The painting depicts a figure of a large boar-like animal. Near its snout is the figure of a fleeing man in front of him. There are other animal figures including buffalo, cow, rhinoceros and langur.
4.The Turtle Rock
Turtle Rock is not a cave but a natural rock formation that prominently resembles a turtle. Located in the middle of the wilderness, the Turtle rock provides a breath-taking view of the countryside and wildlife sanctuary.
5. Bhimbetka Kuldevi Temple
Dedicated to Goddess Vaishno Devi, the temple is situated few 100 meters away from the rock shelters. According to the legends, the temple was set up by the Pandavas during their exile for their Kul-Devi. Outside the temple is a large Rock-seat that overlooks the entire valley, termed ‘Bheem ki baithak’or seat of Bheem used by him, while he was in exile. Hence the name Bhembetka.
Where to eat in Bhimbetka
While visiting Bhimbetka, the only restaurant we found in the vicinity was ‘Highway Treat’ operated by MP tourism. The restaurant is located right at the entrance of the Bhimbetka shelter rocks. I love this restaurant for the open space surrounded by trees and peaceful surroundings. The restaurant offers snacks as well as meals. Do stop by here for a cup of hot tea and pakoras.
Tips to visit the Bhimbetka Caves
• You can always hire a guide for in-depth information. Although all the rock shelter has the description in front of them.
• Do carry a water bottle, cap and sunglasses.
• Wear flat footwear or walking shoes as the path is rocky and uneven.
• The place is very clean and has a toilet as well as drinking water.
• Avoid visiting during the summer and in afternoons.
• Keep the place clean. Do not litter or throw anything
• It’s our responsibility to protect precious heritage sites thereby do not touch any paintings or any protected area.
Should you visit Bhimbetka if you are not fond of Archeological sites?
The answer to this question is a definite “Yes”! Because Bhimbetka is not just a historic site, it’s much more than that. A unique place encompassing mysteries of the bygone era. Apart from this, the place is surrounded by immense natural beauty. All the wilderness around makes it peaceful and a feast for nature lovers. During our visit, the area was so peaceful, we could hear the melodious chirping of the birds.
To conclude, the visit to Bhimbetka was an extremely enriching experience. I learned a lot about the prehistoric era and human evolution. Apart from learning, stepping into a place inhabited by early human settlers and knowing different aspects of their life was overwhelming. The breathtaking beauty and wilderness of Bhimbetka were mysterious, intriguing and soothing at the same time.
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