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11 World Famous Cave Paintings in India That Must Be On Your Travel Itinerary

At present, the world is enthralled with art in general. Whether it is looking at the bewitching ‘Mona Lisa’ or appreciating the beauty of GTA VI, art envelops us. History has come a long way and taught us the myriad art movements. But how did the early man express himself? What kind of art did he make? Where are his flowers? Today, we look at exquisite cave paintings in India, which transport us from the contemporary to prehistoric.

Bhimbetka Cave Paintings in India

The Bhimbetka Cave paintings in India are the prime and oldest examples of prehistoric cave paintings in India. The Bhimbetka cave paintings span across the Paleolithic, the Mesolithic, and the Historic Age. The earliest paintings are dated to 10,000 BCE. Indian archaeologist VN Wakankar classified the cave paintings into seven periods.

Courtesy – Smarthistory
  • Period I: The paintings were made during the Upper Palaeolithic age and showcased stick figures dancing and hunting.
  • Period II: The paintings were smaller and showcased stick figures with weapons. Made during the Mesolithic period, they give us a window to the primordial society rituals.
  • Period III: The Chalcolithic Age paintings displayed the agricultural and trade scenes.
  • Period IV & V: In the Early Historic Age, the colours red, white, and yellow, became popular. Religion and manuscripts originated during this age.
  • Period VI & VII: In the Medieval Age, the paintings became geometrically linear and schematic.

Elephanta Caves

Elephanta Caves stands as one of the famous cave paintings in India. The Elephanta caves are a group of five temples dedicated to Lord Shiva two Buddhist caves, and a few Buddhist Stupa mounds. located at the Elephant Islands. Maharashtra. These rock-cut sculptures were made between the 5th and 9th centuries by numerous Hindu dynasties. 

Courtesy – Inditales

Badami Caves

The Badami caves are yet another magnificent temple complex. The rock-cut architecture still stands in the Bagalkot district of Karnataka. The earliest sculptures date back to the 6th century. The caves present the numerous effigies of Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu, Goddess Durga, numerous dwarfs, and the ‘Tirthankaras.

Courtesy – Hindustan Times

Ajanta Cave Paintings

The Ajanta Caves; a group of 29 Buddhist caves date back to the 2nd century to 480 CE. They are nestled amidst the rugged terrain of the Sahyadri Hills in Maharashtra, India. Carved into the rocky cliffs, these caves are renowned for their exquisite Buddhist paintings and sculptures. The caves contain monasteries and worship halls. Their walls are covered with paintings from Aryasurya’s ‘Jatakamala.’

Courtesy – Mint Lounge

Jogimara Caves

Scholars describe Jogimara Caves as the oldest cave paintings in India used as performance theatre. Non-religious in nature, unlike their counterparts, these cave monuments were made between the 3rd CE to 1st CE. Located in Ramgarh, Chhattisgarh. The caves are covered with inscriptions in Magadhi and Brahmi script. The eight paintings, although corroded, feature a white base of lime followed by red, yellow, and black. The paintings feature girls and boys playing and frolicking along with the animals (elephants and horses).

Courtesy – Puratattva

Bagh Paintings

Situated in Bagh, Madhya Pradesh are a group of nine rock-cut monuments featuring Bagh paintings. They are essentially resting and worshipping places for monks, built during the 5th to 7th century. The Bagh paintings are made over a base of mud plaster primed with lime. The paintings feature portraits of ‘Bodhisattvas’ and their routine.

Courtesy – Rama Toshi Arya’s Blog

Ellora Cave Paintings

The Ellora Cave paintings were made from the 6th CE onwards. Located in Aurangabad District, Maharashtra, the rock-cut cave complex includes 17 Hindu caves, 12 Buddhist caves, and 5 Jain caves. The caves suggest the equality of religious reverence. The Hindu caves feature Lord Shiva and Vishnu, amidst numerous minor deities. The Buddhist caves, worship halls, and resting halls have multiple images of Lord Buddha. The Jain caves carry the effigy of Lord Mahavira. Several inscriptions also decorate each cave.

Courtesy – Wikimedia Commons

Sittanavasal Paintings

The Sittanavasal paintings are located in the Sittanavasal village in Tamil Nadu. The architecture and paintings are attributed to the 9th-century Pandyan dynasty. The ceilings are covered with the motifs of lotus, men, women, birds, and fishes. These seem to borrow from the Jain culture. 

Courtesy – MAP Academy

Armamalai Cave

The Armamalai cave is situated in the Malayampatty village in Tamil Nadu. The natural cave is an 8th-century Jain temple. There is a similarity between the technique and the subject matter of the Armamalai cave and the Sittanavasal paintings. The murals (often in the form of petroglyphs) are made on the walls and the roof by Jain saints. They narrate the stories of minor deities who collectively form the ‘Astathik Palakas.’ Images of swans and plants are also present.

Courtesy – A Wandering Heritager

Adamgarh Hills

The paintings of Adamgarh Hills also come under the umbrella of prehistoric cave paintings in India. The paintings located at Narmadapuram, Madhya Pradesh feature stick figures going on a hunt alongside the then-communal rituals. 19th-century excavations revealed Neolithic paintings, mesolithic and Palaeolithic implements, and Stone Age artefacts.

Courtesy – World History Encyclopedia

Lenyadri Caves Painting

The Lenyadri caves, colloquially known as the Ganesh Lena or Ganesh Pahar are located in Pune, Maharashtra. The Lenyadri cave paintings were all done between 1st and 3rd AD. The cave complex includes 30-rock-cut Buddhist caves. Apart from the two central halls dedicated to the deity’s worship, the caves also include dwelling halls and chapels.

Courtesy – Kevin Standage

Image Courtesy – Wondermondo

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