THE ROCK ART OF CENTRAL INDIA BY DR JEAN CLOTTES

THE ROCK ART SITE OF CHATURBHUJNATH NALA

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The Chaturbhujnath Nala sites, near Gandhi Sagar, extend over several miles on both sides of the small but beautiful river which is a tributary to the Chambal. Even though largely unknown outside India, they are of world importance and particularly significant, for a number of reasons.
 
The rock art is situated in a very beautiful unspoiled scenery, in a succession of shallow rock shelters strewn along both sides of the river, a few meters above it . As always, the environment is a most important part of rock art. That environment is being monitored and preserved within the Gandhi Sagar Game Sanctuary, by the Forest officers and staff, which means that the best conditions exist for its continuing conservation. In fact there are hardly any examples of the vandalism (graffiti) which could have been expected in such an open place. The 302 square kilometres Park was created in 1974 and protects numerous wild animals such as panthers, bears (chingaras), wild boar, barking deer, hyenas, wolves, foxes, porcupine and, naturally, monkeys.
rock art India
Humped cows along the river
rock art India
Line of painted shelters along the river
The very long lines of shelters and their accessibility have made it possible to make thousands of rock paintings over rather vast distances. Others will no doubt be discovered in the future. In the company of their discoverer, Ramesh K. Pancholi (Photos 43, 56), we saw an uninterrupted series of painted shelters along one kilometre, which make Chaturbhujnath Nala one of the longest and most important rock art "galleries" in the world.
rock art India
Bovids on a line
rock art India
Humped bull with huge horns
The paintings themselves extend over a very long period of time (nearly 10,000 years, since the Mesolithic) and exhibit marked stylistic and thematic differences: those sites thus provide an invaluable record of the cultural beliefs and practices of the local people and must be considered as a precious and outstanding archive. Many are superbly rendered and as "good" as any great work of art.
 
An attempt has been made (Kumar et al. 1992: 17) to work out a succession of Styles for the innumerable paintings found in the Chambal valley area, among which animals are dominant, and in particular buffaloes, bovids, antelope, deer, elephants, rhinos, fish and wild boar.
 
SUCCESSION FOR THE ART (Kumar et al. 1992: 17)
Several main periods were determined, including 12 Styles all in all:
Styles 1 & 2 belong to the Upper Palaeolithic, down to about 12,000 BP, with "“light red and dull green" (id.) images and dynamic dancers "generally wearing animal head masks" (id.). The figures in Style 2 would have thicker lines than the former ones (Photos 41, 42, 83).
Styles 3 to 5 cover the period from the early to the late Mesolithic (from roughly12,000 to 6,000 BP). First, with dynamic masked archers sometimes sporting flaps from their waists (Style 3). Then animals with body decorations and also archers but with different garments (Style 4). In Style 5 there would be a marked stylisation of the figures.
Style 6 The transition between Mesolithic and Chalcolithic (about 6,000 to 5,000/4,000 BP), with a simplification of the images. Cattle are represented for the first time. Humans are stick figures.
Styles 7 to 9 In Style 7, the animals are smaller than before (10 to 30 cm), in a majority painted in "hematite wash" i.e. in a flat tint. Humped bulls (Photos 72, 85). Family and dance scenes (Photos 56, 57). Hunting. Style 8 is more abstract, with a more geometrical body for animals. Chariots appear. Community and individual dances, fishing from a boat, hunting. Humped bulls are dominant. Arrows are tipped with elongated barbs. Style 9 is highly stylised. Cattle and deer are dominant. Rhinos (Photo 45). Warriors in chariots (Photo 59). Dances. Styles 10 to 12 would belong to the early, middle and late Historic period (from about 2,500 to recent times).
Style 10 Completely stylised, stiff. Men with bows and arrows or long spears. First inscriptions in Ashokan Brami characters.
Style 11 Highly abstract. Cattle in herds. Elephants. The colours are bright red and/or white. Men with axes (Photo. 60). Legs are generally combined in a single triangular form upside down.
Style 12 From the 10th century AD onwards. Very simple figures, rather similar to the ones painted on house walls in tribal art. Animals, warriors, elephant riders, swordsmen, hand prints and geometric designs (Photo 90).
 
rock art India rock art India rock art India
Two women with
hourglass bodies
Sketchy dynamic figures
attributed to Mesolithic
Humans carrying
objects
 
 
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