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28 July 2011
Indian rock paintings tell of bygone era

In a large rock formation close to the village of Sebalpani - about 10km from Ambaji town, Gujarat, in northwest India - are found caves with unique rock paintings.
     Very few people know of these paintings and no historian or archaeologist seems to have mentioned them. They seem to have been made first with white colour, but some were later given a coating of red, and depict life and activities of a period that must have a record in history - but no one knows which period it is. Most depict scenes of war with images of men carrying swords and riding horses. At another place on the rocks, there is a small image that looks like two women extracting butter from a pot full of buttermilk.
     YS Rawat, director of the state archaeology department, said that he had heard about the rock art at Sebalpani village. "In the mountain ranges in the north-east of Gujarat, there are several places - like Tejgadh near Chhota Udepur, and Tarsang near Lunavada - where such rock paintings have been found. But that such rock art exists near Banaskantha is definitely something new." He further explained that the tradition of rock paintings is alive to this day among the tribal communities.
     Professor VH Sonawane, retired professor of archaeology and ancient history of MS University, Vadodara, said he was not aware of the Sebalpani rock paintings. "Rock paintings of the prehistoric era don't depict soldiers fighting. But the paintings of the late historic period would depict such scenes. Many would also depict routine practices of their time. There are some sites - for instance, around Idar in Sabarkantha - where such paintings can be found," Sonawane said.
     Paintings in sandstone rock shelters at Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh - 500km east-southeast of Sebalpani - earned that place status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Edited from DNA India (24 July 2011)

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