Bhimbetka was an accidental discovery, In 1957, archaeologist Dr Vishnu Wakankar noticed these structures from the train window while going to Nagpur. They were similar to the rocks that he had previously studied in France and Spain. He went to the area with his team of archaeologists and discovered these shelters which dated back to the pre-historic times. Several studies, later on, showed that these caves dated back to the Stone Age and served as some of the first human settlements during that time.
Bhimbetka Caves, also known as the Bhimbetka Rock Shelters, is an archaeological site located in the Raisen District of Madhya Pradesh. As per the legend, Bhimbetka is named after Bhim, the second brother among the Pandavas in the Mahabharata. Some locals believe that Bhim rested here after he was exiled along with his brothers. Legends also say that he used to sit outside these caves and on top of the hills to interact with the people in the area. Since the word sat translates to baitha in Hindi, the place was called Bhimbetka which means the place where Bhim sat.
Another story says the cave was inhabited by demons. Hence, they are also occasionally called ‘dant’ meaning teeth, and in this case, referring to the teeth of the demons who lived here.
These rock caves are believed to be the oldest petroglyphs in the world. Some of the rock paintings in the area are very similar to aboriginal rock art found in Australia and the Paleolithic Lascaux cave paintings discovered in France. The rock shelters and caves of Bhimbetka have a large number of paintings. The oldest paintings are found to be 10,000 years old, but some of the geometric figures date to as recently as the medieval period. The colours used are vegetable colours which have endured through time because the drawings were generally made deep inside a niche or on inner walls.
Despite there being more than 700 rock shelters, only 12 to 15 are open and accessible to visitors. This titan discovery gives us the opportunity to witness the lives of our predecessors and is a rich source of history.