From the Jacket
Prehistoric Rock Paintings of Bhimbetka by Dr. Yashodhar Mathpal is the first exhaustive study of a single rock art site in India. It covers the entire art activity in the form of paintings found in 133 caves at Bhimbetka, Central India, the largest concentration of rock paintings in the country.
For the first time copies of prehistoric cave paintings have been made on the spot, in original colour, to scale and with original background. All the superimpositions of figures have been copied.
For the first time Indian rock paintings are dated 10, 000 years back on the firm ground of the archaeological findings from the excavations of painted caves. For the first time Indian rock paintings have been studied in their historical perspective.
For example the first discovery of rock paintings was made in India 12 years before their discovery of Altamira in Spain. India is also the first country to recognize the antiquity of rock paintings. For the first time too the maximum literary, ethnologic and archaeological evidences have been researched for evidence of drawing material, motivation and the antiquity of rock paintings.
In his foreword to this monumental work Professor H.D. Sankalia says: "This work is unique because for the first time prehistoric Indian paintings are evaluated by a scholar who is artist by nature and training and a trained prehistorian, and thus eminently qualified to write on the subject."
Besides being an artist of repute, Dr. Yashodhar Mathpal, 44, is a prehistorian and student of Indian art. A first class Master of Arts and diploma holder in fine arts, he worked eight years under the guidance of Professor H. D. Sankalia and Professor V.N. Misra, the doyens of Indian archaeology.
Mathpal, who has won a gold medal and several other prizes for his water colours, has nine one-man shows of his paintings and four dozen research article to his credit.
He has discovered rock art sites and made comprehensive studies of the paintings at Bhimbetka and of Shyamala hill in Madhya Pradesh. He participated in the archaeological excavations at Bhimbetka and directed the excavation of a painted cave near Bhopal. As a post-doctoral fellow, Dr. Mathpal is currently engaged in a study of the rock paintings of Central India. He is also working for the establishment of a folk culture museum at Nainital, Uttar Pradesh.
Prehistoric Rock Paintings of Bhimbetka is the first exhaustive and comprehensive study of a single site of this kind in the country. It covers all art activity in the form of painting on the walls and ceilings of 133 rock shelters on Bhimbetka hill in the Vindhyas 45 kilometres southeast of Bhopal. A total of 6214 drawings have been copied in 400 compositions.
These drawing include human figures, engaged in different activities, 29 animal species, decorative designs, handprints and inscriptions. These figures, drawn over a span of nearly 8000 years, are found in 16 superimposed layers. On the basis of superimposition, subject matter and style they are divided into nine phases (A-I) and three periods (prehistoric, transitional and historic). Each figure has been studied according to subject, colour, style, technique, phase and location. All the figures are drawn in original colour, to scale and on the spot. This is a unique feature of the work not attempted before by any scholar.
Generally, students of Indian rock art have attached very little importance to faithful recording of the paintings. They have used the freehand sketching method and ignored the size, colour and location of a figure. Only well, preserved and sharply visible drawings have been copied. Neither the stratigraphy of the paintings nor the whole compositions have been recorded. The relationship of paintings with excavated materials-colour nodules, stone implements-was also not established in earlier studies.
Dr Mathpal has spent nearly a year copying the drawings and four years in their analysis. So far nobody in India has attempted to reproduce the cave paintings in such faithful detail. He also studied the paintings of other principal rock art sites and has compared the Bhimbetka paintings with those of other Indian sites as well as with African, European and Australian rock paintings. He has also compared the rock paintings with Indian Chalcolithic pottery designs and tribal art.
The book contains an uptodate and comprehensive record of all the rock art sites in the country and a brief account of the same art in the other continents.
Richly illustrated with coloured plates, black-and-white drawings, maps and tables, this work is unique because for the first time prehistoric Indian paintings are evaluated by a scholar who is an artist by nature and raining and a trained prehistorian, and thus eminently qualified to write on the subject.
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