Oldest cave painting leang tedongnge

Oldest cave painting and cave paintings of India

Recently, World’s oldest known cave painting (painted at least 45,500 years ago) was found in the limestone cave of Leang Tedongnge, Indonesia.  Cave paintings of India consist a important part in UPSC and Civil service examination.

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This cave painting is discover in South Sulawesi consists of a life-sized depiction of a warty pig. The previously oldest rock art ‘scene’ at least 43,900 years old, was a depiction of hybrid human-animal beings hunting Sulawesi warty pigs and dwarf bovids. 

Cave paintings of India 

In India the earliest paintings have been date back from the Upper Paleolithic times. These cave paintings are manifestations of the cognitive development of the hominins. Most of these are Mesolithic cave paintings. There is no solid information if Lower Paleolithic people ever produce any art objects. 

The first discovery of rock paintings was in India in 1867–68 by Archibold Carlleyle at Sohagihat in the Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh. The caves of Bhimbetka were discover in 1957–58 by eminent archaeologist V.S. Wakankar.

Cave paintings of India

Distribution of prehistoric cave paintings of India : 

Such Cave paintings sites have been report throughout India in different geological, geographical and climatic zones. But the richest paintings are report from the Vindhya ranges of Madhya Pradesh and their Kaimurean extensions into Uttar Pradesh. These hill ranges are full of Palaeolithic and Mesolithic remains. The colours of these paintings are remain intact because of the chemical reaction of the oxide present on the surface of the rocks. 

Techniques use in cave paintings of India 

In pre-historic paintings, the rock of mineral was first ground into a powder. This may then have been mix with water and also with some thick  and sticky substance such as animal fat or gum or resin from trees. Brushes to paint are of plant fibre. In the later historic paintings, mainly the Fresco-secco technique use can be find. Here, pigments mix with an organic binder and/or lime are apply onto a dry plaster (in Fresco-buno, pigments are apply in a wet wall. This technique is from Italy). 

Salient features of prehistoric cave paintings of India 

The paintings here can be divide into three categories man, animal and geometric. There are more animal figures than human figures. Humans are make in stick-like forms. Wavy lines, rectangle fill geometric designs, and groups of dots can also be find. The main theme of these paintings was Depiction of day-to-day life like hunting, dancing. Various shades of white, yellow, orange, red ochre, purple, brown, green and black colours use can be see here. A few are wash paintings but mostly they are fill with geometric patterns. There is some superimposition of paintings. It may be possible that these caves were paint one above the other for generations. Because of their richness, vary themes, forms, styles and antiquity, the rock paintings of central India have become the synonym of Indian rock paintings. 

Distinctions and similarities both exist in the cave paintings of various regions. For example: Hand-linked dancing human figures are notable depictions in both Lakhudiyar and Bhimbetka caves. 

Salient features of historic paintings 

Paintings have typological variations in these caves. The Main themes of cave paintings of India include religious, mythological, palace scenes. Floral motifs near the ceiling, geometric designs are also paint for decorations. Movements in the figures are very rhythmic. Supple limbs, expression on the faces, swaying movement, speak of the artists’ skill in creative imagination in visualising all the forms. Use of Vibrant and luminous colours predominant . The main colours in use were red ochre, vivid red (vermilion), yellow ochre, indigo blue, lapis lazuli, lamp black (Kajjal), chalk white, terraverte and green. Many skin colours were also use in the cave paintings of India such as brown, yellowish brown, greenish, yellow ochre, etc.  Brown thick dark lines are use as contours. Lines are forceful and full of energy. Attempts are also make to give highlights in the figural compositions.  

Evolution of the prehistoric cave paintings of India 

Upper Palaeolithic 

In upper Palaeolithic Simple iconic animal and human forms appear for the first time.  Animals are show in their natural outlines and humans always in the dynamic action of hunting or dancing execute in abstract form.  These paintings have also been characterise  by perfect ‘S’ shaped human figures depicting activities that look as if they are hunting, dancing and running. It seems that during upper Palaeolithic period it was the upper part of the rocks in the shelter that was mostly painted. 

Mesolithic Cave paintings of India 

In Mesolithic cave paintings Explosion of creativity in the form of numerous motifs, designs. The figures have mostly gently flowing fine lines reflecting dynamic action. The hunters are depict wearing simple clothes and ornaments, elaborate head-dresses and masks could also be seen occasionally. Animal forms are naturalistic depictions and human figures are static and abstract. Male figures are stick like while the women are bulky box shape with intricate body designs as infilling consisting of spiral or honey-comb.  There are Mythical stories depicting huge defied animals chasing diminutive human beings, medical treatment and burial like activity. In Mesolithic period Dance, pregnant women, childbirth and a mother with a child are also drawn. For Example: Lakhajoar (Fishing scene, family feasting in a hut), Bhimbetka (Magical treatment of an ill person), Chaturbhujnath Nala (dynamic archers). 

Neolithic cave paintings of India

In Neolithic period The paintings lose their sense of movement, figures are repetitive signs, humans and animals start becoming more and more schematic and stylized.  Size of the paintings, in general, goes on reducing, though a few big figures are also there. Hunting scenes are there, but hunting as an act of a large group is absent. From now onwards, the solitary hunter is shown. Example: Chaturbhujnath Nala (Chariots appeared), Kupgallu, Piklihal and Tekkalkota

Other cave paintings of India

Ajanta cave paintings

In Ajanta, paintings shows expression of emotions through hand postures. Birds and animals are also showing emotion in the painting. All the paintings in Ajanta caves are fresco paintings. Tempera style use is also there. Tempera style is use of pigments in the paintings. Main themes of Ajanta caves paintings are Jatak tales (Buddhism) and the life of Buddha. Ajanta is the only surviving example of painting of the first century BCE. The first Buddhist cave monuments at Ajanta date from the 2nd and 1st centuries BCE. During the Gupta period (5th- 6th centuries A.D.), many more richly decorated caves were added to the original group.

Ajanta cave paintings of India

Bagh Caves

These caves are Locate on the far banks of the Baghini river, these Caves contain Buddhist paintings and relics dating back to 5th-7th century. Most significant is Cave No. 4, commonly known as the Rang Mahal (the Palace of Colours).  

Ellora paintings

Theme of the paintings of the Ellora caves are Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism. Depiction of scenes of Ramayana and Mahabharat are prominent here. Shiva as natrajan, battle scenes and elephant in lotus pounds are other major paintings. Technique of Ellora paintings are same as Ajanta paintings. These caves show an uninterrupted sequence of monuments dating from A.D. 600 to 1000. They harbour Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temples.

Ellora cave paintings of India

Badami Caves: 

Badami was capital of the early Chalukyan dynasty (543 to 598 CE). These cave paintings are dedicated to Lord Shiva and have earliest Brahmanical paintings (belonging to the 6th century A.D.) known so far.

Badami cave paintings

Sittannavasal cave paintings of India 

It is a rock-cut Jain temple of the Pandyan era (9th century) near Pudukkottai. These cave paintings are dedicated to the Jain themes and symbolism.  

Elephanta/Gharapuri Caves

These Caves were constructed about the mid-5th to 6th centuries AD. They harbour Hindu and Buddhist temples. The remains of the Buddhists Stupas in Elephanta probably belong to the early phase of Buddhism dating 2nd century BC. 

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