Bhimbetka Caves, numbering about 700 (only 15 rock shelters are open for the public), is located 46 km away from Bhopal, the state capital, in the Raisen District. Spread over an area of 10 km (length) X 3 km (width), these caves are located on the southern tip of the Vindhyachal Mountains.
The 22nd site to be declared a UNESCO Heritage Site in India, the Bhimbetka Caves get their name from Bhim, the famous Pandava, who, it is believed, had rested at the place after being banished from his kingdom along with other Pandavas.
Much renamed for their pre-historical paintings, the caves have the largest collection of pre-historical art in India. Interestingly, some of the paintings are as old as 12000 years, while some others seem to have been made as recently as in the medieval period. The paintings are made on the walls of the many rock shelters located amidst craggy cliffs.
Most of the paintings are superimposed, and they shed much light on the early passages of human life. One can find the paintings of wild buffalos, rhinoceros, bears, and tigers. Hunting scenes, religious rites, childbirth, and burials are also depicted through the many paintings at the caves.
Aptly called picture writings, these paintings were made in red and white colors and have magnificently survived the vagaries of time and weather. The colors for the paintings were made by mixing manganese with red stone and wooden coal. Sometimes, leaves extracts and animal fats were also used to make the colors more vibrant.
The spectral Bhimbetka Caves are ornithologists' paradise also. From here, one can see many species of birds, including some rare ones not seen elsewhere.
When to visit
The best time to visit the Bhimbetka Caves is between October and March. The caves remain open on all weekdays, except Mondays, between 10 and 5 PM.