A team of archaeologists, carrying out explorations on the Satpura ranges in Gawilgarh Hills in the border township of the Tapti-Purna valley stumbled on these ancient paintings, dispelling the myth that Vidarbha and its neighbouring region is bereft of such artistic treasures from our past.
About 71 new rock shelters harbouring paintings and engravings have been found at the site, which may give a tough competition to the World Heritage site of Bhimbetka near Bhopal, ASI officials said.
The decorated rock shelters were discovered by a joint team of ASI's Nagpur-based Pre-history and Excavation Branch-I during the ongoing exploration and documentation work in remote parts of Satpura range.
Besides, the ASI team camping at village Chincholi Gawli, about 25 kilometres from Morshi in Amravati district (Vidarbha region) has also discovered more than 200 un-decorated rock shelters.
Since last week of December 2012, the team has so far discovered 89 rock shelters.
"The assiduous work done by team members amidst arduous terrains has led to fascinating discoveries," Nandini Bhattacharya Sahu, Superintendent Archaeologist, Prehistory Branch, (Nagpur) and leader of the exploration team said.
She said the rock shelters carry decorations on walls, ceilings and floors.
Decors comprise petroglyph's in various forms, such as engravings, bruising, pecking and pictographs in various colours, viz red, various shades of red, white, black and green.
The pictographs or paintings usually illustrate human, animal, bird, tree and abstract geometric figures and are depicted by stick figures, outlines, solid and X-ray figures.
The engravings usually exhibit elements of natural world as well as abstract themes.
The decorated shelters are spread in an area of approximately 40 square kilometres, Sahu said.
Sahu said paintings in these shelters are pre-historic, chalcolithic as well as historical in nature, varying in time frame from the beginning of the Quaternary period to the recent past.
Though it is premature to comment on the exact chronology of the art in these shelters, going by the enormous studies done and stylistic similarities with the other Central Indian rock art, these rock arts can be deemed to be belonging to the time bracket of the Upper Palaeolithic, through Mesolithic and Chalcolithic to the historical times.Also painted in at least two shelters are writings in the Shankhalipi.
Commonly, the earliest of these may be loosely stated to be approximately 12,000 years old, she said.
Her expert team included Gajanan Katade, N K Nimje, Dr K M Girhe, Indira Tiwari, Ekta Dharkar, Dr Vijay Gedam, P S Pashine, R D Deshpande, M S Kadhao, T B Thapa, Kapil Chutele from Prehistory Branch and Dr Prabash Sahu, Dr Rajesh Mehar, Manohar Kambe, M G Dahake, Kartik Mudaliar, Mehtab Alam from the Excavation Branch.
She said human vandalism was noticed at many places while visiting some of the shelters. If not checked in time, it may lead to rapid decadence of the site.The vandalism was pointed out by the ASI team leader to the District Magistrate, Chandra Shekhar and Superintendent of Police, Betul (MP), during their visit to the camp.