Cultural Postcards + [South Asia]

India: Prehistoric rock art sites under threat in India
One of the rarest art form of rock paintings discovered in South India is in a nondescript village, Kilvalai, located at around 55km from Puducherry.

Prehistoric rock art sites under threat in India
One of the rare paintings on the rock at Kilvalai village 
in Villupuram district [Credit: The Hindu]

Expressing concern over such rare arts of early mankind in Kilvalai and adjoining places in Villupuram district facing destruction due to various activities of vandalism, art lovers and researchers call for early steps by authorities to preserve them for the benefit of posterity.

The paintings on the small rock called ‘Rattapparai’ are in four sets. In the first set, three persons with a man mounted on a horse, another pulling that horse with a rope fastened to the animal while the third man is depicted with stretched hands welcoming others. The fourth group is a painting of six men standing and few others with outstretched hands.

Such paintings are found in the neighbouring villages -Setavarai, Alampadi, Nayanur, Pollur, Padiyanenthal, Thengunam and Siruvalai.

K.T. Gandhirajan, an independent art researcher said, “The paintings on rocks of Kilvalai are found in three rocky areas and painted in red-ochre. That might be 3000 years old. It is believed that a few symbols of paintings are similar to that found in the Indus Valley civilisation. This must be an ideal shelter for hunter-gatherer community. Among the three rocks, two are facing destructions due to vandalism such as mining in the nearby areas. Due to rampant mining in the nearby-areas and development of microorganisms, the pigment of painting is peeling off. ”

As a heritage rich site situated near Puducherry, where tourists troop in the weekends, art lovers also suggest that these sites can be promoted under heritage tourism.

R. Rajarajan, Assistant Professor of Painting, Bharathiar Palkalai Koodam said, “Several paintings are destroyed due to rampant illegal mining in nearby areas. Kilvalai and other two places are under the protection of the Department of Archaeology, Tamil Nadu but no staffs are deployed there either to protect or guide the visitors.”

Quarrying threatens paleolithic rock art in Palakkad

Indiscriminate quarrying activity in the downhill areas of Nelliyampathy in Palakkad district is threatening the existence of two rock surfaces with unique paleolithic-age cup markings (cupola).

Prehistoric rock art sites under threat in India
The two sites of cupolas on the down-hill areas of 
Nelliampathy mountains [Credit: K.K. Mustafah]

These cup markings are deemed important in the study of primitive paleolithic people of the subcontinent. Such sites are rare in the country.

In the State, such rock surfaces are found at Vellaramkunnu, near the Chulliyar dam, Muthalamada grama panchayat; the adjacent Chappakkad tribal colony; and Parouli in Thrissur district.

Vellaramkunnu and Chappakkad also faces imminent destruction due to large-scale quarrying.

Archaeological investigator Suvarna Nalappatt told The Hindu that the conservation of the cupolas were vital to research.

“Experts call them the oldest art form of humankind. It is believed that human beings started experimenting with fine arts in the beginning of the upper paleolithic era,” Dr. Nalappatt, the managing trustee of the Nalapat Trust of Education and Research, said.

Cupolas are scattered across the world, except Antartica. The cupolas of Nelliyampathy could help trace the ancient history of the region, she said.

“The cup markings in Muthalamada are fairly big and uniform in size. The series in each site bears resemblance to crocodiles,” Dr. Nalappat said.

“The cupolas need protection and preservation by the government. Already, some have been destroyed by local people as they are unaware of the importance of these. Now, the quarries are posing a severe threat,” K. Saravanakumar, an activist, said.

Authors: R. Sivaraman & K.A. Shaji | Source: The Hindu [December 08, 2014]