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Glorious Bhimbetka-A Catalogue Based on IGNCA's Dr. Yashodhar Mathpal Collection

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Item Code: HAN129
Author: Bansi Lal Malla
Publisher: Indira Gandhi National Centre For The Arts
Language: English
Edition: 2022
ISBN: 9788194380368
Pages: 303
Other Details 12x8.5 inch
Weight 1.50 kg
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Book Description
About the Book

Glorious Bhimbetka: A Catalogue based on IGNCAS Dr. Yashodhar Mathpal Collection is mainly based on the water colour reproductions of the rock paintings of Bhimbetka made by Dr. Yashodhar Mathpal and acquired by IGNCA for archival and research purposes. These paintings are now housed in the IGNCA Cultural Archive.

The galleries of rock painting of Bhimbetka were discovered by Dr. V. V. S. S. Wakankar in 1957 from Raisen district of Madhya Pradesh. Its area is extended over 10 km and is easily accessible through the link road from Bhiyanpur. Evidence of Prehistoric art at Bhimbetka is as rich as the archaeological remains of man's habitation. As this place covers a long period of time which shows a considerable variations in content and style of the paintings. It is one of the most splendid rock art sites known to the world. The site has now become synonymous with rock art in India and was recognised as a World Heritage Site on 3rd July, 2003 by UNESCO.

About the Author

Prof. Bansi Lal Malla, an Art Historian with specialisation in Indian art and culture studies is presently associated with the Adi Drishya Division of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi. He has obtained his Master's degree in History from Kashmir University, Master's degree in Museology and Ph.D. in History of Arts from the Banaras Hindu University.

Prof. Malla is the author of The Sculptures of Kashmir, Vaisnava Art and Iconography of Kashmir, Trees in Indian Art, Mythology and Folklore, Conservation of Rock Art (ed.), Cosmology and Cosmic Interpretations: Shaiva Thought and Art of Kashmir, Rock Art Studies: Concept, Methodology, Context, Documentation and Conservation Vol. I (ed.), Rock Art Studies: Interpretation through Multidisciplinary Approaches Vol. II (ed.), The World of Rock Art: An Overview of the Five Continents (ed.), Global rock Art (ed.), Rock Art of Andhra Pradesh: A New Synthesis (General ed.); Rock Art of India: Suitable Dating Techniques (ed.), Glimpses of India-China Rock Art, Silent Rock's and Eloquent Testimony: Rock Art Heritage of Odisha (General ed.), Cultural Ecology: Prehistoric and Ethno- archaeological Context of Indian Rock Art with Emphasis on North-Eastern States (ed.) and ???????? ?? ???????? ??? (????? ??????). Besides a number of research articles published in reputed professional journals, he has also participated in many national and international conferences/workshops both in India and abroad. Prof. Malla has widely travelled in India, France, Italy, Iran, and China in connection with his field studies and conferences. His area of interest is both classical and vernacular traditions. He has been associate IGNCA-UNESCO-UNDP project on Village India i.e. "Identification and Enhancement of India's Cultural Heritage: An Internal Necessity for the Management of Development".

Currently, Dr. Malla is engaged in documentation, ecological conservation and ethno-archaeological study and survey of Indian Rock Art; and also in Himalayan Studies.


The existence of different forms of rock art in India and in other parts of the world amply proves that the cognitive evolution of the prehistoric people followed a general pattern. Our ancestors, right from the dawn of human civilization used their sense perceptions to experience, reflect and express themselves through their ability to sing and dance, draw, engrave and replicate their experiences through acts of congregative rituals. Human anxiety or even ecstasy may have acted as a primeval urge to paint or engrave as a method of thought articulation. It is in this context that the study of rock art gains paramount importance.

The Adi Drishya Department of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) is visualised to study and experience this ancient worldview through its different art forms and associated subjects. It uses the holistic worldview, so forcefully articulated throughout Indian tradition(s) and emphasised by modern research. It highlights its academic, research work in its publications, international and national seminars, conferences, exhibitions, lecture series and digital and physical databases.

It gives me immense pleasure to note that the present publication Glorious Bhimbetka: A Catalogue based on IGNCA's Dr. Yashodhar Mathpal Collection may not have come at a better time, when IGNCA will be celebrating centenary of Dr.Vishnu Shridhar Wakankar, popularly known as Haribhau, the pioneer of rock art studies in India. The credit for discovery of Bhimbetka Rock art site in 1957 goes to him. This volume will also be a tribute to Dr. Yashodhar Mathpal, a multifaceted scholar and renowned artist, who has reproduced all the paintings of Bhimbetka published in this volume.

I am confident that this beautifully illustrated volume will prove to be rewarding and will go a long way in enriching people about rock art, particularly the rock art of Bhimbetka, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It would be seventeenth publication under IGNCA's Rock Art Series.

I congratulate Dr. Bansi Lal Malla, author and his young and devoted team for their concerted efforts in bringing out this volume. I trust that this publication will achieve the objectives of enhancing and promoting rock art studies in India.


The Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) has conceived a major academic programme related to exploring artistic manifestations emanating from man's primary sense perceptions. Amongst the senses that lead to aesthetic experience are vision (drishya) and hearing (shravya). Rock art forms a crucial component of the Adi Drishya Department. IGNCA is perhaps the only organisation in India that has a separate department solely working on man's primeval vision. This new initiative is meant to widen the vision scope of various art forms and traditions that have been in practice for ages.

This newly formed department has been conceived with the aim of paying special attention to a new kind of inter-disciplinary research involving allied disciplines like Anthropology, Geology, Art History etc., which can open new horizons in the study of Prehistoric art. IGNCA's concern with Prehistoric rock art is neither restricted to archaeologists or prehistorian's concern with establishing a linear chronological order of Prehistoric rock art and nor is it restricted to the identification of style and school as criterion for establishing chronology. Instead, it is a concern for man's creativity across time and space and civilisations and cultures through the perception of sight.

The study of rock art is an emerging discipline in India. It is an integral part of our culture since it has been in existence from time immemorial. It is a form of historical records that help us understand the development of artistic and cultural traditions and belief systems in various ecological niches in various chronological contexts. It cannot be studied in isolation; it has to be related to its cultural, ecological and chronological contexts to understand its meaning and significance.


Rock art is one of our greatest surviving art treasures. It is a vital archaeological source for studying and analysing the cognitive evolution of human intellect across the world. As the written word had not yet been conceived, the urge to articulate, document and preserve ideas and events found expression in pictorial representations. The vast corpus of rock art found in almost all parts of the world provides the most comprehensive database for understanding universal forms of expression and communication in human societies, right from the Pleistocene epoch. The intrinsic value of rock art lies in its universal appeal and in its ability to endure and survive in a manner in which everyone can experience it. Till the recent past, the content of rock art was studied as an indicator of the evolution of the cognitive capabilities of its authors. However, of late attempts are being made by scholars to explore the possibility of the proximity of rock art to the art of indigenous societies of the world such as aborigines, tribals, agro-pastoral and nomads. Rock art has now come to be recognised as an independent subject in art, archaeology and ethnography. Scientific and multidisciplinary studies involving chronology, ecology, the process of site formation and landscape archaeology have been initiated in India recently. Since rock art is an intricate and complex domain that covers material and cognitive aspects of culture, a multidisciplinary approach has been recommended to decode and understand it in all its dimensions. India is fortunate as it possesses one of the three largest concentrations of this world heritage, the other two being Australia and South Africa, where rock art is still a living pursuit.

The study of rock art has great relevance in the context of re- definitions in the study of all arts. So far, we have followed mechanistic and analytical approaches which assume that the underlying significance of this kind of creativity cannot be inferred by statistical counts of frequency of figures though nothing can undermine the complexity and richness of this tradition more. At the moment, there is not much available in India by way of interpretative treatment of Prehistoric art. The new multidisciplinary approach initiated by the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), New Delhi aim at a global view of culture and of the very essence of the spirit of our species (Homo sapiens). Generally speaking, archaeological, ethnographical and psycho-analytical approaches are being followed in the study of rock art.

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