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Rock Art (A Catalogue)

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Item Code: UAT629
Publisher: Indira Gandhi National Centre For The Arts
Author: S.S. BISWAS
Language: English
Edition: 2012
ISBN: 9788191063516
Pages: 276 (Throughout Color Illustrations)
Other Details 9.00 X 12.00 inch
Weight 1.71 kg
Book Description
About The Book

Rock art refers to paintings and engravings found on the surfaces of rock shelters and caves. The art forms executed usually tend to show animals and their hunting scenes. In other cases human figures drawn in a series are shown in dancing modes. While in some other cases one can see such activities as honey collection, fishing or even grinding cereals. Besides these, palm prints constitute another common depiction.

Rock art evidences are known from almost all over the world. Some of these may be 20,000 to 30,000 years old while there are others which are as young as 600-800 years. The continuity of the human urge to paint or engrave is not only culturally very significant but it also shows consistent behaviour of man in time and space. In India we find a continuing folk tradition of executing art. These are connected with complex series of rituals and are supported by oral traditions.

The themes chosen for rock art have been investigated by various authors in order to deduce some form of interpretation of these depictions. Animal figures or their hunting scenes can be easily tied to the anxiety of subsistence and possibly articulating this in the manner of sympathetic magic. The occurrence of numerous signs and symbols, however, indicate a very complex symbolic world that dominates the mind set of man and gave rise to rituals around these symbols.

Studying rock art is, therefore, like studying the mind of past men which otherwise would always remain shrouded in the dark area of ignorance.


On the occasion of a week-long International Conference on Rock Art from 6th-12th December, 2012, the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA). New Delhi in collaboration with the Indian Archaeological Society (IAS). New Delhi is organising an exhibition 'Adi Drshya-A Primeval Vision of Man' in Matighar and Twin Art Gallery. A catalogue of this exhibition is being published on this occasion. It is indeed a mega event that will go a long way for furthering the study of Rock Art, not only in India but all over the world. Besides, there will be interactive workshops with artists from Gujarat. Maharashtra and Odisha who still practise the age-old tradition of painting on the walls of their houses. The rock-art experts from India will also demonstrate how colours were made from natural sources and paintings done on rock surfaces. These interactive workshops will not only cater to the professionals but also people from all walks of life including students from schools and colleges.

The exhibition at Matighar has been divided into two sections: the ground floor displays the rock art tradition of the country and the first floor showcases the living art traditions of three communities- the Lanjia-Saoras of Odisha, the Rathwa-Bhils of Gujarat and the Warlis of Maharashtra. The ground floor of the Matighar has been divided into six sections: the first one is the thematic area which will recreate for the viewers an ambience of a rock shelter and the first record of practicing the human aesthetics. From the thematic area viewers will enter the Central region which displays the rock art tradition known from Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. This region gives way to Western region which showcases rock art of Rajasthan and Gujarat. From here one moves to the Southern region where rock art of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamilnadu is presented. Thereafter, one enters the Eastern region comprising of Odisha, Bihar and Jharkhand where such artistic records are seen. Finally, one moves into the Northern region where rock art of Ladakh, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh is on show. The wide and diverse rock art traditions that are on display in this exhibition are mainly based on the acquisitions and documentation conducted by the IGNCA.

The living art traditions of India particularly of the Lanjia-Saoras of Odisha, the Rathwa-Bhils of Gujarat and the Warlis of Maharashtra are showcased along the stairs and on the first floor of Matighar.

The Twin Art Gallery of the IGNCA presents the World Rock Art tradition. broadly divided into five continents i.e., Africa, Europe, Australia, Asia and America- both North and South. The selection of these art forms from the huge corpus of the world rock art repositories is not an easy task yet it has been achieved with the judicious choice of exhibits as well as presenting them in their tradition-wise and also in chronological order. In addition, two panels display hand prints/stencils and cup-marks or cupules which are unique as they have an universal appeal and have also a special place in the rock art tradition of the world. We are indeed indebted to those whose works and illustrations have enriched the exhibition as well as the catalogue. All efforts are taken to acknowledge their contributions at appropriate places.


The existence of rock art, both in the figurative and non-figurative forms, The in India and other parts of the world goes to prove that the cognitive evolution of the prehistoric people followed the general pattern. From the dawn of the civilisation, the Homo sapiens has used the sense perceptions to experience, reflect and express himself through the ability to sing and dance, draw or etch, or to replicate experience through acts of congregative rituals. Rock art can serve as a tool for developing a better understanding and a spirit of cooperation and peaceful relations among the people of the world.

Interest in rock art as a body of concrete evidence of human mind is barely 150 years old. Almost half of this period, this database remained buried under cover of wonderment rather than being used as the base of serious study. Furthermore, hardcore archaeologists wedded to basic science of geochronology and biostratigraphy found rock art of little significance. It is only during the last five decades that rock art is being considered for the understanding of human cognition. The areas of human anxiety or even ecstasy may have acted as the primeval urge to paint or engrave as a method of articulation of thought. Human beings of the past may have left their own history in various forms of writings but the mind of the pre-literate society is lost in the fathomless well of the past. It is in this context that the study of rock art gains paramount importance.

The Indira Gandhi National Centre of the Arts (IGNCA) has been deeply concerned about the lack of awareness of study, documentation and conservation of all and diverse evidences of rock art spread all over this country. The IGNCA Rock Art programme under its Adi Drshya project, consequently, was undertaken about twenty years ago. It is the second International conference on rock art organised by IGNCA in order to update its documentation and present it in the world context. The centre is also organising an exhibition of rock art from all over the world on this occasion. and bringing out a catalogue. The exhibition and its catalogue will provide a brief overview of this monumental task undertaken. It also aims to enhance and promote rock art research, especially in India. I am immensely happy to note that the present publication has been brought out at an appropriate time, when IGNCA is celebrating its Silver Jubilee Year of its foundation.

I wish the conference full success. I hope and trust that the delegates have a pleasant and productive stay and have time to visit important rock art sites in India.

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