Rock Art is widely distributed in Northern, Western, Eastern and Southern part of India right from Ladakh, (J&K), Manipur and Himachal Pradesh to Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The most important Mesolithic rock art sites include Bhimbetka, Adamgarh, and Pachmarhi, and many in the Jharkhand region.
This is primarily due to its unique geo-environmental set-up which favoured the evolution of early human culture on the Central Indian plateau. This is therefore that the mountainous region of the Vindhya and Satpura ranges which confine the Central Narmada Valley where Stone Age man flourished, have the largest number of rock art sites.
The Vindhyan and Satpura ranges are fractured and elevated to such a way which produced natural shelters and caves of the Block Mountains. These shelters could easily be occupied by early hunter-gatherers and pastorals.
Bhimbetka rock art shelters in the Vidhyan Range and the Adamgarh and Pachmarhi in the Satpura are among the most important rock art sites in India, beside the Daraki Chattan in Chhattisgarh and numerous in the Hazaribagh, Giridih and Kodarmada, Chatra region of the Jharkhand several which have become fairly known in recent years through the efforts of Dr. (Colonel) A.K. Prasad.
- The paintings at Bhimbetka are found on the walls, ceiling and hollows in the shelters.
- They are made in red and white colours and less commonly in green, yellow and black colours derived from minerals in the rocks and earth.
- The paintings can be divided into two chronological stages:
- prehistoric and
- The chief subjects of the prehistoric paintings are scenes of wild animals, hunting, trapping and fishing.
- Less common are depictions of daily life, dancing, singing, playing musical instruments, celebrating birth, and grieving sickness and death.
- In all these sites Hunting scenes predominate
Based on the subject matter, colour, style, encrustation and superimposition, the rock art of India is in general classified in four broad developmental stages.
- Stage 1 is represented by the hunters and gatherers in symbols/ petroglyphs bearing Palaeolithic to Mesolithic antiquity
- Stage 2 depicts the hunters and gatherers in hunting and dancing scenes, in addition to the symbols and geometric designs of the Mesolithic period.
- Stage 3 rock art depicts the settled agriculturist and animal keepers using pottery
corresponding to the Neolithic/Chalcolithic period.
- Stage 4 rock art represents the people of the early historic period.
- Among the zoomorphs, the horses and horse-riders predominate within the anthropomorphs in which figures of the archers and armed men/ warriors are quite frequent representing inter- ethnic or intra-ethnic struggles especially in the Central India.
- The dance-styles and certain rituals portrayed in the rock art find similarity with the contemporary regional tribal way of life.
- Hunters in groups armed with barbed spears pointed sticks, arrows, and bows.
- Trap and snares used to catch animals can be seen in some paintings.
- Animals painted in a naturalistic style and humans were depicted in a stylistic manner.
- Women are painted both in nude and clothed.
- Young and old equally find places in paintings.
- Community dances provide a common theme.
- Sort of family life can be seen in some paintings (woman, man, and children)