6,000 year old rock paintings saved

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A rare cultural heritage of Gujarat has been saved, thanks to the alertness of tribals and the intervention of an M S University (MSU) archaeologist. Rock-paintings in the Raipur hills in Pavi Jetpur taluka of Vadodara district which are unique for being the largest prehistoric paintings dating back to 6,000 years had become vulnerable due to quarrying of granite rocks. 

Rock paintings in a cave near Tejgadh, in Baroda district of Gujarat [Credit: India Together]

Now, thanks to alertness of professor P Ajithprasad from M S University’s Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Vadodara district collector Vinod Rao has issued directives to immediately suspend all quarrying activities in the area. 

The archaeologist himself came to know about the quarrying activities earlier this month when concerned villagers, mostly tribals, who had objected to the quarrying, informed the professor that miners had started blasting the rock shelters again. 

Even two years back, after professor Ajithprasad had approached the then district collector Vijay Nehra, quarrying at the site had been suspended. 

“But earlier this month, I was informed that the activity had started again. And this time, in spite of objection by villagers, the miners were carrying out the activity with protection of some sort of security agencies,” Ajithprasad told TOI. 

The Vadodara district collector has not only issued directives to suspend quarrying but he has also issued directives to demarcate the heritage site. 

“After we suspended quarrying activities in the area, the private party which holds the licence of quarrying at the site adjacent to the rock shelters at Raipur hills had made a representation. But we have decided that a team from the office of the district inspector of land records will conduct a survey of the area. We want that the site where the rock shelters are present are properly demarcated, the boundary of the site be laid and we will also take a written undertaking from the licence holder that there should not be any damage to the site due to the quarrying activities. It will be only after that that we can think of giving them permission,” Rao told TOI. 

Professor Ajithprasad, who has been regularly taking his students to study the ruins, wants the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to declare the painted rock-shelter as a nationally important heritage site. 

“If the ASI declares it as a protected site, these rock paintings which belong to the mesolithic period and are longest – over three metres long – surviving rock paintings in Gujarat can be protected from any future attempt of destruction,” says the professor. 

At one time, the Raipur hills, in fact, were home to two rock-shelters. Over the years, the smaller rock-shelter which too had the rock paintings with dancing figures dating back to the mesolithic period were destroyed. “This smaller rock shelter had was destroyed even before we came to know about the quarrying activities,” he says. 

Author: Prashant Rupera | Source: The Times of India [September 26, 2011]

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