New rock art sites discovered

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An archaeological investigator has claimed to have discovered a few rock art sites in the Manjapetty-Anjunadu valley of Idukki district. 

Superimposed cave paintings that used pigments made of kaolin, claimed to have been discovered by an archaeological investigator in the Manjapetty-Anjunadu valley of Idukki district. They depict human and anthropomorphic figures and dances [Credit: The Hindu]

While pursuing a diploma course in archaeology, Benny Kurian, who works as an eco-tourism consultant in Idukki and lives in Kochi, discovered nine cave paintings and one rock engraving at Manjapetty on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border. 

He and K. Dhanushkodi, a Marayur-based social worker, claimed to have jointly discovered eight cave paintings, including those in a dolmen. The Marayur grama panchayat recently published a book, ‘Archeological Survey of Marayur Grama Panchayat: 2010,’ written by Mr. Kurian on archeological monuments in the region and his new discoveries. 

Mr. Kurian says: “A few rock art sites were discovered by Dr. Padmanabhan Thampi in this region in the 1970s. They are located at Kovilkkadavu, Aattala, Ezhuthala (Pathippara) and Purachiala (Chambakkadu). Of the sites spotted by me, the biggest is located at Ezhuthalamadi, about 15 km from Chinnar. The cave is about 100 metre long and 15 metre tall. It contains 208 paintings depicting images of fighting, burial, elephants, Nilgiri tahr, sambar deer, rituals and dances.” 

A rock engraving is also seen in the cave, he claims. 

Different themes 

“Red ochre, kaolin and ashes are the pigments used for the paintings. Superimposed anthropomorphic figures are the specialty of the rock art discovered. The walls of the cave sport six holes. They contain red and yellow-coloured rock dust,” he says. 

The paintings found in the new rock sites discovered have different themes. “They belong to different periods. Some of them could be about 2,500 years old. Most of the paintings have been done with fingers and the rest with fine brushes. Paintings of ‘Payee’ (Ghost) are seen in small shelters. The rites and dances depicted are similar to the ritual art forms of the Malapulaya tribe,” he says. 

He claims that a painting found inside the walls of a dolmen belongs to a later period. 

“Two anthropomorphic figures are drawn in the middle of the images of two big beetles. People are believed to have inhabited the region between Palani and Anjunadu during the Sangam age. Prehistoric paintings and hundreds of megalithic monuments such as dolmens, dwarf dolmens, cists, hero stones and rock inscriptions can be found in the thickly forested area.” 

The themes of some of the paintings, he observes, have ritual associations. “Like African cave paintings, they portray human activity.” 

Mr. Benny has three books, including those on Nature awareness and Western Ghats, to his credit. 

“All the archaeological discoveries in the Marayur-Chinnar-Anjunad valley confirm that it is a culturally important zone in the Western Ghats. Ancient texts and oral history refer to warfare and encounters between different groups in the region. The new discoveries demand detailed study by archaeologists and historians,” says Jenee Peter, archaeologist and assistant professor of history at the Union Christian College, Aluva. 

Author: K. Santhosh | Source: The Hindu [April 17, 2011]

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