Bhimbetka is perhaps India’s oldest caves and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site today. They used to be rock shelters to humans about a millennia ago and are home to cave paintings that date back approx. 30,000 years. Yes, it’s that ancient, and an archaeological treasure at that, surviving at the heart of Madhya Pradesh.

Legend goes that Bhimbetka derived from ‘Bhimbaithka’ meaning the sitting place of Bhima from Mahabharata. Home to around 760 rock shelters, out of which 500 are adorned with paintings, there’s a rather mysterious painting here that of an enormous red bison attacking a man which is visible only when the sun is right. The paintings were mainly done in red and white with the occasional use of green and yellow, with themes taken from everyday events and scenes depicting hunting, dancing, music, horse and elephant riders. Animals such as tigers, lions, wild boar, elephants, antelopes, dogs, lizard too have been depicted in some of the caves. Thousand year old art galleries also hide amongst massive, black boulders of Bhimbetka. These naturally carved rocks surrounded by dense forests were discovered and revealed to the world only in 1957.

The hill range of Bhimbetka rise 600 meters above sea level and spread over 1892 hectares of core area comprising of 5 hills namely Bineka, Bhonrawali, Bhimbetka, Lakha Juar (East) and Lakha Juar (West). The Bhimbetka group of hills is formed of sandstone of the oldest geological formation.

Archaeological evidence at Bhimbetka depict a sequence of culture from the Palaeolithic to the Historical period. Bhimbetka reflects a long interaction between people and landscape, as demonstrated in its rock art. Since Bhimbetka has always been closely associated with the hunter-gatherer community, it is evident in the ancient rock art as well as in the relics of the tradition of the local adivasi villages on the periphery of this site.

More than a dozen rock shelters on Bhimbetka are accessible to the traveller. There are proper pathways to visit these shelters. However there are no pathways yet for many other shelters on the hill. Take the help of a guide if you want to explore the rock shelters in depth. The nearest airport from Bhimbetka is in Bhopal, about 55km away. Raja Bhoj Airport in Bhopal is well connected with some of the important Indian cities like Delhi and Mumbai.