Bheem Betika is a world heritage site situated about an hour’s drive from Bhopal towards the south on the Hoshangabad highway.
This world heritage site is known for its pre-historic structures, caves and especially paintings. Bheem Betika was first mentioned in Indian archaeological records in 1888 as a Buddhist site. The earliest paintings on its cave walls is believed to be of the Mesolithic era.
A beautiful winding road through the country side and hills brings one to these famous structures. There is hardly any tourist infrastructure available here, but one can find partially educated locals who double up as tourist guides.
At first sight, these rocky structures can captivate one’s imagination. They seem to bellow out of nowhere amidst dense forests. It gets more interesting as one takes a walk through them.
The entire place is swarming with caves and most of these caves have these prehistoric paintings. There are superimposition of paintings in the caves, which shows that the same canvas was used by different people at different times.
The drawings and paintings can be classified under seven different periods:
Period 1 - (Upper Palaeolithic): These are linear representations, in green and dark red, of huge figures of animals such as bisons, tigers, and rhinoceroses.
Period II - (Mesolithic): Comparatively small in size the stylised figures in this group show linear decorations on the body.
In addition to animals there are human figures and hunting scenes, giving a clear picture of the weapons they used: barbed spears, pointed sticks, bows and arrows. The depiction of communal dances, birds, musical instruments, mother and child pregnant women, men carrying dead animal drinking and burials appear in rhythmic movement.
Period III - (Chalaeolithic) These drawings reveal that during this period the cave dwellers of this area had come in contact with the agricultural communities of the Malwa plains and started and exchange of their requirements with each other.
Period IV & V - (Early historic): The figures of this group have a schematic and decorative style and are painted mainly in red white and yellow. The association is of riders, depiction of religious symbols, Tunic-like dresses and the existence of scripts of different periods. The religious beliefs are represented by figures of Yakshas , tree gods and magical sky chariots.
Period VI & VIl - (Medieval) : These paintings are geometric linear and more schematic, but they show degenerations and crudeness in their artistic style. The colours used by the cave dwellers were prepared by combining manganese haematite soft red stone and wooden coal.
If one needs a break from pre-historic paintings, then they can find solace in bats and beehives that can be found in plenty in these caves. Even better, is a great view of Bhopal from the tortoise rock. One can see the entire Bhopal horizon from that point.
In sum, a great place to explore and have a fabulous time! Do remember to carry some sun block, a pair of sunglasses and lots of water and food.