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The Rock Art Network
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The Rock Art Network
The Rock Art of India
Dr V. S. Wakankar
Archaeologist - 1919 to 1988

India Rock Art Cave Paintings Dr V S Wakankar Bhimbetka India World Heritage List of UNESCO Bradshaw Foundation
Dr V S Wakankar
In an extract from 'An Accidental Interview with Wakankar' by K.L. Kamat, Dr. Wakankar explained to the author how he had accidentally discovered Bhimbetka.

"In 1956, I was going from Bhopal to Itarasi by train and felt that the mountains hid great history in them. I got down in the next station and walked up here. The very first cave I entered had paintings in it! This place has artifacts dating back to 500,000 years." He stood on a mound and said "This is a Buddhist stupa; there are two of these. Emperor Ashoka's entourage must have come this way. Do you see those ruins over there? They are the remnants of a dam built by King Bhojaraja. He had built the biggest lake of his time. The boats could come here from Bhopal." He paused. "This location is archaeologically important not just from India's point of view, but from the humanity's."

The Bhimbetka Cave Paintings

India Rock Art Cave Paintings Dr V S Wakankar Bhimbetka Shelters World Heritage List of UNESCO Bradshaw Foundation
The Painted Rock Art Shelters of Bhimbetka India
In 1970 UNESCO inscribed the Bhimbetka caves as a World Heritage Site. It is thought that the Bhimbetka caves exhibit some of the earliest traces of human life in India.

Vishnu Shridhar Wakankar was born on 4th May 1919 at Neemuch, a town in the Malwa region of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

The Bhimbetka rock art sites about 45 kilometres south-east of Bhopal, have become famous: they are the ones that are always mentioned whenever Indian rock art is alluded to. They were discovered and revealed to the world by V.-S. Wakankar from 1957 onwards. Bhimbetka, set in the Vindhyan range of central India, is about ten kilometres by two. On seven hills more than 500 painted sandstone shelters are known in an environment of forests, nowadays threatened by population increase and pressure. Some of the painted sites are very minor, with a few images only whereas there will be hundreds in others. They were put on the World Heritage List of UNESCO in 2003.

The Pitamaha of Rock Art in India

His distinguished academic career earned him the title 'the Pitamaha of Rock Art in India'. From 1954 onwards, he carried out extensive field work on rock art in India and abroad - Europe, North America and the Middle East. In India it is estimated that he discovered and documented some 4,000 decorated caves.

India Rock Art Cave Paintings Dr V S Wakankar Bhimbetka India World Heritage List of UNESCO Bradshaw Foundation
Dr V S Wakankar (top left) Dr. V. S. Wakankar at the rock art shelters of Chambal Valley 1955 (bottom left) Stag and humped cattle at the Bhimbetka rock art shelters, UNESCO World Heritage Site
Dr. Wakankar was involved in numerous archaeological surveys; he explored the ravines of the Chambal and Narmada rivers, as well as tracing the basin of the now-dried-up Saraswati river, said to hold secrets to much of the Indian civilization. He carried out excavations at Maheshwar (1954), Navada Toli (1955), Manoti (1960), Awara (1960), Indragadh (1959), Kayatha (1966), Mandsaur (1974, 1976), Azadnagar (1974), Dangawada (1974, 1982), Verconium Roman site in England (1961) and Incoliev in France (1962), Runija (1980).

He established the Wakankar Indological Cultural Research Trust in Ujjain, India. In 1975, he was awarded the Padmashree Award, one of India's highest civilian honours. Today Wakankar Shodh Sansthan hosts a collection of over 7500 sketches of rock art paintings sketched by Dr. Wakankar himself. He published 6 books and over 400 research papers.

Dr. Wakankar was also an expert in the field of numismatics and epigraphy. He collected and studied over 5,500 coins ranging from 5th Century B. C. onwards. The collection is now part of the Wakankar Shodh Sansthan. Moreover, he studied numerous inscriptions dated from the 2nd Century BC in Sanskrit, Prakrit and Brahmi.

Dr Vishnu Shridhar Wakankar
Born on 4 May 1919 at Neemuch (M. P.)
Education: G. D. (Art), M. A. and Ph. D.
Director: Bharati Kala Bhavan, Rock Art Research Center
Founder President: Wakankar Bharati Sanskriti Anveshan Nyas
1963: Dorabjee Tata Trust Scholarship for education in France
1961-63: French government Scholarship for Research in Sorbornne, France
1966: Invitation from U.S.A. for studies in Rock Arts
1975: Recipient of "Padmashree"
1981: Presentation of paper at Capo de Ponte - Italy
1984: Exhibition on "India’s contribution to the World" in USA
1984: Studies in Mayan and Aztec civilization in USA
Published more than 6 books and 400 publications
Lectured at more than 16 places abroad

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