Pandava Caves

Pandava Caves or Pandava Guttalu or Pandavaula Gutta is situated in Thirumalagiri village, Regonda Mandal, Jayashankar Bhupalpally, Telangana, India.

This is where the Pandavas spent their life in exile for a certain period of time. A chain of hillocks running north-south direction located about 50 kms from Warangal, 195 kms from Hyderabad, on Warangal-Mahadevpoor road and 3kms from Regonda are familliarly known as Pandava Guhalu (Caves) or Pandava Guttalu (Hills).

The name is derived due to potrayl of the story of Pandavas of Mahabharatha on one of the boulders. The shelters are locally knowns as Mekkabanda, Mugessabanda, Pandi Parvatha, Shakthi Parvatham, Jyothi Parvatham, Puli Parvatham abd Yanadula Guha, Eduru Pandavulu, Kuntidevi, Pancha Pandavlu etc.

It is an unique Rock Art Site with continous human occupation right from prehistoric to Medieval times. There are a few natural paintings on these rocks, depicting the lifestyle and their hunting methods.

 The figures depicted in the paintings at these hills are of peacocks, lizards, tiger, frogs, fishes, deer etc.. and geometrical designs and impressions in green, red, yellow and white pigment colors. Besides these rock paintings, inscriptions of Rastrakutan times and fresco paintings of late medieval period have also been reported from these hillocks. Some of the paintings were superimposed, depicting highly developed anatomical features and curves.

Rock art is a form of landscape art, and includes designs that have been placed on boulder and cliff faces, cave walls and ceilings, and on the ground surface.

Warangal district consists of many Prehistoric habitation sites, which were explored by the Indian Archaeological authorities. Paleolithic Rock art paintings are found at Pandavula gutta (Regonda)

Its a global phenomenon, being found in many different regions of the world. Such artworks are often divided into three forms: petroglyphs which are carved into the rock surface, pictographs which are painted onto the surface, and earth figures engraved into the ground. The study of rock art gives us a good insight into our history from pre-historic ages.

The hill range derives its name ‘pandavula gutta’, from the historical paintings found in one rock shelter, which the local folk term as the story of Mahabharata. It is interesting to note that in the Ravulapalli village about 220 families belong to the ‘mudiraju’ caste, who claim their descent from the solar race of pandavas, and the gotra of some of the families is infact ‘pandava’.

Perhaps, the ancestors of the present day mudiraju caste during historical times might have coined the term pandavula gutta.

The site was discovered by Sri K.Ramakrishna Rao of the Dept. of Archaeology & Museums, Hyderabad. Nagi Reddy (1995, 1998) discussed to a certain extent the rock paintings of this site. During my field study I noticed 7 rock shelters in which paintings have been done.

The Site ‘Pandavula gutta’ a weathered coarse grained sand stone hillock, rises to a height of 150 m from the surrounding plains and runs in a north south direction, the height gradually receding towards south and culminates about 1 km east of Tirumalagiri village, which is 3 km from Ravulapalli. At the central portion of this hill range rock shelters are noticed both at the foot of the hill and on the plateau above and in the valley between. Of the seven rock shelters two are located at the foot of the hill and the remaing ones on the plateau region. The rock shelters at the foot of the hill contain only faint traces of red paintings. In one rock shelter locally known as ‘ongudu gundu’ (bending rock) along with traces of paintings microlithic scatters were noticed.

The tools, mostly non-geometric in content, were made on chalcedony, agate, chert, quartz and jasper.
The undulating hill range and the narrow valley is covered by thick vegetation of tropical dry ever green and deciduous forests. The forest cover sustain wild fauna in considerable numbers even today. 

The wild fauna used to include herbivores like Nilgai ( Boselaphus tragocamelus), Black buck ( Antilope cerpivora ), Wild sheep ( Civis cycloceros ), Hare ( Lapidum finidus ), Porcupine ( 
Histric indica ) etc., The carnivores include Sloth bear ( Melursus ursius ), Hyaena ( Hyaena hyaena ), Fox ( Velpes bengalensis )etc. 

The elderly people of the village informed that during their child hood (about 60 years ago) the forest was much dense and even tigers roared in the forest occasionally preying upon the domesticated cattle and sheep of their village. During the mesolithic times, the whole Regonda region must have been a dense forest.

Water resources at the site are almost perennial, bearing water upto 9 months in a year. There is a perennial spring on the top of the hillock locally known as ‘potaraju chelama’. Near one rock shelter, in a rock crevice locally known as ‘chirutangandu kunta’ water is stored throughout the year. A seasonal stream loca lly known as ‘panduvula vagu’ contain water in small pools upto the month of March. In these water pools even today wild rice ( Zizania aquatica : Dussa vari ) grow between August – January

The Rock shelters and the rock art
As said before two rock shelters at the foot of the hill contain only traces of paintings and one of them ‘ongudu gunda’, besides traces of paintings in red colour, revealed microliths also. The tool typology of the microliths indicate their non-geometric nature. 

Rock shelter 3 (Eduru pandvula gundu)
This rock shelter is located at the top of the hill facing west and gives a commanding view of the plains below. It measures roughly 20 x 20 metres and provides a shaded area of about 2 m infront. No floor deposit occurs in this rock shelter as the floor is of sheet rock gently sloping outwards. This rock shelter is locally called as ‘edurupandavula gundu’ (facing pandavas rock), as it is located infront of the foot path from the village.

This is the most densely painted rock shelter at this site. About 50 painted figures and several faintly visible ones are noticed. All the paintings were done in red ochre of different shades.

The theme of the rock paintings consist of herbivores mostly deer species. Other animals like langur, tiger, porcupine, mangoose, boar and fish. Besides these, anthropomorphs, human figures, a peacock, a boar, indeterminate animals geometric figures etc. are also found.

On the basis of state of preservation and superimpositions two phases can be delineated from the red paintings of this rock shelter. At the many places dark brownish red deer figures overlap, light brownish red, faded deer figures. In some of the paintings the artist appears to have tried to replicate the nearby previous painted figures. The figure of a boar is very stylistically depicted with rectangular designs over the body in dark brownish red colour. Behind it a deer figure in light brownish red colour is also done with the same type of body design.

Langurs are shown realistically with long tails.

The human figures are shown in various postures, standing near the animals and in praying posture. A row of 15 human figures hand in hand between the legs of huge deer figure (105 cm x 50cm) in a group dancing posture is a very interesting composition and is the only one of its kind in the rock art of Telangana.

The peacock figure in finely depicted with all the body details. Although a peacock figure is found in the Kethavaram (16 0 43’N;78 0 1 2’E) paintings (Chandramouli 1986) also it is small in size devoid of bodily details as seen in this figure. The mangoose is also finely depicted close to a natural crack in the rock, which gives the visual impression to an observer that the mangoose is trying to hide below the rock. Fish figures in the paintings of this rock shelter are exclusive to this site. Although a fish figure is found in the Kethavaram rock art also, stylistically they are different and also are done in black colour. In the depiction of the fish also, the attempt of the artist to replicate the previous ones as in the case of deer figures, is visible.

The anthropomorphs have stylistic similarity with those at Chintakunta and Kethavaram (Chandramouli 2002).The geometric figures are a few and consist of triangular shaped lines one over the other and criss – cross patterns etc.

Rock shelter 4 (Janke mukku gundu : long nose rock)
This rock shelter is located on the top of the hillock in a narrow valley behind rock shelter 3; to its north east about 300 metres away facing west. The local name ‘Janke mukku gundu’ (long nose rock) is given to this rock shelter because of two natural deep holes in the rock wall which look like nostrils of the nose. There are only 4 deer figures and one human figure in this rock shelter. All of them are in dark brownish red colour, except one small dog figure, which is faded and light brownish red in colour. The deer figures are similar to those in rock shelter 4.

Rock shelter 5 (Mungisa gundu : mangoose rock)
This rock shelter is located to the north east of rock shelter 4 about 800 metres away facing north. This rock shelter gives a commanding view of the plains below. It is an ideal rock shelter giving a shaded area of 5 metres all around. But only two faintly visible painted figures are noticed. One looks like a mangoose (hence the local name to the rock shelter) and the other animal is depicted as if trying to catch the mangoose by its neck. Both the painted figures are light brownish red in colour.

Rock shelters 6 & 7 ( Pandavula gundu; Kunthi gundu )
These rock shelters (by which this site is known) are located in the southern portion of the hill about 1000 metres away from the rock shelter 3. The first one faces east and the second one south. In the pandavula gundu rock shelter traces of red colour paintings are visible.

However, it is famous in the surrounding villages for the fresco panel of historical paintings done in several colours on a lime mortor back ground. The villagers identify them as scenes of Mahabharata. But they are badly mutilated by fungus and also human vandalism. The kunthi gundu rock shelter on its southern face contain a series of negative hand prints in red colour.

There are more than 60 such hand prints. Besides these a 9 th – 10 th century AD label inscription
reading “Sri Utpatti pidugu” (Nagi reddy 1995) is also found. In side this deep and narrow came like rock shelter (one has to crawl on all four to reach the inner portion), two small stone sculptures of female deities are being worshipped even today. Several stone structures of historical times are found all around these rock shelters