Rock art of Telangana

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

Petroglyphs are rock carvings (rock paintings are called pictographs) made by pecking directly on the rock surface using a stone chisel and a hammerstone. 

Of all the questions with regard to rock art the most problematic is its dating. For the relative dating of rock art the following aspects are taken into consideration. 

They are: 1. Thematic content 2. Superimposition 3. State of preservation 4. Colour scheme 5. Archaeological evidence.

1. Thematic content
The thematic content in the rock art of Telangana mainly consists of animal figures such as deer species, humped bull (Bos indicus), hare, rabbit , mangoose, porcupine, dog, tiger etc., and birds such as peacock, human and anthropomorphic figures, hand prints and geometric figures.

The thematic content of the paintings and also the petroglyphs, is useful for understanding their chronological position. 

Mesolithic / Middle Stone Age: Hunting gathering phase
Deer and associated human figures. All the animal figures are of wild life and none domesticated. Human figures are shown in isolation, never as hunter. The deer figures are drawn naturalistically. All the paintings are in red colour. No petroglyphs are found in this phase

Paintings of the deer figures occur in the earliest phase of the rock art data in Telangana. Besides deer figures other wild animals such as hare, rabbit, mangoose, porcupine, birds etc., human and anthropomorphic figures occupy the next place. None of the animals in the first phase of painting activity are domesticated. The animals are painted, realistically and often at higher reaches of the rock shelter wall. 

Neolithic : Food producing phase 
Humped bull figures and associated schematic deer figures. In the humped bull paintings phase there were no wild animals, where ever they occur they are schematic or stylised but never realistic as in the case of the first phase of rock paintings
Domestication of animals such as bull and dog. Petroglyphs make their appearance in which also humped bull figures predominate. The anthropomorphic figures are less in number compared to the previous phase along with geometric symbols. Human figures with bows and arrows appear in this phase.

Megalithic / Iron Age : Metal using phase 
The horse and horse riding and fighting human figures with swords and shields, bow and arrow indicate the emergence of iron tool technology associated with huge burial monuments of the megalithic. This iron age art is almost exclusively petroglyphic in content.

Horses, iron tools of offensive nature such as swords, lances, shields, bows and arrows, human figures brandshing these weapons, in praying posture before geometric symbol etc. Both petroglyphs and pictographs display these themes. The colours used in the paintings are white, red and black in that order of preference. Narrative scenes are the characteristic feature of this phase.

Historical phase
Horses, elephants, warriors, humans riding the animals, painted inscriptions, religious symbols, signify the historical phase of painting activity. Animal figures as well as human and anthropomorphic figures are very schematic. In the advanced phase of historical paintings scenes of Mahabharata, Brahmi and Kannada inscriptions occur. 

Thus, on the basis of thematic content of the paintings 4 phases of painting and art activity can be delineated

2. Superimpositions and state of preservation
This criteria is also useful for categorizing the rock art phases. This criteria can be used to corrobarate the phases made out on the basis of the thematic content. The basic premise, in considering the superimposition for answering the question of chronology, is that if two paintings are superimposed one over the other, the one in the lowest position indicate that it is earlier than the painting superimposing it. However, the gap between there two paintings in terms of age, can only be indicated relatively. The state of preservation of the superimposed painting can be of some utility. If the superimposed painting is faded and the superimposing one is fresh, then it can be said that the superimposed painted figure is relatively older than superimposing one. If the thematic content also varies in the superimpositions, then it can be
safely identified their relative antiquity in terms of prehistoric phases. The basic premise again in considering the state of preservation in the question of chronology is that when the paintings in a rock shelter are exposed to the ravages of nature uniformly, their state of preservation must also be uniform. In the paintings if same figures are fresh in condition and some are faded then this state of preservation must indicate their relative age.

3. Colour schemes
Some times the colour scheme of the paintings will also be useful in identifying the age of the rock paintings. In the paintings depicting the hunting gathering economy of the authors, only the red colour is used. In the paintings of the food producing economy also red colour is used in majority of the cases. Occasionally white colour is also utilized. In the metal using culture phase, the paintings are done in white, red and black in that order of preference.

4. Archaeological evidences
Circumstancial archaeological evidence from the surface, in and around the rock art site or within the rock shelters is useful to arrive at a relative dating of the rock art phases. This evidence however, is useful as a corroborative to the classification made on the basis of themes, colour schemes state of preservation and superimpositions.

Thus for dating the rock art of any region in India, the above criteria are used by the scholars. 

Let us now turn to the rock art of Telangana. An attempt will now be made to date the
various phases of rock art from various sites. 

The classification of the rock art phases has already been done while discussing the rock art themes of individual sites.

Previously known 17 known rock art sites in Telangana.

They are Bollavaram, Dupadugattu, Dongala gattu tanda, Jupalle Mudumula and Sanganonipalli in

Mahaboobnagar district, 

Edthanur, Sivaru , Ramachandrapuram and Wargal in Medak district

Budigapalli, Regonda, Rekonda, and Ramagundam in Karimnagar district; 

Ramachandrapuram in Khammam district, 

Kokapet in Ranga Reddy district;

Pandavula gutta in Jayashankar Bhupalpally.

Paleolithic Stone Age rock art 
Paleolithic Rock art paintings have been found at Pandavula gutta (Regonda mandal) and Narsapur (Tadvai mandal) in the Jayashankar Bhupalpally district.

In a significant discovery, new evidence of upper palaeolithic age rock art has been found in Rachakonda.A huge boulder in the shape of heart has been found on the north bank of Bayati Cheruvu (Anapota Samudram) inside the West gate of Rachakona Fort. The tool, chiselled in black basalt stone, seems to have been used as a hand axe and chopper by nomadic people. The age of such tool users in Telugu states is 50,000 BCE to 12,500 BCE.

In a rare discovery, historians have uncovered rock art that is believed to have originated in the Paleolithic age in Telangana's Nallamudi in Jagannadhapuram of Bhadradri-Kothagudem district.

The art pieces were found at the feet of Ontigundu in the lime-stone hills near a place of worship of the Naikpods, an Adivasi community. Members of the team included the Telangana Jagruthi history wing, Rock Art Society of India (RASI), rock art enthusiast Kondaveeti Gopi and scientist K Gnaneshwar.

According to history enthusiasts, the site also has certain rock art with white coloured-edges.
Haragopal said that though rock art forms found recently across Telangana are similar to the latest findings, the Ontigundu findings hail from mid-Paleolithic age to late-upper Paleolithic age.

New Telangana History Group (NTHG), which is looking for hidden art treasures, which could back to the palaeolithic age, has found rock art at Fakkeeroni mitta near Medikonda village in Jogulamba Gadwal district.
Rock art comprises images of tigers, human shapes, and wild animals. The expression of the artist clearly depicts the depth of his understanding of the mechanics of this art form.

Though such images were identified earlier in rock art found in Pandavula gutta, Goparajapalli, Hastalapur, Vatti Malla, the Medikonda rock art is different, Reddy said. ‘A man hunting the tiger’ is a distinctive one as it was not found elsewhere in Telangana state so far, he said.

In 2014, when Telangana state was formed, there were only 18 places where rock art was found. Now the number of rock shelters has gone up to 60, Reddy said. Of them, 18 were discovered by the archaeology department and 16 by others, while the New Telangana History Group has found 26 to date.

Mesolithic Middle Stone Age rock art
The mesolithic rock art is found both in a single culture as well as multi culture contexts. Sanganonipalli and pandavula gutta sites are exclusive mesolithic rock art sites, while at Budigapalli and Dupadugattu mesolithic rock paintings occur along with rock paintings of other culture phases.

Kasipeta Rock art in Yadadri Bhuvanagiri district
A prehistoric rock shelter with rock paintings from the Mesolithic age, megalithic burials and microliths have been found on a small hillock near Kasipet hamlet of Yavapur gram panchayat in Bommalaramaram mandal in Yadadri Bhuvanagiri district. The explorers found microliths (stone tools) from the Mesolithic period at another location of the hillock. A continuation of civilisation was seen here, as cairns, cists and a menhir, which are forms of Megalithic burials, were also found at the site. 

The hillock is about 30 feet tall and we identified many red ochre colour paintings on the inner side. On the other hand, many paintings were erased as locals applied lime coating on them as part of worship. The human figure standing behind four bison was drawn using an X pattern. The other human figure painting is similar to the petroglyph of a man with a weapon at the Regonda site,” said Sriramoju Haragopal, convener of Kotha Telangana Charitra Brundam.

A prehistoric rock painting of animals and men were spotted at Pyararam village in Bommalaramaram mandal in Yadadri-Bhongir district. The team noticed occurrences of Mesolithic stone tools and Neolithic grooves in the close proximity of the site. The rock shelter was also depicted with a full figure of a lady carrying something on her head belonging to the early historic period and two human couples engaged in erotic postures datable to the medieval period 15th-16th Centuries. The fresh evidence clearly revealed that the rock shelter continued to be habitable right from the Mesolithic times to the medieval period, he added.

An ancient rock art site dating back to the mesolithic era was discovered at Ramappagutta, a hillock located close to Nampally town in the Rajanna-Sircilla. Estimated to be at least 10,000 years old, this rock art having paintings of two snakes, three tortoises, human figures and grass was found by A Karunakar and Joel of the KTCB.

Similar discoveries were made at Kukunoorpally and Thimmareddipally villages in Siddipet district in the past, where the rock art sites were located atop the hillocks, whereas the site found in Wargal near Gajwel is located close to the base of the hillock, which is a neolithic rock art site. In the past, inside a cave at the base of a hillock in Vattimalla village of Konaraopet mandal in Sircilla, paintings of a tiger and other figures were discovered.

In a fresh find, pre-historic rock paintings belonging to the Mesolithic period were discovered on the banks of the Krishna river on the Telangana side. The uniquely styled rock paintings are located in Patha Kisthapuram, a village that will be submerged by the Pulichintala projects in Mellacheruvu mandal of Nalgonda district.
A 2,000-year-old port was also found near the fort where ships used to anchor. Of the nine forts believed to be from either the Sathavahana, Ikshavakula or Rashtrakuta period, only one has been explored so far by archaeologists.
These are some of the rare rock paintings. Similar paintings are found in Hastalpur. Some of the paintings are of bulls. Going by the depiction of bulls with horns and reproductive organs. They could be from the Chalcolithic age," he said. This refers to a period between 3500 and 1700 BC.

Neolithic Copper Age Rock art (Chalcolithic period) - 4000 BCE to 1750 BCE
The neolithic rock art is found in two sites, Budigapalli in the Husnabad Mandal in Siddipet district and Dupadugattu in the Kodangal taluk of Mahaboobnagar district. The neolithic rock art at these sites is characterised by humped bulls, the hall mark the neolithic art both petroglyphic and pictographic of South India as a whole. At Budigapalli a humped bull is very realistically drawn in flat wash along with some geometric symbols and human figures datable to succeeding culture periods. In view of the state of preservation of this humped bull figures it can be dated to the neolithic period.

Kotha Telangana Charitra Brundam discovered Copper Age rock paintings near Nandipet village in Mahabubnagar district. On a small hillock a few kilometers away from the village, images of a leopard opposite to a bow-clad hunter, a deer with long horns, and a long-tailed animal were found painted. These are similar to rock art in Kokapet, Ranagareddy district.

A group exploring Moosapet suburb, which is part of Greater Hyderabad in Mahaboobnagar district of Telangana for developing the hill as a spiritual centre and tourist spot, has made a startling discovery. They came across a rock bruising of a bull which dates back to the early phase of the Neolithic period.
The team was surveying the area to prepare a masterplan for development of the entire hill as a spiritual centre, an ecotourism spot and heritage tourism destination.

Members of the Kotha Telangana Charitra Brundam made the discovery of two neolithic celts (small axes) under the Tortoise Rock formation which is now a traffic island near BNR Hills in Hyderabad. “We were looking for prehistoric rock art in the form of paintings or sketches but noticed two stone axes on the floor of the natural shelter. The axes measure 12.0x7.2x2.1 cms and 9.2x3.9x2.2 cms in length, width, and thickness respectively,” informed archaeologist E. Sivanagi Reddy.

Megalithic Iron Age : Metal using phase 
Explorers also found dozens of dolmens (burial sites) on the the surface of Gajjelonigutta near Nandipet village in Mahabubnagar district in damaged state. Dolmens belongs to (Megalithic) Iron Age.

A team of historians and archaeologists from the Kotha Telangana Charitra Brundam (KTCB) identified prehistoric paintings on the rock of Burka Gutta at a cave in the Sircilla district. The lizard and anthropomorphic images found here are comparable to those found in Ontigundu. In the square, the scorpion, the two lower circles, and triangles appear to be a stage and a human figure with raised arms. Circles, triangles and vertical and horizontal lines are inward – showing a foot pattern with six limbs. There were two dogs and some discolored and unrecognisable images,” he added.

The rock art expert Bandi Muralidhar Reddy, advisor of the history group, opined that the paintings belong to the megalithic era.

Neolithic Age rock art
A new prehistoric rock art site has been discovered in Medikonda village of Jogulamba Gadwal district, inside a cave located atop a hillock, at a height of around 240 metres.

The rock arts depict images of a large tiger-like animal, a stag with antlers, a small mouse deer-like animal, a hunting scene and two humans standing beside each other.

The discovery was reported by a government school teacher Hanumannagiri Vemareddy, along with his friends T Padmareddy and S Hanmatareddy, all of whom are members of the collective Kottha Telangana Charitram (KTC). KTC members say the rock art is from the pre-neolithic period and is a rare kind of site among the sites found until now.

A neolithic era rock art site atop a hillock near Pothireddipally village of Yellareddipet mandal in Rajanna-Sircilla district has been discovered by an archaeology enthusiast. Sadasivananda, a member of Kotha Telangana Charithra Brundam (KTCB), has discovered the rock-art 5 km from the village atop a hillock locally called ‘Sithari Gattu Maisamma Gutta.’

The pictures were painted on the base of a huge boulder called ‘Padigerayi’ covering a canvas area measuring 6 ft in height and 10 ft in width.

Nine designs were painted on the boulder, with each pattern having inner circles and what appears to look like rays on the outer and inner sides of the designs of a circular pattern. Locals from Tenugu (Mudiraju) community have been offering prayers to this rock art, treating it as their deity ‘Maisamma’.