2) Examine the salient features of mesolithic and chalcolithic cave paintings of India. Also examine, what could have been the reasons for depicting more animal figures than human figures in cave paintings?

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Topic:Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

2) Examine the salient features of mesolithic and chalcolithic cave paintings of India. Also examine, what could have been the reasons for depicting more animal figures than human figures in cave paintings? (200 Words)

NCERT, Class XI, Introduction to Indian Art, Chapter 1

  • Nitisha Singh

    Mesolithic paintings have been found in the rock shelters of Vindhyan sandstone hills in central India, Bhimbetka, Adamgarh etc. Animals are the most frequently depicted subjects either alone or in large and small groups and shown in various poses. Colours like deep red, green, white and yellow were used in making these paintings. Depiction of human figures as dancing, running, hunting, playing games are commonly seen.

    Chalcolithic paintings depict association, contact, and mutual exchange of requirements of the cave dwellers of this area with settled agricultural communities. Various shades of white,
    yellow, orange, red ochre, purple, brown,
    green and black were used, common being red and white.

    • pravi

      second part of Question was not addressed

  • Teneichong Telien

    Mesolithic Paintings:
    1. Themes have increased and paintings are smaller in size compared to Paleolithic age
    2. Hunting scenes predominate
    3. Lot of animals were painted, some showing fear of them and some compassion for them
    4. Animals were painted in naturalistic style while while humans were depicted only in a stylised manner
    5. Community dances was a common theme
    6. Young and old found place in the paintings and some pictures seem to depict a sort of family-life
    7. Hand-prints, fist-prints and dots made by fingertips were used.

    Chalcolithic Paintings
    1. depicted interaction between cave dwellers of this area with settled agricultural communities of Malwa plain
    2. Motifs like cross-hatched squares and lattices were used
    3. Pottery and metal tools is also depicted
    4. White and red colours were mostly used for painting

    The cave paintings depicted mostly animals than human figures most probably due to the significance of animals in the life of the artists during those times. Since they kept moving from place to place in search of food they had to secure themselves from predator animals. At the same time animals were their main source of food apart from wild fruits and plants since they were yet to practice agriculture and lead a settled life.

    • gajender

      Nice ans but totally technical – changes can be like ……
      Mesolithic painting were made for special purposes mainly mythical or inspirational or may act as nursery to train new hunters , as they were found in very narrow caves in darker areas suggested that they were not for glory or made by any art lover.
      Chalcolithic painting were paint in large open space of caves and decorated with color.
      Care were taken in respect of size not like Mesolithic where an elephant is appeared smaller than a rhino .so they were made for records , as temples to for good hunt and to beautify the walls
      Animals figure were mainly depicted because of their association with them .
      They were mainly hunter and gatherer and good hunt is necessary for subsistence of economy. So such painting gave them strength and art of hunting as well. Hence such painting were a major part of Mesolithic and also chalcolithic period in prehistory.

      • Dharani Devi

        nice analysis bro

      • Teneichong Telien


  • vc

    Paintings basically depicts the aesthetic sense of people , the things which they encounter in daily life .With the advancement of human civilisation their sense of percieving nature also changes.since mesolithic age coincided with stone age .hunting was mainstay of their livelihood therefore we find animal figures on caves which were their dwelling place.animals paw human footprints .
    While with the advent of chalcolihi c age and discovery of metals not only it became more nstandardised but themes of painting also broadened .now it depicts the interaction bw sedentary agricultural communities n food gatherers n hunting nomads. Using more shades of course than before.

  • Debula

    and chalcolithic cave paintings in India are crucial primary sources in
    understanding cave-dwelling culture during these respective periods. Since time
    becomes a crucial component in the longevity of any remain, the manner in which
    these paintings have survived have aided in predicting, socio-cultural
    practices, dietary habits and get a snapshot of the ecological timeframe of the
    period. There are a few salient features of cave paintings primarily fixed
    around the practice of social activities such as hunting and group activities.
    These features are discussed below:

    1) Most paintings are shown in multiple, whether a herd of animals, a gathering
    of people, or a collective hand print design. The emphasis here is on the community,
    and the relevance and reliance on group activities is clearly seen. An
    anthropological analysis would find this true as early communities relied on
    strength in numbers and solitary habitation was frought of dangers from animal
    attack, or simple lack of access to food, shelter.

    2) The choice in depiction of majority animals juxtaposed against human figures
    can hold multiple significance:

    a. The paintings could have been served as warning indicators for other groups,
    or the younger generation to educate them of the dangers of these animals. The
    constant threat of the elements was controlled by dwelling caves. But the
    sedentary nature of their diet, added a risk which the artist chose to portray
    as a visual reminder. b. Totemic significance where a source of food could have
    led to a realization of human-animal linkages. The choice to show animal
    attacks on humans served a reminder full of awe of the power of their
    prospective prey.

    c. A simple reminder of the animals and an appreciation of what these settlers
    came across. The ability to transcribe it in visual form on cave walls probably
    provided a new found appeal that wasn’t realized before. The decision to allot
    a majority of the canvas to these animals, shows the artists’ appreciation for
    their subject.

    • puja

      Nice answer. I like the 1st point about reliance on community. Happy writing

      • Debula

        Thank you 🙂

    • Batman

      u nailed the second part 🙂

      • Debula

        Hey thanks Batman 🙂

    • Coder

      excellent answer

  • Sujata

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  • Batman

    Paintings have always remained the facets of economic and social life and the paintings during Chalcolithic and Mesolithic periods were no exception to this fact. some of the salient features of mesolithic paintings are:
    1)they depicted scenes of everyday life like hunting, dancing, domesticated animals etc.
    2)figures drawn are smaller in size
    3)white,green, yellow and red colors were used. e.g. red color was used for depicting hunting scenes, green color for dancing scenes etc
    4)the paintings describe a phase where hunting communities had begun to settle down

    salient features of of chalcolithic paintings are:
    1)the paintings reveal that communties had established contacts with those in Malwa
    2)empty spaces in paintings were filled by geomteric patterns

    Besides this, paintings in both phases had paintings of religious symbols and are multi-layered in nature i.e. same cave hhas been used for painting be a number of generations.
    one of the special feature of mesolthic phase was the great number of animal figures than the humane figures. this was possibly because hunting was the main occupation in those days.

  • Manas ranjan behera

    – Mesolithic and chalcolithic cave paintings depict the socio cultural life and thinking of the people during that period.
    – Some painting of men collecting honey, woman grinding and man woman and children together gives information about their dietary and the existence of family life.
    – The joyful children and underlying theme of dancing in these paintings refer to a joyous life they were living among themselves.
    – Some of the Chalcolithic paintings indicate communication and exchange of requirements between the cave dwellers and the settled agricultural community of Malwa plain which indicates their realization about the importance of cooperation for healthy coexistence and maybe that’s the reason many paintings were made in the places visible from long distance.
    – Simple rendering of the environment, colors used and the underlying pictorial quality of these paintings despite various shortcomings like lack of adequate tools and material represent not only the mastery of the artist s in these art but also their intense passion for storytelling
    – A huge numbers of these paintings represent survival as a collective effort in the form of hunting and being hunted. some paintings depicted fear of animals others love and tenderness of humans towards animals indicating a complex relationships of the two.
    – And may be that is the reason animals were not only an integral part of their social life but also occupied a major space in the minds of the individuals which were often reflected in these paintings by giving them more space than humans.

    • Manas ranjan behera

      Guys this is my first answer . so plz provide your inputs

  • When the pre-historic man found food amd shelter, he took to expressing hinself by paintings on walls ans ceilings of caves. The scenes were mostly from daily life events to keep record, decorate stones amd show contact with animals, etc.
    Earliest paintings found in India date back to Upper Paleolothic Age (30000 years ago). Sone prominent examples include:
    1. Mirzapur paintings discovered by Archibald Carlyle even before the Altamira of Spain and he correctly dated them back to Paleolothic age.
    2. Lakhudiyar (Uttarakhand), literally meaning a lakh caves, has paintings depicting man, animal and geometric shapes. Mostly Red and Black colots used.
    3. Most vivid paintings are found in Vindhyan and Kaimur areas as these had ample forests, fruits, stream and animals for pre-historic man. Bhimbetka cave paintings, discovered by Wakankar, are a UNESCO World Heritagr Site. They show 7 categories of paintings chronologically like upper Paleolothic, Mesolithic, Chalcolithic, etc. The Mesolothic one shows most vividty and theme multiplication. For example a bison being hunted by hunters and wounded people lying on the ground. Alao there are many layers of paintings as many generations painted on the same canvas. Colors were made by grinding minerals and mixing gum/resins and brushes from fibres. Themes were mostly mundane daily activities, hunting, music, horses, household works, etc.
    Animals were mostly depicted because:
    1. Animals were the main source of food as agriculture dod NOT exist then.
    2. Animal hunting was an important activity and required effort, so they wanted to preserve memories and educate younger ones.
    Overall our cave paintings are charming and very important source of information and tourism.

  • gaurav

    thanks appreciated….

  • ranjot

    Please this is my first attempt .. requested to tell me how was that?
    Mesolithic period
    1. themes multiply but paintaings re smaller in size.
    2. paintaings show that people re hunting in groups with barbed spears , arrows and bows.
    3. mesolihtic people loved to paint animals , some of the paintaings show love nd fear of animals.
    4.hunting predominate. mostly bisons re hunted.
    5.All the people , like childrn , old men women find a place in these paintaings. childrn were showed playing in these paintaings, dancing.
    6. most importantly family life was shown .
    Chalcolithic period.( paintaing with colours and brushes )
    1. mostly colours were used. white nd red were favourite.
    2.some of the most beautifal paintaings re high up on the rock shelters and close to ceilings of rock shelters.
    3.artists re more creative in this period.
    4. mutual exchange of requirements of cave dwellers.
    Mostly people depend upon animals for their habitation nd important for entertaining activites … people hve love and fear of animals .. animals re very important part of their life ……. Thank zu ….