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Ancient rock art starts to fade out - Engravings in Vikramkhol cave under threat

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  • Published 28.12.11

Sambalpur, Dec. 27: A treasure trove of ancient rock art in the Vikramkhol cave is in danger of being wiped out owing to lack of maintenance and preservation measures.

Vikramkhol is situated in Jharsuguda, about 81km from Sambalpur. The natural rock shelter and the engraved inscriptions have always raised curiosity among researchers.

Historians say the inscriptions are a form of rock art belonging to prehistoric period.

“They are from the Mesolithic period, between 3000 BC and 4000 BC,” said Professor P.K. Behera of the department of history of Sambalpur University.

“Some of the inscriptions have similarity with Brahmi script,” said Behera.

“However, the government has not taken measures to protect this monument,” he said.

Behera said the caves and the inscriptions came to be known because of the efforts of historian K.P. Jaiswal. It is said that on receiving information about these inscriptions from a monk, Jaiswal reached the site for research in 1933.

“Details about the Vikramkhol rock art were published in Indian Antiquary, an archeological journal, in 1935. Since then, the rock art researchers from across the country had thronged the area. They discovered several engraved inscriptions here in 1955,” he said.

“A detailed study is yet to be conducted about the rock art of Vikramkhol. But, the mines of Mahanadi Coalfields Limited, sponge iron factories and rampant industrialisation have badly affected the area’s climate and the site. The inscriptions have started to fade out,” he said.

Dilip Padhee, another rock art researcher, said: “The Vikramkhol rock shelter measures 37 metres in length and 8 metres in height. The geometric figures and characters and running horizontal lines confuse the interpreter. Vandals have defaced the art. It is high time the government came up with a plan to preserve this priceless monument.”

Rock shelters in Sambalpur, Sundergarh and Jharsuguda are languishing because of lack of government attention.

Proper road communication and other facilities need to be initiated to preserve the sites.

“Millions of people visit the Altamira rock painting in France. We have plenty to offer, only government has to come forward to showcase the heritage,” said Padhee.

Though Vikramkhol has been declared a tourist place, it lacks facilities for the visitors.

Tourist officer of the Jharsuguda tourism department Ramesh Chandra Sunder Ray said: “The rock shelter of Vikramkhol is located in the forest. As part of the development plan, the tourism department has proposed to build an area for convenience of the visitors at the site. The department will discuss the plan with forest department officials.”

Rock art researchers said there were several models to preserve these monuments and the government should follow those by forming a committee for the preservation and proper documentation of the heritage sites.