A few surviving examples of 1,500-year-old shell script (shankha lipi) in the neglected rock shelters of Manua Bhan ki Tekri have been brought to focus by #Bhopalwalk, a Twitter-based initiative to explore heritage of Bhopal.
The Bhopalwalk team visited the rock shelters of Manua Bhan ki Tekri along with archaeologist Narayan Vyas on Sunday and tweeted photographs of the shelters and the few surviving rock art in them.
Prominent among the rock art are some etchings in shankha lipi that was prevalent during the Gupta period (5th-6th century AD) and a human figurine.
Shankha lipi, considered to be a derivative of Brahmi script, is so called because of the use of ornamental spiral flourishes resembling a conch shell (shankha), Vyas said. Some microliths (stone tools of ancient times) were also found at the site, he added.
The social media initiative that started five months ago, expressed concern over the human intervention in the form of messages and names etched on the shelters that has destroyed the rock art to a large extent.
Anil Gulati, initiator of #Bhopalwalk said it was painful to see rock art, which is evidence of ancient life in the area, being destroyed in such a manner.
Speaking to HT, archaeologist Vyas said the shelters had a lot more rock art from Mesolithic (5000-10,000 year old) to historical (about 500 year old), but they have been obliterated over the years due to vagaries of nature and defacement by visitors. The shelters are west facing and thus prone to impact of sunlight and rainfall, he said.
According to archaeologist, Manua Bhan ki Tekri, the tallest hillock of Bhopal is a popular tourist spot because of the magnificent view of the city, including the massive Upper Lake. However, a few know about the rock art on the shelters beneath.
“A few who manage to reach the shelters have little knowledge about the importance of rock art and thus are defacing it without thinking. A little more awareness and some protective measures could help save the few surviving examples of rock art,” he said.
Other than Manua Bhan ki Tekri, shankha lipi etchings are found in Udaigiri rock shelters in Vidisha and Kharwai in Raisen, he said.
#Bhopalwalk has during last 22 weeks covered several important heritage sites in Bhopal and surrounding areas, including Gondarmau, where evidences of old settlement like ancient pottery and hand tools were found, the palaces of Bhopal like Taj Mahal, Benazir Palace, the 11th century Shiva Temple at Bhojpur, rock art site at Jhiri and others.