10 Most Famous Cave Paintings in India

With great certainty, it can be said that nature is the source of Indian culture. Indeed, be it Indian music, dance, religion, heritage, ancient buildings, India largely derives its inspiration from the Mother Nature.

Another such striking example is the cave paintings of India. Dating back to the pre-historic times, Mesolithic period in particular bearing 30,000 years, these paintings exemplify strong affiliations of Indian sentiments to nature. All you need to do is explore the Ajanta, Ellora, Sittanavasal, Bagh Caves etc.

Delving deeper, we find that as per the evidence, it has been established that these paintings were not confined to mere decorations but substantial signs of ongoing habitation could also be found. Read here about the most famous caves paintings in India.

1. Ajanta Cave Paintings

Buddhism sprang in the Indian context and Ajanta caves, located approximately 100 km from Aurangabad, exist to the substantiate the same. The paintings largely owe their existence to Mahayana sect of Buddhism. Life of Buddha is depicted in the form of many portraits, illustrations and other decorative representations.

Ajanta Cave Paintings
Ajanta Cave Paintings

Also Read : Famous Caves Near Mumbai

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Suggested Tour : 6 Days - Ajanta and Ellora Caves Tours

2. Ellora Cave Paintings

Again, enjoying 18 miles of proximity to the city of Aurangabad, Ellora caves are nestled amidst the Chamadari Hills. The paintings, present in the five caves depict the supremacy of Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi. The other part illustrates the procession of Apsaras and Shaivas.

Ellora Caves Paintings
Ellora Caves Paintings

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3. Elephanta Caves

These caves are located in the Elephanta Islands of Maharashtra. These paintings were made around 8th century and are very impressive in details. Today, several people hire ferries from the coast of Mumbai to reach this island. After a few minutes of trekking, they get to explore the caves filled with bright-colored paintings. In the past, the caves were covered with plaster on which the paintings were made. Now, only a part of these paintings remain. Other notable cave paintings of Maharashtra are Bhaja caves, Kanheri caves, Karsamble caves, Kuda caves and others.

Elephanta Island caves
Elephanta Island Caves

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4. Bhimbetka Cave Paintings

Dating back to 12,700 BC or earlier, this cave is located in Bhopal. The paintings of this cave represent wild animals like elephant, tiger, wild boat, bison, monkey, rhinoceros and others. This group of cave has more than 600 different caves, which were primarily shelters. Red and white are the most commonly used colors in the painting along with rare usage of green and yellow. The oldest painting of this region is around 12,000 years older. The best part of this entire group of caves is a ceiling painting in one of the caves. The ceiling is quite high and the pre-historic man found a tool to raise him up to the ceiling.

Bhimbetka Paintings
Bhimbetka Paintings

Suggested Tour : 11 Days – Central India Tour

5. Lenyadri Caves Painting

This is one of the hidden paradises, when it comes to cave painting. Out of 40 different caves of this cave group, several caves have unique Buddhist paintings. These caves of Maharashtra served as thriving Buddhist temples up to 3rd century BC. During 19th century, several caves were converted into Hindu caves. These caves have simple styled paintings with traces of Buddhist paintings.

Suggested Tour

  1. 14 Days – Buddhist Tour with Nepal and India
  2. 21 Days – Best of North India and Nepal

6. Bagh Paintings

Dating back to 5th and 7th century, Bagh paintings depict the mast exquisite traditions of Indian culture and heritage in its entirety.

Bagh Paintings
Bagh Paintings

Suggested Tour : 6 Days - Golden Triangle with Culture and Heritage Beauty Tour

7. Sittanavasal Paintings

Sittanavasal paintings corroborate the Indian composite culture as they represent an ancient Jain Monastery. Depicting the 9th century Pandyan period, nature can be seen in the form of birds, animals, fish, and people respecting nature.

Sittanavasal Paintings
Sittanavasal Paintings

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8. Armamalai Cave

Located in the Vellore region of Tamil Nadu. This Jain cave temple of 8th century holds rock art, Jain paintings, remains of saints and others. Jain monks who stayed in the cave created these paintings, which are quite similar to Sittanavasal caves. The most interesting part of these paintings is the striking relationship of them with Brahmi inscriptions.

Armamalai Cave Jain Paintings
Armamalai Cave Jain Paintings

Suggested Tamilnadu Tours :

9. Badami caves

Badami regions of Karnataka is quite famous for its collection of temples. These caves belong to 6th century and the paintings of this cave inspired the great shore of Mahabalipuram. The mural paintings of these caves were inspired by mythologies of Hindu religion. There are also paintings of other religions like Buddhism and Jainism.

The Cave 1 is the oldest one and has ceiling paintings of Lord Shiva and Parvati with coiled serpents.

Badami Cave 1 Paintings
Badami Cave 1 Paintings

Cave 2 has many paintings of Lord Vishnu and his forms.

Badami Cave 2 Paintings
Badami Cave 2 Paintings

Cave 3 has giant figures of Hindu Gods.

Badami Cave 3 Painting
Badami Cave 3 Painting

Cave 4 has Jain paintings.

Badami Cave 4 Painting
Badami Cave 4 Painting

A little away from Badami, reach Aihole to visit Ravana Phadi. Aihole is already a famous destination thanks to the long list of historic temples and ruins in the region. The Ravana Phadi is an eminent attraction of this region holding religious paintings of ancient times.

Ravana Pahadi Cave Paintings
Ravana Pahadi Cave Paintings

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10. Adamgarh Hills

This hill is located in Hoshangabad of Madhya Pradesh. This is a very ancient style of cave painting dating back to Paleolithic period. The Madhya Pradesh region was filled with sandstones and dense forest. Strategically, it was a favorable location for human habitation and you can find numerous paintings on the cave walls, which were symbol of their daily lifestyle.

Aadam Garh Cave Paintings, Hoshangabad

Also Read : Top 10 Places to Visit in Madhya Pradesh

11. Jogimara Caves

Located in Chhattisgarh, this cave along with SitaBengra cave is very important tourist attraction. It is one of the oldest cave paintings made in 1st century BC. You can find paintings of non-religious elements like dancing humans, nature elements and others.

Methods of Painting

Unusual from the modern perspective, prehistoric cave paintings in India have been made with the help of natural objects used to paint the walls of the caves. The carving of every rock with sharp tools or a spear remained the famous methodology.

In order to colour them, many things were used spanning from berries, charcoal, to clay and soot. Other articles used to draw included the straw, leaves, moss, or hair and sticks.

Symbolism in Cave Paintings

Various depictions particularly pertaining to nature, cave paintings in India primarily represent the cosmopolitan culture of India and highlight the Mother Nature in its entirety. The harmony and balance between man and nature portrayed in these cave paintings is laudable in many senses.

Also Read : 20 Most Famous Caves In India

Apart from these, there are numerous other cave painting regions like Tabo caves, Thanale caves, Tulja Lena, Undavalli cave and others. While some are filled with numerous existing cave paintings, most of them are getting damaged as time pass by. Before it is too late, try to cover and explore these ancient paintings and enjoy the masterpiece of ancient humans.

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