Saturday, December 29, 2012

Rock Art at Kutakankeri

This is a small collection of rock textures seen at Kutkankeri hills.
Pebbles and small stones embedded in a larger stone.

Crack-line in a spiral plus smaller cracks branching out

Crack lined makes this stone look like a sliced loaf of bread

The rust colored extension seems to be worked in a milling machined

Seems like tail feathers of a bird

Tiger skin texture

Tiger skin texture seen in different angle, seems like scales of an Armadillo

Crack lines in a grid

Wax pattern

More crack lines form an irregular grid
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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Kutkankeri, a prehistoric site - part 2

..article continued from Kutkankeri, a prehistoric site - part 1.

This rock is known by the name Junjunpadi. The word can be split into Junjun + Padi. Junjun is the short form for Junu Junu which is an expression for anything that feels chilly. Fakirappa said weather under this rock is always cool, sometimes cold hence the name Junjunpadi.
The approach ramp is scattered with rocks.. an abandoned plan to make steps like we saw some time back. We climbed about 20 feet to reach the natural rock shelter.
A spacious, comfortable shelter. Fakirappa's nephew Rangappa joins us. He's taken a short break from cultivating his fields with a pair of oxen. Minutes later another relative Basu joins in.
The shelter gave a commanding view of the plains below. Approximately a kilometer from here, beyond the plains, is another hill range. To the right end of the range was a big cave. Fakirappa confirmed the existence of a cave. I asked if we could go there.. Fakirappa said the cave smells bad because of decaying remains of carcasses and bones left over by  Kattekiraba. So that cave is hyenas' den. I said we'll go there some other time... perhaps we should go there in a larger group armed with long sticks for self defense.
At the entrance is one painting of a horse and two men.
The men seems to be wielding swords and shields. The man seems to be standing on the horse back rather than being seated on it.
Ten to fifteen feet into the shelter is another painting. This seems to be a battle scene; men wielding weapons and riding horses
Basu, Rangappa and Fakirappa. The boys are wondering why we wanted to see these paintings.
About 40 meters away is another rock shelter.. now its shrine for local folks. Here we could see the entire surface covered by ocher, most parts have faded and difficult to identify what was depicted. To add to it local people had smeared sunna lime in circles.Fakirappa said that its a smearing lime is a part of the ritual. However, he was not happy about the paintings getting damaged.
One part we could see clearly was here. This seems to be a plant, perhaps a bunch of buds and flowers. The painting on the left seems to be a horse.
Wish I could know what these lines depict.
We decide to on. We climb again, we come here to check out another rock shelter. It was inaccessible.  Fakirappa demonstrates how a cactus' long pointed leathery leaves were used to make rope. He pucks a leaf, peels off the outer layer and thrashes it on a flat surface to separate the fiber in it. But this is not the right procedure., he says. The process involves soaking the leaves overnight, then clear off the pulp from the fiber, dry them and weave them into ropes.
At the summit, a huge mound came into view. This would have been a great watch tower during prehistoric time.
Close to this mound I saw three stones lying close to each other. I felt they were one stone; Malatesh and Fakirappa placed them in position. Yes, it was one stone measuring about 6 feet long and a feet wide, tapering at one end.

A mini shelter. Right besides Malatesh, you can see vertical and horizontal crack lines perpendicular to each other. They seem to be have been drawn.. but no they are natural.
What came next was unexpected. Fakirappa showed us remains of a vandalized megalithic burial chambers. There were three of them within a 150' diameter circle.
Fakirappa said that people believe these to be Muslim graves. I told him the fact that these graves are made two to three thousand years ago, they cannot be Muslim graves.
A recently dug pit.. treasure seekers' deed. The graves are completely damaged :(
We start climbing again. I could see Malatesh was struggling, I guessed hot weather was affecting him.   This part of the hill was littered with stones... no where on these hills had I seen anything like this. Was this a quarry?
At the hill top was another plateau. Another surprise; ruins of ancient stone structures. I remember seeing three or four such ruins in the close vicinity. So these stones must be from the place I suspected to be a quarry (see previous picture). There was evidence of recent digging, obviously treasure seekers work.
Fakirappa is proving to be one resourceful guide; so far he's shown us an amazing rock formations, prehistoric rock paintings, megalithic burial sites, and ruins of ancient houses. Now we are standing in front of a shrine where newly weds come and make a wish. During a particular festivals families come here with pooja and food items, perform pooja at the shrine and have food. Now the interesting part is how food is eaten. Plates or leaves are not used. A flat spot on the ground with a slight depression is selected (see inset). The spot is washed clean with water. Food, usually anna, saaru, palya, uppinkayi are served on that spot and eaten. Down to Earth custom. Some different, right? We scoured the surroundings and identified many such spots which served the purpose.
Kutkankeri is surprising us so often now.We are looking at underground fresh water pond; it is called as Aryara Baavi. Fakirappa explains that people believe that Aryans once lived on these hills and this was one of the main sources of drinking water. Hence it is called Aryara (Aryans) Baavi (well). Below  the ground we are standing on is hollow. Water is available through out the year, even during drought. I noticed a big patch of lush green grass about twenty feet away. Grass is green where there's water, right?
Fakirappa bends down and checks the water, tastes it and then drinks some. I too tasted Aryara Baavi water, it was fine but did not swallow it. Surely my tummy is not as strong as Fakirappa's.
We meet Fakirappa's uncle again; perched on his seat high up he watches his herd grazing peacefully. In a way this hill is his kingdom. Malatesh cools off his head with this water. Notice stones on the left? It's a micro dam, it stops rain water from running off and creates a small pond.
Now we start climbing down, I was kind of relieved that it would be easy for Malatesh. Fakirappa shows more sources of fresh water close by. Water is stored on cracks and crevices in rocks. Here, I see something very strange; a circle in stone. This 2½' diameter ring's rim is 2" wide x.5" high. This doesn't seem man-made. Then how is possible to have formed naturally? Fakirappa has no idea what this is or how this was formed.
A closer look at the ring. This looks like a stone ring was welded to the rock.
One megalithic burial chamber. On these hills we saw totally eight burial chambers.
Our tour was coming to a close. Last on the itinerary was ruins of a fort and few rock paintings. This picture is just outside the fort, close to the fort entrance. It's a very small fort, the perimeter could be less than a kilometer.
Inside the fort are these two massive rocks. Malatesh and Fakirappa are inspecting paintings, sadly they are vandalized by some college boys.
 
Painting depict a human form and an animal which looks like a tiger. Those vandals did not find any other place to post a love message for their girls.. GRRR One consolation, it wan't paint but lime. We tried to wash the lime off with water. After emptying on bottle we realized we'll need buckets of water and a soft tooth brush. perhaps we'll go back there one day and remove the lime. I hope those vandals realize the damage they have done.
Another angle of the rock. Behind me was a rock shelter, it was cool inside. We rested there for a while, had cookies and water. The village was in view now, we'll have to walk a kilometer to reach the village square.
The rout to cillage passed through fields, we walked through standing Sajji crop. We stopped at a field being watered by sprinklers to quench our thirst. Fakirappa picked up fresh Alsandikayi, we munched as we walked back towards Kutkankeri village. Back at the village square, we realized it was 2-30, we had explored five and half hours. Not a minute was wasted, we got to see more than we expected. Thanks to Fakirappa :) Oh one last thing, we had not seen two paintings from our print out. Fakirappa suggests us to check out Gund-Hanumappa a minute's drive from where we stood. We ask Fakirappa to join us for lunch but he declines. We exchange numbers and said bye. We head towards Gundu Hanumappa.
A Neem tree with hollow trunk.
Gund-Hanumappa is a 50 feet high.rock with a natural shelter at the base. The shelter is a shrine dedicated to Lord Hanuman. The shrine walls have been whitewashed with lime.. if at all any painting existed, they are nicely tucked under a thick layer of Sunna. Disappointed we move on in search of a nice shady spot for our lunch break.

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Kutkankeri, a prehistoric site - part 1

While searching for prehistoric paintings in Karnataka I stumbled on Kutkankeri in a very informative prehistoric web-portal The Megalithic Portal. The prehistoric paintings posted by an Israeli explorer were amazing. My mind was made up to visit Kutkankeri. I made inquiries and confirmed the location on Google Maps and also with my friend Ranganath at Badami. Kutkankeri is about 7 kms from Badami on Guledgudda road.

September 15, 2012
Raju the cab driver, Malatesh and I started early. We reached Badami by 7-45. We were supposed to meet a retired ASI employee who had seen Kutkankeri paintings on duty with a well known archaeologist of Karnataka. I tried to contact him through my friend Ranganath but there was no response. Perhaps, Ranganth was in his class already. I decided to go ahead and find a guide. Before that we had a good breakfast- upit, the power food.
We found Kutkankeri easily. I took out the print outs of the paintings, showed them to people so that they are clear about intentions. Few of them did recognize the drawings but some how no one was interested in coming. I was wondering how to convince.. a pleasent surprise; a man did come forward to take us :) Fakirappa was our guide. Few elderly men and Fakirappa discussed and decided  a route to cover all spots. However, he wanted to be back by 11 because of his job at a bank. I said fine, we'll make it quick. We took our bags and a water bottle. About half kilometer from the village square was our starting point.
We started with this head and neck stone formation. The climb was steep but the step like stones made the climb easy. Until now I had such formations only in pictures. It was a great feeling to be seeing one for real and touch it. This spot is called Shigipadi.
Amazing rock formation. The more I see it the more I feel it can rotate.
We climb back to the summit and walk along the edge of the plateau. We meet Fakirappa's uncle. He's a goatherd and he brings his herd here for grazing almost everyday. The rocks in the background seem like a stack of cookies.
Our guide knew our interest now, in fact he was not rushing at all. With every step we would see something interesting, especially the pebbles embedded in larger rocks. Pebbles were different colors- red, rust color, brown, white. Fakirappa told us about wild life on these hills. Fakirappa would mention the local names for animals and I would ask him to describe them and tell him the name we knew. One of the names mentioned was Kattekiraba. Fakirappa described the animal with ears like donkey's, size of a dog, hind legs are short.. hmmm.. got it, that's a hyena. I never there were hyenas in Karnataka. Other animals found on this hill are rabbits, porcupines, wild pigs, and wolves. Wild pigs are known as mika in North Karnataka..

After a 10 minute walk we reach Anipadi; the word can be split into Ani and Padi; the words translates to elephant and rock. That's Anipadi-
On Aniphadi are several prehistoric paintings, mostly in ocher. Overall I have no idea what the drawing means but within it a drawing of a striped animal which we thought as a tiger but realized our mistake; its a hyena. Later at home home, we learn that its correct name is Striped Indian Hyena. Back to the painting here, on the top right corner is a deer like animal.
A closer view of the maze; large patches enclosed in a thick outline. Zigzag patterns is surely hyena skin.
The deer.
We move to the other side of the rock. most paintings have faded or some places rain water stains have covered the paint. Here we can see three individual paintings, marked in circles.
I could not identify what this depicts.
A hyena, to be precise a striped Indian hyena.
The smaller circle is just a hyena leg. On the same side of the rock are more paintings but unidentifiable. In the vicinity is a small painting of a human like creature; a think body with half-raised arms, and legs bent at knee. The creature has a pointed head and it seems to be male. My opinion is that this is not intended to be a human. Perhaps this is a depiction of some extraterrestrial life form.
The next group of paintings is also faded, few lines are visible clearly. To the right is a painting of a palm, just three fingers are visible. Fakirappa's hand fit into neatly.
Malatesh makes a video, to watch them visit this link- Anipadi paintings.
Now Fakirappa wanted to show us the hill in detail. He called his office and asked for leave. Back the summit, we explored these sandstone mounds similar to the ones seen near Badami.South fort. I remember seeing about 15 such mounds.
Notice the X-cut on the rock. Wonder how it got formed.
Fakirappa is a patient man, he would wait until I and Malatesh finished shooting. The path went a 3 feet wide gap. This seemed like an ancient path, stone slabs were laid into the path. We are going to climb down.
Notice the stones forming a stairway. Malatesh I discuss it; we felt its an old creation, perhaps thousands of years ago. Behind me are agricultural plots belonging to Fakirappa's family members.
Soil is sandy, you need extra effort to walk on this soil. The standing crop is Sajji. Fields are well maintained. I guess in this soil type and weather, weeds are not a problem. We take a short break here, have Britannia multi-grain cookies and  water.
Half kilometer walk we reach two thatched roof huts, belonging to Fakirappa's brothers. His sisters-in-law and their children were home. We have some more water. Cattle are tied below a Neem tree. The place was very silent and felt peaceful I felt we should spend few days here. If we do that may be we'll get a better idea how man lived here in prehistoric times. Also, agricultural activity here must have been going on for few thousand years.
Fakirappa points at a large stone formation about half kilometer away. We'll be going there to see few more rock paintings.

This article will continue in the following post - Kutkankeri, a prehistoric site - part 2.
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