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ROCK ART OF KUMAON (HIMALAYA)

 

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FOREWORD

Third in the series of IGNCA's publication on Prehistoric Rock Art is Yashodhar Mathpal's study on the Rock Art of Kumaon (Himalaya).

 

Shri Yashodhar Mathpal has been associated with the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts programme of documentation, research, and publications, relating to different facets of Prehistoric Rock Art.  His work in Bhimbetka, both as a scholar and artist, has been widely commented upon.  His commitment to the Regions of his birth, Kumaon, is exemplary,  Assiduously and painstakingly, he has spanned the sites of rock art in hitherto unidentified rock shelters and caves.  The material included in this volume is refreshingly new and provides the basis of making a comparison with the petroglyphs of Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh in India and engravings in other parts of the world.  Also, the presence of several dance motifs stimulate many questions regarding the lifestyle of the people who created these engravings.  In fact, this evidence points to the need to question the standard linear evolutionary paradigm of considering people moving from hunting-gathering stage to settled life.  It would appear that there is a co-existence of different types of lifestyles in given historical movements.  Dr. mathpal's monograph gives an overview of the rock art research and its present state.  This material will, undoubtedly, be of great help of researchers who with to pursue further research or field work in the area.

As I have pointed out in the Preface to the volume Rock Art in the Old World, as also,  Deer in Rock Art of India and Europe.  IGNCA's concern with prehistoric rock art is not restricted to the Archaeologists, and the Prehistorian's concern with establishing a linear chronological order of prehistoric rock art, nor is it restricted to the identification of style and school as criterion for establishing chronology.   Instead, it is a concern for man's creativity across time and space and civilisations and cultures through the primal sense organ of the eye and the sense perception of the sight. Many other related projects have, therefore, been instituted to identify the 'nature of man's ability to capture in line and colour his perception of reality and the phenomenon.  The resulting visual text gives an insight into a complex process.  It becomes a vehicle for understanding a larger life phenomenon specially in cohesive societies whether of the past, or the present.

The juxtaposition of the evidence of rock art with creativity, painting and particularly wall painting of communities called tribals or aboriginals has been a concern of IGNCA.  The connection between the past and the present, making comparisons across culture of both prehistoric rock art as also creativity of the so called 'aboriginal' and 'tribal' society, has provided, and will continue to provide, other methodologies to comprehend the perenial and temporal, the universal and the specific.

Of late, prehistoric rock art studies have received a new lease of life through the interest of not only archaeologists and ethnologists but also art historians, scientists, paleologists, and many others.  This was evident in the global conference on Rock Art studies organised by the IGNCA in 1993.  Here, it became clear that no longer can the linear dating be mere chronology or the identification of techniques sufficient, as the larger ambiance of eco situations, environment societal structure and, undoubtedly, individual creativity, have to be taken into account also.   These visual texts both affect a evolve a mythic image which may or, may not, represent in naturalistic or realistic terms.  Also new techniques of excavation and documentation have been explored through the contour mapping of rock shelters and theodolite process.

Many other institutions and researchers have undertaken very valuable excavation and documentation programmes.  Now there are institutions which can establish a network so as to complement each others work at different levels of excavations, research, documentation and interpretation.  It is hoped that through several studies and by identifying the interpenetration of one methodology into the other, it will be possible to open up many new methodologies for the study of what is normally called the visual language of man.  Dr. Yashodhar Mathpal, however, does not raise such conceptual questions, as some of these have been raised at recent conferences, but the material presented in this monograph will stimulate more research and more questioning and will, of course, enrich the IGNCA's on-going programmes relatd to its concern with primal sight (Adi Drsya) and primal sound (Adi Srvya) and its manifestation through cultures.

KAPILA VATSYAYAN

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