Sunday, 26 February 2017

Heritage Heirlooms - The Petroglyphs of Usgalimal


The Buddhist caves at Rivona

The Petroglyphs of Usgalimal

The Jain Temple at Kudne

The Caves at Lamgaon

The sun, sand and surf attract tourists from around the world to Goa. And yet, this is not the only claim to fame this beautiful land has. As late as 1993 saw the accidental discovery of some ancient rock carvings at Usgalimal (also known as Pansalimal) in the Kushavati river bed in Sanguem Taluka of South Goa. After a bout of flooding, the silt from some part of the laterite river bed got washed off and exposed beautifully chiseled figures. Seeing this, the locals scrambled to call in the archaeologists who have since extensively studied and analysed them.  

It is believed that these carvings date back to the 8th century BC or the upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic period, perhaps more commonly thought of as “the Stone Age”and were created by the people of the 'Kush' tribe inhabiting this valley. This makes them a whopping 10,000 years old!! 

The carvings depict a wide range of subjects notably the bull, deer, antelope, peacock, dancing figure, mother and child, the mother goddess and the enigmatic 'triskelions'. These 'triskelions' are a concentric circle pattern more associated with the Celtic and European peoples and believed by some archaeologists to have been used to measure time. Elsewhere it's also called the circle of life.


Dancing figure

The carvings are known as ‘Petroglyphs’, because they were created by chipping away the outer surface of the rock using a tool of some sort. They predate the rock paintings that have been previously discovered in other parts of India and are very different from them.

Mother Goddess

Animal figure

Hunting the Bison

Another Bull Motif

Animal fights
As with most prehistoric paintings as well as rock carvings, the predominant focus is on the animal figures as also some dancing figures and infants which suggests fertility rituals. The circle of life could point to some form of religious cosmology too.

The circle of life or the famous 'Labyrinth'

A trapping cage for game

The Kushavati River bed... site of the ancient Petroglyphs at Usgalimal

There is an urgent need for conservation of this unique and beautiful site. It's a silent testimony to the human urge for artistic expression from time immemorial. A little care will go a long way in preserving this heritage for future generations to get a peek into our prehistoric past!!

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