Foot prints of pre-historic civilizations are scattered all over the Indian Sub Continent but their abundance in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh is noteworthy. Rock Shelters and Cave Paintings at Bhimbetka near Bhopal are now world famous, thanks to UNESCO which has recognized them as a World Heritage site. Such paintings are known from Singhanpur (Kabra Hill) in Raigarh district, Adamgarh near Hoshangabad, in the nearby hills at Bijawar (Chhatarpur district), at Mrigendranath cave of Patni village of Bareli Tahsil (Raisen district),and again at Chidia Tol hills near Bhopal on Raisen Road. Very recently there were reports of rock paintings being destroyed in the mines near Budhni (Hoshangabad) and there was a great media cry. This prompted the administration to cancel the mining lease.
Closer to Bhimbetka at a distance of 5 kilometers there is another cluster of Rock Shelters known as Pengavan and the paintings occuring there are considered to be very rare. Their antiquity is between 10,000 to 35,000 years. It was also in the news that the hills running parallel to the Kolar Road of Bhopal also contain rock paintings. One Mr. Ashish Joshi, my neighbour, closely connected with the print media, happened to take us to yet another cluster of rock shelters which awaits to be discovered by an archaeologist of repute!. This is closer to the Kerva Dam where on a hill known as Ganesh Pahadi falling in the Samardha ranges, several rock shelters with beautiful paintings greeted us. Still farther from that spot at Madiakot, Mr.Joshi enthusiastically showed us a typical formation of a rock circle, believed to be the burial/sacred place akin to a Tumulus. It was around 70 meters in diameter. Very few people have noticed this so far and this is purely man made and not a creation of nature. A forest road through the newly developed picnic spot with tree houses would lead you there after traversing a distance of around 6/7 kilometers. However, one needs to have a jeep or bikes which can only carry you there.
Once back at home, we also hunted for the stone circle for which Wikimapia and Google Earth came in handy. Yes the satellite maps clearly showed them. We were surprised to find one more small circle below (left) the larger one. It would be of interest to learn that the hills starting from Hoshangabad and going beyond Sanchi (North of Bhopal) have most of the rock shelters as also Buddhist Stupas. It is quite possible that the stone circles could have been the abandoned foundations of Stupas. We believe a deeper study of the terrain coupled with trial excavations is required to come to any meaningful conclusions.
The Eco Tourism Development Board of Madhya Pradesh has been hunting for such hidden treasures lying deep in the forests. For the past few years they are engaged in developing necessary infrastructure at such destinations so as to promote ecotourism. Close to Bhopal they have also identified Samardha village as their epicenter for extensive development. On the other hand the Forest Department, with a view to promote environmental awareness has constructed several tree houses and cottages close to the Kerva Dam near Bhopal. They also arrange trekking and mountaineering expeditions periodically. Incidentally ecotourism is not yet recognized as a forestry activity, although it is a means of conserving forests by increasing visitation and generating awareness. Under this umbrella, ecotourism can be a forestry activity, ancillary to conservation. For greater impetus the Government of India need to take steps to bring in suitable amendment to the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.