The symbols in rock paintings at Onake Kindi are a peek into age-old beliefs

We pass through lush fields as we drive down from Anegundi. There are neither huts nor shops in sight. All we see are columns of boulders on top of each other. Our auto stops in front of paddy fields, as my guide Virupaksha announces our destination — Onake Kindi, a prehistoric site.

The idea of heading to Onake Kindi came up when I asked Virupaksha about megalithic dolmens in a site called Mourya Mane. I learnt it was much further and high up in the hills, and Virupaksha convinced me we could instead visit a prehistoric site closer to Anegundi, which had rock paintings.

The sun's rays beat down rather mercilessly as we cross the fields and climb a steep narrow pathway in a rocky terrain. The path leads us to a wide plateau of tall grass, and we find ourselves ringed in by hillocks; there's no one in sight. As we walk through the grass and look around the boulders, we spot a rock with red and white markings, stick figures of humans and animals such as the bull. On another boulder is a circular diagram resembling the sun and the moon, but we can't figure out what it symbolises.

On returning to Bangalore, I start researching on the prehistoric sites near Anegundi, and learn from Ravi Korisettar, an authority on the subject, that the rock painting belonged to the Iron Age.

“The faded circular painting is a rare depiction of a megalithic style of burial. If you look closely, you can see a human body in the middle, and a lot of burial goods, surrounded by a circle of stone,” says Korisettar, from the Department of History and Archaeology, Karnatak University, Dharwad.

“You'll find the bull in almost all paintings. It's a reference to the bull cult, a symbol of male fertility,” he explains.

The sun- and moon-like symbols, the ladder and the water depicted on the rock probably refer to their various beliefs.

“We can only interpret — the sun and moon, for instance, can be seen in some hero stones as well, which probably suggests immortality,” adds Srikumar Menon, a faculty of Architecture, the Manipal Institute of Technology.

As I delve deeper into the paintings later, I realise they are some of the most ancient beliefs, rather deep-rooted within us today.

Keywords: Onake Kindi