A big rock art site has been discovered at Kovanur, Perianaickenpalayam taluk, 30 km northwest of Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu.

The site has about 60 paintings, both group compositions and individual images. The paintings portray the hunting of an elephant and a herd of deer, and images of a tiger, herds of bisons, a monitor lizard and hunters with bows and arrows.

The paintings have been done on a rock surface, about 40-foot-long and 15-foot-tall and at a height of 250 ft. from the ground, on a hill, which is an extension of the Nilgiris mountains. Just below these paintings, a large rock surface, which would have contained many similar murals, has been whitewashed. Both the extant paintings and the whitewashed surface are just above a small temple for goddess Poonkol Thayaar situated in a natural cavern.

K.T. Gandhirajan, who discovered the site on July 5, said: “All images are realistic. The artistes, who painted these figures, have carefully drawn them, with attention to detail, proportion and symmetry.”

The paintings belong to different periods and various styles. All of them have been done in white caolin in outline or solid form.

The earliest of them could be more than 2,500 years old, estimated Mr. Gandhirajan, who is documenting rock art in the Tamil Sangam age environment, with the support of the Central Institute of Classical Tamil here.

He located the paintings after he was taken there by R. Vijayaraghavan, physical education teacher at the Government High School, Kurumbapalayam, Coimbatore.

A group composition shows an elephant-hunting scene — the animal surrounded by three hunters in three directions.

There is a realistic sketch of a tiger, with its mouth wide open and an upturned tail. There are four hunters, two armed with bows and arrows, and the others with wooden sticks.

The artistes have drawn herds of deer and bisons. These images have a similarity to the paintings at Karikaiyur, about 35 km from Kovanur.

While both Irula and Kurumba tribals live at Kovanur, only Irulas live near Karikaiyur. While there are nine deer in a herd, there are 13 bisons in another herd. In one depiction, two hunters are aiming their arrows at the herd of deer which are grazing.

The white-washed portion of the rock surface covered an area of 240 feet and they might have had about 50 paintings, estimated Mr. Gandhirajan.

The devotees, who visit the temple, reportedly whitewashed them because they wanted the temple environment to look bright. There are about 70 rock art sites in Tamil Nadu.

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