A fascinating fusion of rock art at Rudragiri hillock

With Kakatiya murals from 1300 AD superimposed on prehistoric Mesolithic-era artwork said to be thousands of years old, the Rudragiri hillock stands as a shining example of the rich historical and artistic legacy of Andhra Pradesh

Published - July 18, 2023 07:45 pm IST - GUNTUR

This unique Ramayana fresco from the Kakatiya-era drawn in a natural rock shelter on the Rudragiri hillock depicts the Vanara brothers Vali and Sugriva engaged in a fierce battle. Prominent features of the fresco have faded away with time.

This unique Ramayana fresco from the Kakatiya-era drawn in a natural rock shelter on the Rudragiri hillock depicts the Vanara brothers Vali and Sugriva engaged in a fierce battle. Prominent features of the fresco have faded away with time.

Rudragiri hillock, located in the village of Orvakallu, Atchampet mandal, in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, boasts a celebrated historical past and remarkable archaeological monuments.

This site unveils a fascinating combination of prehistoric rock paintings from the Mesolithic period and exquisite artwork from the Kakatiya dynasty. D. Kanna Babu, former Superintending Archaeologist of the Temple Survey Project (Southern Region) at the Archaeological Survey of India, shared his discoveries with The Hindu, shedding light on the significance of this hidden gem.

Rudragiri, nestled amidst the Eastern Ghats, features five naturally formed rock shelters at its foothills, facing westward. These shelters served as living quarters for people during the Mesolithic age around 5000 B.C., and they bear witness to the luminous rock paintings of that era. Interestingly, two natural caves at the southern end of the hillock also exhibit exceptional murals from the renowned Kakatiya kingdom.

Kakatiya Artistic Legacy

Mr. Kanna Babu described the physical condition of the Kakatiya artworks. “These caves showcase the artistic brilliance of the Kakatiya period. “While many have suffered damage over time due to exposure to the elements, some sketches and outlines have managed to survive. The paintings, adorned with a variety of colors derived from white kaolin and different pigments, depict captivating scenes from the epic Ramayana. Despite the impact of nature’s wrath, fragments of these paintings offer valuable insights into their creation during the 13th century A.D.,” he said.

Captivating murals

The first cave, starting from the southern end of the hillock, presents a narrative mural portraying the intense battle between the Vanara brothers, Vali and Sugriva. Both figures stand on the battlefield wielding maces, their faces displaying fierce determination. Rama, positioned behind Sugriva, shoots arrows at Vali. Though time has erased the colours of this picturesque scene, the surviving outlines provide valuable clues to their origin and dating.

A Ramayana fresco depicting Hanuman lifting the Sanjeevani hill with his right hand painted on the Rudragiri hillock at Orvakallu village of Atchampet mandal in Guntur district. A conch and fire altars can be seen to his right and another prehistoric painting to the left.

A Ramayana fresco depicting Hanuman lifting the Sanjeevani hill with his right hand painted on the Rudragiri hillock at Orvakallu village of Atchampet mandal in Guntur district. A conch and fire altars can be seen to his right and another prehistoric painting to the left.

In the middle cave, a grand sketch of Hanuman, accompanied by sacred symbols of the conch (Sankha) and the fire altar (Yagna Vedi), captures visitors’ attention. Hanuman is depicted carrying the Sanjivani hill in his right hand, symbolising his mission to save Lakshmana’s life.

The third cave houses the prehistoric rock paintings from the Mesolithic era. Interestingly, the Kakatiya artist chose the same rock shelter to superimpose the elegant figure of Hanuman, who is portrayed in a unique ‘Anjali’ posture, folding his hands in a divine offering. Remarkably, the Ramayana figures neither overshadow the Mesolithic drawings nor diminish their scenic beauty. Visitors today can marvel at the ancient drawings from two distinct periods, appreciating the artistic techniques employed.

Telangana connection

Mr. Kanna Babu highlights the striking resemblance between the splendid frescoes on Rudragiri’s rock shelters and those discovered in Muppavaram and Pandavulagutta in Warangal district of neighbouring Telangana. These similarities suggest that the Ramayana scenes depicted at Rudragiri might have drawn inspiration from the artworks at Muppavaram.

Furthermore, the illustrious Ganapati Deva Maharaja (1199-1262 AD), the founder of Muppavaram temple and a prominent figure of the Kakatiya dynasty, likely patronised the rich ancient mural heritage found at Rudragiri. It is crucial to preserve this unique murals for the benefit of future generations, Mr. Kanna Babu reiterated.

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