Nilgiri Archaeological Finds I


Rock Art

Detail from Akkathangachimoruvar Shelter

This rockshelter, like Wananga Pazham, both of which were first discovered by A. Zagarell, lies southwest of Thangamarahada. This shelter is decorated within and without. It is reported to have had more paintings which were destroyed by flooding. The detail shown depicts a four-handed god riding an animal and carrying the symbols of its divinity in its hands and a sword at its waist. This divinity faces a human whose activity is unclear. One of the painted groups details a battle of bowman (some of whom may be divinities) against figures on a chariot.

Note the detail of the figure from the Wananga Pazham. The interest in detail allows one to discern the lashings on the axe, a chain around his neck and decoration on the elephant. Several other figures similarly present figures with significant detail sketched in. Wananga Pazham represents several phases of painting. Some of the pottery in connection with this site suggests it reaches back into the Pandukkal Period (the South Indian Megalithic Period), approximately 500 B.C. The major surface scene I have guessed dates to the Nilgiri Megalithic, which reaches into the Medieval Period.

To see a short Quicktime Film Panorama of Wananga Pazham click here.


Detail from Valeriekombai Rock Shelter

Valeriekombai was first reported upon by Professor Basavalingham of Ooty College. The site is a huge painted rockface, overlooking the town of Mettupaliyam, with paintings ranging from mesolithic to chalcolithic in style. This figure, appearing in the upper right hand of the major painting perhaps represents the god of death carting off bodies after what appears to have been a major battle. 


A View from Valeriekombai

Zagarell standing on the Valeriekombai rockshelter ledge with a view towards the plains below. 

Detail from Totinalai Rock Shelter

These figures are part of a much more complicated series of paintings found at the site (the black outlining is mine, computer-enhanced to facilitate recognition of the figures). The paintings were applied at various times, but are Chalcolithic to Early Historic in style. These figures include a figure (to the left), much larger than the others displayed. Note his detailed headress. He seems to represent some sort of authority figure. The subject of the attack is a bear-like figure. It is unlikely this is a hunting scene since the "bear" is being attacked by swordsmen. Note the smaller figure on the left. Either he is wearing a sword at his waist or has been pierced by one. These sorts of scenes on the Nilgiri artwork testify to the penetration of organized, state-like formations into the Nilgiri heartlands. This painting sits on the slopes, probably along a route into the hills. Not too far away is another decorated rock shelter with largely Hindu-like religious symbolism. 


Go to Megalithic Graves and Reliefs 


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Send comments and suggestions to   zagarell@wmich.edu