Photo: FPJ Correspondent
Photo: FPJ Correspondent

Mumbai: The pre-historic petroglyphs in Maharashtra, which are estimated to date back to around 10,000 years, are likely to join the list of iconic locations like Stonehenge, Tower of London, Grand Canyon National Park and the Vatican City. The state government is working to nominate these petroglyphs, which are found in Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts, as World Heritage Sites to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

These petroglyphs—which are rock art carved into the ground—are estimated to date between 10,000 and 2,000 years ago.

Sources said the process for nominating the petroglyphs as a world heritage site had been discussed in a meeting with cultural affairs minister Amit Deshmukh earlier this month.

“We have applied to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for the nomination. If this tentative nomination is accepted by the ASI, it will be sent to the UNESCO, and we will get time to submit the final dossier to the organization. This is a long-drawn process that takes years and involves details of sustainable conservation, site management plans, legal protection, and the environmental factor, and site visits by experts,” said a senior official from the department of culture.

Tejas Garge, director, museums and archaeology, Government of Maharashtra, confirmed that the proposal had been sent to the ASI.

Ratnagiri has over 1,200 carvings at 62 locations, and in Sindhudurg, 60 petroglyphs have been discovered at around five sites. The state government has launched a Rs 6 crore project to tend to them.

These reliefs are estimated to have been carved out in laterite rock by pre-historic humans in a period between 10,000 years and 2,000 years ago. Some animals represented in these petroglyphs include rhinos and elephants, which do not have a natural habitat in the Konkan region today.

The widest petroglyph is an elephant carving at Kasheli in Rajapur (18 meter by 13 meter), which is the largest petroglyph in South Asia, while the smallest (2 cm by 3 cm) was found at Jaigad.

One petroglyph has a human holding a tiger in each hand, which is a common Harappan symbol found on seals and is a common motif in West Asian art.

However, the identity of the people who carved these petroglyphs is remains unknown. Further research can reveal more evidence of the history of the Konkan region and Maharashtra before the Satavahana era set (2 B.C onwards) and do away with this “dark age” in our understanding of human evolution.

India has around 38 world heritage sites, including the Rani ki Vav (Gujarat), archaeological sites of Nalanda (Bihar) and Red Fort complex. Maharashtra has six such sites (including one shared site of the Western Ghats), namely, Ajanta, Ellora and Elephanta caves, the Victorian and Art Deco ensemble in Mumbai, and Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST).

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