Art as a mark of divinity distinguishes human beings from the rest of the animal community.It is a non verbal language with non conscious meaning but a medium that communicates with people of all the ages. Thus prehistoric art throws light into prehistoric life.
Cave art is divided into three phases the first phase comprising black outline drawings of animals with monochrome fillings. The second phase is characterized by outlines filled with two colour modeling.The poly chrome paintings belong to third phase.the figures were etched on the projections and concavities of the rock taking advantage of natural light and shade.The world famous cave paintings belonged to third phase characterized by naturalism and impressionistic depth using charcoal and vegetable colours.
The engravings of the caves are on the two walls of the Neolithic rock shelter,wall no 1..left and wall no 2 right.
”On the wall no 1,,,of Edakal caves the depiction consists of a prominent human figure with a head gear and other decorative objects.There are other figures such as ”a human figure with elaborate head dress,a tall human figure with ahead gear.an elephant ,a wild dog ,a peacock,a couple of wild dogs , plants and flowers. a human figure with a jar, another human figure with a with a square hair dress, a wheeled cart,and a few geometrical signs are etched sharply on wall no 1.on the wall two right representations comprised a few geometrical signs, a male and a female figures, a triangular sign representing a human figure, a human figure on a wheeled cart, and a human figure with conical sign attached.
On wall no 2 right,the engravings comprised a few geometrical signs , a few male and female figures,a triangular sign representing a human figure,a human figure on a wheeled cart,a human figure with a conical sign attached.
There are two distinct styles of representations are explicit in Edakal rock art gallery.One is the style adopting the primary sign and the other is the on adopting both primary ,secondary and mediating signs for the construction of figures.The rock engravings are believed to be those in the period between 4000 BC and 1000 BC.
The deeply carved motifs and signs inside the cave are decorated up to the height of four meters.. The cool ancient rocks turned to be a canvass for a forest of vertical strokes and figures emerge from the vertically created linear motifs. of at least three types. . We can make out crosses, triangles and tridents; squares, some with inner crosses, and a rectangle divided into nine square-shaped chambers; stars, wheels and quatre foils; spirals, whorls and volutes; plant motifs, pot-shaped items; various animals including ones resembling foxes, dogs and dear; there is one unmistakable outline of an elephant.The oldest may date back to over 8,000 years. Evidences suggest that the Edakal caves were inhabited several times at different points in history.
similarly there are two stages of evolution perceptible across the representations. one is the primary stage of a relatively simple representation through the ordering of independent signs. the next stage of evolution seems to be that of mediating style….According to Rajan Gurukkal, eminent historian” the representations across the cave walls can be reduced to six basic elements of production canoe, cross,triangle, square, circle and volute.the canoe like incision seems to be the initial sign of any engraved representation of prehistoric times.The other signs such as cross , triangle and the square are geometrical signs developed from the primary sign. Circle and volute are tertiary signs resulting from the faculty to mediate the primary and secondary signs.”
Most of the petroglyphs are under threat from increasing number of visitors and moss, formed by water dripping from the top of the caves, especially during the monsoon,
A rock engraving, indicating clear remnants of Harappan culture, has been found in the Edakkal caves in neighbouring Wayanad district, linking the Indus Valley civilisation with South India.
“There had been indications of remnants akin to the Indus Valley civilisation in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, but these new findings give credence to the fact that the Harappan civilisation had its presence in the region too and could trace the history of Kerala even beyond the Iron Age,” historian M R Raghava Varier said.
The unique symbols integral to the Indus Valley culture traced in Harappa and Mohanjedaro region that stretched upto Pakistan, were found inside the caves during recent excavations by the State Archaeological Department.
Of the identified 429 signs, “a man with jar cup”, a symbol unique to the Indus civilisation and other compound letters testified to remnants of the Harappan culture, spanning from 2300 BC to 1700 BC, in South India, Mr. Varier, who led the excavation at the caves told PTI.
On the whole,the representations on the rocks signify a scene of ritual festivity of a tribe inhabiting the forest .they depend on on hunting and they started shifting towards cultivation. the huge hair dress and duality in representation could be fantasy production of a late Neolithic society perplexed at the changes in the wake of the introduction of iron by a foreign society.The representations on the cave seem to be symbolic of the new Stone age in transition.