Ezhuthala (Inde): paintings fading away with time

Giji K. Raman

Source - http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/ezhuthala-paintings-fading-away-with-time/article7013928.ece

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The Ezhuthala cave, inside forests in the Marayur sandalwood division, has one of the four cave paintings in the Great Migration Corridor with human and animal motifs.— Photo: Giji K. Raman

The Ezhuthala cave paintings, said to be one of the most beautiful depictions in red ochre of the prehistoric era in the country, are being ruined by the ravages of time in the absence of scientific preservation and protection.

The Ezhuthala cave is situated inside forests in the Marayur sandalwood division and has one of the four cave paintings in the Great Migration Corridor with human and animal motifs in a single cave.

An official of the sandalwood division told The Hindu that the paintings have faded over the years and the sandy rocks are facing degeneration.

“Normal weathering, in addition to percolation of water during the rainy season, is posing a threat. At present, visitors are not permitted to see the cave paintings,” he says.

The opening of the historical site without proper protection would be disastrous, he warns.

ASI proposal

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has reportedly proposed taking over the cave paintings in the Marayur sandalwood division and the Chinnar wildlife sanctuary for scientific preservation in view of their importance. However, as the areas are under the Forest Department, they need to be handed over to the ASI.

21 documented

The cave paintings came to the notice of archaeologists when Padmanabhan Thampi, as part of his research, found and documented them in 1974.

Later, archaeological investigator Benny Kurien and social worker K. Dhanushkodi documented 21 cave paintings spread over the eastern slope of the Western Ghats at Marayur and Chinnar .

50 caves

Studies have found as many as 50 caves that are important for their prehistoric dwellings. Human and goat motifs reflect a cultural link.

The Ezhuthala cave has not been a subject of serious study by the ASI despite it being part of the second largest conglomerate of prehistoric cave paintings in south India.

Mr. Kurien, who is instrumental in sending a proposal for the protection of the cave to the ASI, says the agency has informed him that it could do so only if the cave is handed over to it by the Kerala government.

There is apathy with regard to the cave paintings, and it has not been taken over by either the Culture or the Archaeological departments, Mr. Kurien, a member of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Culture, says.

The centre for culture would take up a multidisciplinary study on life in the pre-historic era which is reflected in the cave motifs. The paintings, he says, are in need of immediate attention.