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Rock art caves in Odisha to come under the ambit of ASI soon

Odisha’s caves with rock art will soon be brought under the protection of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Besides, the number of Centrally-protected archaeological sites in the state may go up, reports Diana Sahu for The New Indian Express. ASI has decided to review all the existing monuments in the state and bring the ones that need protection under its eastern zone list. And the special focus would be on caves with rock art.

Officials in the ASI Bhubaneswar circle said apart from the monuments that are currently protected under ASI (80) and State Archaeology wing (nearly 218) under the Culture Department, there are thousands of heritage structures and monuments including the rock art caves that are lying neglected across the state. “Our priority would be all the caves with rock art because little has been done so far to protect them,” said an official.

According to the reports, the state has 140 caves with rock art (paintings and engravings) but only one of them – Bikramkhol (or Vikramkhol) located in the reserve forest of Belpahar range in Jharsuguda – is protected by ASI. Even at Bikramkhol, 80 per cent of its rock art has been damaged now. The largest number of such caves can be found in western Odisha districts of Sambalpur and Sundargarh which account for 50 such caves.

Officials added that the need to bring the caves under ASI fold has now become necessary because over the last 10 years, rock engravings and paintings on many of the caves have eroded due to various reasons including rising temperature.

“The brightest example is Ambajhol cave in Rairakhol, located close to Bhima Mandali cave at Naktideul in Sambalpur district. Elephant depiction in rock art is rare in Odisha and can be seen at Ambajhol,” they said. Of the engravings of three elephants here, only two can be seen now. Bhim Mandali cave, which is among the oldest rock art sites of the state, has also suffered damage.Survey of these caves and other archaeological sites will begin soon for bringing them under ASI fold. (Source: The New Indian Express)

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