Durga Prasad Srivastava

In Danger: Natural & Cultural Heritage of Brihaspati Kund

In Danger: Natural & Cultrual Heritage of Brihaspati Kund

By D.P. Srivastava

Brihaspati Kund is situated 40 kms away from the Panna city, on the way to Kalinjar Fort. The area is part of northern Vindhya Ranges which is one of oldest hill ranges in country extended from Gujrat to Uttar Pradesh from the center of Indian subcontinent. Many historians suggest that this area is one of the few regions of India, which is a treasure trove of archaeological wealth as it is witness to various human habitations since prehistoric age. In Indian mythology, Brihaspati Kund is named after Guru Brihaspati (Religious teacher of Gods). It is believed that Guru Brihaspati had founded an ashram and performed his Yagyas to please God and Goddesses. Pleased with his penance, the Gods blessed the area with wealth. Since then diamond has been found in this landscape. According to another myth, Lord Rama also visited the area to meet Rishis during exile period.

Brihaspati Kund is fed by the river Baghein which is said to have its source in a hill in Panna district. It then enters UP, in Banda district and flows in a north-east direction, separating the district from Chitrakoot district, before it meets the Yamuna.

Brihaspati Kund in the Vindhyan ranges

The Brihaspati Kund is one of the seven Kunds in the course of Baghein River in this area. The seven Kunds are Suraj Kund, Brihaspati Kund, Gufa Kund, Sukha Kund, Hatyara Kund, Vedha Kund and Patalia Kund. The Brihaspati Kund is most important as it also has rock art shelters, discovered by Shri. K.F. Jadia in 1962. The rock shelter at Brihaspati Kund depicts human activities of varied nature as old as early Mesolithic Period.

Downstream of baghein river

Downstream of baghein river

Indian Rock Paintings have a long history and still few are not yet studied in their proper context. The major concentration of rock painting is in the Vindhya and Kaimur Hills, and over 150 sites have been recorded from the landscape from Paleolithic to late medieval period. These rock arts are depicted on the sandstones and these hills used to be ecological important sites where people practicing hunting and gathering can subsist. They were used for habitation by man since stone ages. On the walls and ceilings of these rock shelters, prehistoric man had painted animals, men and demons, scenes of daily life, agriculture, hunting and fighting.

The stone-age paintings of Central Indian Vindhyan hills were first reported by A.C. Carlylle in mid nineteenth century much before the discovery in Europe in 1867-68. Now Indian subcontinent alone holds more than 400 rock art sites with more than 3000 rock shelters of varying time periods.

Prehistoric rock paintings in Bhimbetka

Prehistoric rock paintings in Bhimbetka

Rock paintings at Khatotiya site

The rock art shelter shows ample light on the art, technology, lives, religion, economy etc. The local people believe that not only prehistoric man but also the deities also reside in the rock shelters so these sites are sacred and hence relatively protected. The paintings at Brihaspati Kund are in Red, Yellow and Green colors and depict processions of royal men, scenes of hunting and dancing, and animals. The drawing of a giraffe like animal is noteworthy as describe by K.F. Jadia in 1962.

In September 2018, while on search for the rock arts shelter, we reached Brihaspati Kund and saw the lovely waterfall. The monsoon water supplemented and increased the beauty of the waterfall manifold.

Brihaspati Kund Waterfall in September

The rock shelter is on the right hand side of the waterfall and a temple near to it. The ceilings of the shelters are depicted with pictographs of hunting, agriculture, domestication of livestock, wars in Iron Age to as early as Mesolithic age.

As the rock arts depict different animals, activities and life forms, it is a very important heritage. The depiction of Wild buffalo, Bison/auroch and Swamp deer on the rock shelters shows that these animals must have been found in this landscape when the forests were dense and unmolested by hand of man.

Group of dancing people

 

People on top of decorated elephant

 

Hunting Scene

Wild Buffalo

auroch – Bos primigenius – extinct species of wild cattle

Depiction of Swamp deer

Elephant riders while hunting

Herd of Nilgai

The deterioration of rock shelters due to humans impact

Graffiti and defacement of rock art

In my last visit in mid of October 2018, the things were found in different scenario. The water was very less may be due to the check dams in upstream of the Baghein River and the water was seen much more polluted due to over use by villagers. The rock arts are been deteriorating due to natural causes such as moisture and also spoilt due to graffiti by vandals who have etched their names, religious symbols using stones.

Brihaspati Kund waterfall in October

Different stages of the diamond mining:

As we know the entire landscape around the Panna is known for Diamond mines, the quest for finding diamonds have led to people mining the entire downstream river bed. As the area consists of sedimentary rocks specially sandstone, the potholes created in bed in search of the diamonds can fracture the underneath rocks which holds the water on the surface, in addition the quarried river bed will pollute the remaining water which is essential for people as well as wildlife in such landscape.

landscape pockmarked by diamond mining

Diamond mining

In search of diamonds

Uncontrolled extraction of resources in form of water and diamond mining has resulted in the deterioration of the natural river bed. The disturbance on the river bed rocks might impact the natural flow of the river. Apart from impact on the nature and ecology of river due to unchecked labourers working for mining diamonds, people are vandalising the rock shelters and rock paintings. Over thousands of years, the rock art in these rock shelters have conveyed their message to people who care to listen. Unfortunately, there is an urgent need to save these historical as well as natural heritage from iconoclasts and vandals who seek to obliterate our rich heritage as well as save the entire river Baghein basin where these pioneers had tread thousands of years ago. Posterity will hold us complicit and will not forgive us if our generation remains a mute spectator to destruction of these treasures.

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Durga Prasad Srivastava

Nature Education Officer,
Yamuna Biodiversity Park,
Centre for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystems (CEMDE)
University of Delhi, Delhi
Durga Prasad Srivastava

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