Rock art is a term used to denote
artistic expressions on rock media such as bare surface
of caves, rock shelters and boulders. They appear in
several forms such as painting, etching, engraving,
bruising etc. The early cave man was a nomadic
hunter-gatherer, whose life was inextricably linked to
his physical and natural environment. What he saw he
reduced to painting in the caverns inhabited by him.
Rock art is a vital piece of evidence linking man with
his creations left behind for posterity. Its study
throws enormous light – as any archaeological excavation
would – on the lifestyle of early man.
Tamil Nadu has a rich heritage and chequered history.
Its ancestry dates back to the Paleolithic age.
Archaeologically, it is one of the most interesting
sites, considering the antiquity of monuments, richness
of artifacts and the variety of its museums. In
epigraphy, the state can proudly boast of having the
largest number of inscriptions in the country. Its
temple architecture, sculptures and bronzes are
world-renowned. However, it was widely believed that the
state had no rock art of any significance. But, this was
till a few decades ago. In the late seventies, Prof. K.V.
Raman chanced upon rock engravings in Mallapadi in
Dharmapuri District, thereby flagging off the race for
identifying new sites; and the effort has not been in
vain. Till date, more than thirty sites along the
Western and Eastern Ghats have been identified, many of
them by officers of the State Department of Archaeology.
This has conclusively proven the existence of cavemen
who inhabited the rocky shelters of Tamil Nadu in
megalithic period (Iron age). It has also established
the State’s claim to be considered as one of the
important regions for studying and interpreting rock
The rock art of TN displays great virtues of balance,
appropriate use of colour, love of nature, and a keen
understanding of the life and times of the inhabitants.
Scenes of battlefield, travel, hunting, festivities and
food habits are depicted with realism and sensitivity.
All the images etched on rock surfaces clearly
demonstrate their urge to express themselves in forms
that are intelligible. They are the first - hesitant,
but clear- attempts by early man to communicate in
writing with members of his tribe as well as with
neighbours. A study of the paintings throws enormous
light on their thinking process, their every day
concerns and their fight for survival in a difficult
era. It also displays the artistic talent inborn in
early man. Their study is at once fascinating and