Day 1 – Q 2. The caves of ancient and medieval ages enlighten us with a lot of information of the bygone era giving us an impression of various traditions, customs and lifestyles followed by the inhabitants. 

  • IASbaba
  • June 10, 2020
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Art & Culture, GS 1, TLP-UPSC Mains Answer Writing
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2. The caves of ancient and medieval ages enlighten us with a lot of information of the bygone era giving us an impression of various traditions, customs and lifestyles followed by the inhabitants. 

प्राचीन और मध्ययुगीन युग की गुफाएं हमें बीते युग की बहुत सी जानकारी से अवगत कराती हैं, जिससे हमें निवासियों द्वारा पालन की जाने वाली विभिन्न परंपराओं, रीतिरिवाजों और जीवन शैली का आभास होता है।

Demand of the question:

It expects students to write about the information derived through the caves of ancient and medieval times about the traditions, customs and lifestyles of cave inhabitants. 


Ancient cave remains are a great witness to the evolution of human civilisation, through the numerous rock weapons, tools, ceramics and bones to sculptures, wall paintings and murals. More than anything else, caves both natural and manmade are the greatest wealth of our ancestors.


Prehistoric and early historic caves: 

  • Community living and elements of celebration: Bhimbetka caves gives information about the intimate contact of humans with surrounding animal life. Some hunting scenes show a fear of animals, but many others show a feeling of tenderness and love for them. Paintings of mundane events of daily life in those times to sacred and royal images. These include hunting, dancing, music, horse and elephant riders, animal fighting, honey collection, decoration of bodies, and other household scenes.
  • Mesolithic period caves and painting gives idea of hunting details. The hunting scenes depict people hunting in groups, armed with barbed spears, pointed sticks, arrows and bows. In some paintings these primitive men are shown with traps and snares probably to catch animals. 
  • Cloths and ornaments: The hunters are shown wearing simple clothes and ornaments. Sometimes, men have been adorned with elaborate head-dresses. Women are painted both in the nude and clothed. The young and the old equally find place in these paintings. Children are painted running, jumping and playing.
  • Depiction of women in household work and traces of family life: Women grinding and preparing food. Some of the pictures of men, women and children seem to depict a sort of family life. 
  • Places of religious importance: Some of the paintings were made in places which do not seem to have been living spaces at all. Perhaps these places had some religious importance. 

Buddhist, Jain and Hindu caves of ancient and medieval period:

  • Since Mauryan times, India entered era of manmade rock cut caves. Lomus rishi caves of 3rd century BCE exhibit Chaitya- prayer hall of Buddhists.
  • Buddhist caves of Viharas and Chaityas included sculptures, paintings with frescos. Sculptures in the caves gives idea of religious traditions of those times. For examples, Hinayana Buddhist caves lacked sculpture of Buddha, whereas Mahayana caves have enormous sculpture of Buddha.
  • Caves on the trade routes give idea of economic linkages of caves to the traders, who used to give donations to the monasteries of Buddhists, Jains or Hindus. For example density of caves in the western ghat is quite high.
  • Painting of the caves depicts stories from the Jatakas, which are based on previous births of Buddha. Ajanta caves are the most elaborated cave complex significant for painting.   
  • Multiple religious caves in same cave complex like Ellora indicates tolerance of those times. Top down carving of monolithic Kailash temple of Ellora indicate high engineering skills of inhabitants.  
  • Cave temples of these times have vaishnavite and saivite influence. Mural painting in Badami caves have vaishnavite affiliations. Paintings in this cave depict palace scenes. One shows Kirtivarman, the son of Pulakesi I and the elder brother of Mangalesha, seated inside the palace with his wife and feudatories watching a dance scene.
  • Presence of Chalukya queen in court indicates the position of royal women in early medieval times.  


These caves helped us to understand about inhabitants, their lifestyle, their food habits, their daily activities and, above all, they help us understand their mind, the way they thought. In the absence of script in prehistoric times and even during time of paucity of literary evidences, archaeological cave sites act as guide to the past. 

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