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Author(s): Nitesh Kumar Mishra, Anshu Mala Tirkey, Baleswar Kumar Besra


Address: School of Studies in Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology
Pt. Ravishankar Shukla University, Raipur, C. G. (India).

Published In:   Volume - 26,      Issue - 1,     Year - 2020

Cite this article:
Mishra, Tirkey, Besra (2020). The Cultural Study of Tribes and Prehistoric Rock Paintings of Simdega District. Journal of Ravishankar University (Part-A: SOCIAL-SCIENCE), 26(1), pp.39-48.

The Cultural Study of Tribes and Prehistoric Rock Paintings of Simdega District

 Nitesh Kumar Mishra1,*, Anshu Mala Tirkey2, Baleswar Kumar Besra3

1, 2, 3 School of Studies in Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology;

 Pt. Ravishankar Shukla University, Raipur, C. G. (India)

*Corresponding Author:   

[Received: 17 January 2020; Accepted: 29 September 2020; Published Online: 12 February 2021]

Abstract: This research paper will mainly consist of the unreported Neolithic site and rock art sites of Simdega district. In this paper there will be the detailed information about the rock paintings. The detailed study will be done of the various figures of the paintings. This paper will also describe the associated remains found along with the rock paintings. The research paper also consists of the developing phase of the rock art which can be seen in the tribal communities. Paper will also consist of the study of saddle quern, its various uses and how it is related to the tribal community. There will the content about the importance of the rock art in the tribal society. Various rituals are performed on the rock art site by the tribal people till today. This research paper will describe these rituals which are performed by the tribal people. The paper will consists of the study of correlation between the rock art and the various arts forms and cultures present in the tribal community.

Keywords: Rock Art, Tribes, Anthropomorphic, Tradition, Simdega, Chhota Nagpur, Mountain, Worship, Buru, Hadia, Tahri, Ancestor, Quern, Microlith.

 The Chhotanagpur is a continental plateau. The area of Chhotanagpur region is generally land. The plateau has been formed by continental uplift from forces acting deep inside the earth. Previously it was Gondwana land afterwards it got separated. And this was the reason for the origin of the plateau. It is the part of Deccan plate. This Deccan plate broke from the southern continent during the cretaceous to emplane on a 50 million year journey that was violently interrupted by the northern Eurasian continent. The south Chhotanagpur is one of the five divisions in Indian state of Jharkhand.  The south Chhotanagpur region of sub part of Jharkhand state was the center of prehistoric art since ancient times. This region is surrounded by mountains and forests. There are various mountains which act as the fortification wall of the region. There is basically granite rock all over this region. There are various rivers flows all over the region. The main rivers which flow in this region are Shankh and South Koel. There are also many rain waterfalls and pond inside the forests which make the life possible of the prehistoric man and it also promotes the life of wild animals, bird and insects. These wild animals, birds and plants make life easy for mankind since prehistoric times of rock.

Simdega district lies on the south – west of Jharkhand. Geographically the district is surrounded by Gumla district on the north, Ranchi district on the east, Orissa on the south and Chhattisgarh on the west. The latitude of Simdega district is 22°36ʹ54.83" N and longitude is 84°30ʹ7.49" E. The total area of the district is approximately 3761.2 sq. km.  The total population of 71% of the Simdega district is tribal population. Simdega is the second largest state highly tribal populated district of Jharkhand. Previously Simdega was the part of Gumla district, but in 30 April 2001 it got separated and became an independent district of Jharkhand. Simdega district consists of ten blocks. The names of the ten blocks are Simdega, Kolebira, Basjor, Kurdeg, Kersai, Bolba, Pakartar, Thethetangar, Bano and Jaldega.

Simdega district consist of mainly tribal communities. There are mainly Kharia, Munda, Oraon, Gond, Birhor and Binjhiya tribes etc. On the west side of Simdega district there are mainly Kharia tribe whereas on the east there the majority of Munda tribe. These tribes have their own culture and traditions. The names of the many villages are kept in the language of the Kharia tribe, as this tribe has the highest population in comparison to other tribes. All the tribes have their own laws, like the Kharia tribe has (dhelki Sasan). The kharia tribe which is divided into three sections: the Dudhkharias, the Dhelkikharias and the Hill kharias.¹ The tribal have the tradition of tattoo making. The make the tattoo on their forehead, neck, hand and leg. Tattoo making was compulsory among the tribal communities because they have the belief that after life these tattoos will go along with the body to the other world. The other tribe is Munda tribe which is highly populated in Simdega district. The Mundaare one of the tribes of the central zone of India.² Along with these two tribe Gond tribe is also found in Simdega district. Gond tribe is known as the highest populated tribe of India as well as Chhattisgarh.This tribe has their own language, culture and tradition which could be seen among them in living tradition. Birhor tribe is one of the primitive tribe of Jharkhand. This tribe is getting extinct. This tribe is nomadic tribe and lived in small groups. They don’t have their permanent settlement. Birhor tribe also increase the population of Simdega district. Many archeological remains are found scattered of this tribe in this region.

The Simdega represents the prehistoric art of our ancestors in the form painting. These rock paintings are one of the most magnificent arts among the various arts present in the culture of prehistoric tribes. The style of prehistoric Indian art has remained part of a living tradition for 7000 years. The houses are commonly decorated in many regions today. The rock art shows the creativity of the prehistoric man. These artistic skills (rock painting) are found all over Simdega region. The paintings of prehistoric man are safe till today on the wall and ceilings of the caves. These rock arts not only present the artistic skills of the prehistoric man but also, it also shows the achievements of our ancestors. The man used these caves for painting and as the watch tower for targeting their prey. The making of rock art was done not only in the prehistoric times but also in the historic period these paintings were made by the people. We can analyze the developing forms of the rock painting from the prehistoric times to the historic period. There are the evidences of prehistoric animals and humans hunting scenes, dancing human figures of ancient times and on the other there are the figures of the human domesticating the animals of chalcolithic period. Along with these figures there are also the figures of processions of humans, the human are show as riding horses and elephants, these pictures depict the historical period. Along with these figures there are also the figure of geometrical designs, it is very difficult to say that these geometrical design belongs to which particular period. These paintings were made by the natural colors, but it is controversial that which pigment was used for making the mixture for painting. The rock art was not only the artistic skill of the prehistoric man but this rock art also display the survival technique of man and animals of that particular period.

Like other regions Simdega also consists of rock art sites. They are namely Biru, Churiya, and Gupt Ganga or Sonakhain (the other site consists of saddle querns of Neolithic period). It is interesting to know that all the rock art are made on the north or northeast side of thecave, so that the sun ray me enter the cave from the south. This shows that our ancestors make their rock art generally on the south sides. The first rock art is Biru.The name “Biru” is taken from the Kharia language which means “mountain”. As there are the majority of Kharia tribe people they named the village on the name of the mountain. In Munda language the mountain is known as “Buru” by the Munda tribe people. So both the tribes named this village as “Biru”. There is a village named Pholwatangar in the Biru block there is a rock art site on the mountain named “Likha Pahar” this mountain is located about 3kms east side from the village. The longitude and latitude of the site are 22.6819⁰ N and 84,5609⁰E. This rock art side is located about 1200 feet from the surface. Geographically this site is surrounded by dense forests. These forests enrich the beauty of the village. On the south side of the rock art site there is the highway for Simdega and Ranchi. On the east side of the rock art side there is “S” turning and on the west there is “Bhairo Pahar”. The likha pahar consist of shelter as well as cave, the outer portion consists of shelter and inner part consists of cave. The shelter consists of rock art. The paintings are made on the walls of the shelter. The height of the shelter about 18 feet and width is about 10 feet. The figures are made in panel. There are basically geometrical figures painted on the wall. From the right side the first figures looks like the English alphabet “I” in shape. On the inner part of the “I” there four triangular shaped design on the both side of the line. There is also outline made outside the “I”. The other figure is also geometrical design which is unidentified. In this figure there are zigzag lines. The third figure looks like human moustaches. All the figures found here are red in color. There is also the engraved figure of fertility cult. There is the natural phallic of rock and a human made engraved figure of vulwa marks (symbolize birth and fertility) on the monolith rock. The ancient people worshiped these two figures as fertility cult. We also get the evidence of the associated material along with the rock art. There are microlithic tools scattered all over the site, there are basically scraper, lunet, point, trapeze, fluted core and side scraper etc. These tools are made of chert, quartzite, quart, agate and chalcedony.

The next rock art site is located 25km far from Simdega district. This site is situated in the Tatahtangar block of Churiya village. On the west side of Churiya village there is a mountain known as “Bhawar Pahar”, where there is shelter consisting of prehistoric rock art. The longitude and latitude of the rock art site are 22.4999⁰N and 84.5144⁰E. This site is surrounded by the tribal communities mainly Gond and Kharia tribes. This shelter is about 20 feet in height and width is about 18 feet. In this site there are mainly pictographs. There is the unidentified figure of an animal, which is the master piece of this rock art site. The second significant painting of this site is the hunting scenes. The hunting scenes are made on the roof of the shelter. In this scene the human is show as chasing the animal. The painting of human and animal is drawn in single line and it is huge in size from rest of the paintings. Along with these paintings there are human figures in large number. There is also a painting of a huge deer which is yellow in colour. There is also geometrical design which is red in colour. There are also the anthropomorphic figures of humans. There are the prints of palm, which is considered to be the palm of females. Along with the rock art there are cup marks present on the wall of the rock on the highest point of the mountain.   

The third site is located 60km far from Simdega district, named as Dhorijor village. The longitude and latitude of the site are 22.5272⁰N and 84.2318E. This village is in Kersai block. This is the Neolithic site known as Sonakhain. This place is situated on the north side of the village. The site consists of abundant of querns scattered all over of the site. The querns are rectangle in shape. Due to the excess use of the quern, it look likes the concave bowl. We found that in some querns were used from one side which leads to the deep impression on one side. But in some querns the deep impression could be seen on all the four sides. These querns were basically used for grinding the medicinal leafs and colours for making paintings. But it is controversial that, what the actual use of these querns was.

Rock art plays an important part the life of tribals. Not only in the past but in the present era the tribal people were very creative and artistic man. In the past our ancestors presented they artistic skills through the rock art. But at present we can see these arts in various forms. Few paintings of rock art still exist in the arts and culture of the tribal communities. In the form of art these paintings exist in the form “Alpana” in the marriages, festivals, worship of god and goddesses and decoration of houses. The alpana were made of the milk of rice. There were geometrical designs made in alpana, which was similar to the prehistoric rock paintings. In the marriage ceremony among the tribals of Chhota Nagpur there is the tradition of white washing the walls of the house, during the white wash they make Kohbar painting, this painting is specially made during marriage. In the folk art of tribals, Sohria and Jadu Patia are popular. The Sohrai paintings are made after Diwali in the honor of animals. In the Sohrai paintings the houses are decorated with the palm impression which is also found in the rock paintings. Along with palm impression there are animal figurines present in this art. Jada patiya art are made on the cloths and papers. In these arts there are geometrical designs which are similar to the geometrical designs of prehistoric rock art. Rock art designs are also found on the art of metallic art. For example, the village Kolebira of Simdega district one shield is found on which human figurine is made which seems to be anthropomorphic figure. Tattoo making is also popular among the tribals. Tattoo making is especially among the females. In some special occasion the males also do tattoo making. Many designs are made in tattoos which are similar to the designs of the rock art. There are geometrical designs found in rock arts which now could be seen in the tattoos of the tribal people. Each figure have different name of its own, for example Kasaili phool, Khadi phool, Kohara phool, Pothi Mahdev Jat Mahwa khocha and Nepur etc.

In tribals there is also the tradition of worshiping the mountain god. The mountain god is known as “Marang Buru” among the Munda tribe. The most famous worship of mountain god is done in “Lugu Buru” in Chhota Nagupr region. This place lies in Bokaro. The worship is done at the time of Kartik Purnima. In Simdega district the worship of mountain god are done in Thamgadha, Dhorijor and Purna Pani etc. The worship of mountain god is held on Kartik Purnima as well as Magh Purnima. For the worship of mountain god the tribal people do fasting. They take bath in the morning in rivers or pond and then dress themselves in traditional dress (basically white in colour). Other dresses are prohibited in this ceremony. After dressing themselves they go bare foot to the river and fetch water in the brass pot for offering the mountain god. After reaching the worship place they offer the water and sacrifice the animal to the mountain god. In some places animal sacrificing is not in tradition. Goat, sheep, cock and pig are offered to the mountain god. The tribals offer the varieties of cock to the god, like ‘Ranguwa’ (red colour), ‘Kurethiya’ (spotted), ‘Kasheli’ and ‘Charka (white). There are various material used for the worship of god expect the animal sacrifice, like ‘Hadia (rice beer) (during the worship this drink is known as ‘Tapaan’), ‘Arwa chawal’, ‘Sindoor’, Dhup dhuwan’, Dub ghass’, ‘Matha ghass’ fruits and Cow dung.

After reaching the worship place the male (Pahan ‘priest’) plaster the place with cow dung. They make symbolic god with mud or stone. After placing the god they offer rice. Then feed the rice to the animal or bird which has to be sacrificed to the mountain god. As the animal or bird eats the rice they kill the animal and offer the head to the god. When the ceremony is over the priest eat the head of the animal or bird and rest of the body part is distributed among the village people as ‘prasad’. The Prasad is prepared by meat and rice. This Prasad is named differently in various tribes, like ‘Sudi’ and ‘Tahri’. This Prasad is eaten on the mountain itself, the people are not allowed to take this Prasad along with them. After the ceremony everyone return back home and sing and dance in their traditional form.

 The tradition which was started by our ancestors in prehistoric time, same tradition is still being followed by our tribal communities. Some traditions are forgotten by the tribal people but still they are worshipping them as their god generation to generation. The main traditional art form is rock art which was made by our ancestors are not followed as it was done by them but still tribal people make some design on the walls and floor of their houses, tattoos on their body and worship them.   


1.      Fr. Doongdoong Anthony, The Kherias of Chotanagpur, Satya Bharti publication, Ranchi, 2015, pp.1

2.      Presler H Henry, Primitive Religious in India Senate of Serampore College, Bangalore,1971, pp3, 

3.      Alang Sanjay, Tribes and Caste of Chhattisgarh, Mansi Publication,Delhi,2011, pp 64 

4.      Sharma Vimal Charan, Jharkhand Ki Adim Janjatiya Jharkhand Jharoka, 2014, pp29

5.      Walker Benjamin, Hindu world : An Encyclopedic Survey of Hinduism Vol. I, Frederick A. Praeger, New York and Washington.1968 pp. 468 – 471. 

Fertility cult (vulwa)


BIRU “I” Shape figure


BIRU (horn shaped) 




CHURIYA (human figurine)


CHURIYA (geometrical figure, human figure)

CHURIYA (hunting scene) 

Quern (Dhorijor)


This tattoo is known as Mahadev jaat which is similar to this painting.

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