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Geoglyphs of Konkan Region of India

Date of Submission: 17/02/2022
Criteria: (i)(iii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Maharashtra and Goa
Ref.: 6605

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The sole responsibility for the content of each Tentative List lies with the State Party concerned. The publication of the Tentative Lists does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the World Heritage Committee or of the World Heritage Centre or of the Secretariat of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its boundaries.

Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


S. No.

State, Province or Region:

Names of the component parts:

Latitude and Longitude, or UTM coordinates:




16˚ 46ʹ 0.3ʺ N; 73˚ 18ʹ 31.60ʺE




16˚44ʾ16.9ʺ N; 73˚30ʹ58.2768ʺE




17˚ 5ʹ 53.80ʺ N; 73˚ 22ʹ 36.12ʺ E




16˚38ʾ58.54ʺ N; 73˚28ʹ28.44ʺE



Devi Hasol

16˚44ʾ16.9ʺ N; 73˚30ʹ58.2768ʺE




17˚ 5ʹ 53.80ʺ N; 73˚ 22ʹ 36.12ʺ E




16°15'26.8"N 73°31'00.4"E




17˚ 7 ̍ 56.31” N 73 ˚26 ̍ 1.28” E




15°07'15.1"N 74°07'59.1"E

Rock art in India is one of oldest material evidence of the country's early human creativity. These are generally in the form of rock paintings, rock etchings, cup marks and ring marks found all over India. However, the large concentration of geoglyphs on the laterite plateaus (Sada) of the Konkan region (south western Maharashtra to Southern Karnataka) is the most remarkable open-air ensemble of prehistoric human expression of rock art in the Konkan region (south western Maharashtra to Southern Karnataka) from Mesolithic (10Kya) to Early Historic (1.7Kya.).

Geoglyphs are rock art produced on the surface earth either by positioning rocks, rock fragments or by reduction technique i.e. carving out or removing part of a rock surface to form a design. These are a critical typology of material heritage being the only evidence pointing to the presence of human settlement in the Konkan region and, from a stylistic analysis, their features point to their continued existence from Mesolithic era till early historic era and possibly, were contemporary to other Deccan Chalcolithic cultures. Further, these are also the key proof of existence of certain types of faunal lifeforms that are no longer present in the region today.

Known as Aparanta, the Konkan region was a culturally vibrant land since the early historical period. The region witnessed flourishing trading activities complex maritime and inland trade linkages. It was connected to the Western Ghats through major communication corridors (called ghats) and the landscape were dotted with numerous forts, to protect the series of ports that were the critical linkage between the subcontinental and foreign shores. This made Konkon region the most sought after political-geography, contested by the Mauryas, Satvahanas, Shilaharas, Rashtrakutas, Kalchuris, Chalukyas, Vijaynagaras, Deccan Sultanates, Mughals, Marathas, also by the colonial powers such as Portuguese, Dutch and later the British alike.

While remains of continued habitation since early historic life is evident in the form of several affluent port towns, trading towns and routes, rock-cut caves, forts, colonies of foreign powers in form of factories, castles and towns, there is little evidence besides these Geoglyphs, to demonstrate prehistoric life of this region, which enabled the indigenous population to leverage from their landscape. These clusters of Geoglyphs covering about 900 km from north to south, along the coastline of the Arabian sea, show the expanse of initiation of culture in Konkan and provide visual representation of prehistoric life here.

Of the Konkan region, the area between (Modern day Thane district in Maharashtra to Goa) has always been the most important cultural zone in the development of the culture in Konkan Concentrated primarily in the southern parts of this region, these Geoglyphs are the only material cultural remains that point to the prehistoric human activities in the Konkan. The imagery and contents of these geoglyph clusters may also be understood as a documentation of how people adapted to ephemeral wetlands in a dry-arid plateau having shallow rock pools, streams and watercourses support a rich diversity of endemic and threatened aquatic fauna such as fish, amphibians, insects etc. This not only fills some knowledge-gap for the Konkan and the Deccan region, but also adds to on-going research on human resilience and adaptation to extreme fluctuations in climates. 

More than 600 figures arranged in the clusters are depicted inKasheli, RundhyeTali, DevacheGothane, Barsu, Devi Hasol, Jambharun, Ukshi and Kudopi in southern Maharashtra and Pansaymol in Goa, are the most comprehensive, well-preserved and artistically distinct Geoglyphs evidencing a cultural legacy of 12000 years. The content, composition, scale, quality of imagery and artistic techniques not only provide an insight on the range of mainly faunal life, but also depict the increasing tendencies of depicting abstract and anthropogenic forms onto stone. Further, the Geoglyphs show increasing finesse of artistic skill and evolution of techniques of etching and scooping, that are fundamental to mastering rock art.

The high level of artistic skills and evolution of techniques of rock etching and scooping, are significant markers of their intellectual endowment of the cultural group. The diversity of symbolism, forms, composition, proportion, techniques evident in each site are distinct and collectively represent an insight into the world view of earliest transitionary phases of the culture in Konkan.

Description of selected properties:

Jambhrun (Maharashtra):  A site near the village called Jambharun has 50 geoglyphs. These geoglyphs cover a wide area of almost 25X25 m. The depictions are an interesting combination of human and animal figurines along with abstract carvings. 8 human figures are depicted in thick outlines. General features suggest that there are male figures with straight spread-out hands and legs, round head, fingers of a hand spread open.  All the human figures are little larger than life-size while animal figures are almost life-size. Other figures include deer family animals and aquatic features. Animal figures are shown with outlines in longitudinal sections with two legs, the other two remain hidden, in case of deer head is slightly tilted in profile and two horns joining each other forming a round shape.

Ukshi (Maharashtra): A large figure of an elephant (6 x 5.40 m) is the only geoglyph here. Shown in the sectional elevation, the head of the elephant is in profile as two ears marked with cross motif are clearly seen. Two long jutting out teeth are clearly illustrated on both sides of a long hanging trunk. Clear depiction of penis undoubtedly indicates this figure being male. Pointed tail, trunk, tip and teeth remain other features of stylization.

Kasheli (Maharashtra): Largest rock engraving in the Indian context, a geoglyph here includes a large figure of an elephant 18X13 m in size. Distinctive characteristic of this elephant figure is the depiction of 70-80 animal figures carved within the outline of the elephant. These include various aquatic animals like sharks, sting rays, terrestrial wild animals like tiger, monkey, boar, rhino and birds like peacock along with few abstract figures. Several of these figures are spread north-south with their feet towards west and heads to the east. However, few carvings are also carved outside the large elephant figure. An aerial photograph explains this composition beautifully. The head is shown slightly tilted making visible both ears. A long trunk originating from head reaches to the length of feet. No details of other limbs are shown besides outline. This certainly reminds us ‘Zoo’ from Bhimbetka, famous rock art site in central India, however this composition of having all aerial, terrestrial and aquatic creature diaspora within and around figure of an elephant is certainly unique in context of known rock art sites in India, gives unswerving visual experience of the wild Mesolithic fauna in the Konkan. No other known site being reported with such a large and complex composition of engraved art in Indian context. Microliths created by using quartz and quartzite are collected within a 20 m area of the elephant figure. They may not have been used to carve these images; however, they certainly indicate human activity during the terminal phase of the Pleistocene epoch.

Rundhetali (Maharashtra): An intricately designed abstract geoglyph consists of a huge relief pattern in spherical shape with four circular projections placed along an elongated edge with a rectangular projection in the middle. These projected circles have a cross type of motif. The main spherical shape has two more diminishing circles. The middle one has rectangular projections on four sides alternately placed with short stumpy projections. The innermost oval has a rectangle placed in the centre leading to formation of four triangular spaces around it. The half part of the rectangle located in the centre looks like a human figure with a square head and two raised arms. Below is a geometric pattern form resembling stylized wide-open human leg. An animal of the cat family, probably tiger, a jellyfish and a fish are depicted to the east of circular composition. The entire composition is spread from east to west longitudinally, having placed stylized legs in the bottom central part.  The relief pattern is almost 2 inches deep, and it is composed in a precise symmetrical manner.

Devi hasol (Maharashtra): Geoglyph here is a panel of abstract carving in high relief. The abstract pattern covers the area of 8.5 x 8.5 metre. The rectangle has three more rectangles of diminishing order, inside which a rectangular pattern made of wavy carvings is composed with cross sign in each corner. Further space inside this wavy rectangle is divided in four rectangles created with intersecting double lines of ‘plus’ shape. A circular cavity is seen in the middle of the intersecting point. Each rectangle is further divided in several compartments more or less following geometrical shapes, mostly squares, rectangles and triangles. Few wavy lines are also seen as part of composition. No human figurines, animal or bird carvings are noticed here. Unlike animal figures these shapes are formed by thick lines which project very intensely as area besides line forming design is scooped out to the depth of 8 to 10 cm. It is difficult to derive any meaning or inferences out of this composing at the moment. Few other carvings can also be noticed nearby. The geoglyphs are located near Aryadurga temple. It is an integral part of rituals carried out in the temple.

Barsu (Maharashtra): The plateau at Barsu consists of more 62 geoglyphs. It is the largest cluster of geoglyphs in the coastal belt of Konkan. One of them has a larger-than-life carving of man and two tigers. The carving is spread over an area of 17.5 x 4.5 m. The man is shown standing between two figures of tigers leaping towards him. The human figure is four meter in height. The man is shown with stretched arms to keep these tigers at the bay. The tigers are stylized within rectangular form shown with wide open mouths. Though attacking, they appear more or less static. Stylization seems to have dominated over animism. The stripes on tigers are also composed by arrangement of horizontal and vertical lines forming rectangles and triangles in a stylized manner. In contrast to geometrical treatment of tigers, the human figure has a round head, curved waistline and rounded feet. The chest is shown with geometrical abstract forms. The carvings are not much deeper than 2 inches, also the gap between the outer and inner line is 3-4 centimetre wide. Adjoining to the left side of human torso figures of a fish, a rabbit and a peacock are depicted. Depictions on the other side of the torso are eroded beyond recognition. Scholars have pointed out the similarities of this composition with a motif depicted on at least two seals reported from the excavated sites of the Harappan Civilization-Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro.

DevacheGothane (Maharashtra): A laterite plateau near this village is reported with a single geoglyph in form of a standing human figure almost amidst vast open flat area. The standing human figure is created by scooping out rock outside the outline leaving it out in low relief. The figure is shown with a round rather bald head, triangular torso, straight shoulders with loose open arms hanging down and legs shown with slight bent in the knee. An unusual phenomenon of magnetic deflection is noticed around this carving and as one moves away from it intensity decreases. This magnetic activity needs to be explained with scientific research.

Kudopi (Maharashtra): A lateritic plateau near Kudopi in Sindhudurg district has around 80 geoglyphs forming three clusters. It has depictions of fauna such as humped cattle, deer, boar, etc. as well as triangular and rectangular abstract designs, circles. Stylistic anthropogenic human figures in probably a narrative format form the characteristics designs of Kudopi geoglyphs. It also includes spirals, and some enigmatic designs etc. Out of these 80 figures some are etched and some have bolder depiction with scooping out area around the etching.Phansaymal (Goa): The site is located on the banks of the river of Kushavati in the state of Goa. It is a one large cluster with depictions of humped cattle, peacock, deer, wild boar/carnivore, human figures, grinding grooves, rings, cattle hoof marks etc. It is the only site with the depiction of concentric circles or rings and cup marks. These geoglyphs are etched.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Geoglyphs are unique typology in human creative art in terms of size and scale. Evidence of the largest span of time, Geoglyphs exist worldwide and are important cultural expressions since the Palaeolithic times. 

While most common rock art in India are in the form of rock paintings, rock etchings, cup marks and ring marks, the large concentration of geoglyphs on the laterite plateaus (Sada) in the Konkan are unique and most remarkable open-air ensembles of prehistoric human expression since 30,000 years ago. These are distinct concentrations of pictorial representations that include marine and riverine, mammals, reptiles, amphibian and avian life which have vanished from the region several centuries ago.

With the highest concentration of geoglyphs, these collectively evidence – the presence of continued habitation and diverse faunal lifeform that no longer exists in the Konkan region today. Further, the quality of artistic expression, composition, evolution of techniques (of scooping and etching), proportion and stylized forms of diverse species and abstract forms testify excellence achieved in intellectual endowment, mastery over foundational skills of rock art and an insight into the worldview of the earliest transitionary phases of culture in Konkan including possible onset of early sacred practices.

There is a high concentrated cluster of geoglyphs in the Konkan region. Of these, around 600 figurines clusters in Kasheli, RundhyeTali, DevacheGothane, Barsu, Devi Hasol, Jambharun, Kudopi and Ukshi in southern Maharashtra and Pansaymol in Goa are most distinct, evolved and comprehensively demonstrate all unique features of the different types of geoglyphs in Konkan. Each site shows unique composition, primarily depicting faunal life, and where in later geoglyphs show increasing depiction of abstract shapes and anthropogenic figures. 

Faunal themes are integral and characteristic of the Geoglyphs of Konkan. Some prominent animal forms include large mammals like the tiger, elephants, monkeys, animals from the deer family, cattle like buffalo, pig, rabbit, wild boar, monkey, etc. and species such as rhinoceros and hippopotamus that became extinct 30Kya. Besides animals, there is a high concentration of reptilian, amphibian and aquatic creatures like tortoise, alligators, fishes, sharks, stingray et al. Abstract and geometric shapes vary in size and density of distributions whereas anthropomorphs vary in scale, depiction of action and in numbers. In some clusters, one or two standalone figures of larger-then-life scale can be seen, whereas another show a complex composition of multiple figures, gathered for a purpose.

The discovery of these geoglyphs as individual properties and as a collective whole, dispersed along 900 km of the Konkan coast, fill an essential knowledge gap that had puzzled antiquarians for long. These add a new chapter in prehistoric rock art and shed light on the transitory phase from Stone Age to Early Historical period of the Konkan region.

Criterion (i): In South Asian cultural context Mesolithic communities are known for their technological development in form of using microliths and creation of art mostly in painted form and limited engraving. The ensemble of Geoglyphs of Konkan is unique as rock engravings are successfully attempted in life size of even larger than life indicating not only abstract thinking but successful and intended developments in artistic and technological skills of rock artistry. This is further reinforced by the choice of site evidenced by the distribution of these geoglyphic, where artists selected hard stone in density for engraving and comparatively softer surface to execute the finer desired forms. This undoubtedly proves the knowledge of the landscape and material properties, outstanding technological skill and mastery over applying carving tools that were fundamental for survival and stone artistic expressions.

Criterion (iii): The Geoglyphs in the coastal area of Konkan are outstanding and most well-preserved and only surviving evidence that comprehensively depict the transitionary phases of Mesolithic culture from pre-pastoral hunter-gatherers to settlers of historical era. Each cluster of symbols contributes to characterization of this rock engraving culture and the repetition of symbols in distinct stylistic form indicates human creativity and evolution of rock artistic tradition in the Konkan region. 

Criteria (iv): Geoglyphs in the coastal area of Konkan are outstanding and most well-preserved significant examples of rock art that evidence critical transitional phases of human history from Stone Age to Early Historical period in Konkan. These large concentration of geoglyphs on the laterite plateaus (Sada) of the Konkan region (south western Maharashtra to Southern Karnataka) are the most remarkable open-air ensemble of pre-pastoral human expression of rock art and depict increasing complexity and finesse in content, composition, proportion and skill over 12000 years. The depiction of now extinct fauna, abstract geometric forms and anthropomorphic forms are the only physical evidence of a cultural phase that was foundational for transforming the Konkan region into an important political geography and a prominent trading hub that integrated foreign shores with hinterlands, making it one of the most sought-after coastlines of the sub-continent across history.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Authenticity: Geoglyph as individual properties and as a cluster are recent discoveries that together comprehensively demonstrate the transition of human culture from the early Stone Age to Early Historic Period. Each geoglyph is an authentic representation of artistic skills, cognitive abilities and ability to use tools in manipulating lateritic surfaces to depict life, faunal diversity and human culture. The figurines and the compositions of the Geoglyphs of Konkan provide the rare opportunity to fill the knowledge gap about understanding of the natural landscape and prehistoric human’s capability of transforming the same into the creative human genius.

Integrity: Selected sites present the outstanding and significant examples out of large concentration of rock art in the Konkan that represents the critical transitional phases of human history from Stone Age to Early Historical period of the region. The most well-preserved figurines and clusters of anthropomorphic forms, fauna and abstract geometric forms help in piecing together the prehistoric landscape of the Konkan. Being important to local cultural ethos, these geoglyphs are protected by the local community and whose endeavours have supported the Directorate of Archaeology and Museum, State of Maharashtraby formally safeguarding them with the legal protection. Further, community and grassroot involvement has been critical in raising awareness and increasing scholastic interest in study of these rock art, its landscape and biodiversity.

Comparison with other similar properties

In international and regional comparisons, geoglyphs of the coastal region of Konkan are similar in quality, antiquity and their importance in providing information on early human-life, culture and their environmental affordance over a significant span of time. These distinguish themselves in terms of their content, style, proportion and diversity of content (faunal, abstract geometric and anthropomorphic forms) depicted through techniques of scooping and etching.  

International Comparative 

Globally, the Geoglyphs of Konkan can be compared to Properties that are

  • Comparison based on Typological similar i.e with other Geoglyphs in terms of diversity and difference in scale, content, style and cultural association
  • Comparison based on similar craft-skill - Engraved (ie. non-painted) Rock Art i.e. Petroglyphs for their contributions in developing rock-art skills, cultural association and contributions to later culture.

(i) Comparison based on Typological similarity i.e with other Geoglyphs in the world:

  • Paracas Caldebra in Peru - This is a single pictogram that looks like an enlarged trident (594 feet long and 2 feet deep into the ground) and belongs to the pre-Incan Paracas culture. Very little is known about this Geoglyph and it largely remains a mystery. 
  • Blythe Intaglios, Colorado desert, California in United States of America - These differ from the Konkan Glyphs in terms of scale, composition and technique of execution. The Blythe Intaglios are gigantic pictograms, each comprising three human figures, two four-legged animals, and spirals. These are drawn on the flood banks by removal of gravels and pushing the soil below the ground level, which inhibits growth of vegetation in the future. 
  • Anthropomorphic geoglyph of Atacama giant in Chile - These are the world's largest Geoglyphs depicting prehistoric anthropomorphic figures accompanied by zoomorphic and geometric forms and show an early astronomical calendar used to predict rain. Built using three essential methods, ‘extractive’, ‘additive’ and ‘mixed’, some of these giants are isolated and some form a panel composition. These are aligned to assist in traversing the ancient pre-Hispanic trackways of llama caravan routes across the difficult desert geography.  
  • Lines and Geoglyphs of Nasca and Palpa: Peru: Inscription: 1994: Criteria: (i)(iii)(iv) - These form a highly symbolic cultural landscape of the Andeans and are drawn by making depressions or shallow incisions into the dark sandy beds and scraping to expose the lighter subsoil of the Nasca and Palpa desert. These have a great variety of thousands of large scale zoomorphic and anthropomorphic figures and lines or sweeps with outstanding geometric precision.

In comparison to the above Properties, the Geoglyphs of Konkan differ in content, technique and scale of execution of the art, and the base material on which the art is drawn. In scale, the largest geoglyph of the Konkan region is significantly smaller than the abovementioned Properties and are more intricate in depicting features of anthropogenic, zoomorphic and geometric forms. An evidence of pre-Historic life, the zoomorphic depictions also include extinct faunal life. Whereas in the Properties above, have abstract depiction of floral and faunal life that are still present in its region. Third and most significant difference is in the technique of execution and use of tools. The above-mentioned Properties were executed by extracting, adding and mixing aforementioned methods and removal of gravel and pushing of topsoil below ground level. The average depth of depressions are nearly two feet and were executed mostly on desert sand and river beds. The Geoglyphs of Konkan were incised on laterite, where the depth of relief is maximum two to three inches and were executed with stone tools in Mesolithic era while metal and stone tools in early-historic period. These also show the evolution of techniques and skills in manipulating laterite and tools for the purpose.

(ii) Comparison based on similar craft-skill i.e. Engraved Rock Art

In terms of similarity in techniques of manipulating stone, content, iconography, composition and scale, the Geoglyphs of Konkan can be compared to petroglyphs and geoglyphs inscribed as a part of the following World Heritage Properties:

  • Ecosystem and relict cultural landscape of Lopé-Okanda, Gabon, 1994:  Criteria: (iii)(iv)(ix)(x) - The clusters of geoglyphs and petroglyphs evidence the successive passages of different peoples who inhabited the hilltops, caves and shelters. These show techniques of quartzite stone manipulation using stone and iron-implements. 
  • Petroglyphs within the Archaeological Landscape of Tamgaly, Kazakhstan, 2004, Criteria (iii) - These testify the husbandry, social organization, rituals and occupations of pastoral peoples of Central Asian steppes from the Bronze Age to the present day. In terms of style and content, these are akin to the Petroglyphs of the Cold Desert.
  • Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape, Azerbaijan, 2007, Criteria (iii) - These rock engravings testify 40,000 years of rock art and evidence intensive human use of the landscape during the wet period that followed the last Ice Age. Existing in rock shelters, these petroglyphs are scratched and/or abraded into the limestone surface and also have two painted figures and each chronological phase has its own distinct style and subject matter. The depictions are mainly zoomorphic (aurochs, horse, boats, goats, camels, tamgas, deers, and riders), highly stylised anthropogenic and few geometric forms. 
  • Rock Drawings in Valcamonica, Italy, 1979, Criteria (iii)(vi) - These prehistoric petroglyphs comprise more than 140,000 to 300,000 symbols and figures carved in polished sandstone and schist outcrops over a period of 8,000 years and depicting themes connected with agriculture, navigation, war and magic. The image and its accompanying narrative rely on patination colour, design, size and engraving technique and these engraved panels depict the natural landscape and in topographic features. 
  • Rock Art of Alta, Norway, 1985, Criteria (iii) - The Property has a combination of Painting, Petroglyphs and Geoglyphs and is the largest collection of rock carvings made by hunter- gatherers in Northern Europe. Some 3000 geoglyphs carvings in Hjemmeluft are spread over 85 panels carved on hard, pale sandstone bedrocks and on some detached rocks on both sides of a bay. Kåfjord has about 1500 carving on clay-slate rock surface, Amtmannsnes has about four engraved panels on pale meta-arkose and those in Storsteinen are in disintegrating state. These are lightly carved on the surface, showing different production techniques specific to the rock-type. These engravings depict the range of faunal life and evolution in anthropogenic activity over 4000 years in the Arctic region.
  • Prehistoric Rock-Art Sites in the Côa Valley and Siena Verde, Portugal and France, 1998/2010, Criteria (i)(iii) - These are the best illustration of the iconographic themes and organization of Palaeolithic rock art, which adopted the same modes in caves and in the open air and contribute to a greater understanding of this artistic phenomenon. The petroglyphs collectively show social, economic and spiritual life from Upper Palaeolithic to the final Magdalenian / Epipalaeolithic (22.000 – 8.000 BCE) era. Carved on metasedimentary rocks, these are mostly figurative representations of animals, and some schematic and geometric figures. The Property shows the different techniques like direct or indirect percussion engraving, cutting, pecking, incision and abrasion used in the two periods of the Foz Côa cultural phase.

In comparison to the aforementioned Properties, the Geoglyph of Konkan adds to the discourse on Rock Art and to the World Heritage List by demonstrating Mesolithic culture's ability to evolve skills and techniques of manipulating lateritic rocks in a vast region where information on human settlement was sparse. The iconography, content, scale and composition record faunal, especially marine and large mammals that have become extinct in the Indian subcontinent over 30,000 years. In terms of mastery of rock art engraving skills, it shows mastery over co-development of tools and techniques of carving, iconography and stylistic variation of pre-historic cultures in Konkan that were integral to later major art, architectural and settlement practices of the Deccan. These are also the only pieces of evidence that explain why the communities in Konkan became a major trading power to monopolize the coast where the subcontinental inland trade of the east and maritime foreign trade of the Arabian sea converged.

Regional Comparative

The Indian sub-continent has a rich diversity of rock art that are more-or-less of contemporary beginnings and different timelines of continuity. These are the oldest tangible expressions of human creativity and can be classified as petroglyphs, paintings and geoglyphs. 

Rock paintings



Rock paintings are found painted on the walls of rock shelters and are sometimes accompanied by petroglyphs, cupules etc. The highest concentration of rock paintings are found in Central India and few in the eastern parts of the Indian subcontinent.

Of these, the most important ones are found in the World Heritage Property of Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka 2003, Criteria (iii) (iv).

Petroglyphs are engravings on the vertical surfaces or on boulders and may sometimes accompany paintings.

This is widely available across the subcontinent with higher concentration in the Himalayas, North East and Southern parts of the Indian peninsular region. Other sites are located in rock shelters in Eddikal (Kerala), Perumukkal and Kollur (Tamil nadu), Champhai district of Mizoram and Salangthel, Khoupum, and Tharon (Manipur).

The most prominent concentration of petroglyphs, that of Ladakh, Himalayan region are included in the Property ‘Cold Desert Cultural Landscape of India’, and are inscribed on the Tentative List (2015) criteria (iii)(v)(vi)(x).

Geoglyphs are engraved or incised on the floor or rock bed and are open air ensembles. These are extremely rare to find and only occur on the lateritic plateaus of the Konkan belt (western edge of the Western Ghats, in peninsular India).

The Geoglyphs of Konkan Region of Indiaproposed under criteria (i)(iii)(vi) has the most important (and highest) concentration of such rock art form.


Geoglyphs and Rock Paintings for their composition, the content and variety of symbolism, whereas Petroglyph and Geoglyph can be compared on aforementioned grounds as well as on techniques of rock manipulation.

(i) Comparison between Geoglyphs and Rock Paintings for their composition, the content and variety of symbolism

The Paintings of Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka are narrative panels of hunter-gatherer, their religious life, and faunal diversity (elephants, tigers, antelopes, horses, boars, and even lizards) of 30,000 years ago and parallels of which can still be seen in the landscape today. Covering 5 major habitation periods, these paintings collectively show evolution of 20 distinct styles and 12 substyles ranging from fluid, natural strokes, silhouettes, coloured or filled and outlines. 

The Geoglyphs of Konkan are individual pictograms and collectively do not form a narrative panel. These depict fauna, primarily large and extinct mammals and marine species in bas-relief form and in markedly exaggerated scale. Other depictions are abstract anthropogenic and geometrical features that together convey the interaction between man and fauna and foundational stages of socio-sacred activities. Unlike the paintings at Bhimbetka, the incision marks and figures (faunal, anthropogenic and geometric) of the Geoglyphs of Konkan are more angular and less fluid.

(ii) Comparison between Petroglyph and Geoglyph for their composition, the content, variety of symbolism and techniques of rock manipulation

The Petroglyphs and Geoglyphs share similarity as both require the skills of removing parts or engraving a symbol on the rock surface. The nature of rock surface and tools at one's disposal determines the technique(s) used and proportions achieved while the components in the environment serve as references for content and composition.  

The Petroglyphs of the Cold Desert span Prehistoric, Early historical, and Later historical times and show the exploitation of largely igneous rocks. These depict animals, mascoids, humans in different attitudes of hunting, dancing and horse riding and symbols like sun, palm, swastika, cross, spiral and floral patterns. Later petroglyphs also show representation of Stupas or Chortens with or without inscriptions. Located on the crossroads of cultural routes that link Steppes, Central, Northern and South Asia, these petroglyphs show an overlap of cultural influences of communities who travelled along these routes over time. 

The selected Geoglyphs of the Konkan coast (south-western Maharashtra to Southern Karnataka) are the only cluster that show the range of techniques evolved by pre-pastoral communities to manipulate lateritic rock beds (locally called sadas). These document the increasing complexity and finesse in skill, composition and technique, but also the depth of knowledge these communities had in inhabiting difficult landscapes over 30,000 years. On one hand, these engravings remain the only evidence of marine and riverine, mammals, reptiles, amphibian and avian life which have vanished from the region several centuries ago. On the other, it testifies the persistent engagement with the natural landscape that enabled communities in the Konkan region to capitalise from a coastline where international maritime trade and inland routes converged. Further, as laterite was the only accessible building material, the knowledge of its manipulation was essential to survive in the Konkan. The Geoglyphs collectively show the process of the evolution of the fundamental techniques and skills that contributed to the development of the culture in the region. 

The Geoglyphs of Konkan are the best preserved examples that show all stages of transition since the Mesolithic era and fill an essential knowledge gap that had puzzled antiquarians for long. These add a new chapter in prehistoric rock art and shed light on the transitory phase from Mesolithic to Early Historical period of the Konkan region and pre-historic life as a whole. Furthermore, it adds to the ongoing global discourse on interrelationship of human habitation, distribution of floral and faunal life and climate change on each other.