Kathotiya Rock Shelters
Most of us may be aware of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bheem Baithika, which is situated about 40 Kms from the Lodge (Same distance from Bhopal), however only a few would be aware that Kathotiya, an almost equally beautiful and elaborate Site containing Rock Shelters and Rock Paintings, dating thousands of years back, is situated hardly 10 Kms from the Lodge.
Home to the Bhil and Bhilala tribes of central India, Kathotiya village lies secluded in the middle of a green valley surrounded by steep hills (Vindhyachal Ranges).
Kathotia is a small forest village nestled among hills, with ancient cave paintings, reportedly over 17000 years old, abundant in wildlife and Birds, offering excellent opportunities for adventure sports such as rock climbing, rappelling, trekking etc.
The Kathotia Adventure Camp is managed by a group of local tribal youth (an SHG created by the MP Ecotourism Board) and offers an excellent outing combining nature, adventure and heritage walks along ancient rock paintings, similar to the ones found at Bhim Bathika.
Kathotiya rock shelters are basically spread over two hills, facing each other and have over a 100 marked, documented and researched, Shelters and Caves containing a variety of Rock Art, depicting what is believed to be a timeline period from 17000 to 500-700 years back.
Therefore at some places one finds different paintings of different era, quite literally overlapping each other.
The paintings are primarily in the regular Red Coloured Natural Dye but also use the White and what we saw for the first time in the area, Green Dye, to create a myriad of Rock Art, depicting the life and times of the era.
As we now wish to offer Kathotiya Rock Shelter & Cave Visits on a regular basis to our guests, therefore we wanted to experience the place for ourselves, so that we are able to prepare our guests for the outing.
The Madhya Pradesh Eco Tourism Board (GoMP) has created a Self Help Group in Village Kathoriya, with over 14 trained and registered guides, who are available to take the visiting guests on the trail and also help conduct the Rock Climbing and Rappelling activities, at Kathotiya.
Unfortunately, their training did not include the historical and anthropological description and narrative of the place, for which we had to source a Book written by Dr. Shankar Tiwari, a noted researcher, who is credited with discovering the place and documenting and chronicling the entire area in the year 1975.
Kathotiya, till date remains quite unexplored and a noted architect from Bhopal, still continues the research and documentation in the area.
One can only imagine the surprises which lie in store, waiting to still be discovered.
The trek begins from Kathotiya Village and after about half a Km of flat land, starts ascending on to the Hills, with altitude varying between 1500 to 2000 feet (MSL) and has a steady ascent.
Once the primary ascent is completed, the hill is more like a table-top, with a very gradual ascent.
The Shelters and the Caves are beautifully perched on the face of the hill itself.
The guides skilfully navigate through, what would appear an impossible approach and before you know it, the shelters begin to appear, one after the other, in a series, containing a plethora of anthropological and archaeological wonders.
As one walks from one shelter and cave to the other, the approach, many a time, through tunnels carved out by water over millions of years, are a delight by themself.
As you wriggle your way through the narrow gaps, contours and cracks in the rocks, the trek itself becomes all the more exciting.
What surprised us the most was the fact that this is a place which people still remains quite unaware of.
What people generally associate with this place is primarily rock-climbing, rappelling, mountain biking etc, which is mostly conducted on the northern hill, adjacent to the SHG Centre and we were informed by our guides Madan and Vijay, that we were perhaps the first trekkers who visited the southern hill, housing the Rock Art and walked through all the Shelters and Caves, since the month of April.
This itself, perhaps best describes how little people know about this amazing extravaganza of rock art, shelters, caves and a truly enchanting trail to trek on.
A treasure, just waiting to be unravelled, discovered and explored.
The trek, about 7 Kms in all, would take about 4 hours, depending on how much time one spends in the Shelters and Caves, how many one visits and what the halts and stoppages, and there would be many, as every corner offers a panorama like none other, are like, and eventually culminates at the pinnacle of Firangi Pahad, drawing its name from the ‘Colour’ of the Local Tribals of the Area, who are believed by the locals, “as described” by Madan and Vijay, to be the descendants of Westerners.
The return journey traces a different path, descending from the Firangi Pahad (Hill) down to a trail used by the local tribals from the Neighbouring village of Jhiri linking Kathoriya, which is a flat terrain with rolling grasslands and a beautiful jungle.
Here one is able to see the shelters from below, as to how precariously they hang from the cliffs and precipices.
Plan a visit to Kathotiya with us and Trek through Time itself, enjoying the bountifulness of natural splendour offered by the Vindhyachal Hills.
Forest Guides: Pramod, Vijay & Madan.