Barsu Sada

The Konkan Petroglyphs – Barsu Sada

The Konkan Petroglyphs - Barsu Sada

Located on a high laterite plateau not far from Rajapur, Barsu Sada was the first petroglyph site we visited over the weekend. Some of the petroglyphs here are thought to potentially date back to 8,000 BC.

The first carving we saw came as a bit of a surprise considering the surrounding landscape.

Shark petroglyph at Barsu Sada
Shark petroglyph at Barsu Sada

Although the site is now many miles from the sea, Barsu Sada was once much closer to the coast. On this barren plateau with little vegetation and very few trees it’s a little difficult to imagine how the landscape may have once looked back in the mesolithic and neolithic periods. It would be immensely useful to take some soil samples from sealed contexts above these carvings to analyse for seed and pollen remains, although here there seemed to be very little soil left on top of the laterite.

The next petroglyph was an abstract design, it looks to be part of a much larger group of carvings that were obscured by thin scrub.

These two petroglyphs were merely the warm up acts to the main events at Barsu Sada. The next set of carvings were simply astonishing.

 Tarawacha Sada petroglyph at Barsu Sada
Tarawacha Sada petroglyph at Barsu Sada
Tarawacha Sada (Master of Animals) petroglyph at Barsu Sada
Tarawacha Sada (Master of Animals) petroglyph at Barsu Sada
Tarawacha Sada (Master of Animals) petroglyph at Barsu Sada
Tarawacha Sada (Master of Animals) petroglyph at Barsu Sada
Tarawacha Sada (Master of Animals) petroglyph at Barsu Sada
Tarawacha Sada (Master of Animals) petroglyph at Barsu Sada

This set of petroglyphs has its own name, Tarawacha Sada. Once partially obscured by a thin layer of vegetation, local villagers thought the carvings depicted two boats (Tarawacha Sada means “boats plateau”).

The image is of a human appearing to hold two animals by the neck/throat or legs, the animals themselves appear to be possibly tigers. Complex geometric designs have been carved inside these two large animals with fishes also carved around the image of the person. The human image also seems to have potentially two heads, neither quite to scale in comparison to the body.

Even with my camera on a pole my lens wasn’t wide enough to capture the entire scene, but luckily Sudhir had a scale drawing that shows the complexity and symmetry of the carvings.

Sketch of Tarawacha Sada (Master of Animals) petroglyph at Barsu Sada
Sketch of Tarawacha Sada (Master of Animals) petroglyph at Barsu Sada

This imagery I find extremely interesting. It is a symbolic motif that can be found throughout ancient art and is commonly referred to as the “Master of Animals”.

This depiction is quite widespread in Egypt and the Near East, one of the earliest representations can be seen on the Gebel el-Arak knife from Egyption prehistory, dated to circa 3250 BC (now in the Louvre Museum, Paris). Also from Egypt is another example found in Tomb 100 at Hierakonpolis, dated to around the same period. Moving closer to India, this imagery also appears on Indus Valley seals, the example below dating from 2500 to 1900 BC.

Master of Animals petroglyph at Barsu Sada
Master of Animals petroglyph at Barsu Sada

Having now also seen a few other petroglyph sites in the Konkan, it is interesting that the animal depictions at Barsu Sada show the animals not as life size, but considerably enlarged. At other locations we were often commenting on how the carvings appear to be broadly life size.

The depiction of fish also appears quite frequently here, clearly the abundance of them around the human figure holds some significance.

The next set of carvings had a completely different feel to it. The previous “Master of Animals” panel felt very rigid and static, this one felt much more flowing.

Petroglyph of a human with fish, aquatic mammals, and a bird - Barsu Sada
Petroglyph of a human with fish, aquatic mammals, and a bird – Barsu Sada

Here we have the upper torso of a human, seemingly holding something above his head, possibly a fish. To the lower right and upper left of the body are fishes, all appearing to be swimming towards the figure, and these fish images are cleverly linked together by curved lines. We have another aquatic animal on the lower left, also facing the human which could also be interpreted as an abstract left leg. At the bottom, and somewhat at odds with the rest of the imagery here, is a bird.

I was struck by how this image has some correlation with how the constellation Aquarius is often depicted, with a human figure (the bearer of water) holding a water jar above his head. Early astronomers would often associate the star patterns with fishes swimming in a celestial sea. If the object being held above the head was a pot (not a fish) I’d be a little more confident about this thought.

Next to this scene is an isolated image of a human holding a staff in each hand.

Petroglyph of human holding two staffs - Barsu Sada
Petroglyph of human holding two staffs – Barsu Sada

Again, this is a very common ancient image that can been found across the globe.

On our way to the final petroglyph at Barsu Sada we came to two carvings, quite abstract but one of them could be interpreted as a turtle.

The final petroglyph we saw I can clearly recall being shown by various online news outlets when the recent discoveries in the Konkan were reported in October 2018.

Master of Animals petroglyph - Barsu Sada
Master of Animals petroglyph – Barsu Sada

Here we are back to the “Master of Animals” theme. The design is far more simplistic than the previous example, with the human now holding the animals each side of him by the legs.

Again, this is style of imagery goes back a very long way. There’s a good example in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) from Mesopotamia, dating to around 800 BC.

The entire plateaux at Barsu Sada has over 200 carvings and spans across three different land boundaries (often defined by a simple pile of rocks). This of course adds an extra layer of complexity when it comes to recording and preserving the site, although thankfully unlike other petroglyph sites I was subsequently going to see, there did not appear to be significant mining occurring in the immediate vicinity.

Exact dating of the petroglyphs is of course difficult, but it is highly unlikely that all these carvings were laid down within the time span of a single generation.

This was one of seven petroglyph sites I visited in the Konkan during the course of a weekend. Here’s some quick links to the other sites :


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If you’re interested in using any of my photography or articles please get in touch. I’m also available for any freelance work worldwide, my duffel bag is always packed ready to go…

KevinStandage1@gmail.com

24 replies »

  1. Dear Kevin,
    Found your research fascinating! I have been working with tribal craftsmen through my NGO, Devrai Art Village for last ten years focussing on metal casting using the lost wax technique. Our innovation of fusing brass with stone is under patent process. ..
    Would like to know more about your work!

    Liked by 1 person

    • My About page has a little more about me. I used to work in IT, and now I’m a photographer and archaeologist. I teach archaeological excavation to university students during the summer in the UK, and outside of that travel and do photography. Have been to India 21 times, currently planning my 22nd visit in early 2020 !

      Like

    • Well, with fame comes people and more risk of damage to these places. So for now it’s probably a good thing, there’s a great team down on the ground doing their utmost to ensure the sites are secured and preserved.

      Like

  2. Simply amazing, thanks for sharing. I do not think however it’s a good idea for people to be trudging all over it. There should be some sort of a viewing platform constructed if the area is expected to attract tourism and steps taken to protect the sites from defacement by moronic vandals.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely agree, you only have to look at tracks to farmhouses on the laterite plateau to see how over the decades the surface can wear down. The team there are acutely aware of the challenges they are facing, and are doing their best to ensure the sites are secured and preserved for future generations.

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  3. Please watch this video and other videos of this channel
    I feel the reason for same being big is optionally answered in this video. And the similarly between all the ancient sites and carvings and sense of same source similar information and common things.
    Even the astronomy was a big part of same.
    I am no expert but will like to know any other information. Thanks for good work sir and keep it up. We need people like you who do such dedicated work selflessly.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for your comment Vikrant. As an archaeologist you can probably anticipate my response to your theories. I am absolutely not a believer that the planet was once inhabited by giants. In the case of the Barsu Sada human figures being larger than life size, this also applies to all the animal depictions, basically everything has been scaled up. I’ve often heard the theory that we don’t find the remains of human giants in India because they were all cremated, but this does not account for the lack of evidence for “scaled up” giant animals in the archaeological record (Dinosaurs of course were much much earlier, so not relevant to this discussion). But thanks for your comments, thoughts, and support – everyone is of course entitled to their own opinions !

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think atleast this proves that there were scientific evidence that ancient sites so old they change the course and understanding of history. Thanks sir for your response your work is appreciated by many people and shall be very helpful in future generations.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Kevin. These are some wonderful snaps and write-ups. I never realized that we had our own Nazca lines on rock in our backyard. You have triggered my interest. In particular, the linkages that you speculate on the resemblance of these images with the Egyptian and Indus valley motifs is quite stunning. By the way, to extend the speculation, the fish atop the human’s head, also has parallels in the images of Oannes and Apkallu of the Sumerian and Akkadian civilizations.
    One of these days I should visit this area. Does Mr Sudhir guide people around?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Master of animals. Fascinating. See also Genesis 1:25 – 27. The second petroglyph the man is holding two birds. When held upside down like that by the legs the birds can remain alive, but are helpless. Personally, I am fascinated by the survivability of this myth, understandable though when considered as the grand achievement of human technology after group hunting – kill them first, next keep them alive. Children of all cultures even now, first toys include toy animals.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment John. I think we are only just scratching the surface when it comes to correctly interpreting these images. Not sure which petroglyph you mean (holding birds), most of the ones I saw seemed to be animals. But there’s a lot going on with these carvings, and quite possibly not done all at the same time. They could well have been added to over many hundreds (or thousands) of years. It’s very easy to get quite obsessive about these sites ! Thanks once again for visiting my site and commenting !

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