India

The Konkan Petroglyphs – Niwali

There are two separate petroglyph sites at Niwali.

Site 1

The Konkan Petroglyphs - Niwali

This is where the whole Konkan petroglyph story started. Back in the 1980s a set of carvings were discovered whilst constructing a new road near Ratnagiri, it is thought that the carvings you now see today by the roadside actually extend underneath the road. This was the first set of petroglyphs discovered in the Kokan.

The roadside Niwali petroglyphs
The roadside Niwali petroglyphs

It was here that as a schoolboy Sudhir Risbud would cycle past the petroglyphs and became interested in what they were, and whether similar strange carvings existed elsewhere in the landscape. Over 25 years later and largely thanks to Sudhir and his team of enthusiasts, we now know of over 60 sites throughout the Konkan.

Sudhir Risbud standing in front of the petroglyph at Niwali that started his journey of discovery
Sudhir Risbud standing in front of the petroglyph at Niwali that started his journey of discovery

Although potentially only half the petroglyphs are visible today, what you can see is a clear central cross design, with further designs carved into the resulting quadrants. All of this is bounded by an S-shaped design around the perimeter.

The intricate and complex petroglyph design at Niwale
The intricate and complex petroglyph design at Niwale
Sudhir Risbud discussing the geometric and complex petroglyph at Niwale
Sudhir Risbud discussing the geometric and complex petroglyph at Niwale

The design is both compact and complex, but with little symmetry. The nature of panel would suggest it was created as a single entity with little additions at a later date.

Although it is believed some of the petroglyph has been lost to the road, mining activities close by also present a risk to the site. A crude boundary wall of laterite bricks has been placed next to the petroglyph beyond which mining appears to be continuing.

Fortunately this site is extremely well known about and may already be under some form of protection, so I image the risk of any further damage is limited.

Niwale petroglyph
Niwale petroglyph

Site 2

Close by to Site 1 is the second petroglyph site at Niwali, and one that was also once at risk due to mining activities close by.

Fortunately the authorities have managed to cease the deep excavations and mining activities here, which were thought to present a risk to the petroglyph site.

Although quite heavily eroded, the main petroglyph panel here was a striking resemblance to the one at Site 1 by the roadside. Once again the design is set within a rectangular/square panel, with a central cross, S-shaped border, and intricate designs set within.

The site has been partially protected by a perimeter wall of laterite bricks. You can see in the photo below just how close these mining activities were.

A few meters away from the main panel is another set of carved legs, very similar in shape to the pair we saw at Rundhe Tali the previous day, but here with added motifs.

Pair of legs - Niwale petroglyphs
Pair of legs – Niwale petroglyphs
Pair of legs - Niwale petroglyphs
Pair of legs – Niwale petroglyphs

Also set outside the main panel but much closer to it is what has been interpreted as a sea cucumber. Again, there are slight parallels to what we saw at Rundhe Tali where another aquatic animal, a jellyfish, was carved right next to the main petroglyph.

Sea cucumber - Niwale petroglyphs
Sea cucumber – Niwale petroglyphs

Site two does also have a few other isolated petroglyphs, here is what has been interpreted as an abstract sea turtle.

Abstract turtle - Niwale petroglyphs
Abstract turtle – Niwale petroglyphs

Across the road and in a far more isolated position is this carving. It is now quite badly worn so is difficult to interpret, is it a sea cucumber, snake, or possibly even a phallus ? If nothing else this carving acts to clearly demonstrate what damage human erosion can have on these petroglyphs, and why is is so important that people don’t walk on them.

This carving is right next to a path across the laterite plateau to a small farmstead, and clearly the passage of time and passing of feet has taken its toll on the petroglyph. The hard dark upper laterite layer has completely worn away exposing the softer light laterite, which will erode much quicker.

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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