Delhi

The Konkan Petroglyphs – Ukshi

The Konkan Petroglyphs - Ukshi

The second petroglyph site we visited on day two of our weekend in the Konkan was at Ukshi. As had been the case at Chave Dewood, there are two sites to explore here, both were discovered in 2016.

Site 1

Situated right by the side of a road on a wide expanse of the laterite plateau was a vast array of petroglyphs, mostly consisting of abstract designs with no obvious structure to how they were laid down. You get the impression that here the images were created in a more random fashion, possibly by many different individuals over a long period of time.

Ukshi petroglyphs
Ukshi petroglyphs
Ukshi petroglyphs
Ukshi petroglyphs
Ukshi petroglyphs
Ukshi petroglyphs
Ukshi petroglyphs
Ukshi petroglyphs
Ukshi petroglyphs
Ukshi petroglyphs

This next image I found quite interesting. Whilst on-site I thought it was another abstract representation of a human figure with arms outstretched, but whilst post-processing the photo I noticed additional detail around the “head” of this figure, I’m now quite convinced this is a bird (hummingbird?) in flight.

Possible hummingbird petroglyph - Ukshi
Human or bird ? – Ukshi petroglyphs
Possible hummingbird petroglyph - Ukshi
Hummingbird ? – Ukshi petroglyphs

As far as other semi-identifiable images go, we also have what could be a comb, and the outline of two heads and shoulders placed side by side with reverse symmetry.

The most enigmatic carving here is also the largest. We have what appears to be the upper part of a head, with two large eyes and an abstract design forming the bridge of the nose and the eyebrows. Others of course might draw a completely different conclusion as to what this image is representing, it will be open to interpretation.

Head carving ? -  Ukshi petroglyphs
Head carving ? – Ukshi petroglyphs
Head carving ? -  Ukshi petroglyphs
Head carving ? – Ukshi petroglyphs
Head carving ? -  Ukshi petroglyphs
Head carving ? – Ukshi petroglyphs

Curiously the image appears to be unfinished. Almost all the carvings I saw over the weekend were “closed off”, and by that I mean that they were either complete animals or the abstract designs were bounded by carved lines (there’s probably a technical term for this!). Here the design is left often, but perhaps that too was intentional.

Here’s the one of the images that I’ve enhanced on the computer:

Computer enhanced image of enigmatic head-like carving -  Ukshi petroglyphs
Computer enhanced image of enigmatic head-like carving – Ukshi petroglyphs

One of the fascinating aspects to visiting these petroglyph sites is that they all have something different to offer, none of them are particularly alike at all. Some almost solely consist of animal representations, others focus on geometric designs, but there’s no great correlation between any of sites at all.

Were they executed by different groups of individuals at different times ? Are we seeing evidence for the migration of a set of individuals from one area to another over a period of time ? I’m sure a lot more analysis has and will be done to try and draw that bigger picture, and in truth we’re probably only seeing a small percentage of that overall picture today.

The second side at Ukshi is a good example of just how different these petroglyph sites can be.

Site 2

If you have read any of the media exposure the Konkan petroglyphs received back in October 2018, then you will be familiar with the carving at this site.

Here there is just one single animal represented, a giant life-size carving of a male indian elephant. As we’ve seen at other sites where animals are depicted, although only one front and back leg have been carved, both ears are present. In the case of this elephant we can also see both tusks, and it’s been made very clear what sex this animal is !

Fracture lines in the laterite do make a little difficult to make out the front leg of the elephant, at one point I even thought they had reused one of these fracture lines to form the shape. But that is not the case, and to make this carving really stand out I’ve modified the image to remove the fracture lines and change the perspective a little. Here’s how that looks :

Computer enhanced image of elephant petroglyph at Ukshi
Computer enhanced image of elephant petroglyph at Ukshi

It’s an amazing carving, just how they managed to achieve the correct proportions on such a large scale on the ground is mind blowing.

Unlike almost all the other sites we visited over the weekend, here some effort has been made to identify the carvings existence in the landscape. A low laterite brick and mortar wall has been constructed around the elephant carving, with a stepped viewing platform at one end and provision for an information board (blank when we visited).

All of this was funded and executed by the local villagers, who recognised the potential this petroglyph has in terms of encouraging visitors (boosting their economy), but also to try and ensure it is protected and respected. These are all excellent intentions, and credit should be given to them for wanting to do something and actually making that effort both financially and with man power.

However, I do feel that with the correct consultation things could have worked out a little better. The brick wall and viewing platform are dangerously close to the elephant petroglyph. For me it actually hindered my viewing experience, the elephant has no room to breath at all. I don’t know how much official prior analysis was done by experts on the laterite around carving to be sure the wall was not built on top of another petroglyph, no matter how subtle or insignificant it may appear.

Furthermore, the wall is constructed with normal everyday concrete and not lime mortar. This means almost certainly the laterite under the footprint of the wall is irreversibly damaged, we will never now be able to return this site to its natural state.

So I have mixed feelings about what has been done here. For sure this elephant carving is now protected from accidental damage, and it’s presence certainly draws attention to what is here and how important it is. But conversely, those efforts have also damaged the area around the carving, which I feel could have been avoided if an alternative course of action had been taken.

I’m sure the situation is a complex one in terms of organisations that could help, the willingness of locals to receive that help, and the finances that would be involved. Most of the landowners are rightly extremely proud of the discoveries made on their land, and they are only trying to do their best with both limited funds and limited knowledge of what the best practises should be.

I really hope a viable solution can be found for this situation. Both the state archaeology department and the local villagers need to work more closely together with the common goal of properly securing the preservation of these sites for future generations.

Detail of elephant head -  Ukshi petroglyphs
Detail of elephant head – Ukshi petroglyphs

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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