VILLUPURAM: The Kizhvalai stone paintings, which have withstood the vagaries of nature for nearly 6,000 years, are now in the danger of getting effaced from memory, as man’s brazen greed, under the garb of development, is slowly obliterating the relic of our past.
Located 24 km from the district headquarters, the picturesque village on Villupuram-Tiruvannamalai road is known as Rattha Parai (Blood Stone) among the locals. The vernacular nomenclature owes more to the stone paintings in red ochre on the hilly terrain than to any even of bloodshed.
A visit to the site, protected by the TN Archaeological Department, is a visual treat for any history buff or even a layman. The primitive paintings depicting the daily life of a tribe long gone, is strewn with stones carrying relief of ancient tribes and animals. The choice of colour too is fascinating, as from a distance, the stones indeed look blood splattered.
However, modernity has not gelled well with antiquity in the region. Encroachments by cattle herders, local villagers and illegal stone quarries are pushing to ruins this fascinating relic of ancient age.
Casual weekend visitors and tourists too have left their indelible marks by defacing the stones to etch their own names. Empty bottles of liquor strewn around reveals that the calm and serene ambience of the place has been witness to many binge sessions. All this, despite the site coming under the protection of the archaeological department.
According to C Veeraraghavan, an archaeologist from Villupuram, “Rough estimates peg the paintings to be more than 6,000 years old. The site was discovered in 1982 by the then Collector PL Samy and a bunch of historians, including Pahoor S Kuppusamy, Villiyanur N Venkatesan and Anandhapuram Krishnamoorthy.”
Soon after its discovery, the site was attached to the department of archaeology, but no detailed research was done to pinpoint the era of its origin, he says.
When Express visited the site, there was not even a plaque to enlighten a casual visitor on the importance and the antiquity of the area. Despite our searching, we could not find a watchman or a caretaker for the site. Conversation with villagers led to their accusing the local politicians and village bigwigs of exploiting the easy availability of stones by carrying out illegal quarrying using high-powered explosives. They said most of the land had been encroached for setting up a eucalyptus farm.
Amid all threats, there is a segment of people who have been raising voices for the government intervention to preserve the paintings from being vandalised.