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The Vaishnodevi Experience 2023

My first trip to Vaishnodevi was unimpressive. Climbing was hard, and it only served to highlight how badly out of shape I was, while my in-laws managed to cope so much better. Further, I hadn’t quite realized that the cave experience wouldn’t be the same as I had imagined, since the original cave was only opened at certain times a year, and that we only entered a newly created tunnel, one far easier to access, and hence more manageable with the crowds that thronged the mountain shrine. The resulting experience at the shrine, for barely a fraction of a second, hardly compared to what I had expected / imagined / heard about. So, for me, Vaishnodevi was like any other temple, nothing to write home about, something that was reflected (though not explicitly mentioned) in the blog post I wrote then.

Binsar - Part 6 - The Pre-Historic Paintings of Lakhudiyar

The route from Almora to Jageshwar takes us along forests of pine trees, alternated with bare rocks of all possible colours – from orange and red to yellow and grey! Needless to say, Samhith was fascinated, and we have brought back lots and lots of stones. But this post is not about them! This post is about something interesting and unexpected which we saw on the same route.

We were stopping often, especially since both Samhith and I are prone to feeling nauseous on mountain routes. The only way to escape the mess of puking on the road is to play games or notice every small thing along the way, and stop when the feeling gets too bad! Well, over the years, we have learnt to pay enough attention to the road and avoid the mess! This time, our attention yielded even better results, when we spotted an ASI (Archaeological Society of India) sign on the road to Jageshwar.

I immediately asked our driver what was there, and he replied, “Kuch nahin, madam. Wahan to sirf purane paintings hain. Who bhi kuch acche nahin hain. Bahut kam log rukte hain!” (Nothing special, Madam. There are just a few old paintings there, and they too are nothing great. Very few people stop for a look.) I was curious, and he finally agreed to stop over on our way back. While returning, I kept a sharp lookout for the stream which marked the place, and reminded him to stop. I am all too familiar with drivers who aren’t interested in showing their passengers anything that isn’t on the tourist circuit, but this man thankfully remembered and stopped.

The name of the place is Lakhudiyar (or Lakhu-udyar), meaning a lakh caves. This is information I found on the net after I returned. There is no mention of this on the solitary ASI board which marks the place.

In fact, there was no sign of a cave at all, and Samhith and I roamed all over before we realized that the cleft of rock hanging over like a snake’s hood was the ‘cave’.

We even climbed some steps made of concrete in the cleft and found nothing but a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside!

Finally, we walked up to the overhanging rock, and tried to see what was of archaeological interest in this place.  

We were the only people around, and even Shankar had elected to stay back in the car. We spent a few minutes wondering where the paintings were, and Samhith peeped around, trying to find some miniscule entrance to a cave, but finally, we realized that the paintings were on the inside of the overhanging cliff!

The board mentioned ‘colourful’ paintings, but we could see only paintings in red. On returning, when I searched the net, I found a set of photographs showing paintings in red and blue, but I am sorry to say that we saw nothing of those….. Maybe we should have scourged the area above too…..but it looked too precarious for me to attempt with Samhith!

At first, Samhith was not too enthused, but then I explained about our ancestors and how they had lived in caves and drawn their day to day life, and pointed out the only clear figure of an animal – a deer and a stag. Only then did he show some interest and joined me in identifying the different figures and patterns.

Stick Figures of humans, probably dancing. This is the main motif almost all over...

more figures

Thicker figures... more like arrows now.

interesting pattern, isnt it??? I wonder what it meant... wish someone was there to explain

more figures, but are disappearing now.. wonder if they will be there a few years from now!

A decorative pattern with a cat?

a closer look at the feline

a stag and deer.. one of the few recognisable ones...

these look more human, dont they??

We spent just a little while in the place, but it has served its purpose, for Samhith is now a lot more interested in learning about evolution and the different ages. A much better way of learning such stuff, wouldn’t you say?

the only recent sign of life.. a beehive or wasps nest, and even here it looks abandoned!

However, there was just one thing which nagged me all along – this place is of interest to archaeologists, and must have been a lot more interesting a few years back, when the other paintings were still visible, even if they have succumbed to the weather now, but isn’t the place worth at least some kind of a protection other than just a rusting board which surely will not last more than a few more years? Shouldn’t there be someone posted at such a place to make sure that no one meddles with the paintings; no one spoils it by adding their own art to it? We Indians are notorious for leaving our mark behind. Just for argument sake, what is to ensure that these paintings survive a few more years, or that some of them are already the work of not our simple ancestors, but the budding artists of our time? It was a short visit, but it brought up a lot of questions for me! I would love to hear your feedback on this, especially if any of you have visited the place before, so please do leave your comments!


  1. Hey!
    We saw these on our way to Jwaalabhanj, stopped by and discussed their sorry state. I wonder how I never mentioned it to you. I also contrasted these with the Iddikal caves in Wayanad, Kerala.

  2. I am glad you went there. Sorry to hear about your nausea on the hill roads, I quite well understand the feeling.

  3. Nice pics esp d rock paintings one!!!

  4. Well to tell you frankly this is what I think every time I visit a place in Japan. I don't want to contrast the two places but then when I see something good I can't stop admiring too. Basically, here every place is very well maintained. Even the smallest of smallest things (which may not be even 1/5 comparable to the sculptures we have in India) is well maintained. In fact, even the people take the utmost care not to spoil anything. That's really something I do appreciate. I do hope people realize and take such things from seriously.Again my opinion only :)

  5. @Usha: hey, u've been there??? i had no idea! i hadnt even an idea there was a place like this! and u ve been to the iddikal caves too??? ive not yet gone to wayanad....... there s so much more to see, sigh!

    @Mridula: i was glad to have seen them too..... and yes, when i read your post on bhimtal, i really identified with u and the nausea..

    @sm: thanks a lot!

    @Ankita: thanks....

    @Shilpa: well, maintenance is the biggest problem in india.... and if u really think, consider the chap who actually takes care of the place.... even if the govt does spend money on it, he will wonder whether the place is worth all that, when he doesnt even have the basic neccesities... it is this which actually spoils all our monuments, that people dont realise their importance... probably it also stems from all the change of rulers we have had, and the idea that westernization would improve things more than the age old indian ways.... i can go on and on.... but then while i do understand, i still rue the fact that we are losing our heritage!

  6. The photos have come out well. Didn't you get the eerie feeling when you visited that place.

  7. @chitra: not really... probably because these were just a bit like caves......not like usual....


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