Do you know where Diamond Mining is still active in India ? Want to see ancient rock paintings of central India apart from Bhimbethka? Are you craving to hike in the lap of nature after too much temple-hopping in Khajuraho? What about walking through a pristine river valley, full of colourful rocks and a spectacular waterfall? How would you like if an Indian holy man cook for you and have lunch with you? Come to Brihaspati Kund, one of the most offbeat destinations of Madhya Pradesh, India. It is just 2 hours’ drive from Khajuraho.
The Trail – A Short Introduction
The key attractions of Brihaspati Kund can only be explored by foot. Before discussing in detail, let me introduce the trail for your better understanding.
What is so special about Brihaspati Kund?
Ancient Rock Painting
Brihaspati Kund is located in the hilly area of Bundelkhand region. Numbers of shallow cave-like openings with over hanging cliffs on top are there, formed due to erosion and weathering effect on softer strata of thick sedimentary rocks.
Ancient people found these as excellent shelters. Paintings of multiple figures and patterns still exist there as an evidence of this early habitation.
Distribution – The painted rock shelters are found in two different areas of the trail. As I mentioned in the picture above:
- At the beginning of the trail while we were heading towards the waterfalls of Brihaspati Kund.
- At the end of the trail, after crossing the river valley.
The paintings of the later part are more in numbers, more prominent and painted more efficiently. Very few people knew about this place. Thanks to our guide Ajay Singh!
Subjects – Though all paintings are not clearly visible, I am here presenting what we have managed to interpret.
- Animals – cow, buffalo, dog, monkey, horse, elephant, tiger, deer, peacock, unidentified animal with long neck (not as long as giraffe’s one)
- Bodies of the cows, horses, elephants and even of wild deer are decorated with different patterns.
- Pregnant animal with baby visible inside mother’s body.
- Dog standing on the back of cow.
- Human figures carrying cattle by hanging it upside down.
- The initial rock shelters are mostly painted with numerous cattle, while the rock shelters of far end are full with battle scenes.
- Hunters and warriors with axes, spears, bows & arrows, swords & shields and even with trident.
- Warriors riding on decorated horses and elephants, wearing headdress and holding a flag like thing (a round shaped structure with multiple spikes fixed on the top of a rod).
- Four to five people seating together on the back of the elephant. Though the elephants’ trunks are not prominent and especially the thin legs confused us whether these are elephants or horses. But so many people cannot ride on a horse together. And the ratio of the sizes of human and animal also depicts the animal as elephant.
- The figures battling or hunting are in full motion – running horses, hair of the horse-rider and the tail of horse blowing in the wind.
- Human figures standing idle side by side or dancing in chain.
- Human figures with open palm; five fingers are prominent.
- Animal and human figures with hair flowing behind their head suggestive of motion.
- Cultivation of crops.
- Unknown patterns .
Time-Period – I am not expert in this field and my post-trip research disappointed me about the timing of these paintings. No information elsewhere! No idea whether all paintings are made at same time or not!
Anyhow, as we know horses were introduced to India around 1500 BC; therefore, we can conclude that these painting are not older than 3500 years. Again, elephants were widely used in battlefield by 6th century BC (Source – Wikipedia). If it is true then the age of the painting is maximum 2600 years.
Protection & Preservation – Not a single board with any information we found there. This place of immense historical importance is completely neglected and unprotected. The surrounding area of the waterfall of Brihaspati Kund is a popular picnic spot for locals. They come across the rock paintings of the initial area, but do not care about; more to this, they cause much damage by writing and painting on and even scratching these painted rock shelters.
If you are interested in other ancient rock paintings of India, you may go through our blog on Hire Benakal.
Have you heard of Panna National Park? It is not far from Brihaspati Kund. Actually Panna is the name of the district and Panna town is the district headquarter. Diamond mines are located in a belt of about 80 km across this Panna town.
Once upon a time, India was the only source of diamond, until diamond mine was discovered in South Africa on late 19th century. Though earlier, diamonds were also found in Andhra Pradesh of India; but today this diamond belt of Panna district is the one and only region of whole Asia where diamond mining is still active.
In this region, the soil is full of small stones and diamonds are usually hidden in these gravels . This gravelly soil is taken out by digging pit and trench; and thereafter is sent to the diamond processing plant, situated in the nearby town of Majhgawan. There, machine extracts diamonds.
No. We did not visit the plant of Majhgawan; rather we got to see the age-old traditional way of diamond mining in the surrounding area of Brihaspati Kund.
Here, the diamond mines are located on the bank of River Baghin or Bagahin. While we were walking along the rivers towards the river valley, the mines were situated on our left hand side (see the sketch of the trail). Madhya Pradesh government has leased this plots to the local businessmen, who had employed labourers to find diamonds.
Our guide Ajay Singh took us to a place where we saw people digging a large hole in the ground and some of them were carrying away the unearthed soil in cane baskets. We followed them and found some small artificial holes on the ground full of muddy water. In the meantime, a man was continuously fetching water from the river and pouring in the holes. Now it is the time to dip the basket full of gravelly soil in this water. The basket works as a filter. The soil and sand are washed out leaving only the gravel. There was a flat surface nearby, where the washed gravel is spread to dry up. Three guys were busy in finding diamond from the dried gravel. Diamonds may be as small as grains. This is the most difficult job; needs extreme eyesight and concentration. No use of machine! Only manual labour and efficiency!
– How frequent do they find diamonds? We asked Ajay Singh.
– Not much. Even after a month’s hard work a group of labourers gets just one diamond. But once upon a time, so many diamonds were there on the riverbed of Baghin, shepherds often used to get diamonds stuck in the hoof of their cattle. Now with times… Look there.
Ajay Singh pointed a piece of cloth tied up with the branch of a tree, a little bit away from where we were standing. This is actually an indication of success – He said. When a group finds diamond, they mark the pit from where soil was taken out by a piece of cloth. Later they break coconut to thank God for their good luck.
Diamonds we usually see in the jewelry are cut and polished. We were looking for an unprocessed diamond. Not for purchasing! Just to witness how does it look when uncut and unpolished. So we went to the place where the piece of cloth was hanging. But alas! We came to know that diamond had found two days earlier and the lessee of the plot had taken it away thereafter. Three to four groups of labourers we found working there, but unfortunately, none of them could find diamond on the day of our visit.
If diamond is found, the lessee is bound to deposit it to government. The government gives him a percentage. Earlier, dacoits used to come here to loot the mined out diamonds. Now, time has changed. With vanishing diamonds, dacoits are also vanishing.
Anyhow, our wish was fulfilled later, outside Brihaspati Kund. Ajay Singh knew a lessee, whom he requested to show us an uncut diamond. It was so small! Almost grain sized! Looks like a tiny broken piece of glass, not much shining like a cut and polished one.
Though Brihaspati Kund has other worth-visiting aspects, as I discussed before, but this place is actually popular for the waterfall. It looks spectacular in monsoon. But we were there in winter and found only one extremely narrow stream, almost invisible.
Anyway, the rocky trail along the very narrow cliff and the age old stairs that led us to the bottom of the waterfall was an exciting hike down.
The River Valley
Once upon a time tigers were abundant in this river valley. The river got its name Baghin, as Baghin means tigress. Now-a-days tigers are only found in nearby Panna National Park.
Walking along the bank was tricky. We had to balance over rough and loose rocks and penetrate through dense shrubs almost all along the route.
It was difficult to concentrate continuously to save ourselves from stumbling down. The eye-soothing surrounding was catching our attention! What a calm & pristine riverside!
We ended up in outspread valley, where the river water has been divided into multiple narrow streams making beautiful patterns on rocky surface. If it was monsoon, we could not have reached here, as that time water would flow over this entire terrain.
The streams finally turns into another waterfall; though almost invisible in this season. We are now standing at the edge; just beside the upper level of the waterfall. The river below bordered by steep cliff and dense vegetation made us awestruck.
The rock shelters were not only painted by early dwellers. Nature also coloured them. Here the hills were formed by sedimentation, layers after layers. Colours of the strata differ because of the nature of deposition, later followed by erosion and weathering. These varied colour bands are clearly visible on the cliff.
Vegetation and Wildlife
This area of Bundelkhand is full of medicinal plants. Throughout the trail, Ajay Singh kept introducing us many of them which came across our way; along with their medicinal values.
Chances of getting wildlife in close quite possible here for the dense vegetation. While crossing the river by foot, a big group of frog was jumping together in front of us; it seemed they were leading us. In the river valley, we found an Indian Eagle owl. Very rare sighting! But unfortunately we left our telephoto lens in our car before starting for the trail, so we could not managed to click a good shot.
The Ashram and the Holy Man
According to mythology, Brihaspati Kund is a place where Devguru Brihaspati (teacher of the Gods) established an ashram (hermitage) and performed Yajna (religious ritual done in front of the sacred fire). Now there is a temple of Shiva along with an ashram attached to it. It was our starting point of the trail, where we parked our car.
This place is an important pilgrimage site for the Indian sages. When they come here, they stay in this ashram.
A holy man is in charge of this temple and ashram. After finishing our trail we visited him. He is very caring and welcoming. Some poisonous plant caused itching on Saikat’s hand. The holy man applied a herbal oil there.
We bought some vegetables from Panna town before coming here. Ajay Singh roasted them in firewood. The holy man prepared chapatti for us. And we had a picnic lunch together.
Tips for Visiting Brihaspati Kund
- Brihaspati Kund is around 80 km from Khajuraho and it takes 2 hours to reach there. If you are planning to visit Panna National Park also, then keep in mind that Madla gate of Panna NP is located on middle of the way from Khajuraho to Brihspati Kund. Therefore, you may stay at any resort near Madla gate on the night before or in time of return.
- Ajaygarh and Kalinjhar are two nearby places which you should not skip. Please wait for our upcoming blogs.
- If you are interested to see the waterfall of Brihaspati Kund in its most spectacular form, then come in time of or just after monsoon. If you are fond of witnessing the river valley and the less explored rock paintings of far end, then come in winter or spring; as in monsoon you will not be able to access those. Plan according to your preference.
- If the waterfall is your only target, then it will take maximum 2 hours to walk down to the bottom and come back. In that case, you can do it by yourself.
- If you are planning to hike till the far end along with exploring all the interesting aspects of Brihaspati Kund, then 4-5 hours will be required for completing the entire trail. In that case you must take a guide.
- You have to walk on rough rock, take steep stairs and cross the river on foot. People with walking difficulties are not recommended to visit Brihaspati Kund.
- A pair of good hiking shoes is must. Try to wear full pants and long sleeve top wear to protect your skin, because you have to walk through dense shrubs.
- Carry plenty of water during the trail.
- If you are interested to have lunch in the holy man’s place, then carrying some vegetables and groceries for him will be a descent gesture.
- Don’t litter the place. Don’t make any damage to the rock paintings.
- Don’t use flashlight while photographing rock paintings.
- Diamond mining is a hard working job and picking tiny diamond from gravel needs extreme concentration. Do not disturb the labourers. Do not force them to pose for arranged photo shoot. Click candid.
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