Prelims level : Art & Culture Mains level : Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society.
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Why in News:

  • The rock paintings in Karikiyoor at Kil Kotagiri in the Nilgiri forests have withstood the forces of nature for some 5,000 years, but in just the last few years, close to 40% of the paintings have been destroyed by trekkers, tourists, and vandals.


  • Members of the Irula tribal community, who have an ancestral link to the site, said they were “extremely angered” and “disturbed” at the damage by illegal trekkers, permanently disfiguring the priceless pre-historic site.
  • They enter the site without permission.
  • The site remained undisturbed till very recently, when a spurt in the number of tourists has led to many people organising illegal treks to the rock art site,”
  • The society that painted the symbols onto these rocks were contemporaneous with the Indus Valley civilisation.
  • “The rock paintings in Karikiyoor contain analogous-Indus script, meaning they resemble the script found in Indus civilization sites of northern India.
  • Sites such as Karikiyoor need to be preserved to better understand the people that lived in the region, while also possibly deducing how certain technology and written scripts could have possibly diffused to southern India from the Indus peoples or vice versa.
  • The rock paintings serve both, as a “historical record,” detailing the hunting habits and
    ways of life of the local communities, and also a ritualistic purpose.
  • Irulas have a deep cultural connection to the site, believing that their ancestors were the ones who had painted the symbols. Failure to act will lead to the destruction and eventual loss of the site forever.

Irula Tribe:

  • The Irula tribe, one of India’s oldest indigenous communities, lives along the borders of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
  • Irulas are specialists in traditional herbal medicine and healing practices, and Irula ‘vaidyars’ (practitioners of any Indian systems of medicine) are mostly women and practice traditional healing systems which use over 320 medicinal herbs.
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