North Karanpura Valley

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Location: India

Significance: The North Karanpura Valley contains evidence of Paleo-Neolithic stone tool culture and numerous painted rock shelters whose iconic traditions are an expression of a continuous living culture whose traditions thrive in the ritual mural iconography of tribal villages. The sacred core of these cultures can be seen in their vernacular architecture, painting and crafts.

Specific sacred places include a sacred grove of Saal trees used by the Sarna animists of the region; a Sasan or burial ground where ancestor worship is practiced, and dance ground are integral to the seasonal spiritual practices of the tribes.dating to the Paleolithic period of the Sarna, Sasan, and Akhara indigenous people.

The Threat: Large-scale opencast mining called the North Karanpura Coalfields Project, on-going since 1985, has already destroyed two-dozen villages and their surrounding landscapes; it is slated to destroy the sacred sites listed below.


The Eastern North Karanpura Valley encompasses Isco Rock Art Site, Barwadi Punkhri Megalith, and Barwadi Punkhri Buddhist Site

Isco Rock Art Site

Photo: Bulu Iman

Significance: Rock art is considered to have sacred ritualistic significance and this site, dating from 7000 to 5000 years before the present era, is one of the finest examples in Eastern India. The Isco pictograph site is over 100 feet in length under a rock overhang and also has other deep caves. It is called kobara by the local Munda and Oraon indigenous people whose mud houses come within a few hundred yards of it. The motifs painted on the rock are still found in the tribal architecture of the region.

Photo: Bulu Iman

The Threat: It is threatened by the noise and disturbance of the Rautpara Opencast Coal Project. The project threatens to evict members of the Munda tribal. Poorly planned modifications of the site are being done to encourage visitors; it is degrading the integrity of this ancient fragile painting. Recently, steps have been cut in the rock that will encourage more visitors and flooring has been put on top of important archaeological remains.


Barwadi Punkhri Megalith

Significance: This 3 acre site contains a large circle of megaliths with a large circular mound dating from 7,000 – 5000 years before the present era. The site is the center of the sacred landscape comprised of other megalithic sites throughout the Hazaribagh plateau. Vast quantities of stone tools from the Paleolithic to Iron Ages have been recovered from the site, along with pottery and iron smelting remains. It is still used and considered sacred by the tribal people of the region.

The Threat: This site sits in the middle of the proposed Barkagaon Opencast Coal Project.

Barwadi Punkhri Buddhist Site

Significance: This site, 1 kilometer east of the Barwadi Punkhri Megalith, contains numerous Buddhist relics from the Mauryan period including a number of stone reliefs of Bodhisattavas, votive stupas, and other stone relics dating to approximately 250 years before the present era. Pilgrims visit this site for puja (worship) and Kirtan (sacred songs).

The Threat: This site is in the middle of the proposed Barkagaon Opencast Coal Project.

Nominated By: Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Hazaribagh Chapter

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