Goa – Not just beers and beaches

December, 2017



Who goes to Goa to see mesolithic era pre-historic rock carvings?
Well. I did. With my son!

I have been a huge fan of ancient history, culture, ruins and all things old. Plus, I have always been fascinated about early humans and how they would have lived. Thankfully, my son Vivaan shares the same passion with me and we end up spending a lot of time on YouTube checking out videos on earth’s early history. (This is better than him spending time seeing inane animation videos and playing online games, don’t you agree?!). Our family has an annual tradition of spending the last week of May in Goa since both our parents’ anniversaries come up during this week. So a chill out weekend in Goa, hitting the resort’s private beach, Martin’s Corner for crabs, long walks and teen patti through the night is just what the doctor ordered. And this has been our exact itinerary for the last 8 years that we’ve been going there with my parents.

There is an interesting part to Goa beyond beers and parties…
A carving of an elephant
This is what the plateau looks like at first glance
A fantastic carving of a bull
Last year, while researching some article on ancient rock carvings, I was shocked to know that that there is a site in Goa which has carvings from the Mesolithic era!!! When someone mentions prehistoric art, the first thing that comes to the mind are the famous caves across Europe – Chauvet & Lascaux caves in Southern France and the Altamira caves in Spain dating back to anywhere between 20,000 – 8000 BCE. Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit these caves every year. But you don’t have to go that far to see this art of our ancestors. India has two sites where you can see the same. Some of us are aware of Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh as a site for rock carvings, but GOA?? The land of beer, beaches and seafood seems an unlikely destination for the same, but it is true. In south Goa and near a small village called Usgamil is a site which has an extraordinary collection of petroglyphs or carvings on rock surfaces. Traced back to thousands of years ago, this is on the west banks of the Kushavati river and is an incredible experience to visit.

Well, armed with this knowledge, last year when I was in Goa I drove down to Usgamil (about 80 kms from the Leela) with my son and enjoyed being in the presence of art created by our ancestors 20,000 odd years ago. Getting there is an effort though. I was lucky enough to get a cab driver who kind of knew about the place since he had taken some tourists from japan there a few years back. Otherwise you will be shocked to know that no one knows about this. Not even your hotel concierge. And once you reach Usgamil, there is absolutely no signage to direct you there. You really have to depend on your skill of navigation to find the place. The ASI has no presence there and it is depressing to know that a place that should be on the tourist map globally for these Mesolithic era carvings is totally left deserted. Once you reach the place, you will just see a stony plateau. What you must do is walk over to the river bank and fill a couple of bottles with water. Start pouring this water all over the stone floor and all the carved designs will come alive like magic! Vivaan was thrilled at this activity and helped me pour water over all the carvings. There are engravings on the rocks of deer, cattle, elephants, humans, dogs and a massive labyrinth.

The design of the labyrinth has always been a mystery to me. It’s interesting to note that pre-historic sites like these all over the world have one thing in common. A labyrinth design is almost always found there. It mystifies me that how could humans 20000 odd years ago and separated by massive distance across continents made the same design? Baffling, isn’t it?  Well, just thinking about it is not going to help. If you are a fan of all things pre-historic as me & my son are, the next time you are in Goa do visit Usgamil and for that brief moment, be a part of a story that our pre-historic ancestors wrote!

There is an interesting part to Goa beyond beers and parties and I hope you discover the same and experience the same joy as we did at Usgamil.