The well-known Times of India newspaper, the largest English-language daily in India, has endorsed the ancient astronaut theory in an article reporting the discovery of cave paintings in the Bastar region of central India. An article by Rashmi Drolia states without qualification that the archaeology department of the Indian state of Chhattisgarh discovered “10,000-year-old rock paintings depicting aliens and UFOs.” According to the article, Indian archaeologist J. R. Bhagat suggested that prehistoric Indians had contact with extraterrestrials.
Bhagat told the Times:
The findings suggest that humans in prehistoric times may have seen or imagined beings from other planets which still create curiosity among people and researchers. Extensive research is needed for further findings. Chhattisgarh presently doesn't have any such expert who could give clarity on the subject.
Bhagat is an actual archaeologist, and he does actual excavation work in India, recently directing excavations of the Tarighat city site.
The paintings in question depict what in other contexts archaeologists typically identify as shamanic images of humans, human-animal hybrids, and geometric forms. The image below seems to depict a shamanic figure with a helmet on which are antlers, antennae, or spirit rays—a familiar image in shamanic art. The paper did not indicate why the images were suspected of being 10,000 years old.
Bhagat likened the above image to a spacesuit, but it isn’t clear that he actually believes that they were depicting aliens. Instead, there seems to be a translation issue. The English isn’t terribly clear when he says “In few pictures, they are even shown wearing space suits. We can't refute possibility of imagination by prehistoric men but humans usually fancy such things.” It sounds like he’s saying that they look like space suits because humans can only imagine so many forms, but it just isn’t clear enough to understand his intention. His next sentence is less ambiguous: “The fan-like antenna and three legs of vehicle's stand clearly show a similarity to UFO type craft.” But the reporter qualifies it as a “co-incidence,” though it again isn’t clear that she wrote what she meant.
Frankly, the “UFO” looks less like a spaceship to me than an owl’s face, like that of the famous Indian eagle-owl.
The reporter, however, is certain that these images must be aliens. She relates what she claims to be local folklore about the images, but which seems to be a retelling of a Hollywood movie about little green men in flying saucers:
While few worship the paintings, others narrate stories they have heard from ancestors about "rohela people" — the small sized ones — who used to land from sky in a round shaped flying object and take away one or two persons of village who never returned.
The only reference I could find to “Rohela” people was to minority Muslims of Uttar-Pradesh to the north of this region, more commonly spelled Rohilla.
It’s rather difficult to give credence to this as a genuine ancient legend since Bhagat himself noted that both Hollywood and Bollywood movies familiar to Indians have used the same imagery for decades. Indeed, it is not uncommon for Hollywood movie plots to be recycled as folklore, as the inclusion of dinosaurs in some Native American myths after exposure to early dinosaur movies suggests. Adrienne Mayor reported on this in her Fossil Legends of the First Americans.
India has long been a hotbed of ancient astronaut beliefs, originating with Theosophy’s appropriation of Indian spiritual beliefs in service of their concept of Ascended Masters on other planets. Indians were quick to adopt early twentieth century claims that Sanskrit texts contained references to airplanes (and thus that Indians had invented them), and this transitioned into support for ancient astronaut ideas later in the century, often in service of nationalist claims to ancient Indian greatness.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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