Isco, A Rock Art Site Existing Since The Meso-Chalcolithic Era


In the Eastern end of the Northern Karanpura Valley, lies a tribal village known as Isco that deserves the full-on attention of the world for the ancient painted caves it displays from the Meso-Chalcolithic period.



Isco is located in the Barkagaon block of the Hazaribagh district in Jharkhand (Earlier in Bihar), approx 15 Km from the village of Barkagaon and 30 km from the town of Hazaribagh.

History and Facts

The site was originally discovered by Jesuit priest Fr. Tony Herbert. It was bought into the limelight by Environmental Activist, Padma Shri Bulu Imam in the year 1991 when he was informed about the 30 m deep painted cave dating back to 10,000 BC to 4,000 BC by the father.

Mr. Imam informed the Bihar Archaeology Department for a study about its antiquity. The rock arts were studied by the authorities of Indian rock art, and the Prehistory Department of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Nagpur between the years 1993-95. Both the authorities, after a detailed examination confirmed the rock arts to be dated from the Meso-Chalcolithic period.

Eventually, with further exploration, many such rock art caves were discovered in the region. Also, a variety of stone tools were found such as hand axes, microliths, borers, strippers, cleavers, leaf blades, core stones, etc from the Middle-to-Upper Paleolithic period dating back 25 to 20000 BCE.

The rock painted caves are called as Khovar by the villagers are believed to be marriage rooms in the ancient times.

Paintings And Its Significance

The paintings found in the cave are motifs and animal arts which are also painted by the tribals on the walls of their mud houses. The paintings found are Shorai and Khovar, two forms of matriarchal art that originated in the region.

Also, geometry designs are found which are believed to have been drawn by the priests under the spell of intoxication hence are considered sacred and are still worshipped by the local tribals. 

Recently, the Sohrai and Khovar painting of Jharkhand got the GI ( Geographical Indication) tag by the Geographical Indications Registry headquartered in Chennai. The application was made by the Sohrai Kala Mahila Vikas Sahyog Samiti Limited which was accepted by the registry on Tuesday, 12th May 2020.

Sohrai, also known as the cattle festival is a harvest festival celebrated in the states of Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhatisgarh, Odisha, and West Bengal. The festival is mainly celebrated by Prajapati, Kurmi, Santal, Munda, and  Oraons tribes of the region on the day of Amavasya in the Hindu month of Karthik which is during the month of October – November.

Isco Rock Art Site

Sohrai painting is the state art of Jharkhand painted during the Sohrai festival. It originated in the Hazaribagh and is one of the oldest forms of wall painting existing from 4000 to 10000 BC. The word ‘Sohrai’ originates from the paleolithic age word ‘Soro’ which means ‘to drive with a stick’.

Khovar is another age-old heritage painting originated in the Hazaribagh district of Jharkhand. The word ‘Khovar’ is derived from the word ‘Koh’ which means ‘cave’ and ‘Var’ which means ‘husband’. The painting is made to decorate the marriage room of the bride and the groom and therefore, is mostly painted during the marriage season that starts from the month of January and bypasses the summer months to end at the onset of monsoon.

The tribal women decorate their mud houses with Sohrai and Khover wall paintings. It is usually drawn with the help of sticks, cloth swabs, fingertips, and broken combs and depicts Pashupati (the creator of animals), flowers, elephants, peacocks, sparrows, squirrels, cows, etc.

The colors used in the paintings are extracted from flowers, leaves, plants, rice, etc, and mixed with Kali Matti (Maganese black), Duddhi Matti/ Charak Matti (white mud), Lal Matti/Geru (red oxide) and Pila Matti (yellow ochre).


Isco and the nearby area has a tropical climate. The summer lasts from March to June, April and May being the hottest month with the temperature rising as high as 35 to 45-degree centigrade.

Monsoon hails during the month of July to September. Winter lasts from November to February with the temperature falling as low as 10 degrees to 15-degree centigrade.

Mud House Paintings

Best Time To Visit

The best time to visit Isko is during the winter months i.e from November to February as the weather remains cold and pleasant.

Nearest Town

The nearest town is Hazaribagh located at a distance of 30.9 km via Hazaribagh Tandwa Tangar Rd.

Nearest Railway Station

The nearest railway station is the Hazaribagh Town railway station (Station Code: HZBN), located at a distance of 31.2 km via Hazaribagh Tandwa Tangar Rd.

Nearest Airport

The nearest airport is Birsa Munda Airport, Ranchi located at a distance of 81.5 km via Barkagaon Sayal Rd.

How To Reach Isko

The best way is to start the journey from Hazaribagh town. Reach Barkagaon which is 25.2 km via Hazaribagh Tandwa Tangar Rd and then drive towards the Barkagaon market to reach Isco village.

Mode of Transport

The only mode of transport from Hazaribagh to Isko is by personal car/bike or by renting a cab. The town of Hazaribagh has various car rental services.

How To Reach Hazaribagh

By Train

Board a train from to Hazaribagh Town Railway Station (Station Code: HZBN). Book a cab to Isko after reaching Hazaribagh.

The distance between Hazaribagh town railway station to Isko

  • 31.2 km via Hazaribagh Tandwa Tangar Rd.
  • 35,3 km via Chatra Rd.

By Air

Take a flight to Birsa Munda Airport, Ranchi, and then board a train from Ranchi Junction (Station Code: RNC) or board a bus or rent a cab.

The distance of Ranchi to Hazaribagh

  • 95.3 km via NH20
  • 98.5 km via Barkagaon Sayal Rd

Is Isko safe for tourists?

Isko is very much a safe place to visit for the tourist though following certain tips will surely ensure a safe visit.

Tips for visiting Isko

  • As it is located at a distance from the main town, it becomes isolated after the dusk, therefore, avoid visiting after sunset.
  • Avoid visiting alone, always be in a group.
  • The safest time to visit is between 6 am to 4 pm.
  • It is much safer to visit during the peak season, i.e November to February.
  • Carry water bottles, medicines, snacks, and other refreshments along.

Where To Stay

While visiting Isko, it is better to stay in the town of Hazaribagh. It has many luxury and budget hotels and lodges.

Other Nearby Places to visit

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Monalisa Bose Roy

A travel blogger cum financial expert with a vision to encourage tourism in Eastern India. Bose was born and brought up in the steel city of Jamshedpur, located in the Indian state of Jharkhand. Being born in the Eastern region, Bose has visited a lot of lesser-known places in the region. By her writing, she tries to spread awareness about those undiscovered gems of Eastern India.

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