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Transcript of Ajanta Paintings
Manasi Khati 3rd Sem. M. A. (Archaeology)
Ajanta plays an important role in Indian Art History and Cave Architecture. It is rich both in sculptural, architectural and painting embellishment (Decoration). It provides an unique combination of these three activities at one place. The Ajanta moment considered as the high watermark of the Buddhist classical tradition of art because of its absolute precision and uncommon verve and vigour.
Indian painting is said to be as old as the epic period.. Kalidasa- Parvatis first bloom of maidenhoodmahakavya Kumarsambhavam Mahabharata-Usha fallen in love with Aniruddha, the grandson of Krishna- her maid and friend Chitralekha draws a number of portraits from her imagination. Bhavabhutis Uttar-Ram-Charita shows a whole seen that Ram and Sita in picture gallery The Yaksha of the Meghduta paints the portrait of his beloved. Agnimitra is represented as looking at the painting of the young and beautiful Malavika-Malavikagnimitram.
Minos of Knossos (2000 B.C.) Chinese Desert (5th Cen. A. D.) On the tombs of Egyptian kings The Sistine Chapel of the Vatican (15th Cen. A.D.) At Sigiriya in Ceylon (5th Cen. A.D.)
2nd Cen. B.C.- 9th Cen. A.D.- Buddhist Excavations in Western Ghat- near ancient trade routes. Ajanta (Lat. 20 32 N & Long 75 45 E) situated at the Aurangabad dist. of Maharashtra. cut out of the amygdaloidal trap rock. Extending over 550m. they are aligned in a horseshoe form. first noticed by some officers of the Madras Army in 1819. One of them was John Smith, an officer of the 18th Cavalry, who visited the caves on 18th April 1819 & inscribed his name on a pillar in Cave 10. The caves devoted to the Buddhism, mainly Hinayna and Mahyna.
The artistic activity of Ajanta roughly synchronises with the supremacy of the two powerful dynasties that rulesed over the Deccan, viz. the Stavhanas (Circa 235 B.C. to 225 A.D.) & the Vktakas (Circa 250 to 510 A.D.). Total 31 caves-two types-chaityagihas (sanctuaries) cave no.9, 10, 19, 26, 29; the remaining 26 vihras (monasteries). Hiuen Tsang-629-645 A.D.-a graphic description of the flourishing Buddhist establishment here.
Painting: Paintings are classified as Satya, Vainika, Nagara & Mishra, which are rendered by Dr. Coomarswamy as true, lyrical, secular & mixed ancient text Vishnudharmottarpurana (C. 700 A.D.)-the six canons of painting-1)Rupa bheda, 2)Pramanam, 3)Bhava, 4)Lavanya yojanam, 5)Sadrisham, 6)Varnika bhanga. The mural paintings of Ajanta narrate religious themes & these paintings colourfully illustrate a large number of jtaka stories connected to the previous births of the Buddha. The caves 1, 2, 16 and 17 have paintings on large surfaces though fragmentary in some places.
The paintings provide deep insights into the cultural milieu of the period, the amazing variety of dress & ornaments, arms & armour, temples & palaces, musical instruments & household appliances, suggest the material content of the Indian Classical Period.
Painting Technique : On the intentionally kept uneven wall the base of the plaster was given in two layers of ferruginous earth, mixed with rock-grit or sand, vegetable fibres, paddy husk, grass & other fibrous material of organic origin measuring a thickness of from three to twenty millimeters. The compact volcanic trap-rock or basalt characterized by vesicles and amygdaloidal cavities helped to hold thick layer of plaster. The surface was finally finished with a thin coat of limewash which was kept moist while the colours were applied.
The artists have used a wide range of pigments, & the important chromatic colours among them are yellow, red, blue, white, black & green. Black was taken from lamp-black & remaining all colours were extracted from minerals, e.g. red-Indian red (geru), yellow-Yellow-ochre, orpiment-yellow, green-glauconite, white-lime, kaoline & gypsum, blue-lapiz lazuli. Except lapiz lazuli all the colours were locally available. Lapiz lazuli used for blue & said to have been imported from Central Asia. Excluding black, all colours were of mineral origin. The oldest excavation at Ajanta is cave no. 10 which is datable to the 2nd Cen. B.C. The Shad-danta Jtaka composition of this cave is a replica of the technique at Bharhut.
The whole gamut of human life from birth to deathmen, women & children of all stations of life, from the king to the slave, from the rich to the beggar, from the saint to the sinner in the crowded drama of sublimity & coarseness, love & hatred, joy & sorrow, triumph & tribulation, compassion & ingratitude, pageantry & poverty, longing & death- all pervaded by an intense religiosity.
Plan of Ajanta Caves
Bodhisattva Vajrapani, Cave no. 1
Mahajanaka Leaving the Palace-Mahajanaka Jatak- Cave no. 1
Painting of a raja with a drawn sword & a female figure kneeling before him, from the Kshantivadin Jataka Cave no.2 .
Buddha in the Tushita Heavens Cave no. 2
Painting of an amorous couple Prince Vishvantara & his wife Madri Cave no. 17
Dying Princess cave no 16
King Khusru & Queen Shirin
Couples, yaksha figures, flying celestial beings, divine beings are depicted on ceiling.
Motif name varies according Aparajitprichha: Matsyapatra, Makarpatra, Hamsapatra, Meghapatra, Avapatra, mrapatra, ankhapatra, Padmapatra, Mahishapatra.
Ajanta by Debala Mitra Ajanta, Ellora and Aurangabad Caves: an appreciation
by Prof. T. V. Pathy & Dr. V.R. N. Prasad AJANTA, ELLORA AND AURANGABAD CAVES by R. S. Gupte Ajanta- A Cultural Study by M.K.Dhavalikar Photographs : Shrikant Jadhav Sir