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DESCRIPTIONA Presentation by Prof. Subramanian Swaminathan on the paintings of Ajanta Buddhist paintings on the walls and ceilings of the 29 caves in Ajanta are not only the ealiest in India but also the best the subcontinent produced. These are also the forerunniners of religious paintings of India and Indian Asia.
- 1. Paintings of Ajanta Caves(2nd century BC to 6th century AD)
3. Ajanta is a great art treasure.
They contain some exquisite sculptures,
and more importantly,
paintings of unrivalled beauty.
Its caves are a fine example of
4. from early phase of the pre-Christian era,
In these caves can be seen the development of Art
reaching classical perfection,
falling off into mannerism
and then to baroque ornamentation
and, finally, lapsing into artistic decline
5. Ajanta is a storehouse of information
about the period:
ideas of beauty and morality,
its sense of wit.
6. The paintings tell us about
the technical aspects of their art:
preparation of the ground,
execution of the painting itself,
with sense of perspective, space division,
preparation of the pigments,
harnessing of the visual and tactile senses,
pacing of the narrative.
7. The spirit of Ajanta influenced
the religious art
of the whole of Asia
The Ajanta paintings are the earliest surviving paintings of India,
religious or secular
8. The Indian artist, while depicting Buddhist themes, did not feel the need to make
a translation from foreign to familiar terms
In fact, the Ajanta painting tradition is truly
an indigenous religious art tradition.
The Buddha and His disciples were Indians.
9. Location of Ajanta
10. The caves of Ajanta are situated
in the district of Aurangabad
in the state of Maharashtra.
Ajanta is about 100 km from Aurangabad and
about 60 km from Jalgaon.
An extended stay at Aurangabad
would be rewarding,
as the equally important
monuments of Ellora are
only about 30 km away.
11. The possible explanation for
the monastic establishment at Ajanta
is its proximity to the ancient trade routes.
It is about 100 km from Aurangabad
14. Period of Excavation
15. First Phase
Hinayana period (2nd - 1st centuries BC)
The earliest caves (Nos. 8, 9, 10, 13 & 15A)
during the rule of the Satavahana-s,
who had their capital at Pratishthana.
During their rule there was
brisk trade and commerce
within the land and
with the Mediterranean world,
which brought in enormous riches.
16. Second Phase
Mahayana period (4th 6th centuries AD)
The second phase was of
greater artistic activity at Ajanta
and the remaining caves were excavated
during the rule of
the Vakataka and the Chalukya dynasties
from the 4th to the 6th centuries AD.
18. The rulers, the Satavahana-s,
the Vakataka-s and the Chalukya-s,
were themselves Hindus,
but allowed Buddhism
to flourish in their territory.
But there was no direct royal help
during almost the entire period.
But the rich mercantile community,
organising itself into guilds,
had provided the requisite patronage.
19. The entire Ajanta chapter is
a tribute to the religious tolerance
of the Hindu rulers.
21. The precious caves remained
abandoned till 1817
when they were discovered
by a company of British soldiers.
Soon pioneer archaeologists were
attracted to the caves that were lost
to civilization for more than 1200 years.
22. James Burgess and William Gill
made copies of some of the paintings
and exhibited in London in 1866.
Unfortunately almost all of these perished
in a disastrous fire.
Later some copies were made
by Griffiths and Lady Herringham,
and published in 1896 and 1915.
Under the patronage of the Nizam,
the then ruler of Hyderabad,
Yazdani edited and published
two volumes on the paintings in 1933.
23. Rahula and Yashodhara meet the Buddha, Cave 17
Reproduction by Herringham
24. Layout of the Caves
25. The caves,
lying deep inside the Sahyadri Hills,
are hollowed out on the deep face
of a horseshoe-shaped hillside
with the Waghora river
flowing through it.
The caves are aligned
in a horseshoe form.
There are a total of 29 caves.
The general arrangement was not
pre-planned, as they sprang up
sporadically in different periods.
The caves are numbered
not on the basis
of period of excavation,
but on their physical location.
27. Views of the Caves
28. Here are some enchanting views of the caves
29. 30. 31. Undoubtedly suited for uninterrupted
meditation and contemplation
32. A narrow pathway connects the caves
to go on a pilgrimage
to the highest achievement of Indian Buddhist art
33. 34. Rock-cut Architecture
35. The caves of Ajanta offer an instructive field
for the study of the evolution of
It is unique in the sense
that it can be viewed
as an enterprise of a sculptor.
The cave architecture,
at Ajanta and elsewhere,
betrays the strong influence
of wooden construction.
36. The team was probably drawn from
the profession of carpenters,
with goldsmiths and ivory-carvers
joining hands with the sculptors.
37. The evolution of rock architecture
took place during two periods:
the Hinayana period
of the pre-Christian era and
the later Mahayana period.
38. Hinayana period (2nd - 1st centuries BC)
During the first phase
the sculptural activity
39. Mahayana period (4th century onwards)
In the second phase
sculptural compositions filled
the facade, the shrines, etc.
Side by side with
the excavation of new caves
the existing Hinayana caves
were suitably modified.
40. Mahayana period facade embellished
41. 42. The caves of Ajanta are divided into
The entrance has
44. Arched roof
Chaitya - Interior
Interior consists of
a long vaulted nave
with a pillared aisle
on either side
Far end is semicircular
with a stupaat itscentre
45. Vihara - Plan
for the monks
on the inner sides
at the far end
46. Vihara - Interior
On the left to the entrance is
the famous painting of Padmapani
A colossal statue of the Buddha
is seen in the sanctum
47. Vihara - Interior
49. During the first phase, the Buddha
was not shown in the human form,
but only through symbols,
the Wheel, the Bodhi Tree
and the Feet of the Buddha.
But during the Mahayana period
sculptures and paintings
of the Buddha
and the Bodhi-sattva-s,
50. The sculpture of Ajanta
to the great art-tradition
of contemporary India.
Sculpture from the 4th century AD,
is remarkable for
its grace, elegance,
restraint and serenity.
51. Maha-pari-nirvana, Cave 26
52. Maha-pari-nirvana, Cave 26
53. Naga King and
54. However, the general character
of the sculpture of Ajanta
tends towards a certain heaviness of form,
and is considered inferior
to the Gupta images.
55. Hariti Shrine, Cave 2
56. Every one of the sculptures
was plastered and painted.
But most of the plaster
is now lost.
Sculpture at the Entrance
58. Jataka Stories
The subjects of the paintings are
Buddhist mythological stories
of the previous lives
of the Master
59. Jataka Stories
This is a scene from the story of King Shibi,
who offered his own flesh to save a pigeon.
60. A Scene from Shibi Jataka, Cave 1
61. Life of the Buddha
Episodes from the life of the Buddha form
the next important theme.
62. Life of the Buddha
Gautama was meditating under the Bodhi tree
to attain enlightenment.
Mara, the Evil Spirit, made many attempts
to dislodge Gautama from His resolve.
Mara sent his three most beautiful daughters
to distract Him.
When this failed,
Mara summoned his demons
to dislodge Gautama.
But Gautama was calm and unmoved.
63. Maras Episode, Cave 1
64. Life of the Buddha
On the way to Her parents house
Mayadevi gave birth to Siddharta
in Lumbini grove of shaala trees.
Brahma, Indra and other gods descended
to pay their respects to the new-born.
65. A Scene fromThe Birth of the Buddha, Cave 2
66. Solo Pictures
a few compositions