Ajanta Paintings
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Ajanta Paintings



A Presentation by Prof. Subramanian Swaminathan on the paintings of Ajanta ...

A 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.



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Ajanta Paintings Ajanta Paintings Presentation Transcript

  • Paintings of Ajanta Caves(2nd century BC to 6th century AD)
    S. Swaminathan
  • Introduction
  • 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
    rock-cut architecture.
  • 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
  • Ajanta is a storehouse of information
    about the period:
    textile design,
    musical heritage,
    social order,
    court etiquette,
    ideas of beauty and morality,
    customs and
    its sense of wit.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • Location of Ajanta
  • 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.
  • The possible explanation for
    the monastic establishment at Ajanta
    is its proximity to the ancient trade routes.
  • Ajanta
    It is about 100 km from Aurangabad
  • Mumbai
  • Period of Excavation
  • First Phase
    Hinayana period (2nd - 1st centuries BC)
    The earliest caves (Nos. 8, 9, 10, 13 & 15A)
    were excavated
    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.
  • 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.
  • Patronage
  • 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.
  • The entire Ajanta chapter is
    a tribute to the religious tolerance
    of the Hindu rulers.
  • Re-discovery
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Rahula and Yashodhara meet the Buddha, Cave 17
    Reproduction by Herringham
  • Layout of the Caves
  • 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.
  • Layout
    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.
  • Views of the Caves
  • Here are some enchanting views of the caves
  • Undoubtedly suited for uninterrupted
    meditation and contemplation
  • A narrow pathway connects the caves
    to go on a pilgrimage
    to the highest achievement of Indian Buddhist art
  • Rock-cut Architecture
  • The caves of Ajanta offer an instructive field
    for the study of the evolution of
    rock-cut architecture.
    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.
  • The team was probably drawn from
    the profession of carpenters,
    with goldsmiths and ivory-carvers
    joining hands with the sculptors.
  • The evolution of rock architecture
    took place during two periods:
    the Hinayana period
    of the pre-Christian era and
    the later Mahayana period.
  • Hinayana period (2nd - 1st centuries BC)
    During the first phase
    the sculptural activity
    was limited.
  • 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.
  • Mahayana period – facade embellished
  • The caves of Ajanta are divided into
    Chaitya-s– Temples
    Vihara-s- Monasteries
  • Chaitya-Facade
    The entrance has
    a prominent
    arched window
    to light
    the interior
    Relief sculptures
    added in
    Mahayana period
  • 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 its centre
    Vaulted nave
  • Vihara - Plan
    It has
    a congregationhall
    for the monks
    on the inner sides
    Later ashrine
    was excavated
    at the far end
  • 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
  • Vihara - Interior
    Cave 2
  • Sculpture
  • During the first phase, the Buddha
    was not shown in the human form,
    but only through symbols,
    such as,
    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,
    were added.
  • 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.
  • Maha-pari-nirvana, Cave 26
  • Maha-pari-nirvana, Cave 26
  • Naga King and
    his consort
    Cave 19
  • However, the general character
    of the sculpture of Ajanta
    tends towards a certain heaviness of form,
    and is considered inferior
    to the Gupta images.
  • Hariti Shrine, Cave 2
  • Every one of the sculptures
    was plastered and painted.
    But most of the plaster
    is now lost.
    Sculpture at the Entrance
    Cave 17
  • Themes
  • Jataka Stories
    The subjects of the paintings are
    mostly from
    the jataka-s,
    Buddhist mythological stories
    of the previous lives
    of the Master
  • Jataka Stories
    This is a scene from the story of King Shibi,
    who offered his own flesh to save a pigeon.
  • A Scene from Shibi Jataka, Cave 1
  • Life of the Buddha
    Episodes from the life of the Buddha form
    the next important theme.
  • 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.
  • Mara’s Episode, Cave 1
  • Life of the Buddha
    On the way to Her parent’s 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.
  • A Scene fromThe Birth of the Buddha, Cave 2
  • Solo Pictures
    There are
    a few compositions
    of divinities,
    but these are not
    part of any story.
    Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, Cave 1
  • Solo Pictures
    A few of the solo-pictures
    do not seem to have
    any religious import.
  • Lady doing her make-up, Cave 17
  • Decorative
    The paintings in the last category are
    decorative and secular.
    They fill up all the available space
    on the ceilings, pillars, etc.
  • Mythical birds
    Floral design
    Geometrical design
    Hilarious themes
  • Composition
  • Composition of the paintings over the period
    is an interesting study.
  • Earlier phase (2nd - 1st centuries BC)
    Narration arranged is
    in the form of long canvass,
    at eye level,
    progressing from episode to episode
    The Raja with his Retinue, Cave 10
  • Later phase (4th century AD onwards)
    Later the paintings overspread
    the entire surface of the wall.
    In these paintings narratives proceed
    from scene to scene and
    from act to act
    The scenes are not separated
    into frames that might disturb
    the concentration
    of the viewing devotees.
  • Later phase (4th century AD onwards)
    An interesting feature of the narration,
    from the earlier times,
    is that a strict chronology of events
    was not followed.
    In many panels scenes are
    grouped according
    to the location of the scenes.
    The composition of Matriposhaka Jataka,
    is typical of this period.
  • Matri-poshaka Jataka
    Cave 17
    Bodhisattva born as Matri-poshaka,
    a white elephant, lives in a forest taking care of his blind parents.
    Once the elephant rescues a man, and requests him
    not to divulge his presence to any one.
  • Scene 1
    The ungrateful person, who was rescued by Matri-poshaka,
    gives out his whereabouts to the king.
    Matri-poshaka Jataka, Cave 17
  • Scene 1
    Scene 2
    The captured elephant is being led to the city.
  • Scene 1
    Scene 3
    Scene 2
    The king supervises feeding the elephant,
    but the elephant refuses to eat.
    Before the brooding elephant some food in a large
    vessel and sugarcane are lying about.
  • Scene 1
    Scene 3
    Scene 4
    Scene 2
    The released animal is walking majestically towards the forest.
  • Scene 1
    Scene 3
    Scene 4
    Scene 5
    Scene 2
    The happy reunion.
  • Later phase (4th century AD onwards)
    Many panels suggest that
    the Ajanta artists used
    specific conventions
    for separating scenes and acts
    from each other
    using suggestive punctuation marks.
  • A gateway
    may mark the end of an act
    In a palace scene
    pillars may separate the scenes
    Maha-janaka Jataka, Cave 1
  • Painting Technique
  • Indian wall-paintings are done on dry wall, called
    fresco secco
    Indra’s Descent, Cave 17
    In the West
    painting is done
    on a moist wall,
    called fresco buono
    Last Supper, da Vinci
  • It might have taken centuries
    for the Indian artist
    to develop the technique of
    preparing the wall for painting, and
    also to select suitable pigments
    with an appropriate binder.
    The importance of these
    may be seen from the fact that
    the Ajanta paintings have withstood
    the ravages of time
    with remarkable resilience.
  • Preparation of Wall
    We have no clue to the technique
    of preparing the wall.
    But the treatises
    which were written later
    based on the Ajanta experience
    give us an idea.
    For example,
    Vishnu-dharmottara (7th century)
    explains the process of preparing
    the base plaster and
    the finish coat, called ‘vajralepa’.
  • Preparation of Wall – Base Plaster
    It consisted of powdered brick,
    burnt conches and sand,
    mixed with a molasses
    and decoction of Phaseolus munga.
    To this were added
    mashed ripe bananas or tree resins and the pulp of bilva fruit.
    After drying it was ground down and
    mixed with molasses and water
    until became soft for coating.
  • Preparation of Wall – Finish Coat
    Buffaloskin was boiled in water
    until it became soft.
    Sticks were then made of the paste and
    dried in the sunshine.
    When colour was mixed with this,
    it made it fast, and
    if white mud was mixed with it,
    it served as a perfect medium
    for coating walls.
  • Pigments used
    Most pigments were minerals
    available locally:
    red ochre, vivid red, yellow ochre,
    indigo blue, chalk white,
    terra verte and green
    Only Lapis lazuli was imported
    Lamp-black was the only non-mineral
  • Painting Sequence
    A preliminary sketch in iron ore
    was drawn while the surface
    was still slightly wet,
    followed by an under-painting in
    grey or white.
    On this surface the outline was filled in
    with various colours,
    proceeding from underpainting
    to the appropriate colours
    of the subject.
  • Painting Sequence
    Finally, when dry, it was finished off
    with a dark outline
    for final definition and
    a burnishing process
    to give lustre to the surface.
  • Painting Tradition
  • The paintings of Ajanta are
    the earliest representation
    of Indian painting tradition
    available to us.
    Even the earlier paintings at Ajanta,
    of the 2nd century BC,
    a sophisticated technique,
    achievable only after centuries of experimentation.
    Unfortunately we have no trace of such
  • To get to know this great tradition
    one may turn to the treatises written
    based on the Ajanta experiment.
  • Treatises were codified based
    on Ajanta experience
    Brihat-samhita (6th century)
    Kama-sutra (6th century)
    Vishnu-dharmottara (7th century)
    Samarangana-sutra-dhara (11th century)
  • ‘Six Limbs of Painting’
    according to
    a well-known treatise on erotics
    bhAvalAvaNya yojanam
    sAdRShyam vArNikabhangam
    iti chitram shaDAngakam
    rUpa-bheda differentiation
    pramANam proportion
    bhAva suggestion of mood
    lAvaNya-yojanam infusion of grace
    sAdRShyam resemblance
    vArNika-bhangam application of colour
  • ‘Eight Limbs of Painting’
    according to
    a treatise on Architecture
    bhUmi-bandhana preparation of surface
    varnika crayon work
    rekha-karma outline work
    lakshaNa features of face
    varna-karma colouring
    vartana-karma relief by shading
    lekha-karma correction
    dvika-karma final outline
  • Producing
    Depth & Relief
  • From very early times,
    Indian artists have been using
    a variety of techniques
    to produce an illusion
    of the third dimension.
  • Perspective
    An example of
    expert rendering
    in normal
    A Monastery,
    Shibi Jataka, Cave 17
  • Multiple Vision
    A technique of painting scenes
    from different angles and merging them,
    similar to the modern technique
    called Multiple Vision.
  • Details
    of the farthest pavilion
    would be lost
    in normal perspective
    Three separate shots dissolved
    to show action
    in all the pavilions
  • Multiple Vision
    Lustration & Renunciation, Cave 1
  • Kshaya vriddhi (‘loss-and-gain’)
    A Ceiling Painting, Cave 1
  • Using Colours
    Two main techniques were employed
    animnonnata - flat style
    nimnonnata - relief by shading
  • Animnonnata
    A flat style that uses dark colours
    for the subjects in the foreground
    against a background
    of lighter shades,
    or vice versa
  • Shibi Jataka, Cave 1
  • Nimnonnata
    shading techniques
    choosing judiciously
    tones and colours
    a technique of
    adding highlights
  • Vartana
    A high-relief technique
    to produce
    an illusion of
    the third dimension
    There were three main variations
  • Patraja (‘shading-like-the-lines-of-a-leaf’)
    Illusion of depth is achieved
    by drawing lines to follow contours of the body
  • A Ceiling Painting, Cave 1
  • Binduja (dot-and-stipple method)
    Illusion of depth is achieved
    by painting dots
    with variations in concentration of dots
  • A Ceiling Painting, Cave 2
  • Airika (a wash technique)
    Illusion of depth is achieved
    by executing tonal variation
    and avoiding hard-lines
  • Children playing with a Hen, Cave 2
  • Ujjotana (adding highlights)
    Highlights in the form of white patches
    added on the cheeks, the chin, the nose, etc
    to get a three-dimensional effect
  • A woman in a Palace Scene, Cave 1
  • Chaya-tapa
    A technique
    that produces
    a chiaroscuro effect
    Bodhisattva Padmapani, Cave 1
  • Use of Blue Colour (Lapis Lazuli)
    In the later period lapis lazuli,
    a blue, imported mineral
    came to be used as an effective medium
    for creating visual depth,
    contrasting with
    warm red and brown tones
  • Simhala Avadana, Cave 17
  • Painting
    DanceUnique relation
    in Indian art
  • The relationship between
    painting and dance
    is a remarkable unique
    Indian tradition
    Vishnu-dharmottara (7th century AD)
    stresses the impossibility of attaining
    a proper expression of feeling
    in painting
    without the knowledge of dance
  • There are paintings from the earlier
    as well as the later periods of Ajanta art
    that depict dance scenes.
    Here is an unaffected dancer
    from pre-Christian era
  • Raja with his Retinue, Cave 10
  • Dancing had become highly stylised
    in the later period.
    A dancer with full complement
    of accompanying musicians is from Cave 1.
  • The vibrant grace of pose and gesture
    invest her with
    a swaying, flower-like rhythm and movement.
  • Tribhanga Pose
    Tribhanga is a very important feature
    in the depiction of the human form.
    The whole figure is structured
    around three main axes.
  • Tribhanga Pose
    It gives the body an S-shaped rhythm,
    a fluency of line,
    which, together with
    the appropriate gestures of hands,
    conveys a wide range of expressions.
  • Painting &Sculpture
    Another unique relation
  • Most impressive is the way
    the two art-forms,
    painting and sculpture,
    co-exist at Ajanta,
    complementing each other.
  • Cave 6
  • The sculptures were fully painted,
    though most of the paint
    has disappeared.
  • Entrance, Cave 17
  • Symbolism
    in Indian Art
  • The parts of the body
    should resemble, and be based on,
    similes drawn
    from plant or animal-life.
    Sensuous lips are
    ripe and full like the bimba-fruit;
    fingers likened to lotus-petals.
  • Here the allusion is not
    to the form
    to the content,
    to the mood.
    It is a suggestion and
    not realistic likeness.
  • His divine face has
    the shape of an egg
    Bodhisattva Padma-pani
    Cave 1
  • His shoulders are
    like massive
    domed head
    of an elephant,
    and arms like
    its tapered trunk
    Bodhisattva Padma-pani
    Cave 1
  • His hands are
    supple like flower-bud
  • Other Metaphors
    (body-of-a -lion)
    gomukha khanda
  • pada-pallava(feet-like-leaves)
  • charana-kamala (feet-like-lotus)
  • Body Postures
  • In Indian tradition
    the postures of the body were identified and
    distinct terms were used
    to cover the entire range
    (Strict profile)
  • It is possible
    that this was
    greatly influenced
    by the contemporary
    dance traditions.
  • A woman listening
    to a sermon is
    an excellent study
    Shankha-pala Jataka, Cave 1
  • The three women are
    in different postures;
    another example
    of elegant poses
    Mural Painting, Cave 17
  • This is particularly so
    with the depiction
    of women shown
    in congregation
    Chempayya Jataka, Cave 1
  • Draughtmanship
  • Drawings with
    a free flowing
    sweep of the brush
    to depict oval faces,
    arched eyebrows,
    aquiline noses, and
    fine sensitive lips
    are aplenty on the walls
    of Ajanta
  • Maha-janaka Jataka, Cave 1
  • A relaxed monkey,
    basically of
    one masterly
    sweep of brush
    beneath chin
    forming a curve
    outlining head
    and spine
    and terminating
    beneath knee-cap
    Shad-danta Jataka, Cave 17
  • Portrayal of Women
    Portrayal of Women
  • Women of Ajanta are
    the art connoisseur’s delight.
    The Ajanta artist has painted
    the whole range of
    women characters:
    ladies of court and their maids,
    common women
    in their house-hold chores
  • The woman
    was the theme
    that gave full scope
    for expression
    of creative genius
    for the Ajanta artist.
  • The artist had succeeded
    in reproducing
    the soft roundness of her breasts,
    the curves of her hips,
    the turn of her head,
    the gestures of her hands and
    the slanting glance of her eyes.
  • ‘Clothed in Nakedness’
    It is intriguing that
    most of Ajanta heroines
    are depicted naked,
    or in near nudity,
    while all the others
    in the same scene
    are fully clothed
  • ‘Clothed in Nakedness’
    Conversion of Nanda, Cave 1
  • ‘Clothed in Nakedness’
    Queen Shivali
    Maha-janaka Jataka, Cave 1
  • ‘Clothed in Nakedness’
    Maya-devi, Siddharta’s Mother
    Nativity of the Buddha, Cave 2
  • ‘Clothed in Nakedness’
    Nanda’s wife,
    the central figure,
    is naked
    whereas all
    the maids are
    fully clothed.
    The Dying Princess
    Conversion of Nanda,
    Cave 16
  • ‘Black is Beautiful’
    Many heroines of Ajanta
    are dark complexioned.
    Perhaps contemporary taste
    included black
    as an attractive complexion
    for skin.
  • ‘Black is Beautiful’
    Consort of Padma-pani
    Padma-pani Panel, Cave 1
  • ‘Black is Beautiful’
    The Dying Princess
    Conversion of Nanda, Cave 16
  • ‘Black is Beautiful’
    Black Apsaras
    Adoration of the Buddha Panel
    Cave 17
  • ‘Black is Beautiful’
    Shakti Pandara, Avalokitesvara Panel, Cave 1
  • Common People
    A Village Woman
    attending Coronation
    Vishvantara Jataka, Cave 17
  • Common People
    Woman braiding Hair
    Vishvantara Jataka, Cave 17
  • We wonder why very sensuous women
    were painted at all
    in these religious caves
  • Depiction of Movement
  • Vishnu-dharmottara says:
    "He, who paints waves,
    flames, smoke, …
    according to
    the movement of the wind,
    is a great painter."
    Ajanta painters took
    great pleasure
    in composing scenes
    involving movement
    with great zest.
  • In the Scene when Indra and
    His entourage
    descent to worship
    the Buddha.
    the floating clouds,
    the swaying foliage and
    apsaras and gandharvas
    flying swiftly through the air,
    produce a fantastic movement
  • Indra’s Descent, Cave 17
  • A mad elephant was let loose
    on the Compassionate One
    by his envious half-brother.
    Elephant on the rampage
    is shown in great dynamism
  • Subjugation of Nalagiri, Cave 17
  • This charging bull is
    another example in depicting movement
    A Ceiling Painting, Cave 1
  • Fighting Bulls, A painting on a pillar, Cave 1
  • Humour
  • The royal household is
    immersed in a religious
    discourse by Bodhisattva.
    Here is shown a servant
    stealing fruits.
    And a servant-maid has
    noticed the mischief.
  • Attendant
    Champeyya Jataka, Cave 1
  • On the pedestal of Goddess Hariti
    is shown a class-room.
    While the students in the front rows
    are attentive to the teacher,
    the backbenchers are enjoying
    themselves by chasing a ram!
    Hariti shrine, Cave 2
  • Musical Heritage
  • Musical Heritage
    In Ajanta, we can study the development
    of our musical heritage.
    We can see both the continuity and change
    over the period.
    A variety of musical instruments
    have been depicted.
  • Musical Heritage
    Queen Shivali arranges
    A programme of dance
    with a full compliment
    of accompanying musicians
    in order to draw the king
    towards worldly pleasures
  • Flute
    Small Drum
    Dancer with Musicians, Maha-janaka Jataka, Cave 1
  • Musical Heritage
    The abdicated king is
    given a royal send off
    with musician forming
    part of the procession
  • Conch
    King abdicating, Maha-janaka Jataka, Cave 1
  • Musical Heritage
    Kinnara playing Kachchapa Vina, Padmapani Panel, Cave 1
  • Musical Heritage
    Musicians form the entourage
    When Indra descends
    To worship the Buddha
  • Cymbal
    Descent of Indra, Cave 17
  • Contemporary Fashion
  • Ajanta is
    to study
    contemporary fashion
    in textiles,
    jewellery, etc.
  • Maha-janaka Jataka, Cave 1
    The girl sports an upper-garment
    with rows of geese printed on it
  • The glorious tradition of
    a resist-dye method,
    where yarn is dyed
    to produce a design,
    leading to today’s
    Patola and Pochampalli,
    was initiated here.
    Maha-janaka Jataka, Cave 1
  • The tailored dress of dancer
    a proof of high degree
    of sophistication in
    both fabric design and
    Maha-janaka Jataka, Cave 1
  • Sophisticated ornaments
    can be seen
    on the dancer
    Arsi, Thumb-ring set
    with a Miniature Mirror
    Maha-janaka Jataka, Cave 1
  • Karna-pushpam,
    Ear-rings of elaborate Design
  • Sharashri,
    Head-dress of Gold-beads
    and Pearls
  • Hairdress
  • Ceiling Paintings
  • For reasons unknown,
    the Ajanta artist did not paint
    religious themes on the ceilings.
    But expert workmanship is evident.
    These drawings have taken
    the texture of a carpet,
    brilliantly woven,
    the eyes and filling the senses.
  • Flowers
    In lighter vein
  • One of the themes is
    the huge concentric circle
    enclosed in a square,
    with number of flowery bands within it.
  • Cave 2
  • Ceiling Painting
    Hariti shrine, Cave 2
  • Main hall, Cave 17
  • Another popular theme
    consists of a number of
    rectangular panels
    filled with decorative motifs
    framed by smaller rectangles
    with representations
    of fruit and floral forms.
  • Ceiling Paintings
    Animals & Birds
  • Reclining Bulls
    Cave 17
  • Cave 1
  • Cave 1
  • Ceiling Paintings
    In Lighter Vein
  • Cave 1
    Cave 2
  • The most intriguing and
    least expected
    in a religious shrine are
    the scenes depicting
    a king in his harem
    and friends enjoying
    each other's company
    with wine!
  • Persian Harem, Cave 2
  • Friends drinking, Cave 2
  • Phases of
    Ajanta Art
  • In most forms of art
    one may discern
    a gradual and
    natural progression.
  • A lack of experience
    in making and employing tools,
    in narration, etc,
    is generally the beginning.
    This is often called archaic style.
  • Then follows a mature phase,
    a phase of quiet dignity
    without excesses;
    and the artists prefer
    studied dignity and
    what they call 'good taste'.
    This is the classical phase
  • Repetition of ideas,
    called mannerism
    is perhaps the next stage
    to be followed
    by over-ornamentation,
    a style known as baroque.
  • It is then the decline
  • By sheer chance, the development of style
    from the beginning to its final decline
    can be witnessed
    within the physical limits of Ajanta.
    In this respect Ajanta has no parallel.
  • Pre-Classical Period (2nd-1st Centuries BC)
    Classical Period (4th-5th Centuries AD)
    Period of Mannerism (5th-6th Centuries AD)
    Baroque Period (Mid-6th Century AD)
    Period of Decline (End-6th Century AD)
  • Phases of Ajanta ArtPre-classical Period
    (2nd-1st centuries BC)
  • Pre-classical Period
    The earliest paintings of Ajanta
    of the 2nd-1st century BC
    cannot be classified as archaic.
    These paintings present
    lively men and animals.
    They belong to
    the transitional period
    that was to carry them on to
    the classical phase.
  • Pre-classical Period
    Shown here is a king with his retinue
    going towards a temple.
  • The composition is characterised by restricted use of colours, mostly brown in various tones.
    Most characters are shown in the three-fourth profile, a monotony avoided in the later periods.
    Raja with Retinue, Cave 10
  • Pre-classical Period
    Shad-danta Jataka, Cave 10
    Only a line sketch of this grand composition,
    belonging to the same period is available
    to appreciate the lost glory.
  • Phases of Ajanta Art
    Classical Period (4th-5th centuries AD)
  • Classical Period
    This style means perfect mastery
    of the subject.
    Everything is idealised,
    realism is only for creating
    things of beauty and perfection.
    There is a dignity and nobility,
    and allows
    no exaggeration, no excess,
    no overstatement and
    no dramatisation.
  • Classical Period
    Calm, unobtrusive
    modelling and the gentle,
    swaying movement
    of the characters
    bear the stamp
    of the classical period.
    A wash technique,
    called airika creating
    an illusion of depth
    is employed here
    Votaries with offerings, Cave 2
  • The Prince is
    informing his wife of his impending exile
    and is offering wine
    to steady her.
  • The posture of
    the couple and
    the sombre colours,
    make the painful scene
    Belonging to
    the classical period,
    the scene brings out
    the emotional
    Visvantara Jataka, Cave 17
  • Phases of Ajanta Art
    Period of Mannerism (5th-6th centuries AD)
  • Period of Mannerism
    A departure from classicism can be seen
    in monotony in the sitting posture and
    in the overcrowding.
    Vidhura-pandita Jataka, Cave 2
  • Phases of Ajanta Art
    Baroque Period (Mid-6th century AD)
  • Baroque Period
    Baroque is a style of
    over-ornamentation and exaggeration.
    Action takes place in a maze of pillars
    in royal pavilions.
    The eye-slits are stretched out of proportion.
    Men look effeminate and
    women exaggeratedly feminine.
    Both men and women wear
    excessive ornaments.
  • Baroque Period
    The Bodhisattva is
    heavily bejewlled and
    His eyes elongated
    out of proportion.
    Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, Cave 1
  • Baroque Period
    Maha-janaka Jataka, Cave 1
  • Phases of Ajanta Art
    Period of Decline (End-6th century AD)
  • Period of Decline
    Artistic standards
    were in the decline
    from the end of the 6th century.
    Mercifully this phase did not last long,
    for the Ajanta caves were soon
    abandoned forever,
    for reasons unknown.
  • Period of Decline
    The poses are now
    with heavy heads,
    elongated eyes,
    thin legs,
    superfluous hand
    gestures, etc.
    The composition
    is too crowded.
    The execution
    becomes careless
  • Women in a Palace Scene, Cave 1
  • Period of Decline
    The figures of
    the Buddhas came
    to be enclosed
    in separate cubicles
    Two Buddhas, Cave 10
  • Period of Decline
    This presentation
    of figures of the Buddhas,
    lacks refinement and finish.
    Miracle at Shravasti, Cave 2
  • Period of Decline
    In place of shapely
    palms and
    Sensitive fingers,
    they are stiff and
    The face lacks expression.
    An Unidentified Scene, Cave 1
  • Inspirationat Home
  • The paintings of Ajanta,
    in style, in type and in technique,
    exerted their influence
    on Indian art
    for centuries to follow.
    The paintings in the Bagh caves
    in Ellora, in Sittannavasal,
    are perpetuation of the refinement
    of the great murals
    of the Ajanta caves.
  • Sittannavasal
    In Tamilnadu
    in Madhya Pradesh
  • Inspiration Abroad
  • With the spread of Buddhism to Indian Asia
    Buddhist mural decoration
    initiated at Ajanta
    diffused into these parts.
    The paintings of Sigiriya in Srilanka,
    of Bamiyan, of Turfan in China and
    of Horyu Kondo in Japan
    are regional variation of
    the Ajanta idiom
  • Sigiriya, Srilanka
    Turfan, China
  • The end of the Ajanta epoch
    The creative period of Ajanta ended
    as mysteriously as it had begun.
    Some of the unfinished caves,
    which were quite obviously
    abandoned unexpectedly,
    show that the emigration took place
    over a comparatively short span of time.
  • Ananda Coomaraswamy says ..
    The frescoes of Ajanta preserve an infinitely precious record of the golden age of Indian painting.
  • This is the picture of a halcyon age, where renunciation and enjoyment are perfectly attuned, an art at once of utmost intimacy and reserve.
  • Every gesture springs in godlike fashion directly from the natural dispositions of the mind ……….
  • Thank you….
  • Contact me through: sswami99@gmail.com
    Find my details at: www.pudukkottai.org/swaminathan
    S. Swaminathan
  • Conceived and presented by
    S. Swaminathan
    with assistance from
    R. Murugapandian & M. V. Kiran
    Feb, 2005