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Ajanta Paintings

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