The Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra state of India are about 30 rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments which constructed from the 2nd century BCE to about 480 or 650 CE. These caves depict paintings and sculptures protected by the government Archaeological Survey of India as “the finest surviving examples of Indian art, particularly painting”. These paintings are magnum opus of Buddhist religious art, with figures of the Buddha and depictions of the Jataka tales. The Ajanta Caves have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
Pictures of Ajanta Caves:
Facts about Ajanta Caves:
I. Ajanta caves were discovered by an Army Officer (Madras Regiment of the British Army) in 1819.
II. Ajanta caves were excavated between 2nd century and 6th century.
III. The Ajanta group of caves, lying deep within the Sahyadri hills, cut into the curved mountain side.
IV. They depict the story of Buddhism , spanning a period from 200 BC to 650 AD.
V. The caves are believed to be made in 2 distinct periods: Satavahana) period and Vakataka, period.
VI. Ajanta caves are excavated in a horse shoe shaped rock surface.
VII. The height of the caves rises up to 76 metres, overlooking the Waghora stream.
VIII. Total 30 excavations found at the site, search is still in progress.
IX. With regard to date and style, the earliest excavations belong to Hinayana sect of Buddhism. This comprises of total five caves, i.e. 9 & 10, which are Chaityagrihas while 8, 12, 13 are viharas.
X. These caves depict the life of God Buddha through Jataka stories.
XI. Stupas were the objects of worship in these caves.
XII. The caves have been carved such that they seem to imitate the intricacies of wooden construction.
XIII.The base surface of the paintings on walls and ceilings consisted of a rough layer of ferruginous earth mixed with rock-grit or sand, vegetable fibres, paddy husk, grass and other fibrous material of organic origin.
XIV.The second coat was of mud and ferruginous earth mixed with fine rock-powder or sand and fine fibrous vegetable material. This surface was finally worked with a thin coat of lime wash.
XV. Over the lime washed surface, outlines were drawn boldly and spaces were filled with requisite colors in different shades and tones to achieve the effect of rounded and plastic volumes.
XVI.The colors and shades used were red and yellow ochre, terra verte, lime, kaolin, gypsum, lamp black and lapis lazuli.
XVII.The main binding material used in the paintings was glue. Thus, the paintings at Ajanta are not frescoes as they are painted with the help of a binding agent.
XVIII. Ajanta caves were tagged as the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1983.
XIX Currently these caves are taken care by the Archeological Survey of India.
XX. The general style of paintings at The Ajanta caves seems to have influenced paintings in Tibet and Srilanka.
Image source: http://asi.nic.in/asi