Ajanta Cave Paintings

Feb 2013
Bangalore, India
Simply splendorous!... These paintings are beautiful. Ajanta caves are indeed very astonishing place to visit. Especially when the surrounding waterfalls are fully flowing... you can hear the waterfall inside the caves and the experience is out of this world!
Thank you Aberc for sharing these pictures
I would like to share a little information on these paintings:

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
The base plaster consisted of powdered brick, burnt conches and sand, mixed with a preparation of molasses and drops of a decoction of Phaseolus munga. To this were added mashed ripe bananas or tree resins and the pulp of bilva fruit (Aegle marmelos). After drying it was ground down and mixed with molasses and water until became soft for coating.

Preparation of Wall - Finish Coat (Vajralepa)
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.
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, demonstrate a sophisticated technique, achievable only after centuries of experimentation. Unfortunately we have no trace of such experimentation.

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 Kama-sutra, a well-known treatise on erotics
Rupa-bheda - differentiation
Pramanam - proportion
bhava - suggestion of action/mood
lavanya-yojanam - infusion of grace
sadrisham - resemblance
varnika-bhangam - application of colour

‘Eight Limbs of Painting’ according to Samarangana-sutra-dhara, a treatise on Architecture
bhumi-bandhana - preparation of surface
varnika - crayon work
rekha-karma - outline work
lakshana - features of face
varna-karma - colouring
vartanakarma - relief by shading
lekhakarma - correction
dvika-karma - final outline
Feb 2013
The govt really has to take steps to restore those paintings!
Restore as in going inside and adding on to the missing pieces? If so, that is a terrible idea.

However, you can't take pictures inside the caves anymore I heard. Because the flash has damaged the paintings even further.

Look how some idiot wrote all over this painting from cave 10. The oldest out of the bunch.

more info on the oldest paintings below.

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Feb 2013
Paintings affected by flash?? never heard of such silly thing before
I dont know, but you can't take flash images in the caves anymore. Even though some people break the rules.

It’s not photography per say the authorities are worried about, but use of the harsh flashes that causes damage to the murals. Left unrestricted, millions of camera flashes that’s going to fire in front of these invaluable murals, would have further damaged the already faded paintings. That is not a good idea of tourism.
Some tips for Photography at Ajanta | pratheep.com


Ad Honorem
Jun 2012
Excellent threaad Aberc. Thanks for the lovely pictures.

Simply splendorous!... These paintings are beautiful. Ajanta caves are indeed very astonishing place to visit. Especially when the surrounding waterfalls are fully flowing... you can hear the waterfall inside the caves and the experience is out of this world!
Indeed. I totally agree with you.

Feb 2013

More from the oldest set of paintings. 2nd-1st century BC.

The first painting is known as “ A Naga king with his attendants” and has been painted on the inner side of the front wall, above the left window. It was in this painting that Mr. John Griffith of Bombay School of Art, had first discovered that two monks with an inscription were added on top of paintings of two monks done in earlier times. The top painting, when removed by Mr. Griffith, the original painting was exposed. However, coming back to the main subject of the painting, on the left, two figures are shown sitting under a mango tree bearing fruit. Both are wearing dhotis’ or loin cloth. A strip of cloth intertwined with the hair is used as a turban with a knob at the top; a typical Satavahana period hair arrangement. One of the figures is wearing a crown with 7 cobra heads and the other with one cobra head. It is obvious that the figure with 7 cobra head crown is the king and the other one his crown-prince. Both of them are shown wearing heavy jewelery consisting of wheel pattern ear-rings, broad necklaces, ornamental metal armlets and round heavy wristlets. The necklaces appear to be string of pearls joined together by gold clasps. The faces again are typically from this region; oval. roundish faces, short noses, full lips and bright eyes. Above the figures in picture, there is an Apsara flying towards the king.
More below.


You can tell by the hair styles alone that it's more older.
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