Ajanta takes the name after the village Ajintha. It is situated in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra state in India. The approximate distance from Aurangabad to Ajantha is around 106 kilometers and it is celebrated for its cave art and architecture. The Ajanta caves have become part of the UNESCO world heritage site, specifically nominated for the international world heritage program.
There are 29 caves which are officially numbered by the Archeological survey of India wherein five caves are Chaitya grihas and the rest are Sangharamas or Viharas. Viharas are also referred to as monasteries. They fall into distinct phases with a break of nearly four centuries between them. The caves of the second phases were excavated during the supremacy of the Guptas and Vakatakas. A few painting which survive on the walls of caves numbered 9 and 10, go back to the second century BC-AD.
Architecture of Ajanta Caves:
The standard Buddhist rock cut architecture can be briefly viewed at Ajanta. Most of the tourists visit these caves as part of their historical study.
There are around 30 excavations whose dates ranges from second century B.C. to the seventh century A.D. A chaitya hall was a place of worship where people show a strong feeling of respect and admiration for God. This place had been intended for vihara. These caves suggest well defined form of architecture. The second phase corresponds to the rule of the Vakataka and chalukyas that represents mainly approving and more energetic period of activity in art and nature.
Sculpture: The fascinating charm of the paintings at Ajanta developed its structural wealth. We can notice here that most of the sculptures painted in bright flaring colours which enhanced its beauty. The sculptural representation at Ajanta may be divided into two phases namely Hinayana and Mahayana sects. It has been observed that the sculptures were product of the sustained artistic activities and the unbroken art of the traditions. The creative plenitude of the sculptures was seen at its best in fashioning the figures of the Lord Buddha. Such figures indicate a prominent place in the sanctuary and the benevolent and compassionate figures of Lord Buddha at the rear end of the shrine.
Painting: The mural paintings indicate religious themes. These were intended to provide visual aid to the former births of the Master known as Jatakas. The paintings with such subjects of study have been further developed by amazing variety if decorative designs in the ceiling, lush green vegetation, mountains, animals who all share the teeming life and strength with human beings. The technique of painting at Ajanta is that of tempera and not on wet plaster. The colours are applied on dry plaster which remains the surface as a thin layer. Later, the painting is done on wet surface wherein colours get absorbed. The wall surface of the caves was intentionally fashioned rough and uneven with chisel marks and comprises of the career on which plastering was done.
The plaster acted as base of the painting. Its sub components are organic matter such as vegetable fibers, paddy husk and other fibrous material mixed with fine sand. There are two distinct layers of the plaster. One layer is coarse cover the uneven rock surface while fine layer gives it a smooth finish.
In the present day, preservation of the paintings is one of the major tasks of the conservators. The deterioration of the paintings occurs due to various factors such as the variation in temperature and humidity, accumulation of dust. Preservatives such as polyvinyl acetate and polybutyl are used after chemically treating the paintings.
About Author / Additional Info: