Jataka Image in Ajanta

Jataka Image in Ajanta

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Ajanta Caves

The Buddhist Caves in Ajanta are approximately 30 rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments dating from the 2nd century BCE to about 480 CE in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra state in India. [1] [note 1] The caves include paintings and rock-cut sculptures described as among the finest surviving examples of ancient Indian art, particularly expressive paintings that present emotions through gesture, pose and form. [3] [4] [5]

They are universally regarded as masterpieces of Buddhist religious art. The caves were built in two phases, the first starting around the 2nd century BCE and the second occurring from 400 to 650 CE, according to older accounts, or in a brief period of 460–480 CE according to later scholarship. [6] The site is a protected monument in the care of the Archaeological Survey of India, [7] and since 1983, the Ajanta Caves have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Ajanta Caves constitute ancient monasteries and worship-halls of different Buddhist traditions carved into a 75-metre (246 ft) wall of rock. [8] [9] The caves also present paintings depicting the past lives [10] and rebirths of the Buddha, pictorial tales from Aryasura's Jatakamala, and rock-cut sculptures of Buddhist deities. [8] [11] [12] Textual records suggest that these caves served as a monsoon retreat for monks, as well as a resting site for merchants and pilgrims in ancient India. [8] While vivid colours and mural wall-painting were abundant in Indian history as evidenced by historical records, Caves 16, 17, 1 and 2 of Ajanta form the largest corpus of surviving ancient Indian wall-painting. [13]

The Ajanta Caves are mentioned in the memoirs of several medieval-era Chinese Buddhist travellers to India and by a Mughal-era official of Akbar era in the early 17th century. [14] They were covered by jungle until accidentally "discovered" and brought to Western attention in 1819 by a colonial British officer Captain John Smith on a tiger-hunting party. [15] The caves are in the rocky northern wall of the U-shaped gorge of the river Waghur, [16] in the Deccan plateau. [17] [18] Within the gorge are a number of waterfalls, audible from outside the caves when the river is high. [19]

With the Ellora Caves, Ajanta is one of the major tourist attractions of Maharashtra. It is about 6 kilometres (3.7 miles) from Fardapur, 59 kilometres (37 miles) from the city of Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India, 104 kilometres (65 miles) from the city of Aurangabad, and 350 kilometres (220 miles) east-northeast of Mumbai. [8] [20] Ajanta is 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the Ellora Caves, which contain Hindu, Jain and Buddhist caves, the last dating from a period similar to Ajanta. The Ajanta style is also found in the Ellora Caves and other sites such as the Elephanta Caves, Aurangabad Caves, Shivleni Caves and the cave temples of Karnataka. [21]

Ajanta Paintings - Appreciation of Mahajanaka Jataka - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

Jataks stories are the common themes in Ajanta paintings. Mahajanak Jataka painted in Cave One is one of the important compositions. &ndash PowerPoint PPT presentation is a leading presentation/slideshow sharing website. Whether your application is business, how-to, education, medicine, school, church, sales, marketing, online training or just for fun, is a great resource. And, best of all, most of its cool features are free and easy to use.

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presentations for free. Or use it to find and download high-quality how-to PowerPoint ppt presentations with illustrated or animated slides that will teach you how to do something new, also for free. Or use it to upload your own PowerPoint slides so you can share them with your teachers, class, students, bosses, employees, customers, potential investors or the world. Or use it to create really cool photo slideshows - with 2D and 3D transitions, animation, and your choice of music - that you can share with your Facebook friends or Google+ circles. That's all free as well!

Mysterious work on Ajanta Caves

Despite a hoard of scholars having explored the significance of Ajanta it still remains fathomless due to its boundless scope for investigation and inquiry. An interminable and immortal work, it provides internal space to rummage and research. Some paintings in Ajanta still retain the original splendor but most have either withered, faded, blurred, creased or degraded. Scientists have tried to preserve by applying the layer of some chemical on wall painting to make frescos clear and fresh, but after a due period of time these chemicals reacted awfully which damaged frescos more terribly. ASI started pasting cement blotches wherever painting surface pilled off, with this result, in most of the caves what is conspicuous more is blotches of cement more than paintings.

Likewise, almost all struggle were failed. There are virgin and untried areas of scrutinizing through a complete regeneration of all those portions of paintings which have been erased, abraded of damage due to time, climate and man. Now only option leftover is to restoring World Heritage separately on canvas without touching and damaging original monument. As per the rule of ASI.

The centuries-old paintings of Ajanta caves recreated exactly as they were when freshly painted by the renowned Artist from Marathwada Mr. Pimpare from the past 50 Years, trying to recapture the past glory of the wall paintings on gigantic sheets of paper. Recreates the paintings of the Gupta – Vakataka period around 450 A.D. unfolding to the world the actual glory of Ajanta which over the years has suffered deterioration. The cave paintings of Ajanta have been damaged to such an extent that it is practically impossible to decipher what the artists wanted to convey through their brushes.Mr. Pimpare has completed 300 paintings which measure from one foot to 75′ x 4′ in length capturing minute details of expression, facial flexion, contours of the body, movement of the muscles and other minute details.

Inadvertently magnetized by Ajanta paintings at the age of twelve, Mr.Pimpare has remained busy in recreating the deteriorating paintings of Ajanta.

Articulate & microscopic visibility could become possible due to the patient and tenacious efforts put in by Mr. Pimpare for fifty years. Artist Mr. Pimpare has undertaken an entirely new approach of preservation and conservation, He has also utilized scientific methodology by taking assistance of modern equipment like epidiascope to enlarge the details of the photographs .his has enabled him to complete major portions of the paintings. For discerning details of these paintings micro-lens was also used. Mr. Pimpare has emerged in deep into the sea of Ajanta colours to dig into the secrets shrouded by thick layers of dust. There is an ocean of historical facts which can be perceived through this art but most scholars have ignored this kind of study. The artist reveals minute details of the palm are white, where he attempts at distinguishing between the outer colours of the skin and protected skin. Microscopic details of the veins and arteries are lucid and anatomical study is extremely minute. Even the movement of hair blown by air is beautifully drawn. There is an evidence of advance medical science where a person is seen donating his eyes. Mr. Pimpare set out to work on Ajanta paintings on the basis of work done by both Indian and foreign artists.

Mr. Pimpare’ s greatest feat which required herculean efforts is the Shad-danta Jataka longest panel in cave 10 which measures 74 feet, has been completely rejuvenated. Initially, the entire line work treated and perfected after which the colors were filed carefully and the paintings perfected in its original shape, only 10% of the painting now exists. There are scratches throughout the panel of the Jataka tale and nothing much is visible. Despite this major drawback Pimpare has managed to complete this painting. The 2000year old paintings have been retrieved and the original effect is recreated. These paintings are significant as they possess universal value due to the efforts at exploring details not visible to the eye.

A number of reproductions have been produced since and lying either in the custody of the Archaeological Survey of India or a few national museums. But no copies have been patched up the way Pimpare has ventured.

Ajanta Cave 17 – Mahayana Vihara

Ajanta Cave 17 is full of paintings depicting Jataka tales. The paintings are in a better condition than in other Ajanta caves. The tales originated in India and narrate stories from Buddha’s previous lives.

Shadhanta Jataka Ajanta Cave no 17


Ajanta Cave 17 has a colonnaded portico with paintings on the wall and ceiling. The cave features a large central Vihara with pillars on the sides. There is a shrine at end of the hall. Large windows and doors let in light.

Small dormitory cells are cut into the walls. Extensive carvings and sculptures of gods and goddesses are integrated into the structure. The walls and ceiling are full of beautiful and well-preserved paintings depicting Jataka Tales.

Prince Trying to Cheer Up His Distressed Wife

Stories of Jataka

Jataka Tales originated in India and pertain to the previous births of Gautama Buddha. The Jatakas are among the earliest Buddhist literature, dating to 4th century BC. The Jatakas describe the early incarnations of Buddha in human or animal form.

The tales are the forerunners to the various celebrated biographies of Buddha. They have been translated into many languages from the original Sanskrit.

History of Ajanta Cave 17

An inscription on the wall of the courtyard records that a prince under Vakataka King Harisena (475-500 A.D.) excavated the cave. The most elaborate caves were produced during this period. Wealthy patrons abandoned construction activities after the death of Harisena.

The caves later fell into disuse. A British army officer re-discovered the caves in 1819. Within a few decades, the caves became famous for its exceptional architecture as well as paintings.

Three Dimensional Paintings

Paintings in Ajanta Cave 17

The paintings in Ajanta Cave 17 mainly show the Jataka tales. The cave has 30 major murals. The paintings depict Buddha in different forms and postures.

The narrative frescoes show various Jataka tales. They display themes as diverse as a shipwreck, a princess applying makeup, lovers in scenes of dalliance and a wine drinking scene of an amorous couple.

Some paintings have remarkable 3 dimensional effects. The same painting when viewed from different angles appears different .

This is a copy of a painting in cave 1 at Ajanta. These cave paintings date from the 1st century BC to about AD 480 and are the oldest surviving examples of painting in India. They depict stories from the lives of the Buddha (the Jatakas). This one shows a scene from the Sudhana Jataka. Here the princess, who is sitting with her attendants, reveals her love for Sudhana who is shown in the doorway holding a walking-staff.

The cave complex was discovered in 1819 and attempts were made to document the paintings inside them. In 1844 Major Robert Gill was commissioned to make copies. Unfortunately most of the paintings he completed were destroyed in a fire in 1866. To make up for this loss, from 1872 to 1885 John Griffiths from the Bombay School of Art and seven Indian students spent every winter at the caves. This is one of the approximately 300 paintings they produced.

There is fire damage on the left hand side of the painting. The scene directly following the fire damage shows a man seated and dressed in a patterned outfit, very different from other costumes. He is gesturing as if he is explaining something. Above him is a woman carrying a tray with some objects on it. Behind these and to the right, a man in white robe and holding a stick is coming through a doorway.

To the right the palace setting continues, represented with an elaborately decorated roof held up by ornate pillars. Within this are several female figures but as the central section of this painting is missing it is not possible to distinguish who the key figure is. There are three female attendants to the right and two figures, one of which carries a chauri (flywisk). To the left of this is a male figure below which are the top halves of two women. Within the architectural features, the sides of the walls/gateways in the centre of the painting and to the right have a window in which is placed a lota (waterpot).

Left hand edge of this painting links to right hand edge of IS.18-1885

This part of the painting depicts a section of the Sudhana Jataka. The narrative sequence in this painting continues on IS. 18-1885 and IS.38-1885.

  • Height: 1391mm
  • Width: 2235mm
  • Inside edge depth: 33mm
  • With frame height: 1423mm
  • With frame width: 2266mm
  • With frame depth: 41mm

Commissioned by the Government of India between 1872-1885 and deposited in the India Museum, London.

Historical significance: The paintings inside the Ajanta caves tell stories from the lives of the Buddha. This painting depicts scenes from the Sudhana jataka.

The king of the Nagas or snake king sits with his queen surrounded by attendants. He has presented a precious robe to a hunter in gratitude for the rescue of his son. The hunter, dressed in this gift, seen here on the right hand side with an elaborate blue and white striped costume, asks the king for an additional gift of a magical noose which will help him capture a fairy princess. (IS.38-1885)

The hunters captures the princess, and gives her to a prince called Sudhana. They live happily together until a problem at court makes her flee the palace. After a long adventurous journey, he comes to find her.

When she is bathing on her balcony, having water poured over her by other maidens she catches sight of a signet ring in one of the maid’s water jugs. She recognises this as belonging to Prince Sudhana and realises that he must have thrown it in there and that he has come to find her. (IS.18-1885)

Inside the palace, the princess hides Sudhana away from the king. Sitting with her attendants she gestures with her hand and reveals to a friend her love for Sudhana who is shown here standing in the doorway holding a walking-staff and with the same hand gesture. (IS.12-1885)

Inside the royal palace the princess tells her father, the king of her love for Sudhana and obtains his consent for their marriage.


The Theravāda Jātakas comprise 547 poems, arranged roughly by an increasing number of verses. According to Professor von Hinüber, [9] only the last 50 were intended to be intelligible by themselves, without commentary. The commentary gives stories in prose that it claims provide the context for the verses, and it is these stories that are of interest to folklorists. Alternative versions of some of the stories can be found in another book of the Pali Canon, the Cariyapitaka, and a number of individual stories can be found scattered around other books of the Canon. Many of the stories and motifs found in the Jātaka such as the Rabbit in the Moon of the Śaśajātaka (Jataka Tales: no.316), [10] are found in numerous other languages and media. For example, The Monkey and the Crocodile, The Turtle Who Couldn't Stop Talking and The Crab and the Crane that are listed below also famously featured in the Hindu Panchatantra, the Sanskrit niti-shastra that ubiquitously influenced world literature. [11] Many of the stories and motifs are translations from the Pali but others are instead derived from vernacular oral traditions prior to the Pali compositions. [12]

Sanskrit (see for example the Jātakamālā) and Tibetan Jātaka stories tend to maintain the Buddhist morality of their Pali equivalents, but re-tellings of the stories in Persian and other languages sometimes contain significant amendments to suit their respective cultures. [ citation needed ] At the Mahathupa in Sri Lanka all 550 Jataka tales were represented inside of the reliquary chamber. [13] Reliquaries often depict the Jataka tales.

Many stupas in northern India are said to mark locations from the Jātaka tales the Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang reported several of these. A stupa in Pushkalavati, in northwestern Pakistan, marks where Syama fulfilled his filial duty to his blind parents. The Mankiala stupa near Gujar Khan commemorates the spot where Prince Sattva sacrificed himself to feed baby tigers. [14] Nearby the ascetic Ekasrnga was seduced by a beautiful woman. In Mangalura, Ksantivadin submitted to mutilation by a king. At Hadda Mountain a young Brahmin sacrificed himself to learn a half verse of the dharma. At Sarvadattaan an incarnation sold himself for ransom to make offerings to a Brahmin. [15]

Faxian describes the four great stupas as being adorned with precious substances. At one site king Sibi sacrifices his flesh to ransom a dove from a hawk. Another incarnation gave up his eyes when asked a third incarnation sacrificed his body to feed a hungry tigress. As King Candraprabha he cut off his head as a gift to a Brahmin. [16] Some would sever their body parts in front of stupas that contained relics or even end their own lives.

Within the Pali tradition, there are also many apocryphal Jātakas of later composition (some dated even to the 19th century) but these are treated as a separate category of literature from the "Official" Jātaka stories that have been more or less formally canonized from at least the 5th century — as attested to in ample epigraphic and archaeological evidence, such as extant illustrations in bas relief from ancient temple walls.

Apocryphal Jātakas of the Pali Buddhist canon, such as those belonging to the Paññāsa Jātaka collection, have been adapted to fit local culture in certain South East Asian countries and have been retold with amendments to the plots to better reflect Buddhist morals. [17] [18]

In Theravada countries several of the longer tales such as "The Twelve Sisters" [19] and the Vessantara Jataka [20] are still performed in dance, [21] theatre, and formal (quasi-ritual) recitation. [22] Such celebrations are associated with particular holidays on the lunar calendar used by Thailand, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Laos.

The standard Pali collection of jātakas, with canonical text embedded, has been translated by E. B. Cowell and others, originally published in six volumes by Cambridge University Press, 1895-1907 reprinted in three volumes, Pali Text Society, [23] Bristol. There are also numerous translations of selections and individual stories from various languages.

The Jātaka-Mālā of Arya Śura was critically edited in the original Sanskrit [Nâgarî letters] by Hendrik Kern of the University of Leiden in Netherlands, which was published as volume 1 of the Harvard Oriental Series in 1891. A second issue came in 1914.

FEATURES | THEMES | Art and Archaeology

Benoy K. Behl was originally interviewed for Buddhistdoor en Español. The following is a translation of that interview.

Benoy K. Behl has been a privileged witness of the beauty, goodness, and compassion that art can bring to the world. Art historian, filmmaker, and photographer, Behl, from New Delhi, is listed in the Limca Book of Records as the most traveled photographer and art historian (Limca is an annual reference book published in India that documenting India&rsquos achievements in various fields) and is the only person to have documented the Buddhist heritage of 19 regions in 17 countries.

The turning point in his career were his photographs of the ancient paintings in the Ajanta Caves, the earliest surviving paintings of an historic period of the Indian subcontinent. In the horseshoe-shaped gorge of the Waghora River in Maharashtra, western India, 31 caves were excavated in two phases. The first was around the second century BCE and second between the fourth and sixth centuries CE. The paintings and sculptures of Ajanta mainly depict the Jataka tales &mdash stories of the Buddha in his previous lives &mdash and the caves were used for centuries by Buddhist monks as monsoon season retreats.

Image courtesy of Benoy K. Behl

Behl photographed the Ajanta paintings in their true colors and details in 1991&mdashand a year later he returned to redo and perfect the entire project. After publishing these photographs in National Geographic, museums and universities around the world invited him to lecture and show the paintings. The director general of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) wrote to him, saying: &ldquoYou have conquered the darkness of the Ajanta Caves.&rdquo

Behl is a leading ambassador of ancient Indian art through his books, photography exhibitions, and documentaries. Some of his films, such as Indian Roots of Tibetan Buddhism and Indian Deities Worshipped in Japan, have won awards at international film festivals.

Buddhistdoor en Español: You have mentioned in a lot of articles the impact you had through your photography of the Ajanta murals. After visiting so many places around the world and seeing the finest Buddhist art, what did you find most extraordinary about the Ajanta murals?

Benoy K. Behl: I have had the good fortune to see and document the finest Buddhist art, at sites such as Borobudur in Indonesia, Sukhothai in Thailand, the 12th century paintings of Bagan in Myanmar, the Dungkar Caves in the Tibet Autonomous Region, the museums of cultural history in Bangladesh, and the Sigiriya Caves in Sri Lanka. What is great in all this art is the sublime vision of life, which imparts a deep look inside the painted and sculpted figures. This is all very exquisite art and it transports you&mdashfar from the noise and clamor of the material world&mdashto the peace that can be found within.

Ajanta 268 (Bodhisattva Padmapani, Cave 1).
Image courtesy of Benoy K. Behl

Having seen this wonderful body of Buddhist art around the world, one comes back to its most sublime source. The paintings of Ajanta are the most exquisite and most complete consecration of the spirit of compassion in Buddhism. There is a grace in this art which moves you completely and transforms you&mdashyou just have to give it the opportunity by being in front of it for some time. Scholars and pilgrims have always spoken about &ldquothe world of Ajanta,&rdquo and this is what I have experienced. The thousands of kind and caring figures painted upon the walls of the Ajanta Caves transport you to a world of caring and compassion. These paintings convey a totality in their vision of life, which changes you forever. The compassionate message of Ajanta is contained in an inscription at the site, which says: &ldquoThe joy of giving filled him so much that it left no space for the feeling of pain.&rdquo

BDE: Let&rsquos go back in time. If you could recreate in film the atmosphere, the sounds, and the people working and visiting the caves during the two phases of construction of the Ajanta Cave murals, what would we see?

BKB: The main thing that one would see is a host of dedicated people, fulfilling their duty in life by painting and sculpting. These were guilds of artists, who considered it their dharma, or sacred duty, to create art that would carry on the knowledge and understanding of life that they had received from their ancestors.

BDE: Is the art of the Ajanta murals under threat?

BKB: In the 1920s and 19 30s, before Indian independence, Italian conservators were invited to preserve the Ajanta murals. This was a disaster for the conservation of the paintings as these conservators applied shellac (a type of varnish) upon the paintings, which they believed was the best way to preserve them. Over time, the shellac yellowed and darkened very considerably as it collected dust from the atmosphere. For decades, the Archeological Survey of India has been carefully removing the shellac to reveal the colors and details of the paintings. Some of this delicate exercise has been successfully completed, but much more needs to be done.

Besides intrusive human activities like the application of shellac, there are other natural factors that endanger the paintings. There is some seepage of moisture from the roofs of the caves, coming from the distant hilltop above. The ASI is doing everything possible to protect the paintings.

Another damaging factor is the accumulation of humidity and bacteria within the caves, caused by the large number of visitors in recent years. An interpretive center has been created near the caves, with the hope that many of the visitors would be drawn there and would not spend so much time inside the caves themselves.

Full Visvantara Jataka, Cave 17, Ajanta. Image courtesy of Benoy K. Behl

BDE: India has one of the finest painting traditions in the world, but it seems that many of the artists of those remote times are unknown today. Could you mention some of the highlights covered by the most ancient art treatise, the Chitrasutra of the Vishnudharmottara Purana?

BKB: The inheritance of the tradition of painting that was received by the artists of Ajanta was documented in the Chitrasutra from the fifth century CE. This treatise gives hundreds of details on how to paint. For example, Indian painters concentrated immensely on portraying the feelings of their subjects through their eyes, as the eyes are windows to the soul. So we find five kinds of gazes that are depicted in the Chitrasutra: chapakara or meditative, matsyodara or lovelorn, utpalaptrabha meaning placid or peaceful, padmapatranibha: frightened or weeping, and sankhakriti: angered or deeply pained.

The paintings of Ajanta were made by the inheritors of a very long tradition. They were guilds of painters who painted palaces, temples, and caves. The art of painting was their legacy and it was their duty in life to paint. As you may imagine, they had no need to write their names on the paintings. It was a great sense of importance and fulfilment to play one&rsquos role as a part of the world.

These painters had a great vision of humanity and compassion, which moves us and completely enthralls us to this day.

BDE: At what point did the Buddha start to be represented as a human in the Ajanta artwork and in Indian art in general?

BKB: As the ego and belief in one&rsquos identity is considered to be an illusion of our limited sensibilities, the focus was never on the individual. For about a thousand years, in early times, up until the seventh century CE, a vast quantity of art was produced in India. This art depicted deities, mythical creatures, animals, plants, trees, forms which combined these beings in a great harmony, and also common men and women. Yet this art never depicted any personalities, not even the kings under whose rule the works were created. Nor was the name of the artist mentioned. According to the Chitrasutra, personalities are too unimportant to be depicted in art. The purpose of art is a noble one, to show the eternal, beyond the ephemeral forms of the world.

Works of art were meant to convey the Truth as experienced by the artist. No thinker or artist claimed that it was solely he who had seen the Truth. In fact, the great teachers of the ancient period in India, including Gautama Buddha and Mahavira, each stated that they had only followed in the footsteps of others who went before them. The emphasis was on the loss of the ego and not the perpetuation of it. Art was a prime vehicle of the communication of these ideas.

One of the greatest contributions of this philosophic stream is that there are no barriers placed between the spiritual world and the world of the senses. The art of this tradition is a fulsome sharing of the life experience in all its aspects. It sees our perceptions, from the sensory to the highest realms of the spiritual, as a continuous path. It harnesses our faculties and perceptions to help us understand and reach out to the divine, through all of our emotional and other resources. This philosophy does not seek to deny our response to the splendor of the world around us. In fact, it sees this beauty as a reflection of divine glory. Thus the human form is not presented in a manner which would awaken base desires that burden us. Instead, Indian art recognizes the grace in all human and other forms and seeks to elevate us through our aesthetic response.

Buddhas in human form thus came to be seen in Indian art, along with other deities, from about the first century BCE&ndash first century CE. Therefore, by the time of the second period of Ajanta, these are commonly seen.

BDE: You developed a low-light photography technique to photograph all the murals in Ajanta. How was this experience?

BKB: The Ajanta work was a technical challenge to begin with. This photography in the dark captured the details and colors that had never been known to the world before.

But what happened in the process of my spending long, long hours with these beautiful paintings was something else, which was actually more important than the technical achievement. It was a close and concentrated exposure that I received to this ancient Indian art, in the process of spending so much time in front of the paintings. This was the transforming experience of my life. Out of those glimpses came a clear knowledge that compassion is all that there is. Knowledge is different from something you read in a book. Knowledge is something that you know, which has become part of your consciousness.

Benoy K. Behl &rsquo s documentary The Indian Roots of Tibetan Buddhism:

This is a copy of a painting in cave 10 at Ajanta. These paintings date from the 1st century BC to about AD 480 and are the oldest surviving examples of painting in India. They depict stories from the lives of the Buddha (the Jatakas), in this case the Saddanta Jataka.

The Ajanta cave complex was discovered in 1819 and since then attempts have been made to document the paintings inside them. In 1844 Major Robert Gill was commissioned to make copies. Unfortunately most of the paintings he completed were destroyed in a fire in 1866. To make up for the loss, from 1872 to 1885 John Griffiths from the Bombay School of Art and seven Indian students spent every winter at the caves producing approximately 300 paintings. This is one of them.

This painting has a scene of a rocky landscape. On the left hand side there are two elephants, one of which is raising his trunk. A man with a striped shirt looks out from the rocky landscape towards the elephants. There are also two sets of couples sitting in the landscape and peacocks up at the top centre of the canvas. In the right hand side of the painting the man with the striped shirt is carrying a yoke laden with elephant tusks across his shoulders towards the other figures nearby.

This painting has deep scratches across the image which are evidence of the vandalism done to the actual cave paintings.

  • Height: 1662mm
  • Width: 932mm
  • Depth: 40mm
  • With frame height: 1710mm
  • With frame width: 974mm
  • With frame depth: 45mm

Historical significance: The paintings inside the caves of Ajanta tell stories from the lives of the Buddha. This painting depicts the Saddanta jataka.

A queen announces to the king that she has an unsatisfied desire for the tusks of a six-tusk (Saddanta) elephant. The elephant is infact her husband from a previous birth and she wants to take revenge on him for his supposed unfaithfulness. She lets the hunters of the court know where this six-tusk elephant lives.

A brave hunter goes in search of the elephant and from the top of a rocky landscape (IS.19-1885) he catches sight of it and the herd with which he lives while they are bathing in the lotus pond.

The hunter digs a pit along a path which the elephants use and climbs in. He mortally wounds the elephant as he walks over the pit and the rest of the herd flees into the jungle, lost without their leader. The hunter saws the tusks off the elephant and ties them to a yoke in order to carry them to the queen (IS.19-1885).

When the queen sees the tusks she is full of remorse and regrets the action. To make amends the relics of the elephant are kept in a stupa within the caitya-hall of a monastery which the king and his attendants visit.

This is a copy of a painting in cave 10 at Ajanta. These paintings date from the 1st century BC to about AD 480 and are the oldest surviving examples of painting in India. They depict stories from the lives of the Buddha (the Jatakas), in this case the Saddanta Jataka.

The Ajanta cave complex was discovered in 1819 and since then attempts have been made to document the paintings inside them. In 1844 Major Robert Gill was commissioned to make copies. Unfortunately most of the paintings he completed were destroyed in a fire in 1866. To make up for the loss, from 1872 to 1885 John Griffiths from the Bombay School of Art and seven Indian students spent every winter at the caves producing approximately 300 paintings. This is one of them.

  • Griffiths, J, The paintings in the Buddhist cave temples of Ajanta, India, 1896
  • Schlingloff, D, Guide to the Ajanta paintings, Vol. 1, New Delhi, 1999.

Ajanta Caves and frescoes

The Ajanta caves along with the beautiful Ellora caves are considered to be the most beautiful ones India has.

One of the oldest UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India are the Ajanta Caves. The Archeological Survey of India protects the caves.

Some of the magnificent masterpieces present at the Ajanta caves make it a perfect place to visit for history and the culture enthusiasts.

Check out some of the facts and features that make the Caves an architectural marvel.

Interesting facts about Ajanta Caves

Image: India Currents

1. If we go back to the history it is found that the Buddhist monks were the ones who spent a lot of time at the caves because they were forbidden from travelling during the monsoons.

The monks thought it to be the perfect time to put their creativity into existence so they decided to paint the walls of the caves.


2. In the year 1819, Jon Smith was the person who belonged to the 28 th cavalry and he had by chance discovered the horse-shoe shaped rock while he had gone for hunting tiger in the Deccan plateau region.

The British officials were very much intrigued towards the entrance of the cave that they crossed the Waghora River and they soon reached the caves. Very soon the sites began being excavated by the archeological experts.

The discovery of the caves started spreading like wild fire and this was the reason why Ajanta Caves became an instant hit among the European travelers.


3. Apart from the beautiful paintings and sculptures the other attractions were the stupas which were built in those times along with the massive pillars, detailed carvings on the ceilings. This became a great news which ultimately gave the Ajanta caves a status of a heritage site.

4. Further studies were conducted and it was discovered that 30 caves were there in the cave complex and one part of it was present during the Satavahana period and the other during the Vakataka period.

Historians and the archeologists studied and found a connection between the Vakataka dynasty which ruled the region to the Gupta dynasty which belonged to the north India.


5. The sanctuaries known as Chaitya-grihas were built in the canyons of the Waghora river during the first phase of the construction. During the Satavahana dynasty, in the first phase the caves 9, 10, 12 and 15 were built.

6. During the rule of the Emperor Harishena of the Vakataka dynasty the second phase of construction began to be constructed.

Then 20 cave temples were built which almost resembled the modern-day monasteries.

Image: HiSoUr

7. By the end of Harishena’s reign these beautiful caves were abandoned and had been forgotten completely through the century.

The reason for this were the dense forests which totally covered up the caves.

Image: Holidify

8. The Ajanta Caves depict Buddhist philosophy and religious teachings of Buddha very beautifully. The walls of these caves represent the incidents of Gautama Buddha’s life and also from the Jataka Tales.

Some of the paintings belong to the scenes of the royal court of the respective eras.

Image: World heritage

9. Buddha always preached that life is a process which will help one to overcome desire so that he can attain nirvana and salvation.

And in his lifetime Buddha was always against the concept of sculpting and painting images depicting him.

Image: Place to visit

10. It was after Buddha’s death only that the disciples decided to paint his images of Buddha so that they can worship him. And the images would help them to spread the faith and teachings of Buddha further.

Also read: Hang Son Doong, the world’s largest natural cave

11. A tall image of Buddha is seen on the entrance of the first Ajanta caves.

The auspicious motifs, many paintings and sculptures are beautifully decorated at the entry point of the caves. Other images of Bodhisattvas Padmapani and Vajrapani, carvings of princesses, lovers, maids and dancing girls are also seen on the walls. Images which portray the scenes of the Persian Embassy, golden geese, pink elephants and bull fights are all seen.

Image: Open Art

12. It’s around 600 years later that the Buddha statues have been added whereas the Caves are almost 2,000 years old.

Watch the video: Ajanta Paintings (August 2022).

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