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Composition and Perspective of Ajanta Paintings

Part - 1


The second technique has been staged after such a method of symmetrical composition, where a composition is structured by systematically concatenating several groups. We can easily ascribe a name to a procedure such as "Connecting-link composition." It is a unique method of composition that has been widely found only in Ajanta cave paintings. The advantage of such a composition is that it can widely describe several segments of a tale of Jataka. I think the artists of Ajanta probably have felt the hindrance of a painting where it would not be possible to show the efflux of the time anyway. Therefore, they discovered a unique idea of composition that we recognized as the "Connecting link" and overcame the obstacle. It's a significant discovery in the history of oriental painting that was only found in Ajanta.


Rural storyteller showing mythological chronicle
Rural storyteller showing mythological chronicle

Actually, in the section on art, such a method of composition was a specialty of Ancient India. The repercussions of this unique idea are seen in the Japanese composition of Makimono. Artists of Western territory are habituated to view any scene or object in a frame that stands on a stationary viewpoint. Still, at that time, the artists of India were habituated to observing any scene in several frames, just like a panoramic view. Imagine that you are traveling on a train and seated at the side of the window; each scene of a vast landscape severally comes to you in the frame of the window. The most rural areas of Bengal still have the same tradition. A storyteller stages any mythological folk story for ordinary people, using such fashion by illustrating the stories on several pieces of paper or clothes. Here is a demonstration of a folk storyteller presenting a mythological tale.


It was an excellent technique of composition that represented the highest intelligence label of those ancient artists when we discovered a unique instrumentation to establish a connection between two or more groups. What did they do? To divide and maintain the connection between the two groups, they used any object that significantly served as the punctuation of a story. Mostly, those were either the township portal, the temple's front door, or a tree, pillar, etc. Meanwhile, they oriented all the figures of a storytelling composition that ideally designates the pivotal part of the group.


Illustration from Jataka in Ajanta Cave wall.
Illustration from Jataka in Ajanta Cave wall.

We will find a similar concept in Sanchi in the primary stage and the improved version in Amaravati. The artists of Ajanta not only have taken the same horizon of Amaravati, but they have also revised the concept that vindicated their extraordinary talent. What is the difference between Amaravati and Ajanta in this rational area? The instrumentation in the connecting-link composition of Amaravati artists was inferior; those secondary objects came as a necessary part of the composition, but in Ajanta, those objects took a significant place, acting as a straight or diagonal line that prevents the mass of figures appears abruptly as well as change the regular recurrence of the composition. As a metaphor, it's a symphony of lute that basically does not correlate to any song but performs a beautiful cadence that produces an unprecedented obsession. At a glance, presumably, the group of figures of any composition appears disorderly. Still, if we consider those figures to be the main subjects of the piece, they set us at the center of the group with their significant figurative movements and help us move to the next group. The gestures, body language, and expressions grab our attention and insist we move in the right direction. This means that the line drawings related to those central figures guide us in moving around. The other figures around the leading group work as a connector of the following composition or group. How does it work? We should have to observe them deeply. Their profile faces, turning of the body, and line of vision; moreover, those figures subordinate in a stipulated group ignore their own and indicate to the next scene or group, which curiously motivates us to move by following their gestures. Artists of Ajanta used those secondary figures as a bridge between two segments. 


The concept of composition and the sense of perspective is indeed unmatched in Ajanta compared to other cave paintings in India and abroad.


In the next segment, I'll discuss the third and most exciting concept of composition, which will thrill you. So stay tuned with this journey.


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