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Composition and Perspective of Ajanta Paintings

Part - 2

We have discussed the two objectives of the Ajanta composition: one, easy composition by following the equal symmetrical concept, and second, the connecting-link composition where all the segments of a storytelling composition perform as a panoramic view. Besides this, another formation has been leading in the Ajanta composition. We can recognize it as "Elliptical composition."


We can consider a great painting as an example composed of the story of Sankhapala Jataka. That painting has two sections: On the right side, Nagraj(the kink of the serpent) attacked Sankapala and took him into custody. On the left side, Shrestha (a noble person who followed the rule of Buddha) relieved Sankapala from fowlers and pioneered him in Buddhism.  


Sankhapala Jataka, 1st Century BCE
Sankhapala Jataka, 1st Century BCE

Each group is composed elliptically around the center point of the composition. In the scene on the left side, the hands of the fowlers indicate their prey by producing a bunch of diagonal lines, and Nagraj's sprained figure goes ahead to those hands of the fowlers. By placing a figure below the group, the artist wanted to show circuitously that vertical golden point where fowlers arrested Nagraj. In the scene on the left side, there are two reverend figures; one of them (the central figure who is a mendicant) is placed vertically, slightly upside down to the next. It's an instance of the Indian traditional sense of vertical perspective that means Nagraj belongs far away from the mendicant. Both figures move towards each other tardily, creating discrimination with the composition of the right side, which bears the fastest movements. By making such contrasting compositions, artists have proven their unique talent; it helps to lay out the importance of the initiation or inauguration of spiritual life, and it creates a divinity in the soul of the viewers, which was the artist's primary objective. A woman is placed in the noble figures' footer to indicate the composition's center point.


Ajanta cave, Chanpeyya Jataka
Ajanta cave, Chanpeyya Jataka

We will find many similar outstanding compositions around the Ajanta cave, proving the innovative minds of Ajanta artists. We have another example of duet composition in Number One Cave, where the subject is based on group dance.


In a palace, a prince dances before the princess with his royal member's group. Another group of dancers and musicians are advocating for the prince. Two groups composed elliptically around their center point, and concurrently, the movement of the figures of each group produces irresistibly the center of their own group. By following the movements, the viewers' vision will circulate automatically towards the center point of any group. One of the figures will help us move from one group to another, which stands in the middle portion of two pillars of the castle. Although it's the figure of the group of the prince explicitly, her figure moves towards the group of musicians. Alternatively, of those hints stated above, there is another matter related to the composition that produced a diagonal line to establish the connection between the two groups. It is the amused structure of one of the female dancing figures that formed two imaginative diagonal lines that ended through the sharp line of flutes of the musicians.


To show the composition only with the lines, we have to create an egg-shaped drawing with two ovals in the two corners of the egg. Just think about it! What a unique idea of connecting-link composition. Such a composition will always pull you to the center of the composition and help you go in the right direction; moreover, without foreshadowing, you will suddenly discover yourself as a part of the story, not just an audience. It is the magic of the Indian notion of perspective. In most of the compositions of Ajanta paintings, you will find such concepts predominately based on any principal figure. 


Those examples of Composition and Perspective of Ajanta Paintings demonstrate the innovative talent of Ajanta artists. In the next episode, I'll discuss the objectives behind such a concept of composition. You will be thrilled to discover a scientific reason based on the modern science of physics. So stay tuned and subscribe to this blog to discover more amazing stuff. Thank you.

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