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Elliptical Composition in Ajanta Paintings

Part - 3


 Based on the previous discourse, here I would like to say that although we attempted to establish the innovative talent of Ajanta artists, the truth is that they could not claim the unconventionality of their creations. We have already found such an endeavor in Bharhut. Gothic art's imperativeness bound those artists to make such a style of composition where medallions of the balustrades helped break the consistency of the straight line of the parapet, and it was necessary to have a bit of decoration for those balustrades.


The highest label of artistry in such style we could find in Amaravati. It is a depiction related to the life of Lord Buddha, where we can see some angels bearing the bagging pot of Buddha to heaven. The problem of artists in this composition is how they bring attention to the begging pot of Buddha since it is located at the top of all the masses. Following this objective, artists of Amaravati placed those masses in such a way that created some intense but luminous lines indicating the begging pot of Lord Buddha.


elliptical composition in Ajanta cave.
Elliptical composition in Ajanta cave.

Now, the question is, why did they favor such elliptical composition in Ajanta paintings and apply it numerously in their paintings? To comprehend this question, we have to understand the secret Hindu spiritual philosophy dominating behind this conception. Tantra (A doctrine to connect directly with God), or the hidden system of the universe that helps us to exist indicates such elliptical shapes in every aspect! Just think about our universe. In the center, the sun shines like God and all the planets around it, moving from left to right by maintaining an elliptical line. If you glance at the cloud chamber of any physics laboratory, you will have the same experience while running particles in the cloud chamber. All the particles are running in the same way around the nuclear. Ajanta, Amaravati, and Vharhut artists knew it very well and applied this concept to their paintings. They usually placed the significant element in the center as a pivotal part of the composition, and other masses they put around it to define the weight of the central character.


Image of our galaxy with orbital diagram
Planets are moving around sun by maintaining the elliptical line.

 In Hindu philosophy, a devotee's effort is to perforate each step indicated as an elliptical border and reach the center where God is waiting for him. To perform the story of Lord Buddha, it was the highest label of thought they applied in their painting to teach viewers how to reach the God (Buddha), and it is the actual hidden secret behind such an Elliptical composition. It is probably fitting that they didn't create this composition to convey the traditional concept or glorify ornamental design. Instead, they had the knowledge of the secret value of such a round shape they implemented in composition. The repercussion of this concept, we will find in the painting related to the significant event of Lord Krishna named "Rash-Lela," where in the center, Lord and his beloved Radha performed as the almighty creator of this universe and another lacquey of Radha dancing around the Lord by maintaining an elliptical line. This painting is hugely available in Indian miniature paintings of the Mughal era and also has numerous prints in the Indian marketplace.


Krishna and Radha dancing the Rasalila
Krishna and Radha dancing the Rasalila, Jaipur, 19th century.

It is about the state of talent of those artists of Ajanta who not only implemented such style in Ajanta, rather astonishingly, they reformed that style and performed a new fashion, which we recognized as Connecting-link composition. They even extended the value of connecting-link composition by incorporating various forms that increased the dignity of this composition.


In the next episode, I'll be discussing the sense of perspective in the vision of Indian artists. You will be amazed to learn about some outstanding innovations. So stay tuned and don't forget to subscribe my articles. Thank you. 

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