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The Secret of Ajanta Cave Painting

Part - 2

Meanwhile, the onslaught of the common curious visitors had been running in those caves of Ajanta. The officials of NIZAM (the title of the hereditary ruler) were trying to sell those paintings, and to do so, they tried to pick up some artwork from the surface of the cave's wall! They even obtained a contributor in this effort who helped them physically. The name of that great contributor was Dr. Bird, a professional archaeologist who lived in Mumbai. It would not be a hyperbole if I said they merely gained some colorful dust from the cave wall. 

Yasodharā and Rahul
Yasodharā and Rahul dedicate something to Buddha during begging.

In 1909, Lady Haring Hum took the initiative to reproduce Ajanta's paintings, which were legendary works. A group of Indian master artists, including Nandalal Basu, Syed Ahammad, Asit Kumar Halder, Dorothy Larcher, Samarendra Nath Gupta, and others, involved themselves in this project. Lady Haring Hum gifted all the replications to London's "India Society." The above painting is an example of a reproduction done by Lady Haring Hum of an Ajanta cave painting. The left is in its original position, and the right is after the reformation.

Ajanta painting after the Restoration
Ajanta painting after the Restoration

Two Italian specialists, Prof. Lorenzo Cecchini and Count Orsini, successfully restored the demolished frescoes of Ajanta cave through a remarkable initiative. As Indians, we are grateful for their efforts. The specialists removed defective colors used by unskilled artists and restored the paintings using identical colors. They also applied a kind of transparent gum to the paintings to keep them durable and regain their original luster. Their work in Ajanta took place between 1920 and 1922. While most of the paintings in Ajanta Cave were restored by Italian experts, some new paintings were discovered by tourists in the deepest parts of the cave in 1935 and are still in good condition. The image above is an example of a painting that Italian artists recovered. The first part of the image shows the original painting, while the second part shows the painting after the Restoration.

According to specialists and historians, the paintings of Caves 9 and 10 are the oldest in Ajanta, dating back to the 1st century AD. Based on the style and quality of the paintings in these caves, they are considered from the earliest construction period. The colors of the paintings are somber, and the figures are not as graceful as those in later caves. The Ajanta cave paintings are a testament to the artistry and craftsmanship of the time. The compositions are masterfully executed, and the finishing is of the highest quality. Indeed, no work in the caves is of inferior quality. The fundamental concept of artistry in the Ajanta caves is built upon the most vital tradition of oriental art, which was acquired from the world's oldest grammatical concept. In my last write-up, I discussed this grammatical concept in detail. I suggest you read the oldest grammar book to understand Ajanta's cave paintings better.

Dancing girl, Ajanta cave
Dancing girl, Ajanta cave, 2nd century B.C - 6th Century A.D

Historians have determined that the 9th and 10th caves were excavated during the second decade BC until 236 AD. They have also established that the Satavahana dynasty's kings ordered the creation of these caves. Evidence suggests that although the kings were Brahmins by caste, they had a deep admiration for the concepts of Buddhism. These caves were probably explicitly constructed for the worship of Buddhists. During that period, the area was covered by dense forests, making it nearly impossible for the general public to navigate. The artists who worked in the dark caves were utterly cut off from the outside world, yet they deeply understood human experiences, such as the flavor of life, aroma, and torment. They were inspired by the natural world and its elements, which greatly affected their work. Despite being minor details, their paintings expressed a sense of humanity and compassion. Their art conveyed the joy of life without any limit. The way they got their emotions with simple yet sophisticated composition techniques was remarkable. Every painting had the perfect balance, proportion, perspective, and a harmonious relationship between objects that captured the essence of human emotion.

In the next episode, I'll continue unveiling the secrets of Ajanta Cave Painting. Please stay in touch. Thank you.

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