Ajanta Caves in Maharashtra, India, are rock-cut cave monuments dating from the second century BCE. It contains the paintings and sculpture and are considered to be masterpieces of both “Buddhist religious art” and “universal pictorial art”. The caves are located just outside the village of Ajantha in Aurangabad district in the Indian state of Maharashtra.
Where are Ajanta Caves located
The Ajanta caves are in a wooded and rugged horseshoe-shaped ravine and is about 3½ km from the village of Ajantha. The famous Ajanta Caves known for its paintings are situated in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra State in India (106 kilometers away from the city of Aurangabad).
There are in all 29 caves (as officially numbered by the Archaeological Survey of India), located in the south side of the precipitous scarp made by the cutting of the ravine. The caves vary from 35 to 110 ft (34 m) in elevation above the bed of the stream.
The monastic complex of Ajanta consists of many viharas (monastic halls of residence) and chaitya-grihas (stupa monument halls) cut into the mountain scarp in two phases. The viharas are of different sizes and the maximum is about 52 feet (16 m). The hall was an essential element of a viharas.
The Viharas are often square-shaped and their they are made differently some have ornaments some have porch, some with simple facade and others do not have these all. The facades of many viharas are also decorated with carvings, and walls and ceilings were often covered with paintings and ornated.
Paintings of Ajanta and Ellora
Ajanta Caves are world famous for its paintings. These paintings are all over the cave except on the floor. At various places in the caves the art work has become eroded due to decay and human interference. Therefore, many areas of the painted walls, ceilings, and pillars are fragmentary.
The painted narratives of the Jataka tales are depicted only on the walls, which needs the special attention of the devotee and visitors. They gives the special message about the community and about the Buddha‘s teachings and life through successive births. The narrative episodes of these paintings are depicted one after another although not in a linear order.
The artwork used in the paintings is popularly known as mural. These Ajanta Caves are famous from the very long period of time for the artwork used in these caves. At Ajanta, the technique and process used to produce this kind of artwork is unlike any other artwork found in the art history of other civilizations.
These murals have a certain uniqueness about them, even within the history of South Asian art and are rarely seen. The painting in Ajanta, done on the walls and throughout the caves involved several stages of making process. The very first step of doing painting involved the chisel of the rock surface, to make it rough enough for it can hold the plaster. The plaster used was made of clay, hay, dung and lime.
The different ingredients and their proportions are used from cave to cave. And when the plaster was still wet, the drawings were done and the colors were applied on it. The wet plaster had the capacity to soak the color so that the color became a part of the surface and would not peel off or decay easily.
The colors were referred to as ‘earth colors’ or ‘vegetable colors.’ Various kinds of stones, minerals, and plants were used in combination to prepare different colors used in the paintings. Sculptures were often covered with stucco to give them a fine finish and lustrous polish. The stucco had the ingredients of lime and powdered seashell or conch which provided extra shine and smoothness, smoothness resembles the surface of glass. The paint brushes used to create the artwork were made from animal hairs and twigs.