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Ajanta and Ellora

Ajanta and Ellora
Item Code: IDL092
Author: Pushpesh Pant
Publisher: Roli Books
Edition: 2007
ISBN: 9788174370990
Pages: 80 (Illustrated Throughout In Full Color and B/W)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details: 11.1" X 8.4"
Back of the Book

Ajanta & Ellora –ground, mysterious and awe-inspiring. These cave temples, located in a horseshoe-shaped hillside in Maharastra, contain some of the world’s beautiful paintings and sculptures on their walls. Nameless artisans of another age in creative burst of energy shaped these incomparable works of art which encompass Buddhist, Hindi and Jain Beliefs. This book’s lucid text and vivid photographs explain some of the mystique of these caves.


The magnificent caves of Ajanta and Ellora have intrigued scholars of religion and art history. Why were they commissioned? Surely the accomplished craftsmen who executed this project could build more conventional edifices. The answer has to be sought at different levels. The substance of the rock itself exerted compelling influence on the minds of mend.

Since time immemorial natural cavities in rocks have provided shelter for primitive man, and planned excavations were the natural next step. The dark chamber deep inside symbolized the security of the womb and some scholars suggest that this unconscious. Several scholars have tried to explain the preference for caves. A cave is a good dwelling place –one that is easy to keep warm in winter while it is always cool in summer and does not need much maintenance. However, it is clear that it was not only practical considerations that contributed to the popularity of cave shrines in ancient India.

It is in Deccan that India makes its most original contribution to the languages of form and here too the Indian artist succeeded in projecting the totality of a people’s ideals a feeling of the community shared by the entire society. Within the deliberately limited horizon of a cave. The recluse could strive to enhance his consciousness enveloped by sumptuous vistas of form and colour, all vibrating ceaselessly.

Building rise in a sequence segment by segment from the foundation there is a visible tension between gravity and soaring tensile strength. Caves on the other hand involve a plunging down and are chiseled down form the ceiling but sensed resistance. To enter an Indian cave temple is to experience a relaxation of physical tension in response to the density of the rock facilitating the mood of surrender.

Facing page:The painters at Ajanta delighted in rendering the human figure. They balanced the ideal figure prescribed in the artistic canon with the appropriate expression to evoke the desired emotion detail form Shankpala Jataka. Cave I, Ajanta.

The structure and ornamentation of the cave shrines were deliberately designed to heighten the spiritual mood and enhance the visionary experience. The brilliant paintings were never meant to be clinical descriptions of reality. Their prime purpose was to sharpen the perception of a transcendent mode suggestive of the states of consciousness achieved through meditation or ecstatic vision. The aesthetics are akin to the Yogic discipline of seeking evolve a witnessing consciousness.

The art of the cave sanctuaries is a luminous representation of Maya, a creative illusion in all its depths multiple meaning. What the artists have wrought are microcosmic imitation of the macrocosmic dream.

In India, like in all other ancient civilizations, religion has inspired sculptors and painters and their work reflects the spiritual quest directing the creative impulse. In the earliest phase in the pre-Buddhist period art was chiefly concerned with nature worship. The relief work at sanchi and Barhut testifies to the prevalence of animistic cults. This art is essentially pagan, purely representative ad realistic in technique.

It is futile to distinguish between Brahmanic and Buddhist art at this stage. Animistic tradition and Brahmanic art were adapted for their own purpose by the Buddhists. The Bodhisattvas (evolving Buddhas of compassion who defer their own salvation to relive the sufferings of other beings)-Avalokiteshvara and Maitreya- were perhaps evolved from Brahma and Indra in their sculptural representations. The forms of both were stereotyped in the earliest examples of the Gandhara school. It is this sensuous animistic spirit which permeates Ajanta and Ellora. Buddhist and Hindu anecdotes are not only illustrated for decorative purpose but effectively interpreted.

Whether is the monasteries and assembly halls in caves or imposing monolithic temples, there remarkable assimilation of diverse influences and uniformity of motifs and designs. Techniques ad methods of construction were obviously the same. Subsequent development of Indian painting and sculpture in both theme and technique displays the indelible imprint and influence of Ajanta and Ellora.

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