Sketching & Sculpting of Ajanta

The upper berths of Indian railways are like attics without a window! He appreciated himself for his philosophy and lying with crossed legs in his ‘attic’ of Devagiri Express bound for Mumbai. Travels – especially traveling alone – were the moment of dhyana for him. He used to get dazzling ideas during such travels. But he will forget all of them when he gets down at his destination. Disturbing his contemplation, TTE knocked on his legs and asked for his ticket.

His chauffeur Easwar had dropped him at Aurangabad station after visiting a bustling attraction – Ajanta. He was so punctual since Saturday morning. He came at 8am sharp on Sunday morning, too, to take him to the promenade that day! The driving time to Ajanta was more than that of Ellora. Instead of any distractions, they went to Ajanta. The view point on the way to Ajanta was an important attraction, he did not visit.

Aurangabad: The journey to Ajanta begins, Aurangabad-Jalgaon-Indore Highway.
Approximately 100 km from here.
Aurangabad-Jalgaon-Indore Highway.
Trail from hill to hill! They say Japan paid for that road
From the view point. (c)

If we look at the very old Indian paintings, we have no significant evidences. Paintings of Sigiriya of Sri Lanka, Kanchipuram of Chennai, Sittannavasal of Pudukkottai and Brihadeeswara temple of Thanjavur belong to 5th, 7th, 9th and 11th centuries AD. The paintings at Ajanta help as evidence of Indian painting from the 2nd century BC till the 6th and 7th centuries AD.

Painting at Kailasanatha temple, Kanchipuram – 7th century AD (c)
Painting at Brihadeeswara temple, Thanjavur – 11th century (c) Benoy K Behl
Painting of Jain ascetic, Sittannavasal – 9th Century (c) Prof S Swaminathan
Painting from Sigiriya, Sri Lanka – 5th century (c)

The discovery of Ajanta is an interesting tale. John Smith, Madras Presidency Officer, went out for a hunt in Ajanta hills. He might be an explorer like Jaggu. But Jaggu hates hunters, but that is not our topic of discussion today. John did not find a tiger. But he find a rock-cut-cave on a distance from a hilltop in the midst of the dense forest; there must have been the light of the Buddha – glowing on the banks of a Waghur river, flowing in a horse shoe shaped path – identified itself and asked him to bring to the attention of outer world. The art treasure was later nationalized and became a feast for our eyes and topic of research for our minds.

Jaggu reached Ajanta around 11:30. He needed to escape from the ‘compulsion selling’ of tourist shops from there. Easwar had warned about them earlier. He just kept quiet and passed through the shops. Still, there was one rogue who tried to pull him out to sell something.

No. It is not Pilgrimage to Sabarimala. ‘Explorimage’ to Ajanta

By the time he entered Ajanta, he felt as if he had done a time travel and reached the 10th century. The view was breathtaking.

Caves have been carved here during the time of the Satavahanas (2 BC) and the Vakatakas (AD 6, 7). All are Buddhist monasteries. Their side-walls, canopies or wherever you touch them were filled with impeccable paintings. Buddhist Jataka stories were painted as well. Are you interested in Jataka stories and archeology? Mark my words, you will not be able to visit Ajanta in one day.

Despite the morals of Jataka tales, many granular details, such as costumes, musical instruments, and birds, continue to amuse researchers even today. Analysts are amazed at the continued tradition since the Ajanta painting period till the contemporary period.

The first two caves themselves will show the most important paintings to fill your mind with immense pleasure. That was a place of humble Buddhist monks. Those caves, sculptures and paintings are where their souls are frozen, though they are deceased already.

Cave 1

Bodhisattva is any human being who is on the way to enlightenment or path towards ‘Buddha’. Padmapani is a Bodhisattva with compassion. Jaggu was familiar with this painting through books.

Padmapani, Cave 1

Similarly, Vajrapani – holder of thunderbolt – is a God of protection.

Padmapani, Cave 1 (Right side of Sanctum)
Padmapani, Karuvarai, Vajrapani
Murals, Cave 1
Cave 1
Cave 2
Treasures at Cave 2
Cave 2
Miracle of Sravasti – Cave 2
Cave 2: The sanctum and the mural
Cave 2: The floral designs. Still we use such type of decorative elements.
Cave 6
Cave 7

Large symmetrical caves could be seen here, like a tall palm tree, dating back to the 2nd century BC. One of these caves, number ten, was what was discovered by John during the colonial period.

The first-century Chaitya-shaped cave – Cave 9
Cave 9
Cave 9: There were sculptures depicting the daily life of humans
Cave No. 10 is probably the oldest of the Ajanta Caves.
This majestic look identified itself to John during his hunting. This cave has another specialty. It has the oldest painting of India, that belongs to 2nd century BC.

It is awe-inspiring to see the paintings of the caves of 2nd century BC. Yes. Really. Those paintings have the most perfect measurements for face, makeup, jewelry sets, despite being very old!! Who’d drawn this? What’s his/her name? Was he/she short or tall? That was the land where so many intellectuals lived at those times!!

2nd century BC painting. Neat.
Belonging to the Hinayana period
The costumes found in those paintings, surprise us.
These should be the most interesting paintings for girls.
Cave 10
Cave 10
The caves
Dying princess, cave 16
Elephant story – Cave 17
Indra flying in the clouds Cave 1
The Waghur river
The drinking Couple, Cave 17
Cave 17: Decorated entrance to heaven 🙂
Cave 17: A feast for the eyes. What kind of place was that?
The wall and the canopy of enormous height were filled with painting – everywhere!
Jataka tales glittered in paintings!
The caves should be visited after a rainy season for a better view!

In addition to the paintings, beautiful sculptures could also be found there. How decorative the arches were! How perfect the elegance of the sculptures were!

Cave 19: This shrine belongs to the late Mahayana period. Chaitya type. The most beautiful and elegant sculptures were found in the cave.
Cave 19: A feast for the eyes
Cave23: Tell me. Which is perfect? the design at the top or the one at the bottom?
Cave 19: Nagaraj
Cave 23
Cave 23
Cave 23

When someone dies, his/her unresolved karma passes on to a new birth instantaneously. However, when a person attains nirvana, they are free from rebirth. When such a person dies, it is the end of his/her rebirth. He attains the mahaparinirvana, the eternal divinity.

This cave 26 is the result of your search; the rise of your soul.

Cave 26: This was the last chapter of the Ajanta trip. Exterior decoration and
The sculptures will take your time here.
A man stands on the right side, helping to infer the height of the cave
This shape is simulated to the sternum of the Buddha
Cave 19
hmm. so many caves! so many paintings!

Was there no one to disturb the Buddha?! Mara was there. He was known to be a king, who had the contrasting view of life to that of Buddha. Buddha pulled the people towards eternity. Mara liked to pull them towards worldly pleasures. Mara was drawn in cave 1. He has been sculpted in cave 26.

Buddha and Mara. The painting in the first cave was sculpted here
Mara climbed on the elephant and came with his evil forces to attack the Buddha
Mara climbed on the elephant and came with his evil forces to attack the Buddha
Mara’s daughters: Despite the large relief, each of these small sculptures in it is very realistically carved
The answer to why Jaggu could not be a Buddha was clear. This stone-shaped Mara daughter itself had captivated his mind! How could he practice penance elsewhere! What a dynamic posture it was!
Mahaparinirvana: My leader was with us.. walked with us.. shared food with us.. told moral stories.. Performed miracles.. Defeated the evil that resisted. He solved the misery of poor people. Here is where he left me. He quits his job and falls asleep. Om mani padme hum.
The final moment. Siddhartha, you came to uplift us, the poor. Let your compassion be with us – ever.

For Jaggu, who hails from Tamil Nadu – the land of small-rock-cut temples carved out of granite rock – Elephanta, Ellora and Ajanta are like swargapuri (heaven). If someone can go with some preparation, like gathering a quick knowledge of Buddhism & Jainism, Indian paintings and Jataka tales these places will be wonderful.

Tiresome early morning at Dadar station.

The Mahan Buddha born on this earth, left his kingly life, abandoned Rahula, and Yosodara, to demonstrate us…. the compassion! Let’s be compassionate with each other! Om Mani Padme Hum!

End of travelogue – Jaggu’s search for cave temples.

I’m participating in #BlogchatterA2Z 2022 with theme Yātum ūrē!

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