A thread on #AjantaCaves. This is the bicentennial year of the ‘rediscovery’ of the Ajanta caves by a British hunting party led by Capt John Smith, an army officer in 1819. You can still see his signature on a pillar in cave 10, reading "John Smith, 28th cavalry, 28 April 1819”.
#AjantaCaves are a group of 31 rock-cut Buddhist caves carved into a mountain in a rock face shaped like a horseshoe, abt 100 kms fm Aurangabad. The caves were carved out over a period of 600 years, starting a century before the common era and ending around 6th century CE.
#AjantaCaves complex consists of both Viharas, i.e cells for monks to reside as well as Chaityas, prayer halls. The earliest caves belong to the Hinayana tradition while the later caves follow the Mahayana tradition with the Buddha being worshipped in an iconic form as a Murti.
#AjantaCaves served a spiritual as well as secular purpose. They served as hostels for monks to stay during Vassavaas, or four months of monsoon. They served as places to stay for travelling merchants and often as banks, where the merchants deposited their money for safe-keeping.
#AjantaCaves have stunning sculptures, but they are most famous for the exquisite paintings, often erroneously described as ‘Ajanta Frescoes’. The paintings at Ajanta are not frescoes, but tempera paintings where the paint was applied when the surface was dry.
The paintings depict scenes fm the Buddha’s life as well as scenes fm #Jataka tales, recounting stories from Buddha’s past lives in many forms, both human and animal. In one tale, the Bodhisatva is shown as the king of the monkeys, in another he is depicted as a 6 tusked elephant
The #AjantaCave paintings provide an interesting insight into the fashions and textile trends prevalent at the time in Indian society. Many contemporary Indian textile traditions like Ikat, bandhani, appliqué, block printing and kantha stitch are seen in the paintings.
The paintings were done with animal hair brushes and fine tipped pens made from bamboo known as ‘tulika’. Mineral colours were used, mainly in shades of red, bronze, green, white and blue. Blue is the rarest shade as it was made by grinding lapis lazuli which came fm Afghanistan
#AjantaCaves have the oldest surviving cave paintings in India, if you discount the Palaeolithic era paintings of Bhimbetka. The last tempera paintings seen at Ajanta were completed more than a 1000 yrs before Michelangelo painted frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel!
The details in the #AjantaCaves paintings are fantastic. Here a handsome prince with a bronzed skin cavorts with his queen, with a voluptuous figure, her hair done up elaborately and adorned with jewels. She gazes at her lover seductively, a tiny purse dangling from her fingers.
#AjantaCaves made it to the @UNESCO list of world heritage sites as recently as 1983, along with the cave temples of Ellora. They are a living reminder of the creative heights our ancestors were capable of attaining. All pics accompanying this thread are by @asdiwakar
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Keep Current with Shefali Vaidya ஷெஃபாலி வைத்யா शेफाली वैद्य

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