Ajanta Caves carved
out of volcanic rock in the Maharashtra Plateau was not
off from the ancient trade routes & attracted traders & pilgrims through whom
the Ajanta art style diffused as far as China & Japan.
The Buddhist Monks employed artists who
turned the stone walls into picture books of
Buddha's life &
teachings. These artists have portrayed the costumes, ornaments & styles of
the court life of their times.
artists applied mud plaster in two coats - the first was rough to fill in the
pores of the rocks & then a final coat of lime plaster over it.
The painting was done in stages. They drew the outline in
red ochre, then applied the colours & renewed the contours in brown, deep red or
black. The pigments for the paints were from local
volcanic rocks with the exception of lamp black. However, they used animal glue
& vegetable gums. Hence the paintings suffered from insects, also by blistering
& flaking. In the later paintings, the contour of the figures stand out boldly.
For this they used deep colour washes.
By patches of light colours, they
highlighted the facial expressions.
The human & animal forms show a variety of graceful poses. Various methods were
used to create the illusion of depth. The attenuated poses, supple limbs,
artistic features, a great variety of hair styles, all kinds of ornaments &
jewellery indicate skilled artisans.
In a mural in
Cave 10, some 50 elephants are painted in different poses bringing out the skill
of the artist in handling these bulky forms in all perspective views, with
erected tails & raised trunks, depicting sensed danger. The styles of the later
murals reveals a merging of two streams of art, Satavahana of Andhra & Gupta art
of North India. This resulted in the classical style which had a far reaching
influence on all the paintings of the country for centuries to come. A high
degree of craftsmanship incorporating all the rules laid down by ancient Indian
treatises on painting & aesthetics are evident. One cannot but notice the fluid,
yet firm lines, long sweeping brush strokes, outlining graceful contours, subtle
gradation of the same colour, highlighting nose, eyelids, lips & chin making the
figures emerge from the flat wall surface. Animals, birds, trees, flowers,
architecture are pictured with an eye to their beauty of form. Human emotions &
character are depicted with great understanding & skill - indignation, greed,
love & compassion.