Buddhist wonders

Ajanta's treasures

Bodhisattva sculpture. In iconography, a Bodhisattva can be identified by the carving of a seated Buddha on his crown. A Bodhisattva is one who is close to attaining Buddhahood. The eyes of Bodhisattvas are half closed in sculptures, paintings and bronzes as if looking down at the earth from heaven.
The declining phase of the Ajanta art tradition can be witnessed in this series of Buddhas. They do not have the classical elegance of the early Buddhist art.
These paintings, above the lintel of the main entrance to Cave 17, show the seven Manshi Buddhas, who have incarnated on the earth, and the eighth Buddha, Maitreya, who is yet be born. The seventh Buddha is Sakhya Muni, that is, Gautama Buddha. His predecessors are Vipashyin, Shikhi, Vishva-vasu, Krakuchchanda, Kanaka Muni and Kashyapa. Each Buddha figure is of a different complexion. The Buddha is seated under the bodhi tree; Maitreya is meditating under the naga tree. Below the Buddha paintings is a panel of eight couples.
1020724 and the next picture: These paintings, in cave 17, are from the episode A painting from the episode called “Subjugation of Nalagiri”, Cave 17. Jealous of the Buddha, Devadatta, a cousin of his, wanted to murder him. He plotted with King Ajatasatru of Rajagriha to release an intoxicated elephant called Nalagiri on the streets of Rajagriha when the Buddha was passing by. The elephant ran amok, creating panic in the town. However, on seeing the Buddha, it knelt before him in total subservience to him. This picture shows four women in the balcony of the palace looking worried and alarmed as they listen to the conspiracy being hatched above by Devadatta and Ajatasatru. The women are dark complexioned and are decked in elaborate jewellery, including necklaces with pendants, earrings and bangles, and they have different hair styles.
A vast carpet of painting on the ceiling of Cave 1, depicting elephants, a flock of geese, flowers and fruits. The Ajanta artist genius has painted these figures in such a way that they look embedded in wooden frames. The running design on the rectangular frame makes it look as if it is fashioned out of wood.
Part of a painting that portrays a Bodhisattva born as Visvantara, the son of king Sanjaya of Jettutara. Visvantara was generous to a fault, gifting valuables from the palace to the poor. One of his gifts was a magical elephant, which could bring rain, to the neighbouring kingdom when his own kingdom suffered from drought. The angry king banished Visvantara from the kingdom. Visvantara left for the forests along with his wife Madri and two sons. On his way, he gifted his chariot and the horses to the poor. Then, he gave away his sons, too, to a Brahmin. When the people of Jettutara came to know about the plight of his children, they wanted Sanjaya to call back the prince to Jettutara. And he did. This piece of painting shows Visvantara, wearing a robe on his left shoulder and sitting on a stool, distributing alms to the poor. A huge crowd of poor people are seen rushing forward to receive the alms. The prince is dark in complexion. Some people are seen to be holding square-shaped umbrellas.
Temptation and assault of Mara, Cave 26. Just before the Gautama attained enlightenment under the bodhi tree, Mara, a demon, tried to disrupt his penance. The Buddha’s right hand is in bhoomi sparsa mudra. Depicted to the right of the sculpture is Mara, on his elephant, and other demons trying to attack the Buddha. Below are Mara's daughters trying to seduce the Buddha with their song and dance. Further down, on the right, is a dejected Mara, who failed in his endeavour.
“Happy Couple”, Cave 16.
Chaitya, or temple, Cave 9. This chaitya is among the oldest at Ajanta, datable to the 1st century BCE. It is rectangular in plan but the layout is apsidal. In the apse stands a plain globular stupa on a high cylindrical base. The chaitya belongs to the Hinayana period of Buddhism, when people worshipped the Buddha in the form of stupas, the Wheel of Law, his feet, the bodhi tree, and so on. In the chaitya are paintings belonging to the 1st century BCE and murals of the 5th century C.E., when the Mahayana school of Buddhism flourished. During this phase, people worshipped the Buddha in human form in paintings, sculptures and bronzes. Cave 9 has an impressive façade, with a ribbed chaitya-window, and sculptures and carvings of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas.
An elaborately carved pillar, with the figures of a yakshi with an attendant (on top), a mithuna (couple) in the middle and a “Naga raja” (with hood) at the bottom.
The unfinished Cave 24 gives an insight into the technique of how these caves were excavated from the basalt rock of the Sahyadri hill ranges. After ensuring that the rock consisted of a uniform mass of basalt and had no disturbances such as soil running through, the sculptors started cutting the cave from the front and ran deep inside. Before they started cutting the cave, the sculptors had a perfect plan ready, indicating where the pillars and cells for the monks should be located and what the measurements of the veranda, halls, the sanctum sanctorum, its antechamber and so forth should be. Datable to 635 C.E., this cave consists of an open courtyard, a veranda, a hall and a sanctum sanctorum with a seated Buddha.
The mesmerising facade of Cave 19, a chaitya, dated to the 5th century C.E. It is replete with sculptures of standing and seated Buddhas, corpulent yakshas, flying ganas, friezes and two pillars with carvings and an abacus resembling an amalaka on top. The window above is to let the sunlight flood the chaitya.
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