Monday, August 31, 2009

Gift two sights

went for my recording yesterday at the blind school, this is one of the constants in my life recession or not and boy do i love it. the satisfaction that this gives me cannot match up to any kind of job satisfaction, or a fat pay cheque, really! i have always felt that one must must pledge their eyes. this is one way of living after. my mother always says even cow and goat hides can be used after they are dead and gone but human body becomes waste, confined to flames. now we have a chance, we can donate our eyes and that too when we wont need them. we do so many things so that we can live after physical death, the foremost in our indian cultures is typically that of having a son, arre bhai vansh badanaa hai, then some set up comapnies in their babuji's names even the big wigs like Reliance Dhirubhai Ambani, a few others with money think and do set up ashrams, hospitals, and even memorials. They are good, i mean one cant doubt the charitable work or the "give back to society" they are involved in. But isn't it also such a beautiful thought to make two persons see through your eyesonce you are dead and gone, wow to live like this. and no it doesn't even in the least spoil or disfigure your physical facial structure. i really feel we should all pledge our eyes, live in the prayers of the one who receives it.
anyway my recordings at the school is called voice donation, i read out the book or text whatever is given to me and a master copy made f it and then loads of copies post which they are circulated among the blind who can listen to the cd or the tape as may be the case assisting them in reading. among all the literauture on spirituality etc that one keeps reading extolling the virtues of silence, this is one noise i dont mind making. it is very fulfilling and amazing, the throat hurts a bit after recording continuous for an hour but it is what the husband says the sweet pain!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Indo-Islamic architecture

Indo-Islamic architecture describing architectural and decorative elements

The fabulous wealth of India and the genuine religious enthusiasm to spread Islam in India attracted the Arabs initially. Muhammad-bin-Qasim, was the first Arab who conquered Sindh in 712 AD. He however could not consolidate the power of Arabs and was called back to Caliph. After this Mehmood Ghaznavi invaded India seventeen times and plundered its wealth. In 1026 he carried out the infamous attack on the Somnath temple. He was indeed the founder of Turkish wealth and a forerunner to Muhammad Ghauri and Babur. Ghauri invaded and won the second battle against Prithviraj Chauhan in 1192. This conquest led to the eventual establishment of long era of muslim rulers in India beginning with the Slave dynasty in 1206 to the Mughal rulers in 1857.

The conquest gave way to the Islamic thought and the culture that they brought along with. Muslims made an effective and distinct impact on the indigenous way of life and among other expressions of art also lent a distinct personality to the architecture in India. Infact the building of temples and stupas witnessed a downturn and mosques, madrassas and tombs started to be built. Though various Islamic architectural elements reached India the artisans that were mainly of Hindu origin introduced their own traditional decorative and style elements, thus giving rise to a style that came to be known as Indo-Islamic architecture. The Indo-Islamic style was neither strictly Islamic nor strictly Hindu. The architecture of the medieval period can be divided into two main categories. They are the Delhi or the Imperial Style and the Mughal Architecture. The Imperial Style developed under the patronage of the Sultans of Delhi. The Mughal Architecture was a blend of the Islamic Architecture of Central Asia and the Hindu Architecture of India.

The Indian architecture was based on trabeate system containing lintel, pillars and conical corbelled dome. Whereas, the Islamic architecture was on the arcrate system i.e an arched doorway holding the weight of drum and dome by creating squinches in the upper corners of the hall.

The Islamic buildings consists mainly of the masjid (mosque), maqbara(tomb), madrassa(college),minar(minaret) and qila(forts) etc. The factor common to both the temples and mosques was the use of decorative elements. In both the decorative elements were given a high priority, however the contrast was equally striking. The prayer chamber of the mosque was spacious, whereas the shrine of the temple was comparatively small. The mosque was light and open, whereas the temple was dark and closed. The difference between the lay-out of a temple and a mosque is explained by the essential difference between the Hindu and Muslim forms of worship and prayer. A cell to house the image of the deity, garbha-griha, and often small hall or the mandapa in front for the worshippers was regarded adequate for a simple Hindu temple. But the Islamic form of worship, with its emphasis on congregational prayer, requires a spacious courtyard with a large prayer hall, pointing towards Mecca. In the rear wall of the prayer-hall, the centre is occupied by a recess or alcove, called mihrab; and indicates the direction of prayer (quibla). A pulpit (mimber) at its right is meant for the imam who leads the prayer. A tower or minaret, originally intended for the muazzin to call the faithful to the prayer, later assumed a mere architectural character. A gallery or compartment of the prayer hall or some other part was screened off to accommodate the ladies who observed purdah. The main entrance to a mosque is on the east, and the sides are enclosed by cloisters (liwans). A tank is provided for ablutions usually in the courtyard of a mosque.

The practice of the burial of the dead, as distinct from the cremation practised by the Hindus, led to the building of tombs. The essential elements of the tomb are a domed chamber (hujra) with a cenotaph(zarih) in center, a

mihrab in the western wall and the real grave (qabr) in an underground

chamber(maqbara). In larger and more complex tombs, in the case of royal heads etc. there is also a mosque, and well planned garden. The entry to the tomb is from the south, as the dead are buried with their head pointing the northern direction.

The mode, theme or motifs or ornamentation employed in Islamic buildings also made a departure from the earlier vogues. The Hindu style or ornamentation is largely naturalistic showing human and animal forms and the luxuriant vegetation life. As among the Muslims the representation of living beings was taboo by way of decoration or ornamentation, they introduced geometrical and arabesque patterns, ornamental writing and formal representation of plant and floral life.

The Hindu art on one hand has been rhythmic and vibrant whereas the muslim art is characterised by the formal layouts and geometric designs. Calligraphy formed a major element in the decoration of the monument. The ornamental designs in Islamic building were carved in low relief, cut on plaster, painted or inlaid.

The creative monumental activity of the muslims is marked by two phases. In the first phase, the earlier hindu temples were purposefully demolished and the rubble used for construction as is the case of the Quwwat-ul-islam. The later phase was more formal and better planned and was made by the appropriate material, at times shipped from the foreign shores. The first phase of monuments were mainly erected during the Sultanate period and the second phase may be associated with the Mughal period.

Some unique and multifarious architectural elements of the Islamic monuments may be classified as: a) Main gateway(iwan), b) courtyard(sahn), c) water pond(vazu)in the center of the courtyard, d) cloisters or the pillared verandahs used as either madrassas or shelters by the worshippers, e) sanctuary hall (aiywan); a prayer hall having three or five

arched openings (trimukhi or panchmukhi), f) recessed nice or qibla wall (miharb) i.e a blind arch recessed in semi-octagonal wall decorated with Quranic verses, inlay work etc. g) pulpit (member) an elevated stand used by the Imam to announce the namaz h) squinches, architectural device created to convert the upper portion of a square room into an octagonal i) dome or

gumbad indicating the supremancy of the almighty. Mostly the mosques have a single and the tomb double domes. j) arch variously shaped like a horse shoe/ semi-circular, true arches were introduced by the muslims. k) spandrel is upper cornered triangular space on both sides of an arch of the iwan. l) minar or a tower in the mosque for the azan.

Certain decorative elements include a) stalactite or the muqrana style, a honey comb motif, adopted to also fill the space at squinches lending greater support. Created below Qutab minar’s balconies, it is the first evidence of the use of this design in India. b) geometric shapes used as part of the decoration also have symbolic significance. For example a circle represents water, a square represents earth, rectangle the sky, triangle symbolises fire, and moon the wind or vayu, and the star seat of creation or power. c) arabesque, purely Islamic in nature, they are characterised by the interlacing stems and lines. d) calligraphy an art used liberally in inlay and low relief to write inscriptions on the monuments. They are written in various scripts including naskh, taliq,tulluth etc. e) finials or the crowns of the domes. f) purnakalash, a symbol of plenty considered auspicious, by the hindus, has also been adopted by the Mughals. g) Star of David six-pointed star created by combining two triangles, found on spandrels of the arches. h) inverted lotus, yet another hindu and Buddhist symbol adopted by the Mughals, and used both as the inverted as well as in the blooming form. i) chevron or the zig zag pattern is a Persian ornamentation used by the Mughals in india. j) glazed tiles, used both for architectural strength and ornamentation. k) stucco, to smoothen the surface for making incised, low relief of painting work. l) mosaic or pietra dura a complicated and laborious technique it is used in many monuments including Humayun’s tomb, Taj mahal, and tomb of Akbar.

The Sultanate Period:

Post his victory, Muhammad Ghauri deputed Qutub-ud-din Aibak as his governor to look after the affairs of India. Aibak, a slave of Ghauri had captured Meerut in 1192, Delhi in 1193, Gwalior in 1195 and Ajmer in 1196. After Ghauri was assassinated, Qutub-ud-din Aibak declared himself as Sultan of delhi in 1206. Though the formal foundation of Slave Dynasty was laid in 1206, Aibak’s architectural career had begun much earlier in 1193 when he conquered Delhi. To commemorate this decisive victory of Islam over the Hindus, he raised the earliest surviving mosque in India at Delhi; the Quwwat-ul-islam (might of Islam) mosque. Adjoining the mosque is the minar or the tower possibly raised as both the tower of victory and a minar attached to the mosque for the muadhin to call for the prayer (azzan). The minar was completed by Illtutmish, Aibak’s successor and son-in-law, who also enlarged the mosque.

The Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque

The iconoclastic zeal of Aibak led to the destruction and defacing of hindu temples. The site of the mosque is known as the first city of Delhi. Aibak demolished 27 Hindu and Jain temples, and with their carved columns, lintels, ceiling-slabs, and rubble completed the Quwwat-ul-islam in 1198 AD. The massive stone screen with five graceful arches, the central one being the highest, not built on the true arch principle with voussoirs and key-stone, but by corbelling the successive courses (a system known to Indian masons for over 2,000 years) it is a trabeate construction, with lintels holding up the top and the arch only an ornamental false element. The mosque is distinguished by a 212 by 150-foot open rectangular courtyard, which is contained, on three sides, by rows and column pillaged from the temples. The pillars have spogtted joints, and the height of these pillars is 13 feet and 2 ½ feet wide at the bottem. The hindu motifs, like the purnaghata, shalbhanjikas with their faces defiled, bells and garlands, can still be seen on these columns of the mosque.

Figure 1

Depiction of defaced hindu figures

The outer eastern wall of the mosque is 147 feet long, pierced with four windows and in the center there is a 11 feet wide main arched entrance

gateway covering seven steps made of heavy stone blocks leading to the eastern wall. The western side or the Mecca side is dominated by an open cloister or hall (iwan) emphasised by a grandly carved arcade of five pointed arches. To the south-east of the courtyard soars the Qutab Minar. Aibak had employed Hindu artisans and their beautiful detailed stonework is very evident. Around the mosque’s arches and on the decorative bands encircling the minar the craftsmen carved inscriptions from the Koran, in the Naskhi script, interspersed with intertwining floral designs of Indian origin. Thus, developed a new hybrid art form.

Later, a lofty arched screen was erected and the mosque was enlarged by Shamsu'd-Din Iltutmish (AD 1210-35) and Alau'd-Din Khalji. The Iron Pillar, as was in the temple could not be taken out an thus remains there. It bears an inscription in Sanskrit in Brahmi script of fourth century AD, according to which the pillar was set up as a Vishnudhvaja (standard of god Vishnu) on the hill known as Vishnupada in memory of a mighty king named Chandra. A deep socket on the top of the ornate capital indicates that probably an image of Garuda was fixed into it.

Figure 2

Iron pillar and part of the mosque

As per the inscription on a pillar of one of the arches of the screen this mosque was constructed under the supervison of Fazl-bin-Abi’l Maali.

The Alai-Darwaza, the southern gateway of the mosque was built by Allaudin Khilji in 1311 by enlarging the Quwwat-ul-­Islam Mosque's enclosures of colonnades and providing them two gateways. Built of red sandstone it is 17.2 meters square in shape with arched openings on all sides. It is one of the earliest buildings in India to have employed the Islamic principles of arched construction. Characteristic of the times of Khili, this and other buildings are made constructed in the true arch method in the form of a pointed horseshoe, broad dome, recessed arches under the squinch, perforated windows, inscriptional bands and use of red sandstone relieved by marble. The northern arch is circular while the other three like pointed

horseshoes. The interior is profusely carved with geometrical symbols and inscriptions in the Naqsh script. The decorations interspersed with inscriptional band in white marble make for a very pleasing view. It is also perhaps the earliest building the subcontinent to feature the now typical knob on the dome.

Khilji also aspired to build a minar, the Alai Minar, double the length and circumference of the Qutab minar. The construction of the ambitious minar had started within the same complex but could not be completed due to his death.

Figure 3

Delicately carved Mihrab in Iltutmish’s tomb

Just outside the extension of the Quwwat-ul-islam mosque, done by Iltutmish, he built a tomb for himself in 1230 AD. It is a square room of 29 ½ feet, and is towards the north-west of the mosque. The tomb has a plain exterior, though its interior is very delicately and profusely decorated. Infact it almost seems like lace work in stone. The red sandstone of the interiors is decorated with quranic verses and scrolls in various designs in low relief. On the western side are the three beautifully decorated mihrabs. The tomb is carved with inscriptions in Kufi and Nashk characters and geometrical and arabesque pattern in the Saracenic tradition, though several motifs from the hindu culture have also been borrowed. Among these are the wheel, bell-and-chain, tassels, lotus and diamond. Fergusson has described it as “one of the richest examples of Hindu art applied to Muhammadan purposes.”

Figure 4

Squinches in Iltutmish tomb

The Mughal Period

The Mughal period in india maybe dated from 1526 to 1857 AD with Babur being its first ruler. At the end of the first quarter of the sixteenth century the the then sultan of Delhi Ibrahim Lodi was displaced by Babur at Panipat. Babur spent four years consolidating his power but died an untimely death in 1530. He was a man tempered by a sensitivity to scholarly and aesthetic pursuits. His son Humayun became the first true emperor. He ascended the throne in 1530 but was ousted to exile with his wives in 1540, though he returned to power after 15 years. He died within a year in 1556. During his reign he got the Jamali-kamali masjid completed, it was probably the first time that inverted lotus was used here in the Mughal architecture. He also laid and built the foundations of a new city of Delhi, Dinpanah. When Humayun died from falling off a flight of stairs, his first wife Bega Begum commenced his tomb. Unlike most Muslim rulers Humayun had not built his own tomb.

Now a landmark monument, it stands a testimony to the splendour of the Mughal era, and Humanyun’s tomb is a World heritage Site.

Humayun’s Tomb

The construction of the tomb commenced in the year 1565 AD by his first wife Bega Begum aka Haji Begum, nine years after his death. Mirak Mirza Ghiyath, a Persian architect was employed for the purpose. The tomb is a beautiful synthesis of Persian architecture combined with Indian traditions. The Persian features are reflected in arched alcoves, corridors, and the high double dome, and Indian traditions by octagonal kiosks, that gives it a pyramidal profile, and also by such features as the use of beam and lintel in dalans.

It was ironically a woman who set the tone for Mughal architecture. The building inaugurates a sequence of grand Mughal mausolea. This masculine synthesis of design sensibilities probably formed the basic model for the Taj Mahal. Although according to Islam the grave be covered only by earth and be open to sky, the Mughals turned mausoleum making into an art.


Figure 6

Charbagh Pattern

Raised on a vast platform, the tomb proper stands in the centre of a square garden, divided into 4 main parts by causeways in the centre of which ran shallow water-channels. The garden complex is divided mainly into four compartments further being sub-divided into many square parts (a typical example of Mughal char-bagh), with causeways and water channels, and water pavilions at regular intervals.

The tomb complex is enclosed by a high rubble wall; entered through two entrance gateways, one on the west and other on the south. The lofty tower-like gateways are a precursor to the magnificent tomb and adds to its grandeur. The south gate rises to a height of nearly 15.5 metres and consists of a central octagonal hall flanked rectangular rooms. The first floor of the gateway has square and oblong rooms. On the outside, the gate is flanked by screen-walls with arched recesses. Immediately to the west of the south gateway is an enclosure measuring 146 metres by 32 metres, built against the exterior face of the enclosure wall. The building is a low-roofed one with 25 arched entrances and was meant to house the attendants of the royal tomb. A baradari occupies the center of the eastern wall and a bath enclosure (hammam) on that of the northern wall. The hammam stands on a 7 feet high platform, and there is a pond in the middle of the hammam which used to be filled with water from a well which was constructed just out side the enclosure wall. The walls on the either side of the two gateways contained arched cells. The gateways are built of grey stone, ornamented with bands and bosses of red stone interspersed at some places with marble. The building medium in the Humayun’s Tomb is of three kinds of stones, viz., red sandstone, while marble and quartzite. The enclosure walls and the two gateways are constructed of local quartzite with red sandstone dressing and marble inlay. The stairs of platform of the main tomb is also dressed with quartzite.

In the center of the garden is a stone and masonary platform about 5 feet raised from the ground. A 20 feet terrace on this, has 72 alcove arched openings ornamented with white marble bands. In the center of each of the four sides of the terrace, arched doors with stairs lead one to the top of the terrace, at the center of which is located the main tomb. Both the terrace and the platform are paved with sandstone. The main tomb is located below the monument and is approached through a horizontal passage to the east of southern stair. The arched openings of the platform contain many miscellaneous tombs.

The main tomb houses the grave of Humayun and is made of white marble without any inscription and is encompassed by four octagonal chambers at diagonals and arched lobbies on the sides and their openings are closed with perforated screens or jaalis. The chambers houses many tombs of the emperor’s family. The south-eastern room contains three graves of Humayun’s daughters; the south-western room has graves of Bahadur Shah Alam and his wife, whereas the north-eastern room contains the graves of Humayun’s two wives.

Jaali work

The octagonal tomb is surmounted by a double dome supported by squinches. The employment of double dome in a mausoleum is first seen here and this gives the builder the advantage of building an imposing structure of enormous height, tactfully concealing the presence of double domes on the outside. While the exterior height gives an imposing look, the low ceiling of the lower dome gives a proportionate height of the interior features. The pattern of constructing double domes was already prevalent in West Asia during this period which was first introduced in the Humayun’s tomb. The inner of the double dome is made of bricks having blind oblong arches and there are two steeped openings on western and eastern side for ventilation. All Mughal domes were full domes, whereas all previous domes were half-domes or only half semi-circles.

The double dome roofs the central mortuary chamber and this 74 feet high white marbled dome stands on a 25 feet high cylindrical drum sporting black stone medallions. Around the drum at each corner there is a pillared octagonal kiosk (chattri) standing on stepped platform roofing the cornered compartments. A brass finial tops off the dome.

There is a certain rhythmic quality in the whole structure in its symmetrical design and the repetition of the large dome in the similar pavillions with small but similar domes.

The Humayun’s Tomb is also famously associated with the tragic capture of the last of the Mughal Emperors, Bahadur Shah Zafar, along with the three princes Mirza Mughal, Mirza Khizar Sultan and Mirza Abu Bakr by Lieutenant Hodson in 1857. The Mughal Emperor along with the princes was captured by Hodson on 22 September, 1857.

The Humayun’s Tomb complex also houses many other prominent buildings which are examples of architecture of the period preceding and succeeding Humayun. The prominent among them are:

Nai ka Gumbad or Barber’s Tomb
This double-domed square tomb is located at the south-east corner in the garden complex. The tomb is datable to 1590-91, through an inscription found inside. The persons interned in the two graves of this tomb are unknown, however it is said to have been built for the Emperor’s favorite barber.

Nila Gumbad
The monument is located outside the eastern enclosure wall. An impressive tomb of plastered stone covered with a dome of blue tiles led to it being called as Nila Gumbad. Externally octagonal in appearance it is square within and the ceiling is profusely decorated with painted and incised plaster. It is believed to contain the remains of one Fahim Khan, the attendant of Abdur Rahim Khan, who lived during the reign of Jahangir. The attendant died in 1626 A.D.

Consists of a large enclosure adjoining the south-western corner of Humayun’s tomb. It is divided into two quadrangles by a series of cells provided with a gateway in its center.

The sarai or the shelter was built by Haji Begum, the widow of Humayun in 1560-61 to house the three hundred Arab priests, who were said to have been brought with her from her pilgrimage to Mecca. Another version is that the building housed the Persian workers and craftsmen who were actually engaged in building the Humayun’s Tomb.

Afsarwala Mosque
Within the eastern enclosure of the Arab Sarai lies a mosque on a raised platform. Its prayer-chamber is faced by three arched openings, the central bay being roofed by a dome.

Afsarwala Tomb
The tomb is located adjacent to the Afsarwala Mosque, on the same raised platform. It is an octagonal tomb with double dome. The identity of the afsar or the officer who raised these buildings is not known. However one of the marble graves inside the tomb bears an inscription has a date of 1566-67 A.D.

Bu Halima’s Garden
The visitor entering the Humayun Tomb complex first enters into a garden complex, known as the Bu Halima’s garden. Nothing much is known of the lady; the gateway and two very ornamental chattris are all that remains of the garden.

Tomb of Isa Khan
The octagonal tomb of Isa Khan is located to the south-west of the Bu Halima garden. It is an octagonal garden enclosure, with entrance on the north, in the center of which lies the tomb. The central chamber is surrounded by verandahs and each side is pierced by three arches. The sides of the chamber are closed by stone jaalis except for on the western side that contains a mihrab. A three-domed mosque projects outward from the western side of the octagonal enclosure.

An inscription on a red sandstone slab indicated that the tomb is of Masnad Ali Isa Khan, the Chief chamberlain, during the rein of Sher Shah Sur and his son Islam Shah. An inscription over the mihrab mentions the date 1547-48.

Buddhist paintings of Ajanta and Bagh

Buddhist paintings of Ajanta and Bagh:


Figure 1

Budha, Maitreya, and Yaksha couple Mahayana phase

Situated in the north-western region of Aurangabad in Maharashtra, are the Ajanta caves. 30 in number according to the ASI and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Ajanta caves provide us with some of the earliest surviving examples of the Indian Buddhist paintings. This group of 30 rock cut caves lie within the horseshoe-shaped escarpment along the narrow Waghora river gorge. They were lost to the modern world before the accidental rediscovery in 1819 by the British officer John Smith, of the 28th Madras Cavalry, on a tiger hunt. Much curiosity was generated post the discovery and many scholars and historians have since studied the caves; its architecture, paintings, murals, and statues.

The caves may be roughly divided into two phases, the first phase dating from 2nd century BC to 2nd Century AD representing the austere phase of the Hinayana Buddhism and the second phase, following a hiatus for a few centuries, between 4th/5th century AD to 8th Century AD. The second phase was dominated by the Mahayana period, during the Vakataka dynasty.

First Phase:

The Satavahanas rulers (3rd century BC to 3rd century AD) carried out the excavations of the first phase of caves, and cave numbers 8,9,10,12,13 and 15A may be attributed to them. The Hinayana philosophy does not allow for the pictorial representation of Lord Budhha himself but the presence may be depicted symbolically, for example the wheel of Law or a Bodhi tree.

Second Phase:

During the Vakatakas dynasty around 23 new caves were excavated, and the earlier ones modified and extended. The founder of the dynasty was Vindhyshakti, and the dynasty was also related to the Guptas through matrimonial alliances. Majority of the paintings which were done during the 5th-6th century AD belong to this phase.

The investigators of the site assigned the numbers to the caves according to their sequence along the wall of the ravine, and does not have anything to do with the dating/ order of creation of the caves.

Stylistically the caves are of two types – caityas and viharas. The caityas or the chapels are long rectangular prayer halls with an apsidal end. They have vaulted ceilings and two rows of octagonal pillars divide the interior into a central hall with the votive stupa; the object of veneration, and the side aisles that provide the passage for circumambulation (pradakshina path). The Mahayana caityas houses images of Buddha also. The caitya caves at Ajanta include cave numbers 9,10,19,26, and 29.

On the other hand, viharas are the living quarters or the monasteries of the monks. Typically the viharas have a verandah, a square or rectangular hall without columns with small cells around and an inner shrine with the Buddha image or a votive stupa. The vihara caves include the early cave numbers 8,12,13, and 15A and the later cave numbers 1,2,6,16,17.

Most of the paintings are found in viharas though caitya caves 9 and 10 also have some paintings. The paintings were found in various states of preservation.

Technique and Colours:

The paintings of Ajanta were done in the tempera style and not the fresco as was earlier believed. In the tempera style the colours are applied when the

plaster is completely dry, while in the fresco style colours are applied on the wet surface. The surface of the paintings was prepared by the application of two coats of plaster. The first layer was usually the coarser layer and made of fibrous material including paddy husk, sand, gravel, lime, and even jute. The first layer was an inch or an inch and a half in thickness. The second layer that was applied was smoother in nature and prepared the ground for painting. Thin layer of limewash was applied as the last layer. Over this layer the artists applied colours to make the painting. These paintings were

done in extremely poor light conditions as the interiors of the caves were

dark and rarely any light reached in. Various theories have been impounded about how the artists managed to paint some of the finest paintings in such poor light conditions, ranging from the use of oil lamps, to the mirrors to magnify the little light that was received.

The vibrant colours that were used were all of either mineral or plant origin. For example red was prepared from hematite; yellow from yellow ochre; and green from terra verte (a kind of earth); blue was imported from Iran and thus used sparingly. From these basic colours various combinations and hues were prepared.


The subject matter of the paintings and sculptures found in Ajanta are the details or the narratives from the Buddha’s life as well as the lives of Buddha in the previous incarnations. The depictions are borrowed from the narrative in the Jataka and Avadana tales.

The Jataka tales are the allegorical tales based on previous life of Buddha in both human and non-human forms. The canonical book comprises 547 poems, and though used as vehicles of Buddhist ethical teaching, these stories are mostly of secular origin. The main protagonist of the Jataka tales however remains Buddha.

Whereas in the Avadana tales, the story revolves around noteworthy deeds and the protagonist could be anyone. They correlate the virtuous deeds of past lives with that of subsequent births. Two important avadanas; Purna Avadana and Simhala are painted in Cave numbers 2 and 17 respectively.

Apart from this the walls are also adorned with illuminated history of the time including court scenes, street scenes, and domestic life and even animal and bird studies. The whole mood is that of activity and narrative. The narratives were painted on the walls and not on the ceilings, as it would have been difficult for the devotees to follow the narrative while constantly looking upwards.

However the ceilings are also adorned albeit with decorative motifs, animals, and even figures. The ceilings depict the mithuna couples, kinaras (half-human, half-horse), many composite animals where the physical features are not just of any one animal for example makara (elephant plus crocodiles) etc. Flowers and other fauna details also are depicted on the ceilings, at time they adopt a realist form and at others are stylised

representations. The idea was to adorn and beautify the ceilings and not leave them bare. Vibrant colours and motifs are used for the purpose, and at

time roundish pot-bellied dwarfs painted at intervals provide the comic relief, and adds to the humor. Certain motifs that were liberally used were lotuses, swans, vidyadharas etc. were not only decorative in character but also considered auspicious. In fact these are taken from the Brahmanical culture thus blurring the boundaries between the two religions.

Cave 1

The mention of Ajanta paintings can not be complete without mentioning the paintings of the Boddisattvas Padmapni and Avalokitesvara, both in Cave 1. Dating to late 5th century AD, this is one of the finest viharas of Ajanta. The cave is almost a virtual testimony to the finest of Buddhist art. The viharas at this period had started to be used not only as residences for the monks but also as a place of worship. Here a cell in the back wall has a colossal image of Buddha in the dharmachakra parivartan mudra.

The vihara comprises a verandah and a hall bordered with cells. Above the left porch are friezes depicting the three ominous signs in Buddha’s life; a sick man, an old man, and a corpse.

The twenty pillars with heavily decorated bracket-capitals support the hall ceiling. The best known paintings of the two Bodhisattvas flank the entrance

to the shrine chamber. On the left is Padmapani and on the right is Avalokiteswara.


Figure 3

Bodhisattva Padmapani

Padmapani: The painting of Padmapani, the compassionate Bodhisattva is one of the finest examples of the Indian sacred art. Padmapani languidly standing with the blue lotus in the tribhanga pose is an exquisite amalgamation of both the sensuous and the spiritual. The painting not only depicts the complete harmony and peace reflected in the bodily posture but also the completely at peace and full of passion spiritual state of mind of the Boddisattva. The face of the Buddha-to-be is a perfect oval with sharp aquiline nose, full lower lip, bow-like brows, slim waist, and very long arms; the lakshans of Mahapurush as documented in the canons like Shilpshashtra. He wears a few rich pieces of jewellery, such as an ekawali (single strand of pearls), an elaborate pointed crown studded with gems and jewels and a sacred cord. His expression of “calm is enhanced by the figures which crowd him from all directions and establish him as an island of spiritual disengagement, unmoved and unattentive to the forces and sounds of maya which engulf him.” (Roy C Craven). The half-closed eyes render a spiritual expression in the eyes and at the same time a mood of dispassion from the world. A beautiful amalgamation of the spiritual with the sensuous. The use of shading or vartana; lighter tone accents on the forehead and nose ridge further imparts more plasticity and a three-dimensional effect to the painting.


Figure 4


Another noteworthy and very popular Ajanta painting is that of the Bodhisattva Vajrapani. His brilliant tiara with lots of pearl festoons and filigree work is mesmerising in itself and shows the delicacy and detailing the artist has done. His facial features have also been brought into prominence by shading technique. The most venerated Bodhisattva in the Mahayana pantheon, his eyes here reflect his real beauty, he has been depicted with a powerful gaze.

Mahajanaka Jataka, Cave 1

A popular jataka tale narrating the story of a king named mahajanka and how he shuns all his desires and kingdom and becomes an ascetic. Shivali, his wife, tries to dissuade him, but on failing follows him on the path of renunciation. The painting begins with the ritual bath-rajyaabhishek-and the prince is painted as being seated on a stool with two attendants poring water on him, the face here is not idealised as accounted in the canons, and is

shown in a realistic manner, however the figure is much larger than those in 015

Figure 5

Scene from Mahajanka Jataka

the background to depict his higher status. The throne is worked upon in gold and surrounding the king are the minion lady attendants, dwarfs also appear in many paintings as the attendants. The stippling effect is liberally used in the paintings to impart the effect of shading. Next scene is that of the Mahajanaka going out with his entourage to hear the sermons, here as a prince he is painted in an idealised manner with the face having elongated eyes as described in the canons. Men and women are shown sporting various kinds of hairstyles. The chattra covering the king is a pointer to his royal status. The painting is a good mix of realism and perfection. The ascetic is shown sitting higher than the prince thus exalting his spiritual status. In Ajanta paintings the background is not painted realistically but symbolically for example the rocks depict a rocky terrain and the paintings of deer and green colour etc show the jungle scene. Ajanta paintings have elaborately drawn out hairstyles and kinds of textiles thus pointing to the fact the styles etc that were prevalent at that time in the society. Infact one of the paintings show the figure sporting a tie and dye (bandhini) style of dress. And this is one of the earliest examples of this style of pulak-bandha textile art being prevalent at the time. The figure of Shivali with very expressive eyes and seated in a graceful manner is equivalent to the beauty with which Parvati is depicted. The episode where Shivali tries to lure the king back by sending

many concubines has been beautifully depicted in the now famous Dance Scene. The scene is very carnival-like and celebrates life. The scene also depicts that performing arts were also practiced and were famous at that time, the rhythmic movements of the dancer sporting a tie-dye blouse and a skirt in patola pattern, is very graceful. The ladies are playing cymbals and

drums; popular from performing arts point-of-view. When the King is leaving the palace there is a painting of geese that were considered as auspicious symbols, the procession is playing musical instruments and the painting depicts the poignancy of the theme; men leaving to achieve something higher than a life lived in luxury. The last scene show Mahajanaka holding an alms bowl and his eyes are full of compassion.

Cave 2

Is remarkable for its exquisite paintings of the ceiling that gives it the effect of a cloth canopy. The mandala or the circular diagram of the cosmos used in Buddhism is supported by demons.

Cave 2 also has the painted narrative of the jataka tale of Vidhurpandita, the Boddhisattva. The painting is aesthetically done and narrates the tale very effectively. However, unlike Mahajanak jataka, here the figures are slightly squat and short. Technique of shading is used to impart plasticity but the ornamentation is not as elaborate. The reason could be since this story features the tribal kings, so shown wearing less jewellery than what Shivali had worn.

Cave 2 also has the painting Miracle of Sravasti where Buddha take on 1000 forms to dispel disbelief, however this is a particularly badly done painting

with the eyes of the figures wide open, expressionless face and flat texture with no shading. Even the mudras are also wrongly made, there seems to be no finesse in this painting.


Figure 6

Miracle of srasvati

Cave 9

One of the earliest caves, dating around first century BC, the caitya has a vaulted ceiling. Some of the paintings recall the style of Sanchi but there are also later murals depicting Buddha in person.

Cave 16

One of the most beautiful viharas, it has a detailed inscription on the left outer wall, recording its antecedents. However most of the paintings in this cave are now faded.

Cave 17

Yet another very popular cave it is especially remarkable for the number of murals that have survived. The masterpieces include the panel above the doorway depicting the seven Manushi Buddhas together with Maitreya or the future Buddha, seated under their respective Bodhi trees.

Directly below is a line of eight loving or mithuna couples in varied styles of dresses and coiffures. The painted panels on the rear wall of the verandah are well preserved. The figures of the apsaras are well drawn and points to the consummate skills of the painters even in their damaged state. Particularly beautiful and alluring is the figure of a dark-skinned apsara with her turban-like headgear.

The walls of the halls are embellished with various jatakas of which the most noteworthy is the one covering the entire left wall between the two pilasters. This is the Visvantara Jataka that epitomises the Bodhisattva’s virtue of generosity. The crooked Brahmin in the story has been painted with a parrot-like nose and depicted with ugly features and broken teeth thus evoking a sense of repulsion.

This cave has the largest number of paintings. Among the finest are a vast panel depicting Simhala’s shipwreck and the man-eating ogresses that he is surrounded by in the island. This tale is a pictorial narration of the Simhala Avadana and covers a complete wall.

The general format of the early paintings appear to indicate that they formed a continuous narration within a narrow band. However, the later paintings of

Ajanta expanded in all directions to cover the entire wall surface, but the narrative technique was retained. The sequence seems to be interrupted only occasionally by some architectural structure. The paintings are throbbing with vitality and celebrate life, though not without extolling the virtues and teachings that they impart to its viewers.

Bagh Paintings

The Buddhist caves of Bagh are located on the banks of Baghini river, tributary of Narmada, in Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh. There are nine vihara caves and can be dated to mid 5th century AD. According to Dr. Anupa Pande, Bagh caves may be placed in the Gupta period generally which was the Smarta-pauranic period of Brahmanism and the developed Mahayanic period of Buddhism. Both had moved far from the original aniconic and abstract simplicity of their ancient faith.

Main caves have a quadrangular plan and consist of a vihara with stupa filled sanctum in the rear forming a small caitya griha. The sides have small cells for the monks while the facade is a colonnaded portico.

The Bagh paintings are done in the same tempera technique that was also employed at the Ajanta caves. However, compared to the interest shown by the historians in Ajanta frescoes the paintings of Bagh have not got much attention, and today they are almost destroyed. Only the Gujari Mahal Museum, Gwalior and State Museum, Bhopal houses the valuable copies of the original paintings.

The main theme of the paintings are derived from the life of Buddha and stories related to him, however the Bagh paintings also depict the life of inmates of monasteries and of the Generals and Kings that patronized them. These paintings are not reproductions of natural or historical scenes. They are illustrations of religio-philosophical ideas and sentiments. Artists of the

age did not express their individual styles or perception or even realism but an ideal world through traditional conventions and symbols.

Figure 7

Sundari with face covered

The painting of the newly wed Sundari, wife of Saundarya Nand the half brother of Buddha, who leaves her in pursuit of spiritual enlightenment to follow Lord Buddha, is especially poignant and full of repose. The face of the lady is covered with her hands evoking the karuna rasa, and she is depicted draping a white saree and is sobbing and despairing her husband’s departure. Intense emotion is conveyed by the bent of her pliant body, tense fingers that are spread out in an attitude of utter despair and loss. Hands are exceptionally well drawn and naturalistically styled as they convey more emotion. The hidden face conveys rather than conceals emotions of sorrow. A pair of loving pigeons on the roof of pavilion further heightens Sundari’s loneliness and not only makes for naturalistic surroundings but also adds poignancy to the scene. Face and contours of companions consoling Sundari

are reminiscent of classical Ajanta type; pointed oval face, pensive eyes, drooping mouth, globular breasts and wearing a trivali. The colour white has been used very effectively.

whats this with the tests. why do little kids have to suffer unit tests. is it fair? why do we have to judge a child's performance on the basis of the marks given to kids. my child is brilliant and its not just the mother in me that's saying it. but he was so depressed yesterday because he got 18 marks out of 25 all because of a silly mistake. my god did it spoil his day, poor chap. i mean is rattafication the only method for progressive schools also to judge its students, i mean till atleast 5th or 6th standard we should spare the child this stress, and boy does it create stress; the entire household seems to be upset no not because of his marks, but looking at the poor soul so upset. and this morning i read about a girl who scored 92% marks and still committed suicide just because she couldnt get admission to LSR college. is life so non-precious, is it the child's aspirations, is it his/her ambitions, or measure of self worth. Also it is so easy to blame the parents, that we are making them like this, it is our aspirations or we are living our dreams through them, but no parents are not always to be blamed, it is the system, peer pressure and social acceptance. i realised yesterday i was only consoling my 7 year old and telling him it is ok. but he didn't seem convinced. i did not push him but he feels he needs to study harder.