The Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra, India are 29 rock-cut cave monuments which date from the 2nd century bce. The caves include paintings and sculptures considered to be masterpieces of both Buddhist religious art as well as frescos which are reminiscent of the Sigiriya paintings in Sri Lanka. The caves were built in two phases starting around 200 bce, with the second group of caves built around 600 ce.
The style of Ajanta has exerted a considerable influence in India and elsewhere, extending, in particular, to Java. With its two groups of monuments corresponding to two important moments in Indian history, the Ajanta cave ensemble bears exceptional testimony to the evolution of Indian art, as well as to the determining role of the Buddhist community, intellectual and religious foyers, schools and reception centre’s in the India of the Gupta and their immediate successors.
The earlier architectural formulas were re-employed but treated in an infinitely richer and more ample manner. The decoration attained, at this time, an unequalled splendour: the statuary is numerous (it was already permissible to represent Buddha as a human; these representations are found both on the facades and in the interior). Finally, the wall painting, profuse and sensitive, constitutes, no doubt, the most striking artistic achievement of Ajanta.
Under the impulse of the Gupta dynasty, Indian art in effect reached its apogee. The Ajanta Caves are generally decorated with painted or sculpted figures of supple form and classic balance with which the name of the dynasty has remained synonymous. The refined lightness of the decoration, the balance of the compositions, the marvellous beauty of the feminine figures place the paintings of Ajanta among the major achievements of the Gupta and post-Gupta style and confer on them the ranking of a masterpiece of universal pictorial art.
Since 1983, the Ajanta Caves have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The caves are...