the many-splendoured delights of Ajanta compiled by Subramanian Swaminathan
Period of Excavation
The earliest caves in Ajanta were
excavated during the rule of the Satavahana-s, who had their capital at
Pratishthana (called Paithan in Maharashtra today). During their rule there
was brisk trade and commerce within the land and with the Mediterranean
world, which brought in enormous riches.
Hinayana period (2nd - 1st centuries
Caves 8, 9, 10, 13 & 15A were
excavated during the rule of the Satavahana dynasty. During this period
there was only limited sculptural activity.
The second phase was of greater artistic
activity at Ajanta during the rule of the Vakataka and the Chalukya dynasties
from the 4th to the 6th centuries AD.
Mahayana period (4th – 6th centuries
Remaining caves were excavated during
the rule of the Vakataka & the Chalukya dynasties.
The rulers, the Satavahana-s, the
Vakataka-s and the Chalukya-s, were themselves Hindus, but allowed Buddhism
to flourish in their territory. But there was no direct royal help
during almost the entire period. But the rich mercantile community,
organising itself into guilds, had provided the requisite patronage.
The entire Ajanta chapter is a tribute
to the religious tolerance of Hindu rulers.
The precious caves remained abandoned
till 1817 when they were discovered by a company of British soldiers.
Soon pioneer archaeologists were attracted to the caves that were lost
to civilization for more than 1200 years.
James Burgess and William Gill made
copies of some of the paintings and exhibited in London in 1866.
Unfortunately almost all of these perished in a disastrous fire.
Later some copies were made by Griffiths
and Lady Herringham, and published in 1896 and 1915. Under the patronage
of the Nizam, the then ruler of Hyderabad, Yazdani edited and published
two volumes on the paintings in 1933.
Rahul and Yashodhara meet the Buddha, Cave 17
Rahul and Yashodhara meet the Buddha, Cave 17 - Mural
Rahul and Yashodhara meet the Buddha, Cave 17 - Reproduction by Herringham
Reproduction by Herringham