18 June, 2021

Ancient Resonance

A new photographic endeavour captures Ajanta's true colours

Ancient Resonance
THE very name Ajanta invokes images from that treasure house of architecture, painting, sculpture and spirituality in the caves in the cliff above the horseshoe bend of the Waghora River. A book on Ajanta has, therefore, much to live up to. Benoy Behl's sumptuous volume of photographs and text is a feat for the eyes and the mind and does justice to its great subject.

Over a period of nine centuries (from the second century BC to the seventh century AD) Buddhist monks and artisans chiseled into the rock, creating 29 caves to serve as their chaityas (prayer halls) and viharas (monasteries). They covered the austere walls of the caves with mural after mural, frieze after frieze, on themes from the life and teachings of Gautama Buddha. And then, suddenly, in what still remains a great mystery they abandoned the caves to the jungle, to the tiger, the deer, and the wild boar. The caves were in a secluded location and were forgotten until, 11 centuries later on April 28, 1819, a British officer hunting wild boar saw the caves and alerted the world to the treasures they...

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