The Ajanta Caves carved out of volcanic rock in the Maharashtra plateau
was not far off from the ancient trade routes and attracted traders and
pilgrims through whom the Ajanta art style diffused as far as China and
Japan. The Buddhist monks employed artists who turned the stone walls
into picture books of Buddha"s life and teachings. These artists have
portrayed the costumes, ornaments and styles of the court life of their
The artists applied mud plaster in two coats — the first was rough to fill in
the pores of the rocks and then a final coat of lime plaster over it. The
painting was done in stages. They drew the outline in red ochre, then
applied the colours and renewed the contours in brown, deep red or black.
The attenuated poses, supple limbs, artistic features, a great variety of hair
styles, all kinds of ornaments and jewellery indicate skilled artisans. In a
mural in Cave 10, some 50 elephants are painted in different poses
bringing out the skill of the artist in handling these bulky forms in all
perspective views, with erected tails and raised trunks, depicting sensed
The styles of the later murals reveal a merging of two streams of art;
Satavahana of Andhra and Gupta of North India. This resulted in the
classical style which had a far reaching influence on all the paintings of
the country for centuries to come.
A high degree of craftsmanship incorporating all the rules laid down by
ancient Indian treatises on painting and aesthetics are evident. One cannot
but notice the fluid, yet firm lines, long sweeping brush strokes, outlining
graceful contours, subtle gradation of the same colour, highlighting nose,
eyelids, lips and chin making the figures emerge from the flat wall surface.
Animals, birds, trees, flowers, architecture are pictured with an eye to their
beauty of form. Human emotions and character are depicted with great
understanding and skill–indignation, greed, love and compassion.