references to painting of various types and techniques.
Painting in Early Historical Period Literary records with a direct bearing
on the art of painting are indeed numerous. But no specimens of the actual
ancient paintings exist, for they were invariably done on perishable materials
such as textiles, leaves and barks of trees and wood, or on semi-permanent
materials such as plastered walls. The earliest extant painting of the historical
period consists of a few irregular rows of human figures and a band with
representation of large aquatic animals, arranged in sections of the irregularly
vaulted ceiling of the Sitabenga or Yogimara caves in the Ramgarh hills,
assignable to about the middle of the first century BC. Mural paintings in Cave
nos. IX and X of Ajanta are also of certain significance in the evolution of
painting in the early historical phase. Though only small portions of these are
preserved, enough remains to suggest that they are mature works. Some faint
traces of early painting are also found on the walls of the chaitya cave at
Bedsa, but these have been obscured by later whitewashing.
Paintings in Classical Literature The art of painting apparently attained a
high popularity and an equally high aesthetic and technical standard during
the classical period (AD 350-700). The classical literature shows that painting
was considered an essential social accomplishment, not only in the cities and
among members of the upper strata of society, but also among members of
the various professional guilds and amateurs. The Kamasutra of Vatsyayana
lists painting as one of the sixty-four kalas or fine arts. Yashodhara’s
commentary on Vatsyayana’s work indicates that attempts were already
being made to give theoretical and technical guidance to an increasingly large
number of amateurs and professionals practising the art. The Brihat Samhita
(6th century AD) and the Vishnudharmmottara (7th century AD) introduce such
technical details and classification of painting according to themes. All these
and other references in contemporary literature, including the works of
Bhasa, Kalidasa, Vishakhadatta, Bana and Buddhaghosha, the Ithihasas and
the Puranas, leave no doubt that intellectual ferment of the classical period
led to serious and detailed thinking about the theory and technique of
painting.
Gupta and Post-Gupta Paintings Substantial remains of paintings are
found in the caves at Bagh (notably       Cave IV, AD 500), Ajanta (Caves I, II,