Kanchipuram (Kailashanatha temple, 7th century AD), both in the South; and
in the rock-cave at Sigiri in Ceylon (5th-6th century AD). There are also faint
traces of painting on the walls of the caves at Kanheri (Cave XIV, 6th century
AD), Aurangabad (Caves III and VI, 6th century AD) and Pitalkhora (Cave I,
6th century AD), all in the Deccan, in the facade of a cave at Keonjhar (6th
century AD) in the North and in the rock-cut temples at Tirumalaipuram
(Digambara Jaina, 7th century AD) and Malayadipatti (Vaishnava, AD 788–
840) both in the South. But whether such paintings are from the North, the
Deccan, or the South, whether they are Buddhist, Jaina or Brahmanical in
content, the norm can best be viewed at Bagh, Ajanta and Sigiri. All wall-
paintings of the period, bhitti-chitra of literary texts, belong to a common
denominator, formally and technically differentiated to some extent only, by
those at Ellora of a somewhat later date, where a new tradition emerges.
     The technique of painting first of all, deals with the method of preparation
of the ground. Powdered rock, clay and cow-dung frequently mixed with
chaff or vegetable fibres, were made into a paste-like substance which was
thoroughly and evenly pressed like plaster on the hard and porous surface of
the rock. The plaster was then levelled and polished with a trowel. While still
wet, it was overlaid with a coat of fine white lime wash. The ground thus
prepared was generally allowed to dry before any colour was applied. Thus,
these Indian murals are accordingly fresco secco and not true frescoes or
fresco buono. The main colours used were red ochre, vivid red, yellow ochre,
indigo blue, lapis lazuli blue, lampblack, chalk-white and green. Almost all
the colours were acquired locally except lapis lazuli, which was perhaps
imported from Jaipur or from a foreign country. The theme of the extant
paintings at Bagh and Ajanta, Badami and Sittannavasal is religious. But in
their inner meanings and spirit, nothing could be more secular, courtly and
sophisticated. Only a small fraction remains of what must once have covered
the entire flat spaces of the caves at Bagh and Ajanta. A dramatic panorama
of contemporary life is rendered with an unequivocal skill. Yet all this is
lifted to a high spiritual level by a lofty detachment. If Bagh, Ajanta and
Badami represent the classical tradition of the North and the Deccan at its
best, Sittannavasal, Kanchipuram, Malayadipatti and Tirumalaipuram show
the extent of its penetration in