In the early 19th century (year 1819) some British soldiers were out hunting near Jalgaon city of Maharashtra, India. One of them suddenly saw, from a height, a horseshoe rock. His curiosity aroused by the entrance of a cave. And they discovered several caves, against which bush, shrubs earth and stones had piled up. Goatherds were using a few for shelter.
The Government was informed about this finding and soon the Archaeologists began to excavate them. Many experts have been restoring them during the last fifty years. The shock of this discovery was felt worldwide.
All the rock-cut caves had paintings on verandahs, inner walls and ceilings. The caves revealed some of the most beautiful masterpieces of world art.In the grotto’s were also symbolic Buddhist mounds called Stupas, and cells for monks called viharas. There were giant sculptures of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas (potential Buddha’s), or Taras (female Buddhist divinities), as also dwarapalas (doorkeepers).
Later, an inscription was found of King Harisena (‘moon among princes’), of the Vakataka dynasty of the 5th -6th century A.D. in cave No.17. It seems that the local Vakatakas had relations, thought marriage, with the great Gupta kings of the north. The total numbers of caves are 28. Most of them were finished, a few were half finished.
The painting and sculptures in the caves are of Buddhist origin; Gautama Buddha (600 B.C.) was against painting and Sculpture. He forbade image of himself. Also he was against the use of colorful clothes such as may excite desire he did not admit women to the order of nuns. He felt that all life was pain. The best way to attain salvation (Nirvana) was to suppress all for happiness.
The Mahayana Buddhism made the Buddha almost into gods perhaps under the influence of Hinduism, by the time this more liberal faith emerged, Buddhism accepted women in the Sangha, or the order of monks and nuns, and promised to help people to attain Nirvana by practicing certain rites. By the time the Ajanta caves were carved, the Buddhists had evolved imagery almost parallel to the Hindus.
The colors used for the wall paintings were made from pebbles and vegetable found on the hillside. The guide will show you the pebbles of different colors, these were crushed and ground and the mixed with glue.
The main colors used were; red ochre, yellow ochre, brown ochre, lamp black, white and lapis lazuli (blue). This last pigment was imported from Northern India, central Asia and Persia. Green was made by mixed this lapis lazuli with Indian yellow ochre.