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seminar transcript

seminar transcript - Maia Kazaks History of Art and...

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Maia Kazaks October 18, 2006 History of Art and Architecture Ancient India Ajanta Seminar write-up AJANTA CAVES Slide 1: What are they? These 30 rock-cut caves are set in a panoramic horseshoe gorge. The “caves” represent two distinct phases of Buddhism: earlier hinayana (around the first and second century BC) and Mahayana (5-6 century AD) They are the finest examples of early Buddhist architecture, cave paintings, and sculptures. The caves contain both chaityas (essentially the Buddhist equivalent of Christian church- including the nave, apse and aisle- but the apse is a stupa and the colonnaded aisle continues around behind the stupa for circumambulation) and viharas (monasteries- a quadrangular court, flanked by small cells with spots for beds cut into). Slide 2: Where? These caves, of various sizes, were cut into the steep face the Waghore River gorge. This gorge is within the volcanic rock of the Maharashtra Plateau. Slide 3: What is There? Carvings Covering elaborate stupas, narrative friezes depicting details of daily life and dress, ornamented columns and capitals, intricately carved doors, sitting, standing and reclining Buddhas, the Mahaparinirvana of Buddha Paintings Of previous births (jataka tales) and episodes from the life of Buddha, Buddha’s temptation by Mara, Prince Simhala’s Sri Lankan expedition, the evolution of Buddhism The caves are partially a documentary sequence of scenes from the childhood and youth of Buddha, culminating in his wandering enlightenment of Buddha. Also depictions of Buddha giving sermons, the Sravasti Miracle, conversion of Nanda (Buddha's cousin) and “moving portrayal” of Nanda's wife Slide 4: Who? Created them: The Buddhist monks who lived at this spectacular site employed artists- guild-painters- accustomed to work in secular palaces for the Vataka rulers. In many of the caves (including caves 9 and 10) one can see superimposed figure of Buddha which were later added on top of these paintings.
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Saw them: Aside from the monks, of course, because the caves are not far from ancient trade routes, they attracted traders & pilgrims who then diffused the style as far as Japan and China. Discovered them: As Buddhism gradually waned, the glorious the Ajanta caves were abandoned and forgotten until 1819 when a British hunting party (“Madras Army”) accidentally stumbled upon them. Initial works were carried out by archeologist James Burgess & Major William Gill, who exhibited their work 1866. Their isolation contributed to the fine state of preservation in which some of their remarkable paintings remain to this day.
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