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The Ajanta Caves: Ancient Painting of Buddhist Indiaby Benoy K. Behl
Synopses & Reviews
Two hundred miles northeast of Bombay exist these exquisite caves with Buddhist paintings and sculptures ranging in date from the second century BC to the sixth century AD. A potent and beautiful symbol of India's rich artistic past and a major treasury of Buddhist art.
Book News Annotation:
Discovered by British soldiers in 1819, the Ajanta caves are located in a horseshoe-shaped gorge of the Waghora River in Western India. They are a series of 31 caverns hand-carved into rock during a period lasting from the 2nd century BC to the 6th century AD, and are filled with exquisite painted murals of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, animals, palaces, sensual women, musicians, kings, princes, and princesses. Believed to be the only remaining evidence of influential styles of Indian painting, these murals elucidate early periods of pan-Asian development. Photographer Behl used long exposures that picked up natural ambient light, and resulted in the luminous and sensitive color photographs that are displayed in this oversize (10x12") volume. Text provides context for the photographs, and diagrams of murals clarify the scenes and stories depicted in detail.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
In 1819, a group of British soldiers on a hunting expedition chanced upon the Ajanta caves some 200 miles north east of Bombay. Ranging in date from the second century BC the sixth century AD, the exquisite Buddhist paintings and sculptures found there new rank among the world's most important cultural treasures. The murals were created using only the glow of lamps and candles quite unlike the harsh light employed in modern professional photography. For this book, Benoy K. Behl has used long exposures that pick up natural ambient light, capturing the art for the first time in all its glory and luminosity. The early followers of the Buddha created an isolated haven where they could meditate in peace. Stonecutters carved out massive caves decorated with lithe and graceful figures, fashioning beams and rafters from the rock in imitation of wooden buildings. Painters worked on exquisite murals that depict scenes of princely processions, ladies with their handmaidens, bejeweled animals, ascetics in monasteries, fantastic birds and beasts all demonstrating a startling degree of sophistication. Ajanta provides virtually the only evidence remaining of painting styles that first developed in India and then traveled with the spread of Buddhism into the Himalayan region, across Central Asia into China, and from there to Japan and Korea.
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