Bodhisattva (Ajanta) – Buddhist art

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Boddhisattva is holding a Padma (lotus): Cave No. 1 at Ajanta

This painting on the back wall of the interior hall before the shrine-antechamber in Cave No. 1 at Ajanta dates back to the late fifth century CE. The Boddhisattva is holding a Padma (lotus), has large shoulders, and has three bents in the body creating a movement in the picture space.

The modeling is soft. Outlines are merged with the body volume creating the effect of three-dimensionality. The figure of the Boddhisattva is wearing a big crown in which detailed rendering is visible. The head is slightly bent to the left. The eyes are half-closed and are slightly elongated. The nose is sharp and straight. Light color all over the projected planes of the face is aimed at creating an effect of three-dimensionality.

The beaded necklace too has similar features. Broad and expanded shoulders create heaviness in the body. The torso is relatively round. Lines are delicate, rhythmic, and define the contours of the body. The right hand is holding a lotus and the left hand is extended in the space. The Boddhisattva is surrounded by small figures. The foreshortened right hand of the Boddhisattva makes the image more solid, and effectively dense.

The thread over the torso is shown with fine spiral lines indicating its dimensions. Each and every part of the body is given equal attention. Light red, brown, green, and blue colors are used. Nose projections, incised end of lips with lower lip projection, and small chin contribute to the overall effect of solidity in the figure composition. The paintings in Cave No.1 are of good quality and are better preserved. One can observe certain typological and stylistic variations in the paintings of Ajanta indicating different guilds of artisans working on the cave paintings at Ajanta over the centuries.

On the other side of the image, Vajrapani Bodhisattva has been painted. He holds a vajra in his right hand and wears a crown. This image also bears the same pictorial qualities as the Padmapani. Cave No. 1 has many interesting paintings of Buddhist themes such as Mahajanak Jataka, Umag Jataka, etc. The Mahajanak Jataka is painted on the entire wall side and is the biggest narrative painting. It may be observed that the paintings of Padmapani and Vajrapani and the Bodhisattvas are painted as shrine guardians. Similar such iconographic arrangement is also observed in other caves of Ajanta. However, Padmapani and Vajrapani in Cave No. 1 are among the best-survived paintings of Ajanta.

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