Maravijay: The Caves of Ajanta | South Asia

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Maravijay: The Caves of Ajanta

The theme of Mara Vijaya has been painted in the caves of Ajanta. This is the only sculptural representation sculpted on the right wall of Cave No. 26. It is sculpted near the colossal Buddha image of Mahaparinibbana. The panel shows the image of the Buddha in the center surrounded by Mara’s army along with his daughter.

The event is part of the enlightenment. It is a personification of the commotion of mind which the Buddha went through at the time of enlightenment. Mara represents desire. According to the narrative, there is a dialogue between the Buddha and Mara, and the Buddha is shown with his right hand indicating towards earth as a witness to his generosity.

This relief sculptural panel is highly animated and shows a very matured sculptural style at Ajanta. The composition is very complex with highly voluminous images. Their complex arrangement in the picture space is highly dynamic and generates considerable movement. The figure on the right shows Mara coming with his army consisting of various kinds of people including some with grotesque animal faces.

The dancing figures at the lower base with the musicians have forward bulging waist, and one of the dancing figures has expanded her hands in the dancing posture with an angular frontal look. On the left lower end, the image of Mara is shown contemplating how to disturb Siddhartha, the name of the Buddha before enlightenment.

The army of Mara is shown marching towards the Buddha in the first half of the panel whereas the lower half of the panel shows the departing army of Mara giving him adorations. The centrally placed Buddha is in padmasana and a tree at the back is shown by dense leaves. Some of the facial features of the Mara army have tacit characters of the sculptures from Vidarbha. The artisans at Ajanta worked in guilds and their stylistic affiliations can be traced by identifying such stylistic features. This is the largest sculptural panel at Ajanta.

Though there are several big images in the caves of Ajanta and especially located in the shrine antechamber as well as facade walls, such a complex arrangement of figures is unique. On the other hand, painted panels exhibit such complexities in their arrangement. A similar kind of arrangement of dancing figures in a panel is also observed at the Aurangabad caves.

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