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Indian Museum to celebrate 200 yrs of Ajanta paintings' discovery

Indian Museum to celebrate 200 yrs of Ajanta paintings discovery

Kolkata: Indian Museum is going to celebrate 200 years of discovery of Ajanta paintings by organising a lecture and a symposium in the month of July. The main objective of the programme is to discuss on how these paintings can be conserved in a more effective manner.

"Ajanta paintings has had a major influence upon the Bengal School of Art. Sister Nivedita, Nandalal Bose, Abanindranath Tagore, E.B. Havell, Asit Kumar Halder are some of the big names who have been influenced by the Ajanta paintings. How Calcutta is connected with Ajanta will also be the highlight of the discussion," said Rajesh Purohit, Director of Indian Museum.

According to Purohit, these paintings have survived 2000 years because of its location and the use of vegetable dye and mineral colours. The main colours used were— red ochre, yellow ochre, brown ochre, lamp black, white and lapis lazuli (blue). Problem started when French and Italian conservators carried out renovation of the paintings mistaking these as fresco paintings. "A number of paintings were destroyed and in 1863 the Archeological Survey Of India studied the paintings and did necessary treatment for restoration of the paintings which are actually tempera paintings," Purohit said.

The cave which is made of basalt igneous rocks has fissures through which water percolates. There is also water stagnation on the top of the cave as there is vegetation and roots of the trees are also penetrating into and destroying the cave.

The museum director said that inflow of tourists is a big problem and visitors should be sent in groups and not randomly inside the cave. "The humidity level goes up with respiration of so many tourists inside the cave and this impacts the pigments in the paintings and a layer of dust and moisture deposit upon them. Experts will share their opinion on conservation," he maintained.

Ajanta is a world heritage site as per UNESCO. It was on April 28 1819, a British officer named John Smith, of the 28th Cavalry, while hunting tigers, "discovered" the entrance to Cave No. 10 when a local shepherd boy guided him to the location and the door. Captain Smith went to a nearby village and asked the villagers to come to the site with axes, spears, torches, and drums, to cut down the tangled jungle growth that made entering the cave difficult.

He then vandalised the wall by scratching his name and the date over the painting of a bodhisattva. The Ajanta Caves are approximately 30 rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments which date from the 2nd century BCE to about 480 CE in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra. The caves include paintings and rock-cut sculptures described as among the finest surviving examples of ancient Indian art.

SOUMITRA NANDI

SOUMITRA NANDI

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