The Ajanta caves are situated in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra. A total of about 30 caves are situated at Ajanta. Paintings and sculptures were made in these caves by the Buddhists from 2nd century B.C. to 7th century A.D.
Shaddanta -Jataka The monastery, one of the oldest in the world, first reveals the Hinayana period (200 B.C. to 200 A.D), where Buddha is represented only by symbols, or in his supposed previous existence as related in the Jataka stories. We see this chiefly in the Chaitya (place of worship) of cave no.10 (2nd century B.C) and cave no.9 (1st century B.C).
Shaddanta- Jataka In order to proclaim the message of the Buddha, the monks employed artists who turned the stone wall into picture books of his life and teaching. Representations from the Jataka tales illustrate his intelligence, noble character, selfless service and compassion by means of legends from his previous births.
Shaddanta- Jataka Though the pictures depict stories related to the Buddha, the artists portrayed at the same time the costumes and customs of their own epoch, especially the extravagance of the court life. Nor did they overlook life’s comedy and tragedy, its pathos and humour.
Shaddanta- Jataka The Story of Shaddanta Jataka The Shaddanta Jataka in cave no.10 is an excellent example of the earlier phase of the Ajanta painting. According to the story, in one of his former incarnations the Buddha appeared as Shaddanta, an enormous, six tusked elephant. With his two wives, Mahasubhada and Chulla- subhada, he lived in a golden cave near a lotus lake fringed (outer edge of an area) by a thick forest.
Shaddanta- Jataka Having heard that a grove (group of small tree) of Sal tree was in full bloom, he went there accompanied by his two wives and sportingly shook the branches of a tree. But while flowers and leaves fell on Mahasubhada, only dry twigs and ants rained on Chulla-subhada. The latter (Chulla-subhada) did not take this as a mere co incidence.
Shaddanta- Jataka Holding his guilty of favoritism, she nursed a grudged against the royal elephant and starved herself to death, praying to be reborn as a beautiful queen of Varanasi. Her prayer was granted. After she had gained the affection of the king as his wife, she feigned (pretend) a great illness and said she would die unless the six tusks of the famed elephant were brought to her.
Shaddanta- Jataka In order to save her life the king sent two hunters, Sonutara and a companion to kill him. Following the queen’s direction, the hunters reached his abode. With a poisoned arrow Sonutara shot the elephant who (being a bodhisattva) realized immediately that the queen of Varanasi had once been his wife. He went so far as to help the hunters pull out his tusks, she died overcome with guilt and grief.
Shaddanta-Jataka Details of the Composition: The painter of this mural grouped the forest episodes and those in the royal court separately but without adequate consideration for the chronological sequence. The different scenes run from left to right on the wall of the right aisle (side passage in church), behind pillars 2 to 12.
Shaddanta- Jataka The first scene shows a group of elephants in their forest habitat (natural environment of an animal). On the extreme left, a python partly encircling a tree, has caught in its coils the hind (back) leg of the elephant which struggles to free itself while several other elephants trample a crocodile to death. Altogether some fifty elephants, painted in different poses show the artistic skill in boldly handling these bulky forms even in back and head-on views.
Shaddanta- Jataka Stylistic Features: The entire mural, with its extraordinarily detailed representations of the Jataka story, exemplifies all the characteristics of the early Ajanta period and may be compared to a similar relief at Sanchi. The outlines are firmly drawn. The ornaments and details of the costumes date it to the period between the second and the third century B.C. The artists of Ajanta used perspective in a different way. A kind of multiple perspective has been introduced where different objects are perceived as if they were seen from within the panel.
Shaddanta- Jataka With only six pigments in his hand, the Ajanta artist created the vocabulary of the entire colour-range, each speaking its own language and giving meanings to others. Far from dramatizing by climaxing color- contrasts, he took recourse to the more refined expression of tonalities. Here the relationship of proportion is relative, not based on empiric knowledge but depend on emotional importance, spiritual reality-each different situation demanding a new evaluation.