The Rock Temples of Ajanta – James Burgess


The Rock Temples of Ajanta – James Burgess


Title: The Rock Temples of Ajanta

Author: James Burgess

Publisher: Susil Gupta, 1970

Condition: Full leather with gilt to covers and spine. Near fine. Gilt to top edge, very slight foxing to edges. Reprint of 1879 edition. Some uncut pages. 112pp. Numerous black and white illustrations at the appendix. 9″ by 6″.

About Ajanta (from Wikipedia):

The Ajanta Caves are about 29 rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments which date from the 2nd century BCE to about 480 CE in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra state of India. The caves include paintings and rock cut sculptures described as among the finest surviving examples of ancient Indian art, particularly expressive paintings that present emotion through gesture, pose and form.

According to UNESCO, these are masterpieces of Buddhist religious art that influenced Indian art that followed. The caves were built in two phases, the first phase starting around the 2nd century BCE, while the second phase built around 400–650 CE according to older accounts, or in a brief period of 460–480 CE according to later scholarship. The site is a protected monument in the care of the Archaeological Survey of India, and since 1983, the Ajanta Caves have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Ajanta Caves constitute ancient monasteries and worship halls of different Buddhist traditions carved into a 250 feet wall of rock. The caves also present paintings depicting the past lives and rebirths of the Buddha, pictorial tales from Aryasura’s Jatakamala, as well as rock-cut sculptures of Buddhist deities. Textual records suggest that these caves served as a monsoon retreat for monks, as well as a resting site for merchants and pilgrims in ancient India. While vivid colours and mural wall painting were abundant in Indian history as evidenced by historical records, Caves 16, 17, 1 and 2 of Ajanta form the largest corpus of surviving ancient Indian wall-painting.

The Ajanta Caves are mentioned in the memoirs of several medieval era Chinese Buddhist travellers to India and by a Mughal era official of Akbar era in early 17th century. They were covered by jungle until accidentally “discovered” and brought to Western attention in 1819 by a colonial British officer on a tiger hunting party.

About the author (from Wikipedia):

James Burgess CIE FRSE FRGS MRAS LLD (1832 – October 1916), was the founder of The Indian Antiquary in 1872 and an important archaeologist of India in the nineteenth century. He did educational work in Calcutta, 1856 and Bombay, 1861, and was Secretary of the Bombay Geographical Society 1868-73. He was Head of the Archaeological Survey, Western India, 1873, and of South India, 1881. From 1886-89 he was Director General, Archaeological Survey of India.