About the Grammar of Ajanta Cave painting

At the mythological era, we admitted a love story of Usha and Aniruddha where Usha (the daughter of Jaksha) identified her beloved in a portrait of Aniruddha, (son of Lord Krishna) after rejecting a more than 10 portraits of several princes. She saw her beloved for the first time, in her dream.

It’s a little evidence which not only affirmed that the Indian tradition of portrait painting is too old, but it also has shown that the style of portrait painting was absolutely realistic. In the Buddhist era, the tradition of painting in such style had dimmed away and increased the trend of spiritual subject based painting. The new tradition produced a new philosophy of painting that we will find in Vinaya Pitaka, a Buddhist grammar of painting that pursued the India’s oldest grammar book of painting. In my last write up, I discussed in details about such grammatical perspective. If you would like to recall once again, just follow the link or read a brief guideline below, - 

1.       RUP VEDHA. - Meaning - Conception about nature and its elements

2.      PRAMANAM. - Meaning - Clear conception of symmetrical drawing, balance, and composition conforming to the sense of an artist.

3.      VHAVA - Meaning – Superimposing the emotion or Expression on any object or the body language and expansion of feelings.

4.      LABANNAYOJONAM - Meaning -  Create a luminosity and expanse its beauty.

5.      SADRESSHAM - Meaning - Find out the similarities ( direct or indirect ) between two separate objects.

6.      BARNIKAVHANGAM - Meaning - Techniques of using the materials of painting (preferably colors ) or understand the language of color tones.

Oldest Scripture. Resource - https://commons.wikimedia.org (CC By 4.0)

The above six aphorisms are so-called CHITRA SADANGA. It’s in the term of Sanskrit, bearing the meaning, - six aphorisms of painting.


I suggest you once again to read the each aphorism of the said ancient grammar, which will assist you to touch profoundly the soul of Ajanta painting.  

The historians have determined that the oldest grammar book of painting got the highest recognition in Buddhist era and artists adopted this grammar as the gold standard. In the third century AD, a wise monk named Vatsyayana (the author of Kama Sutra) confessed that he got such grammatical concept from an oldest book wrote by an anonymous author and he just contributed it to his Kama Sutra. I guess, probably the oldest book he mentioned was,- “Vishnudharmottara”.  

Here is also a notable matter that the aphorism of Indian grammar of painting is very similar to the Chinese grammar, but in China, the Implementation of those aphorisms was slightly in different way. The experts concluded that the Chinese grammatical concepts are newer than Indian grammar and it recognized in Buddhist era. You will find the reverberation of above statement in Ajanta cave paintings in the drawing of eye-brow, eyes, creepers, and even in the face cutting.


Buddha in meditation. Resource - wisegeek.com/buddha-statue

It is clear that the ancient grammatical concept did not bring forth any boundary of realism for Oriental artists, rather obtaining such guidelines; artists gained the huge liberty in his imaginary world. 


In next, I'll be digging the subject matters of Ajanta cave painting deeply. It will take you to that ancient era of Lord Buddha. So stay tuned and thank you for continue reading my articles. 


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Last updated on - 07.12.2023