Ajanta Cave 17 is full of paintings depicting Jataka tales. The paintings are in a better condition than in other Ajanta caves. The tales originated in India and narrate stories from Buddha’s previous lives.
Ajanta Cave 17 has a colonnaded portico with paintings on the wall and ceiling. The cave features a large central Vihara with pillars on the sides. There is a shrine at end of the hall. Large windows and doors let in light.
Small dormitory cells are cut into the walls. Extensive carvings and sculptures of gods and goddesses are integrated into the structure. The walls and ceiling are full of beautiful and well-preserved paintings depicting Jataka Tales.
Stories of Jataka
Jataka Tales originated in India and pertain to the previous births of Gautama Buddha. The Jatakas are among the earliest Buddhist literature, dating to 4th century BC. The Jatakas describe the early incarnations of Buddha in human or animal form.
The tales are the forerunners to the various celebrated biographies of Buddha. They have been translated into many languages from the original Sanskrit.
History of Ajanta Cave 17
An inscription on the wall of the courtyard records that a prince under Vakataka King Harisena (475-500 A.D.) excavated the cave. The most elaborate caves were produced during this period. Wealthy patrons abandoned construction activities after the death of Harisena.
The caves later fell into disuse. A British army officer re-discovered the caves in 1819. Within a few decades, the caves became famous for its exceptional architecture as well as paintings.
Paintings in Ajanta Cave 17
The paintings in Ajanta Cave 17 mainly show the Jataka tales. The cave has 30 major murals. The paintings depict Buddha in different forms and postures.
The narrative frescoes show various Jataka tales. They display themes as diverse as a shipwreck, a princess applying makeup, lovers in scenes of dalliance and a wine drinking scene of an amorous couple.
Some paintings have remarkable 3 dimensional effects. The same painting when viewed from different angles appears different .
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