Temples of Sri Lanka

Historic Ajanta Cave Paintings Exhibition in Colombo


Buddhism is a very significant and the strongest link between India and Sri Lanka and as a result every year tens and thousands of Buddhist pilgrims visit India because the Buddha attained enlightenment and Buddhism was born in this special land which was home to many philosophers and spiritual masters. In spite of the dream of every Buddhist is to see this holy land, we see, they only visit Bodhgaya, Saranath, Varanasi, Kushinagar and seldom visit Ajanta where the precious Buddhist cave paintings are available because they have not been properly educated in this regard. As this holy site is located somewhat away from the usual pilgrimage route, maybe the tour operators find it difficult to connect Ajanta to their itinerary due to comparatively high cost involvement. However, Ajanta cave paintings still remain the oldest printed record in Buddhist history.


With a view to educate the Sri Lankan audiences, we plan to organize ‘Ajanta Cave Paintings by Pimpare’ art exhibition from 19th to 23rd May 2019 at the main art gallery of the University of Visual Arts, Sri Lanka. A documentary film based on the history of Ajanta Cave paintings will also be planned to produce with this historic event.

Along with the exhibition, there will be an International Buddhist Film Festival, a Cultural Show and a Crystal Singing Bowl Concert will also be organized at the same venue.

Ajanta Caves Background

Ajanta caves, located near the industrial city Aurangabad in Maharashtra, is the 2000 year old ‘Great wonders of ancient world’ found by a British hunting solider back in 1819. After these 31 caves were found in deep jungles of Ajanta, owing to its uniqueness, history of aesthetics and excellence in the world, Ajanta paintings became exceptional area of India’s cultural heritage. In 19th century saw visitors flocking from all around the globe to admire the natural beauty of these paintings made on wall depicting the legend of Buddhism and events from the life of Lord Buddha, Jataka stories, significant events of Buddha’s time and many other incidents, Buddhist symbols, stone carvings and stupas.

In spite of the fact that a large number of scholars explored the significance of Ajanta, it is still fathomless due to its boundless scope for investigation and inquiry. An interminable and immortal work, it provides internal space to rummage and research.

Pre and post-independence era saw many restoration specialists visit the caves and try to secure the status of these pictures by various means, almost all of them took worse turn followed by deposition of soot, grime, dust and bat dung on the paintings. ASI started pasting cement blotches wherever painting surface pilled off, with this result, in most of the caves what is conspicuous more is blotches of cement more than paintings. Making them highly unrecognizable (especially in cave 9 & 10). Likewise almost all the struggles were failed. Now only option leftover is to restoring World Heritage separately on canvas without touching and damaging original monument.


About the Artist

After a span of nearly 2000 years now the paintings are in a damaged condition, either ravaged by nature of brutalized by man, there appeared an Artist-Mr. M.R Pimpare, reborn as a savior to provide an antidote to the injured paintings and then a new life and a longer span too.

Inadvertently magnetized by Ajanta paintings at the age of twelve, Mr. Pimpare has remained busy in recreating the deteriorating paintings of Ajanta (As shown in above comparison).

Articulate & microscopic visibility could become possible due to the patient and tenacious efforts put in by Mr. Pimpare for more than 50 years. After joining the department of history as an artist, Mr. Pimpare started toying with the idea of cutting the work done by his ancestry from Vatsagulm Nagar. Backed and supported by the Head of History department, Professor Ramesh Shankar Gupte, Mr. Pimpare drew more inspiration and encouragement.

Mr. Pimpare has emerged in deep into the sea of Ajanta colors to dig into the secrets shrouded by thick layers of dust. There is an ocean of historical facts which can be perceived through this art but most scholars have ignored this kind of study. Events, incidents, occurrences hitherto masked from common knowledge will be exposed through his work, for the public view. The artist reveals minute details of the palm are white, where he attempts at distinguishing between the outer colors of the skin and protected skin. Microscopic details of the veins and arteries are lucid and anatomical study is extremely; minute. Even the movement of hair blown by air is beautifully drawn. There is an evidence of advance medical science where a person is seen donating his eyes.

At such time the hard working artist went scrupulously through all the texts and methodically did a comparative study of each painting and reconstructed them. At times big patches simply peeled off. He completed them by going through the texts and descriptions of the paintings. And when at times all these methods failed, he took recourse to Yoga (Meditation). Probably it was due to his inspirational inclination and supernatural power to concentrate, the artist could visualize the broken patches so perfectly that he succeeded in reconstructing and repairing them perfectly. He took up this challenge on his shoulders to understand and analyze each painting under the lights with the archaeological department’s presence and restore paintings with sizes and grandeur. His tireless work of decades and devotion of a lifetime has produced 300+ paintings.

M.R Pimpare greatest feat however was the reconstruction of the oldest painting of Ajanta (cave no.10). 2000 year old and longest panel (measuring 73ft X 4 ft). This is the worst damaged piece of art, but through sheer hard work, consistent research, imagination and visualization this painting was brought alive in all its original glory. A painting that bore the brunt of miscreants, literally concealed the panel with graffiti was given new life. The pictures of this panel clearly divulges the vast destruction of the painting. There are areas where there is total chaos, area where shadows of animals can be observed marred with graffiti and areas where faded figures can be seen.

The tireless work that he has put is with sole purpose of securing treasure and putting it in front of the world and pass on to next generation to study and ponder upon.

All over the world many archaeological and art foundations tried to find exact balance of the expressions and coloring scheme of these murals but none of them could manage the feat that Mr. Pimpare achieved.

The only way to sustain the glory of our world Heritage Ajanta caves in future is through the recreation work done by of Mr. Pimpare in his painting.

    • ETHNIC TRAITS: Through a punctilious study of Pimpare’ s paintings it is possible to study ethnic traits in the paintings. A detail study of the people inhabiting the walls of Ajanta assist to discover people from Greece and Persia, Bacteria down to Punjab, the valleys of Himalayas, Nepal and Bengal to the East, Deccan to the West racing down till Ceylon. The paintings are also erudition on the existing castes, sub-castes and tribes.


  • COSTUME AND TEXTILES: Pimpare has scrupulously highlighted not only the design and patterns seen on the costumes but also emphasized the texture of the textiles worn by the people. Dress is a vital clue to the mood and taste of every society, their aesthetic temper, the art and skill to adjust to their social and geographical environment their veracious analysis of the restored paintings the varied textiles can be identified.

  • ORNAMENTATION, COSMETICS AND COIFFURES: A consummate galaxy of a magic world of ornamentation has been introduced. The honoured scintillate Jewellers and craftsman festooned the Ajanta earthling with classical finery. However, the ornaments of a venaatic couple comprised leaves and flowers as hair band, filed elephant tusk in ear, tiger claws in the neck and peacock feathers as armlets. The ornaments of the demons synchronizing their features and grabs composed of owl’s head, cat face, tiger claws, scorpions, elephant skulls and human skulls depicting the destructive nature of the demons. Pimpare’s restored reproductions lend meaning to the other obscure paintings.

  • ARCHITECTURAL DETAILS: A tangible flood of architectural details are exposed. Graphic report of decorative gateways, palace scenes, royal kitchen, and wooden sheds supported on posts, a royal court in a pillared hall, windows, balconies, doors are all bared. The clarity of the reproductions have also assisted in sketching a clear picture of the entire palace architecture right from the inner gateway to the inner apartments.

  • MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS: Musical Instruments are disclosed in the Dancing panels or processions and they can be easily identified. There were percussive instruments under which various types of drums are discerned. Dhols, Mridanga are seen, of the pneumatic instruments. The paintings depict, flute, shanai, horn shaped trumped and conch shells. Resonator instrument like gongs, cymbals and castanets were also used by the ancients.


 The Program

Proposed Dates:                               (5 days) 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 May 2019

Proposed Venue:                              University of Visual Arts, Colombo 07

Number of Paintings to be imported: 100



Day 1 – 19th May – Inauguration at 10.00 am / Press/ Exhibition until 6.00 pm

Day 2 – 20th May –Exhibition from 10.00 am to 6.00 pm / Talk

Day 3 – 21st May –Exhibition from 10.00 am to 6.00 pm / Talk

Day 4 – 22nd May –Exhibition from 10.00 am to 6.00 pm / Talk

Day 5 – 23rd May –Exhibition from 10.00 am to 6.00 pm / Closing Ceremony at 10.00 am

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