Discuss some of the features of earliest cave painting.

Earliest Cave Painting.

Literary evidence proves that painting was a highly developed art in ancient India. Palaces and the homes of the rich and poor alike were adorned with beautiful murals. The facades were decorated with paintings. At the points of entire in houses there were painted designs. The ceilings, the pillars, the brackets all those spaces that were in people’s gaze were painted. In addition paintings were also made on individual objects cloth, pottery, tools and implements and objects of daily use.

The art of painting was practiced by professional artists and also by men and women of the society who could ably handle a brush. It was also practiced by ordinary people who used it to decorate:their dwellings and other items of daily use. Clearly painting formed the dominant feature of fine alts in India. The development of paintings in India as an art form can be traced back to a very early time in history. The earliest paintings in India have been mostly found in primitive caves’ and rock-shelters. The prominent sites where the  paintings have survived can be listed thus

  • Mirzapur and Banda in Uttar Pradesh
  • Mahedeo hills of the Vindhyan range in Bundelkhand
  • Larimur hills in the area.of Baghelkhand
  • Singanpur in Raigarh district of Central India
  • Bellary in the South
Cave Painting

These paintings are mainly hunting scenes representing human encounter with wild animals. The paintings represent vivid pictures of hunt done in a crudely deployed technique. Red pigment has been freely used. Some of the figures have got washed off. In a well preserved scene there is the hunt of a bison and a Sambhar. The human figures are conventionalized,. The torso is sometimes drawn as almost a ladder composed of steps. Sometimes it is a silhouetted figure with the head dominating the rest of the body, the hands and feet in all cases appearing as just straight or bent lines. Their handling of pikes and javelins, in their effort to attack the animal, is indeed most lively. One of the:animals at Singapore represents a barking dog, rushing forward at a terrific pace, the tail stretched out and the leg indicating the speed:of its motion. This is in contrast with the stylized form in many of the human figures.

Some examples of earlier painting are :


The earliest historical paintings in India come from Ajanta caves that in the earliest phase belong to the Satavahana period (2nd century  A.D) in the Deccan. During:this period Buddhist caves were excavated in the rocks, for dwelling purposes for meditation. Since the geological formation of rocks in Western India facilitates the cutting of a cave, most of the cave sites are located in Western India of such places as Nasik, Bhaja, Karle ,etc. As stated above the earliest of these are at Ajanta.

The paintings cover the, walls, pillars, and ceilings to illustrate scenes from the life of Budha and his previous lives, comprising the jatakas and avadanas. There are also floral and animal motifs carefully created. Some of the caves are in the form of chaitya hall with a fine facade, and aisles composed by a colonnade of pillars running the entire length. The paintings here show the worship of the Bodhi tree, the Same Jataka and the Chhadanta Jataka.

The mode of paintings at Ajanta is the tempera and the Materials used are very simple. The five colours usually described in all the Silpa texts are found here red ochre, yellow ochre, lamp black, lapis-lazuli and white. The painter at Ajanta had studied life around him and natural sense of great beauty with intense sympathy and appreciation:Plant and animal life had interested him considerably. He had lovingly treated such themes of flora and fauna as he had chosen to depict.

There are excellent illustrations in these paintings at Ajanta of the six limbs of painting, (Shadanga. The diversity of form at Ajanta is indeed incredible, The painters here mastered the vast complex of human, animal and plant form in addition to giving free shapes to their imaginations. The master at Ajanta has control over not only the proportions of individual figures but also has the ability to group them ,and her has designed excellent compositions: Emotion is at it best in the narration of scenes from the legends.



In the eighth century, the early Western Chalukya power came to an end and the Rashtrakutas under Dantidurga asserted them. Dantodurga Was followed by his uncle Krishna  Iwho was not only a great ruler but was also the creator of unique monument in the Deccan, the Kailasnatha temple at Ellora, carved out of living rock.

The paintings at Ellora covered the ceilings and walls of the Mandapas and represent not only the iconographic forms but also the lovely floral designs and animals and birds. The Natraja here is a splendid example of the Chalukya type. The figure, the details as the pattern- of the Jatamakutathe elaboration of decoration and so forth, it is one of the most beautifully preserved panels at Ellora.

The Join cave towards the end of the group of caves at Ellora has its entire surface of ceiling and wall covered with paintings with a wealth of detail. There are scenes illustrating Jain texts and decorative patterns with floral; animal and bird designs.



The Gupta empowers were great patrons of art and literature. The aesthetic qualities of Samudra Gupta are very well known. This phase of art is amply illustrated in the caves, close to the village Bagh near Gwalior, which are excavated on the slopes of the Vindhya Hills at a little height above the river Bagh in the vicinity. There are nine’ caves in all but the most important from the view point of painting are caves.

The paintings in the Bagh caves are mostly lost, but the best preserved of the remains are found on the outer wall of the continuous verandah of caves. The, subject illustrated is clearly a Jataka or Avadana. The first scene shows a princess and her companion, one in great grief and the other consoling her; the second, two divine and two princely figures seated in conversation.

There is cavalry and foot soldiers with bows and arrows in the hands and with , the umbrella held over at least two stately figures, with prices on tuskers and ,high-ranking women on cow-elephants close to the royal gateway, probably in the vicinity of the palace.



The tradition of painting especially cave-temple painting continued till very late. It was primarily preserved in Southern India. Usually a part of the building was so painted as to arrest the attention of appreciative and aesthetic minded connoisseurs of art.

At Mahabalipuram, a fervent of painting may be noted in the upper cells of the Dharmarajaratha. Sithilarly, they occur in other Pallava cave temples and the Kailasnatha temple of Kanchipuram At Badami, and Harttpi too this decorative factor is present. The paintings in the Bribadisvara temple constitute the most valuable document on the printers art during the time of the Cholas.

At Lepakshi (Andhra Pradesh) there is one of the most remarkable paintings „of the Vijaanagara period, a colossal one of Virabhadra painted on the ceiling of the mandapa. The scenes depicted here are from the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and the Puranas. The coronation of Ramads.rjuna fighting Kirat, and Krishna as Vatapatrasayi are Charming portraits of this. series.

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