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The Ajanta Caves

Ancient Buddhist Paintings of India

Benoy K. Behl, William Dalrymple


A revised edition of a classic title, now with digitally restored photographs, showcasing the finest surviving examples of ancient Buddhist art

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Since their chance re-discovery in 1819, the breathtaking paintings and sculptures of the Ajanta caves have inspired and delighted experts and amateurs alike. Ranging in date from the second century BCE to the sixth century CE, these ancient Buddhist artworks rank among the world’s most important cultural treasures. Benoy K. Behl captured the beauty and luminosity of these works using long exposures and only natural light and now presents them here digitally restored to show the paintings closer to their original glory than ever before.

The exquisite murals, depicting the tales of previous incarnations of Buddha, scenes of princely processions and fantastical birds and beasts, provide virtually the only evidence of painting styles that first developed in India and remain crucially important to the understanding of Buddhist art throughout Asia. On UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites, the Ajanta caves survive as a potent symbol of the great beauty of India’s rich artistic past.

This new edition provides for the first time a view of some of the masterpieces of Ajanta painstakingly digitally restored by Behl. Sensitively carried out, the restoration makes the paintings clearer without interfering with their original grace and nuance, leading to a deeper appreciation of their artistry. Accompanied by expert commentaries to fully immerse the reader in the cultural context of the murals, this book will help preserve the legacy of the glorious art of Ajanta for years to come.

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'Benoy K. Behl’s remarkable photographs, painstakingly gathered and digitally restored over thirty years of hard labour, are probably the best and truest record of these fabulous treasures that will ever be created'
William Dalrymple

'The Ajanta paintings are reproduced truly for the first time in all their actual ravishing colours and incredible flowing, loving detail... the well-structured text genuinely illuminates the images ... one of the most gorgeous and stimulating books of Indian art ever produced'
Times Higher Education Supplement

'Lavishly produced and magnificently illustrated ... the most successful photographic record of the cave and its paintings ever achieved'

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Paperback

Edition Type: Revised

Size: 25.0 x 19.5 cm

Extent: 256 pp

Illustrations: 238

Publication date: 12 October 2023

ISBN: 9780500296691

About the Author

Benoy K. Behl is an art historian, film-maker and photographer who is known for his tireless and prolific output of work over the past forty-six years. He has taken over 53,000 photographs of Asian monuments and art heritage and made 145 documentaries on subjects of art and culture.