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Padmapani Mural, Ajanta Cave No. 1

Padmapani Mural, Ajanta Cave No. 1

Artist : Anonymous

Model : Padmapani

Date : near 470

Material : Fresque murale
UNESCO World Heritage Site (Définitif) : 1983

Item 1 on 8
Place(s) of worship
Painting (Religious theme)

Area related
Ajanta (India)


Padmapani is a form of Avalokiteshvara. Padmapani Lokeshvara is generally seen standing at the right side of Buddha Amitabha in Sukhavati Heaven.

A legend says that once an elephant was going to pick up a lotus flower in a pond. Unfortunately he slipped into the mud. Padmapani Lokeshvara cried in agony and prayed for Narayana. In the mean time Arya Avalokiteshvara was in that jungle and he heard the prayer. Immediately he took the form of Narayana and rescued the elephant from the marshy pond. Then Avalo-kiteshvara took the lotus offered by the elephant and went to Jetavana grove where Buddha Shakyamuni was residing. He in turn offered this lotus flower to Buddha Shakyamuni. Buddha Shakyamuni thanked Avalokiteshvara for his offer of the lotus flower and requested him to offer it to Lord Amitabha on his behalf. Avalokiteshvara told the whole story to Lord Amitabha Buddha. Appreciating the philanthropic deeds of Avalokiteshvara, Buddha Amitabha told him to keep that lotus flower forever and continue the act of benefitting all sentient beings.

This is an impressive, and relatively well-preserved, mural from the eastern-most of Ajanta's caves, cave number one. Cave number one is not from Ajanta's earliest phase of excavation, despite it's location. It probably dates sometime around 470 CE. The subject matter of this mural, the Bodhisattva Padmapani, clearly places the creator or patron on the Mahayana side of the contentious Hinayana/Mahayana divide.

The painters did not paint directly on the walls of these rock-cut caves. Instead, the surface of the rock in the caves was chiseled and roughened, then a plaster of hay, lime, clay and dung applied. Pigments (from minerals and plant sources) were then applied to the still wet plaster, and sometimes a stucco veneer added for sheen. The murals have held up remarkably well for their age, though large portions of most murals have flaked away over the centuries.

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Padmapani Mural, Ajanta Cave No. 1