(Last Updated on : 18/06/2012)
Ajanta cave 10 happens to be the earliest chaitya-griha and most probably the earliest excavation at Ajanta. Apsidal on plan, it is divided into the usual nave, apse and aisles by thirty-nine octagonal pillars supporting the entablature from which the vault of the nave rises. It is much larger than Ajanta Cave 9
. Its floor is approached by a flight of steps. Like Ajanta Cave 9, its ceiling was originally covered with a network of curvilinear wooden beams and rafters. The ceiling of its aisles, however, differs from that cave in its being a half-arch and having rock-cut beams and rafters in imitation of wooden prototypes. The apse has the usual votive stupa, the drum
of which rises in two storeys
Two more distinct records, one painted and the other engraved, of the same period, exist inside the cave. This cave, like the preceding one, contains both the earlier and later groups of paintings. That the hall was painted short in the wake of its excavation is proved by a painted record on the paintings itself on the left wall opposite the third pillar.
On palaeographic grounds it has been assigned to the middle of the second century BC, which is, thus, the date of the painting as well. The subject-matter of the painting, though greatly obliterated by modern scribbling can be made out as the visit and worship of the Bodhi tree
and the stupa by a royal personage accompanied by his retinue - soldiers, dancers, musicians and ladies. Like the older paintings in Ajanta Cave 9, the events are composed horizontally in a continuous frieze-like band, a characteristic of the early paintings at Ajanta.
Substantial fragments of the older paintings, superimposed at places by later ones, can also be seen on the right wall. Here two jatakas
have been identified. On the left, behind pillars 11 to 15 is depicted the Sama Jataka (no. 540). Bodhisattva was born in that life as Sama, the sole support of his blind hermit-parents. One day, while he was filling his pitcher in a river, he was shot accidentally by a poisoned arrow of the king of Varanasi
who had been out hunting. Having heard about the helplessness of Santa's parents, the repentant king offered his services to them. The parent's grief, however, moved a goddess whose solemn asseveration brought Sama back to life and restored the eyesight of the parents.
The main incidents of the story can be followed in the painting. Commencing on the left, a king, surrounded by his retinue, can be seen shooting an arrow towards Sama, who holds a pitcher on his left shoulder. Immediately to the right is the figure of the penitent king. The third scene is in the hermitage, with the sorrowful figures of Sama's parents, feeling the wounded body of their son. Immediately to the right, Sama, restored to life, is addressing the king. Further right, one encounters again the king and Sama, the latter seated under a tree with a pair of deer gazing at him.
Next is depicted the leaf-cottage (parna-sala) of the hermits. To the right of the Sama Jataka is painted the Chhaddania jataka (no. 514) in a long horizontal frieze occupying the rest of the wall behind pillars 2 to 12. The story runs thus: Bodhisattva was born as Chhaddanta, a six-tusked royal elephant
, and lived near a lake in the Himalayas in the company of his two wives, Mahasubhadda and Chullasubhadda. Thinking that her co-wife was her husband's favourite, Chullasubhadda conceived a relentless grudge against her husband and pined herself to death praying, to be born in her next life as the queen of Varanasi so that she could retaliate on him. In fulfilment of her prayer she was born to become the favourite queen of the king of Varanasi. On the pretext of a feigned illness she induced the king to commission the hunter Sonuttara for bringing the tusks of Chhaddanta. The latter, though wounded by the arrow of the hunter, helped him in sawing off his own tusks. The queen, however, died out of remorse at the sight of the tusks. This painting has suffered much from vandalism. The story is not depicted in a strict chronological order; but the main incidents of the story - Chhaddanta's life in the Himalayas
, his favourite resort under the banyan tree, the lotus-lake, his presentation of a lotus to Mahasubhadda which enraged Chullasubhadda, Subhadda (queen of Varanasi) feigning illness and directing Sonuttara about the whereabouts of Chhaddanta, Sonuttara spying the elephant from the rocks, his sawing off the tusks and bringing them to the presence of Subhadda and the latter's swoon at the sight of the tusks - can easily be followed. The painting ends with a scene in which a royal couple, followed by maids, is approaching a chaitya-griha.
Like Ajanta Cave 9, the theme of the later paintings is mostly figures of Lord Buddha
. The cave contains the largest number of painted records. Slightly higher up, to the right of the modern flight leading from Ajanta Cave 10 to Ajanta Cave 11, is a recess, its back wall relieved with an image of Buddha in the bhadrasana
pose. On the right wall is depicted Avalo kitesvara approached by devotees in Eight Great Perils while on the left wall are several figures of Buddha and one of a female divinity, the latter standing in the samapada pose with the stalk of a damaged lotus in her left hand.