Tapping Heritage Economy

Sudhansu R Das
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Clean hotels and good service will boost tourism scope.
Clean hotels and good service will boost tourism scope.

Such wonders can never be created by human hands again — thirty magnificent caves of 70 ft height chiselled out of a single granite rock from the surrounding 76-m high hills, between 2nd century BC and 6th century AD leave modern scientists clueless.

Western researchers linked the achievement to the extra-terrestrial, citing the half-human, half-animal, shapes on the walls of Ajanta as the evidence.

The caves were not known to the outside world until John Smith, a British Army officer, discovered them while hunting. Resembling a horse shoe, the caves are juxtaposed in such a manner that the sunlight directly falls on Buddha’s face in the Stupas at cave No 19 and 26.

Art that inspires

Traces of steps from each cave descending to the Waghora stream below are visible. The stream was once fed with the waterfalls from the surrounding hills. The bewitching natural environment formed the backdrop for Buddhist monks to pursue both art and spiritualism. When the highest form of spiritual pursuit is abandoned, the art still survives to inspire a wide range of business activities.

Artists, sculptors, jewellery makers, models and fashion designers closely study the paintings on the walls and roofs and recreate them on different surfaces. Modern jewellery makers find a treasure trove of jewellery designs in the caves. The ornaments worn by Padamapani and Vajrapani in cave No.1 are examples of superb craftsmanship.

Kings, queens, courtiers, warriors, dancers and the common man wear different types of jewellry and attire as per their status. Ajanta motifs delicately woven with gold and silver wires on Paithani sarees and Himroo shawls of Aurangabad or inlaid on wood and metal surfaces are the most sought after objects in global craft bazaars.

The geometric shapes, floral patterns, different haircuts, dresses and even the sitting postures of ladies are closely imitated by models and designers.

Untapped tourism potential

Priceless paintings defaced by tourists and kept under glass cover are proof of our tourists’ negative mindset. Although the Ajanta caves widen the business scope for the travel and hospitality sector, the potential is overlooked in Aurangabad city. Clean, economy-class hotels, restaurants serving hygienic food and improvement in services could redouble tourism scope here.

(The author is a Hyderabad-based freelancer)

(This article was published on September 13, 2012)
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