In the Ajanta Caves near Aurangabad on the wall of the rear aisle to the side of the entrance to the Buddha shrine,there is a life-size painting of Bodhisattva Padmapani. When Prasad Pawar,a Pune-based artist and research photographer,visited the caves in 1989,he saw that a patch of painting was missing.
Though bowled over by the intricate ancient painting,its poor state bothered him. In a bid to digitally restore the dilapidated works in the caves,he approached the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The site is part of the World Heritage List and to get a nod to work on a project there took 18 years. He eventually got the permission in 2007. The process involved three stages: photograph documentation,colour correction and digital restoration. Till date,43-year-old Pawar has digitally restored around 14,000 sq inch of works in the caves. He is now showcasing his project through an exhibition at at Balgandharva Kaladalan till August 20.
In the last few years,the caves have become a second home for Pawar. He says the project starting with photographing the paintings and sculptures has not been easy one. The caves dont have enough lighting and flashlights cannot be used. I had to rely on fibre optic light. The paintings and Jataka stories that are on the higher side could not be photographed initially. So I had to make 22-ft-high tripod to click them, says Pawar. Colour correction of these snaps were much easier. Being a commercial artist,Pawar visualised how the art could have been,its colour pattern and so on. For instance,he colour-corrected and digitally restored the Sibi Jataka paintings that was almost 60 per cent destroyed.
The works are around 2,000 years old and have immense historical value. The project requires time and patience. Digital restoration of every sq inch takes anything between three hours to 11 hours, says Pawar. Pawars dedication to his work can be gauged from the fact that to get a shot of a Buddha sculpture in cave number 19,he observed it for a year. I wanted the lighting which could have added to the meditative pose of the sculpture. I was not getting it and so I observed it under different lightings at different hours for a perfect shot, says Pawar. A product of city-based art institute,Abhinav Kala Mahavidyalaya,his exhibition,Atta Deep Bhava,is inspired by Buddhas teaching Be thy own light. On display is 7 ft by 36 ft photograph of the site from cave number one to 28,spread across a kilometre.
Pawar claims the photograph is the largest photo ever clicked of Ajanta Caves. Interestingly,there are two farmers who have got associated with him to fund the project,namely Nilesh Botre and Ramesh Salve. I aim to take the project to 60 countries in future, says Pawar.