After July landslide, Indian heritage monuments may be at risk


After the massive landslide in July that wiped out an entire village in the Indian state of Maharashtra, a report prepared by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) warns of landslide threats to the nearby Ajanta Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After July landslide, Indian heritage monuments may be at risk
Reclining Buddha, Ajanta Cave No. 26 [Credit: Nandanupadhyay/WikiCommons]

The caves at Ajanta contain exquisite mural paintings and sculpture dating back to the second century BC, and attract nearly 500,000 tourists every year, making it one of India’s most popular tourist destinations.

The report, that was prepared in 2011, mentions how the hills within which the caves are situated are weak and contain several loose boulders, due to exposure to nature’s elements. Thirty spots in the area have been identified that stand directly above 29 caves of the whole complex, where huge rocks are balanced precariously, and could tumble due to even minor disturbances.

The recent landslide that claimed over 150 lives took place along the same mountain section of the Ajanta Caves. Incessant rains and deforestation in the mountainous area triggered a collapse of one side of a hill, at the foot of which stood a village. A cascade of mud and trees swallowed almost the entire village, leaving few survivors.

The Ajanta Caves, along with the nearby Ellora Caves and Elephanta Caves near Mumbai, are considered among India’s finest “cave temples.” Ajanta’s remarkable cave paintings were prepared by monks upon a screen of clay, cow dung, chopped rice husks, and lime spread onto the rough rock walls. The monks used natural local pigments for paint, including red ocher, burnt brick, copper oxide, lampblack, and crushed green rocks.

Author: Sravanth Verma | Source: Digital Journal [August 24, 2014]