Ellora moved away gradually from Ajanta stylisti­cally evolving its own idiom which the Art Historians call medieval. It is different from the ‘classical’ Ajanta, Badami, Bagh, etc., in the sense that the plastic quality of the colours and lines is thin, the smooth curves of the limbs are replaced by acute angles, and the figures have wide open eyes and curved lower lips.

But these are not the only features that “medieval” Ellora evolved. As they moved away from the “classical” Ajanta, Bagh and Badami, the Ellora painters developed pictorial principles of their own to suit their requirements. One of this is the Ajantaesque law of forthcoming.

“It seems while the direction of the forms in Ajanta is from depth to surface, here in Ellora that is from one side to another; and this is manifested particularly in the treatment of the clouds. Almost all the painted panels of the ceilings of the Kailasa, Lankesvara, Ganesa Lena and Indrasabha are replete with clouds.

Variedly conglobated, these clouds appear to support the flying figures as well as provide them a cloud sphere. As the clouds are found to be adjusted to the straight lines of the frames, much of the compositional arrangements of panels depended on them” (Asok K. Bhattacharya, A Comprehensive History of India).


In view of this, the figures in the panel are meant for flying; their bodies are slender, their legs are weak. But their shoulders are strong like the flying figures in the Kiratarjun panel at Mahabalipuram. It would appear that while evolving their own principles, the Ellora painters were aware of (and borrowed from) the ideals of figure representation of the Pallava South.

The oldest Tamil literature, the Sangama litera­ture contains perhaps the earliest reference to painting and there are frequent references also in the Tamil classics.

Earliest of the extant paintings in Tamil Land date back to the seventh century. Traces of colours and lines have been noticed in the cave temples of Mahendravarman I and these can still be seen at Mamandur. In the structural temples at Panamalai and Kanchipuram, constructed during the reign of the Pallava Rajasimha towards the close of the seventh century, there are paintings mercifully well- preserved.

Initially, Sittanavasal paintings were regarded dating from the seventh century, but a recently discovered inscription assigns the paintings (except those in the ceilings) to the ninth century. It is further corroborated by the stylistic features displayed in those paintings.


Further south, remnants of paintings datable to the ninth century have been found in the rock-cut temple of Tirunandikkara, Kerala. It seems the inside hall of the shrine once contained extensive paintings.