HYDERABAD: When the last Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan Bahadur, embarked on a project of recording the grandeur of Ajanta caves through photography and paintings, little did he know that the finished replicas, too, would face a similar danger of destruction like the originals.
Today, a part of the replicas displayed in the Ajanta Frescoes Gallery of the State Museum at Nampally looks as if someone had shot them with shotgun pellets. The holes are not only on the paintings, but also on the humongous wooden frames that hold it, indicating that something sharp pierced the nearly-100-year-old tokens of history.
For instance, a painting of a woman holding a mirror on her left hand, while two attendants hold a fly whisk and a tray of cosmetics, is in a precarious condition. The vertical frames are not even covered by glass and there are at least three holes on its lower reaches. One can see the wall behind from at least two.
The replicas gain importance as many of its originals in the Ajanta Caves do not even exist anymore, said Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) convenor Anuradha Reddy. Besides, these eye sketches of the paintings cannot be found anywhere.
Dismissing that it was 'not a serious damage', Assistant Director of the State Museum Ramulu Naik told Express, that the "The damage happened while shipping. However, we are planning to restore it and we have already signed an MoU with a Mumbai-based museum for the same."
These paintings have travelled a lot. "Earlier, during the Nizam times, all the paintings used to be housed in the Ajanta Pavilion (present day Health Museum). However, the paintings suddenly disappeared with the change in governments. For many years we didn't see them, " Anuradha Reddy said.
"However, they suddenly resurfaced during the tenure of the previous government, which decided to exhibit it in Nagarjunakonda Museum. So these were taken out and transported to the site when the museum wasn't even ready and they were kept in sheds. Some of them were damaged by water and termites. Out of those, some of them where pulled out and exhibited in the State Museum," she added.