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In Conversation: Naomichi Yaguchi

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Interview conducted by Rakesh Kumar Singh in Pune on September 25, 2015

By Dr. Rajesh Kumar Singh


Rajesh Kumar Singh: I have with me Prof. N. Yaguchi of University of Kanazawa, Japan who has been working on the Ajanta caves since the last twenty-five years as far as I know. He is a professor of architecture in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences. We shall be discussing with him the various facets of the Ajanta caves mostly centred in the dimension of architecture. Professor, if I may begin, how did you start your studies on the Ajanta caves, and why Ajanta caves?



Naomichi Yaguchi: I came to India to study about Hoyasala temples many years ago, and I studied at Mysore University. My friend invited me to Walter’s seminar. So, I came there as an Indian student!


Dr. R. K. Singh

You mean, Walter M. Spink?


Prof. N. Yaguchi

Yes. Walter M. Spink sent me there.


R.K. Singh: Which was that year?


N. Yaguchi: That was 1992.


R.K. Singh: Please tell me: Which dimension of Ajanta appeals to you the most?


N. Yaguchi: I like to figure out, how they created the caves. Not only one cave, but caves. They are so complicated. Some caves are below the caves, some are above the caves. I like to figure out how they could make such kind of complicated caves.


R.K. Singh: But why Ajanta only?

N. Yaguchi: Ajanta is most complicated. I have been to Nasik, but only one case, i.e.  Caves 3 and 4. And, I have been to Ellora; no chance to get such kind of examples.


R.K. Singh: But Ellora is comparatively quite vast and perhaps more grandiose than Ajanta. So, why is it that Ellora did not invite your attention as much as Ajanta did?

N. Yaguchi: Ellora has enough space. They could excavate many places. But, Ajanta is quite limited. And, it has two phases, as you know: the first phase and second phase. In other words, Hinayana phase and Mahayana phase. I don’t like to use that name though. For example, Cave 11, which is in between caves 10 and 12, it is very complicated. One side, no cells; the right side has no cells because of Cave 10. And, that’s why they made porch cells. That is the starting point for the development of the Ajanta caves. That is my mind.


R.K. Singh: Are you saying that Cave 11 is the starting point of the second phase?

N. Yaguchi: Porch cells.


R.K. Singh: Of the Porch cells? And not of Cave 25, left side?

N. Yaguchi: No, no. That is the last moment.


R.K. Singh: Well, Sir, in view of our audience, I shall deliberately avoid going into extreme details, and ask you rather general questions that comes in the minds of the most people, which is based on just now what you said that there are two phases of Ajanta. Please tell me: What are these two phases? And, what is the period of these two phases?


N. Yaguchi: Everybody knows. The first phase is, we do not know the exact date. But, it must be the first century BC to first century AD. And, the second phase must be the latter half of the fifth century AD. That I am sure; not from the fifth century to seventh century, like that. They did it in the fifth century only. I can give you a lot of evidence in that way, but I don’t like to give you now. It’s very specific.


R.K. Singh: Before going to the second phase of Ajanta, I shall like to have your attention, very briefly, on the first phase of Ajanta. And, you have just now said, it belongs to the first century BC to first century AD.


N. Yaguchi: Because we don't have any evidence of that time. We know only that it is done by the Satavahanas.


R.K. Singh: Are they done by the Satavahanas?

N. Yaguchi: I believe so. Don't ask me about that kind of things, because I am not a specialist of the inscriptions and epigraphy.


R.K. Singh: Perhaps you imply that it was done during the Satavahana period, and not necessarily you imply that Satavahana kings had a direct patronage activity at Ajanta. Right? I think, that is what you mean. Right?

N. Yaguchi: Yes.


R.K. Singh: Okay, I take it that way. Now, would you throw some light on why this particular location was selected in the first century BC?

N. Yaguchi: Don't you think it’s a wonderful site? Ajanta is a kind of miracle made by the nature. The shape of the horse shoe... and Cave 10 is at the centre. It’s the best position, and four km from the main road. So, it is quite easy to get food from there. So I think it’s the best position to live for the monks. That is my idea. After 400 or 500 years, other people came in the Vakataka times. So, they found some ancient caves. So, that is why, I think, they made, they created many caves around caves 10, 9, 12, and 13.


R.K. Singh: So, what was happening during those 400 or 500 years that you said?

N. Yaguchi: I don't know. It is your problem. It's not my problem. And, usually professor says, during the first and the second phase they stopped the excavation. I don't know the reason.


R.K. Singh: Was the worship activity going on during that period in Cave No. 9 and 10?

N. Yaguchi: I don't think so.


R.K. Singh: You think, the site was dead?

N. Yaguchi: Yes.


R.K. Singh: And, then in the fifth century AD, would anyone go to a dead site to make new temples?

N. Yaguchi: Yes! Because I cannot find any trace of worship for 400 years or 500 years in the ancient time. Even in the fifth-century monuments, some of them were worshipped, and some of them not worshipped. No trace of worship. How do you explain? So, the worship is not very much necessary for the caves.


R.K. Singh: Please tell me why was it dead for the four or five centuries?

N. Yaguchi: I said, I don't know the reason. May be it’s abandoned. Some of the reasons, people left from the site, or war came; I don't know.


R.K. Singh: Many other western Indian cave sites tell us that…  there are some kind of activities that definitely went on up to, let us say,  the second century AD, in Kanheri, or Kondane, or Nasik, or Junnar….

N. Yaguchi:...Konkan


R.K. Singh: Yes, in many areas. So, in your view, would you say that these earlier caves — Cave No. 9 and 10—they also were in use up to, let us say, at least, till the second century AD, or so?

N. Yaguchi: Maybe. But there is no trace there.


R.K. Singh: No trace there, it’s very difficult to say. Cave No. 10 says that it was made by one Vasithiputra.

N. Yaguchi: Ok.


R.K. Singh: The son of Vasithi. A person of the same name or the same appellation Vasithiputra is also there in Sanchi, in Sanchi east gateway. Would you say that this Vasithiputa and the Sanchi Vasithiputa was the same person, or they were different persons?

N. Yaguchi: I have no idea. I can tell from the architecture point of view. I am not very good at epigraphy and such kind of things. So, I cannot tell anything, now.


R.K. Singh: Architecturally, would you say, are you in the position to say, in relation to, like Caves No. 9 and 10, which is earlier and which is later?

N. Yaguchi: Maybe 9 is earlier.


R.K. Singh: And why so?

N. Yaguchi: The shape of Cave 9 is quite primitive. Cave 10 is much improved. It’s my idea.


R.K. Singh: I like now to rather quickly move on to the fifth-century phase.

N. YaguchiOk.


R.K. Singh: What is your opinion about the period of the fifth-century development?

N. Yaguchi: That may be late half of the fifth century. I mean, 460s, 470s, and 480s.


R.K. Singh: And eighties also?

N. Yaguchi: No. Eighties means... Yes.


R.K. Singh: Eighties would mean ten years. That would make…

N. Yaguchi: No, no. I would say 462 to 480, according to Prof. Spink.


R.K. Singh: And you agree to that dating?

N. Yaguchi: I have no evidence against him; and I have special evidence why they made at once. I worked on the doorways. Can I, can I talk…?


R.K. Singh: Yes! Yes, this is very important.

N. Yaguchi: I worked on doorways of the caves’ cells, and usually the professor says: it started from Cave 9, 10, 12. That is for the Hinayana phase. And, after that they started from Cave 11.  And from 11, they spread to other caves… at the site. Everybody understands that order. But I can find exactly what Prof. Spink finds; the same type of doorway in caves 17, 16, 2, 1, and 26. And, they changed their mode in different ways. So, I feel someone started the good doorway mode at some time. Then, you know, Ajanta is very close. So, many caves are very close, and workers were doing their job every day, and looking at neighbours. So, they are looking at what they are doing in neighbourhood. So, they find some new idea. So, they will adapt new ideas to their caves. So, I feel, if the age is different completely, from fifth century to sixth century or seventh century, or like that, the door type might be quite different. But, in one cave, we can find a lot of types of doorways:  in caves 16, 17, like that. So, I think that is a strong proof. They made caves at once. And, you know, Cave 1 or 2 were thought as very new, seventh century, or like that. But, the same doorway is found in Cave 17 or 16. And, I can tell you one thing and, that is, in the fifth cell from the front on the right side of Cave 1, we have two holes there to hang the door. Two holes! Both are used; you know that. So, that is quite clear evidence they changed their way of doorway at the same timing, in the fifth century.  They would never change from fifth century to seventh century. I think, you can get my point.


R.K. Singh: Yes. Your detailed study, microscopic as it is, has never been undertaken so far in the two centuries of the Ajanta studies, Prof. Yaguchi, and there is a slight scope that many of the audience listening to this or attending to this video may not be able to understand what doorways we are talking about, and what is so important about these doorways. Therefore, first of all, it will be very nice if you could explain to me what are these different door modes? And, why we must talk about this in a discussion on Ajanta?

N. Yaguchi: Historians or art historians usually say about styles of the paintings or sculptures. But, the style of paintings or sculptures might be for the difference of the cultures or guilds.  But, the technology of the doorway is simply the technology, nothing more than that. If you find new technology, why I should not take the same technology. You are copying Japanese car; Japanese car is copying from American car; we just copied; then, improved. So, doorway is also a copy. If someone finds a new way, we can go for new one. That’s much fine, and much comfortable, but design is different. One can say, the hand is different; but one can say, the time is different. But I like to adopt: the hand is different. That is my opinion.


R.K. Singh: How many types of door modes are there?

N. Yaguchi: I would say: five.


R.K. Singh: And what are these?

N. Yaguchi: It is very difficult to explain.


R.K. Singh: What is so special in the first, and the second, and the third, and the fourth, and the fifth? Can you briefly explain?

N. Yaguchi: The first one is the A mode, we call. The A mode is, they didn't prompt to make a door. Simply: make the doorway. Then, the second one is: make the projection at the top, and not on the floor. So, they made a hole at the bottom and a projection at the top. They needed to open the door from the floor. The next one is the C mode. They made the projection at the floor also; so, it's very smooth. And, the next one is the D mode. They put recesses in the wall. From the A mode to the C mode, the wall is very thin. But, when they started to make the D mode, the wall became quite thick. Then, they can close the door. After closing the door, the room is very… So, that is much comfortable. So they are converting from the A mode to the D mode, from B to D, C to D. So, at last, the D mode is everywhere at Ajanta. And, the E mode is next. When they could not make the D mode, they break the wall, put a wooden piece, and try to make the D mode. That is the E mode, we call.


R.K. Singh: So, in you understanding, this technological development of the door fittings from the A mode to D mode is a definite proof of how the development of Ajanta happened from phase to phase. I have... (interrupted)

N. Yaguchi: That is one proof.


R.K. Singh: One of the proofs it is. So, it is important to underline in this discussion that it is entirely a new chapter added to the Ajanta studies, which gives us a very reliable indication of how the caves developed. How synchronically they developed, and also how technologically they developed. But, it also throws a question as to… what about earlier monasteries at other sites where we have such viharas and they have cells, and did they not have any such kind of door fitting arrangements?

N. Yaguchi: We have the B mode and C mode at the caves at Ajanta 12 and 13.


R.K. Singh: And they were added in the earlier phase or the later phase?

N. Yaguchi: Earlier phase only.


R.K. Singh: In the earlier phase itself?

N. Yaguchi: First, the later phase people did not want to make door, I think.


R.K. Singh: Initially?

N. Yaguchi: First of all. Then they went to caves 12 or 13; they find the trace of door. So, they realized: Oh, they made a door! So, they introduced. It is very close to 16 and 17. In 13, there are two holes: at the top and the bottom. So, they re-made the door; they fitted again. So, they are very, you know, conscious about the door. That is nothing here, now-a-days. Painting is much better, or sculpture is much more important. But they were very keen about the door! It’s nothing now, but it’s very important! You understand? No one pays attention. But, it’s very important.


R.K. Singh: What about the shrine doorways? Do we find any uniqueness about shrine doorways as different from the cell doorways?

N. Yaguchi: Yes. Have you been to cave 11? Still we have the wooden door fitting at the bottom. And, in Cave Lower 6, we can find the carving, means the sculpture there at the bottom; it is still intact. So, better to go and check it. It’s there!


R.K. Singh: How many shrines had the doors actually fitted into them?

N. Yaguchi: I cannot count it now.


R.K. Singh: Any, any… 16 definitely had, 11 had…

N. Yaguchi: 16 is very peculiar. It has no antechamber.


R.K. Singh: No antechamber. Why does it not have an antechamber? I want to know this. Why is there no antechamber in 16?

N. Yaguchi: It was planned as a cell. Then, it was converted to stupa. Then, they changed to the Buddha image.


R.K. Singh: What is the proof that it was planned earlier as a cell?

N. Yaguchi: Now it is the pradakshina-patha. Have you been to there? There is one small projection. That is the proof of the cell. The height of the cell is cut. Then, I am sure, it is going to be the cell. Then they changed their mind to make it a pradakshina-patha. And, that is the only  cave with the pillars and pilasters having the doors. And, they made the traces on the floor to make it move clearly. So, they changed their mind to make shrine from the cells.


R.K. Singh: And when do you think they made this change?

N. Yaguchi: I don't know. After sometime, but during the Ajanta excavation. All the caves, you know, are getting information from each other, and they changed their minds every day. So, 16 also—Varahadeva's cave—also changed the mind to get the Buddha image.


R.K. Singh: Why is this Buddha image in pralamba-padasana or bhadrasana?

N. Yaguchi: Because the image, I mean, the idea came very late, I believe.


R.K. Singh: In many other shrines, we do not have pralamba-padasana or bhadrasana; we have padmasana. Why pralamba-padasana? And, if you say it is very late, then why do the pillars not have carvings as beautiful as Cave No. 1 and 2?

N. Yaguchi: We have carvings in Cave 16, in the front aisle.


R.K. Singh: I am talking about the pillars.

N. Yaguchi: They planned to do all the caves like that. They abandoned; they gave up. You know, paintings are also not completed in Cave 16.


R.K. Singh: Why not?

Prof. N. Yaguchi: The work suddenly stopped. They abandoned it.



R.K. Singh: Why did they abandon it?

N. Yaguchi: May be because of war.


R.K. Singh: What kind of war?

N. Yaguchi: I don't know, but Prof. Spink says, the conflict between Ashmaka and Rishikha. And, Vakataka also joined in that conflict. So, they could not keep the creation at Ajanta. I learned like that, and I didn't research about that. Because it is not my field.


R.K. Singh: Natural curiosity will arise in many people: if there is a war between two kingdoms or two provinces, the Rishika and Ashmaka, why should a temple be affected by it?


N. Yaguchi: I think it’s natural. Suppose, you are making the caves, and I am fighting with other people. And, I am the owner or supporter to give you money. I am busy, how can I give you money? And your place is very dangerous in between two enemies. I think that would be the reason.


R.K. Singh: I could understand the fact that at least with regard to Cave 16 when the donor is Varahadeva, the supposed Sachiva or the chief secretary or the prime minister of the Vakataka empire, and when the conflict breaks out, then he has other priorities to address. But I am intrigued why the same situation is found in many other caves. The same situation that is the brief halt of the work, and then the resumption of the work again. Why it happens in other caves? For example, Mathura, why should Mathura be affected in Cave No. 4?


N. Yaguchi: All over the site at Ajanta, you know, the site was dangerous because of the war. No water, no food, no money. So, they escaped, simply, from the site. And it’s not my profession, but you know, lapis lazuli, the blue colour in painting, is very expensive at the first time.  But at the last moment, in Cave 26 or cave upper 6, lavishly they are using blue colour; even in cave 20 also. So, why they could use that kind of blue colour in those caves? Because, I think—it’s my idea—the price of blue colour, I mean, lapis lazuli is getting down. No one used lapis lazuli at the time. So, it was very cheap; so, they bought it, and painted for only their images. At that time, the owner of the cave or sangha might be out of the site. So, only the people who wanted to make the [intrusive] images came in, and painted. You may have another...


R.K. Singh: No! It’s very, very, legitimate, and very, very, reasonable, and it is perfectly understandable; it is quite possible that it was so. But in your discussion you made a mention of the sangha. Do you think there was a sangha at the site?


N. Yaguchi: Maybe, maybe, sangha was there.


R.K. Singh: Now, I shall invite your attention to Harishena, whose name is found in at least three inscriptions, and he has been eulogised, praised, and compared with Indra, Krishna, Pradyumna, and Balarama, and things like that.


N. Yaguchi: He must be a Hindu, not a Buddhist.


R.K. Singh: And, if he was a Hindu, why should his name be mentioned and praised in a Buddhist monastic establishment?

N. Yaguchi: Because he paid the money.


R.K. Singh: Did he pay the money? Is there any proof or evidence?

N. Yaguchi: I don't know. I suppose he paid money, so his name is in the inscription. Otherwise, he was the king of the empire. So, his name must be there.


R.K. Singh: But those long inscriptions where his name is mentioned do not say at all that he is involved in the establishment.

N. Yaguchi: It is your field, not my field; please.


R.K. Singh: All right. Let’s come to a little bit of the things of architecture. So much of the front part of the caves have been collapsed. We have a very difficult time trying to figure out how the caves must have looked in the times of the fifth century AD. Do you have any idea of reconstruction, how they must have resembled: the facades, the front areas, the frontcourts, the courtyards?

N. Yaguchi: We can go for old photographs. We can reconstruct little bit more. We can find fallen pillars in front of Cave 1 as well as caves 21, 23, and 26. Then, still we can find the traces from the river bed to the caves that directly go there. I can find in front of 26 that there must be the steps. And from 26, it’s connected to 24. And, in front of 19, that must be the steps. We have the Yaksha images there. And 17: we have a hole in front. And 16: the famous elephant gate.  And now the 9 or 10…


R.K. Singh: 6 and 7.

N. Yaguchi: We have a big bridge, according to prof. Spink, that place might be the entrance for 9, or 10, or 12, like that. Then, caves 7 and 6 use the entrance, I think. And, maybe 4 or 1 have the same entrances from the river bed. But we don’t have any trace from cave 4 to 1. But I am sure, all of the caves had the original entrances from the river bed only. Not like contemporary, I mean, the ASI…


R.K. Singh: … the lateral path from Cave 1 to 26 connecting each other; it was not the original way. But please tell me with respect to Cave 4,did Cave 4 had its own frontal entrance coming from the river bed?

N. YaguchiMaybe shared with Cave 7. I am not sure, because no trace.


R.K. Singh: Please tell me why is Cave 6 connected to Cave 7?

N. Yaguchi: Well, Cave 6 has two storeys, as you know. Lower 6 started first, and upper 6 is later. Lower 6: one side is cistern; the right side is cistern to keep water, and the left side has the doorway to Cave 7. It’s original.


R.K. Singh: Why is the doorway so strange, because we do not see anywhere? Why was that doorway necessary at the left end of the porch of lower 6?

N. Yaguchi: You know, after some years, they start to make a porch-end cell. Then, they make double porch-end cells. In the first moment, they do not plan to make the porch-end cell. Then, I believe, they used the porch-end to access to the next end. Then — it’s my idea — but they are approaching from the old doorway, old way from the riverbed to the so called Hinayana caves. Then, they made good approach to Cave 6.


Cave 4 or 2 or 1 is very highly placed.  Why is it very high? Because the rock is not very good in the lower portion. So, they should make in the upper portion. You know, near the Cave 10 is a good place to make caves, but people rushed to come to make caves, and after that they could not find the better place. So they pushed out: like Cave 2 or Cave 1. So, after that they had much problem there. They could not make lower place. They could not find better rock formation in lower place, very close to the river bed. So, they had to climb up and find the best place. But…


R.K. Singh: Ok. Can I divert your attention to something else, which is also very important for me to know and many people would like to know. In the fifth century, when they began work on Ajanta which was the first temple they began work on.

N. Yaguchi: I don't know. May be 11?


R.K. Singh: Cave 11 was begun as dormitory. My question is: which is the temple, the first temple they began.

N. Yaguchi: Must be... no, no… maybe 19, and 26 also.


R.K. Singh: Please tell me when the monks, when the planners are beginning the second phase, the fifth-century phase, why would they first begin the work on a dormitory rather than begin the work first on a temple?

N. Yaguchi: Come on. Don't be silly. Cave number 10 is there! Good temple! Good chaitya is there! Why you should make another temple?


R.K. Singh: So, you would say that Cave 11 began as a dormitory, and it was a structural and functional adjunct to Caves 9 and 10?


N. Yaguchi: No, no. I am not very sure. It’s only my opinion. The owner started as a dormitory. And, after that he changed his mind, or someone changed the mind to make a shrine. I think, you have a lot of evidence; they changed from dormitory to Buddha shrine. Apparently, they changed. And they abandoned on the right side of the cells, I think.


R.K. Singh: Yes, quite convincing evidences is there. Prof. Spink has mentioned some of them, and we have also studied a few of them. But I would like to go to some larger questions than the finer questions, because we have a limited time. That is: when we begin a new project on a site, which you say was dead, and when we are beginning the first edifice, why should it be a dormitory, and why should it not be a temple? Because Cave No. 9 and 10 were dead, as you have said earlier. Why should the first excavation, if it was cave 11, be a dormitory, begin as a dormitory? What is the priority? Is the dormitory the first priority or was the temple the first priority, which was going to be 19 and 26?

N. YaguchiYou know Cave 9 is repainted.


R.K. Singh: It was repainted, but going by your earlier... (interrupted)

N. Yaguchi: Cave 10 was also repainted.


R.K. Singh: It was repainted, but if we conclude that the site was dead, then our first edifice 11 cannot begin as a dormitory.

N. Yaguchi: Why?


R.K. Singh: Because 9 and 10 are dead temples. Worship is not happening. It is full of overgrowth.

N. Yaguchi: If worship is not continuing…


R.K. Singh: Assuming that they were dead.

N. Yaguchi: Dead means not using it for a long time.


R.K. Singh: Yes, that’s what I mean. If Cave number 9 and 10…

N. Yaguchi: I am saying… Cave 10 is repainted. Cave 9 is also repainted.


R.K. Singh: Much later. Not in the beginning year. Let us say in Prof. Spink’s terms, let us picture 462 AD. Alright?  And, if Cave 11 was the first edifice to begin… (interrupted)


N. Yaguchi: One of the first.


R.K. Singh: One of the first? Not the first?

N. Yaguchi: I don't know, which the first is; but one of the firsts, I think, because the technology of Cave 11 is much low.


R.K. Singh: Alright, now let us come to this question…

N. Yaguchi: Ok. Let me finish. You said: why the fifth century people wanted the vihara first. That is your question…


R.K. Singh: Well, vihara, the term I don't personally like. But it is ok for the sake of convenience…

N. Yaguchi: Dormitory, or whatever.


R.K. Singh: In English, dormitory we can say.

N. Yaguchi: But Cave 10 was not used. Cave 9 was not used.  But, they were alive.


R.K. Singh: They were not dead?

N. Yaguchi: Dead means: no worship. You know they are repainted.


R.K. Singh: Yes, for two hundred years… (interrupted)

N. Yaguchi: Afterwards... afterwards... but they tried to live at Ajanta. They selected Ajanta. That means Ajanta was alive.


R.K. Singh: It was alive!

N. Yaguchi: For three or four hundred years. Ajanta was not used, but it was alive.


R.K. Singh: Absolutely, sir! Yes, sir, because the trade people, the highway people have been going. They would come to the waterfall for water.

N. Yaguchi: That was my point. It was not worshipped; it was not worshipped, but I think, people kept coming.


R.K. Singh: Please tell me now about Cave No. 19 and 26. These two are so beautiful cave temples. Why are they so different from other temples of the same fifth-century period? They have vaulted roof. These are temples with the Buddha inside. But they have vaulted roof, an apsidal plan, with a colonnade going like that, with a nave, and a chaitya arch. Whereas other temples—like Cave 16 and 17, and 1, and 2, and 4, and 21, and 23, and 24, etc. are also temples with the Buddha shrines, or expected or planned Buddha shrines—they do not have a stupa; they do not have vaulted ceilings; they have flat ceilings with cells. Why do we see this distinction between two kinds of temples in the fifth-century phase?

N. Yaguchi: Come on. The aim of excavation is different. For example, Cave 26 is not existing only as Cave 26; Cave 26 is the complex; it’s Cave 25, 27, and left wing, and right wing. The chaitya hall has four caves, four viharas. And, I think, you know the existence of Cave 28. Cave 26 is planned by Ashmakas, as you know. And, the Ashmakas wanted to make a big complex: 28, may be 29 is there; so, 30, 31, like that. They liked to make other three viharas, going to the waterfall. So, 26 might be the centre of Ajanta. They are planning to do so.


R.K. Singh: What is the indication that they were making any such plan?

N. Yaguchi: 28! They are making the next cave there! They are not starting only from 26. They made 21, 23, and 24, and three caves more to the other side. It is possible. So, if they made three caves more, it must be the centre of Ajanta, not Cave 10.


R.K. Singh: If that is so who could be the patron of Cave 29?

N. Yaguchi: 29? Cave 29 must be Rishika’s.


R.K. Singh: Why should it be located at that height, in that inconvenient place?

N. Yaguchi: Because of rock, rock formation. And, Rishik’s place is limited. All occupied by Ashmakas, in western side.


R.K. Singh: But these Rishikas, they have already created Cave 19 gandhakuti. Why make another gandhakuti, Cave 29?

N. Yaguchi: It’s my opinion: 19 is aiming to winter solstice; 29 is aimed to summer solstice. That is my opinion, maybe different from you. So, if they make two chaityas it will be perfect.  Ashmakas could make only one for summer solstice. But Rishika could make two chaityas: for summer solstice and winter solstice.


R.K. Singh: What is the evidence for us to enable to call it the Ashmaka caves, because Buddhabhadra says that he is thankful to Bhavviraja from the Ashmaka country, etc. That does not mean that the Ashmakas came and excavated these caves.

N. Yaguchi: But the Ashmakas supported Budhabhadra. That is enough for me.


R.K. Singh: He is simply thankful to somebody in the Ashmaka country. That does not mean that those people necessarily came here to make these temples. That is not what the inscription says. The inscription is very clear. It leaves no doubt. It leaves nothing to suspicion, and nothing to imagination. If they had indeed come, and made any direct donation, the inscription would have said it. The inscription is simply saying that I am thankful to so and so, Bhavviraja, and the minister of the Ashmakaraja. It gives no indication that the Ashmakaraja or his minister was himself involved at Ajanta.

N. Yaguchi: I think, we are good friends, and you are publishing that book, and if I pay some money, you are going to mention my name or not?


R.K. Singh: Surely! But in that case I will make a point to state that Yaguchi has funded the project, especially when I am clear about many other things in my inscription. I will not leave room for suspicion on this.

N. Yaguchi: The place is limited. May be the Ashmaka king did not want.


R.K. Singh: The thing is that Buddhabhadra ‘thanks Dharmadatta and Bhadrabandhu for having seen to the excavation of the temple’. He definitely had the time and place, and the intention or intent to thank the people if they had funded the project.

N. Yaguchi: Go back to the publication. I gave you money, but I don’t want my name on your book, because I don't agree to your conclusion.


R.K. Singh: It is a possible interpretation, but would it be evidence to say that the Ashmakas indeed funded?

N. Yaguchi: It’s not very clear, but I believe that the Ashmakas supported Cave 26.


R.K. Singh: And, what is the evidence that the Rishikas were involved?

N. Yaguchi: I don’t know. It is your problem; it’s not mine. I would like to point out one thing. Ashmaka is very close to Aurangabad caves. And, we can find Tara image at Aurangabad. Many. But we can find Tara in Cave 26 and 10A at Ajanta too. And what I want to say is: you are saying Hinayana, Mahayana, about Ajanta. But Vajrayana is also there. So, Tara image started from Ajanta, and not Aurangabad or Ellora.


R.K. Singh: Is it the first case of Tara in Ajanta?

N. Yaguchi: I believe so.  I know only two images at Ajanta: 10A and 26.


R.K. Singh: And, before Ajanta, before these two examples, do we find Tara anywhere?

N. Yaguchi: Come on. It is impossible. Buddha image also started from Ajanta; I mean, Bodhisatva and Avalokiteshvara image.


R.K. Singh: Avalokiteshvara is found earlier also. It is much earlier to Ajanta.

N. Yaguchi: Ok. Sorry. It’s lack of my knowledge. But many of the images started from Ajanta. Tara also started from Ajanta.


R.K. Singh: Prof. Yaguchi, after the end of this beautiful discussion, I would like to know where you are at the stage of research, and what is your future plan; how long do you wish to keep engaged with Ajanta?

N. Yaguchi: Well, as long as possible. Now, I have some injury here; so I faced some problem. But, with the help of my assistants and friends, I am fine now. I like to continue my work as long as possible.


R.K. Singh: I thank you for your time and sharing your knowledge, and wish you all the best for your future research and success. Please keep sharing your knowledge.

N. Yaguchi: Thanks.


Naomichi Yaguchi is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Human Sciences, Kanazawa University, Japan. He specializes in the field of cave architecture and has been studying the western Indian Buddhist caves for the past 20 years.