The Ajanta Caves, a Unesco world heritage site, is located 5km northeast of Aurangabad in Maharashtra.(HT file photo)
The Ajanta Caves, a Unesco world heritage site, is located 5km northeast of Aurangabad in Maharashtra.(HT file photo)

Ajanta cave images, Bhagwad Gita deposited at eternal Arctic archive

The Arctic World Archive, the unique repository for the benefit of future generations, was opened in 2017.
By Prasun Sonwalkar | Hindustan Times, London
UPDATED ON OCT 21, 2020 08:50 PM IST

High-resolution images of the iconic Ajanta caves and the Bhagwad Gita on Wednesday joined in a unique archive deep inside a decommissioned coal mine in the remote arctic island of Svalbard in Norway, where items of world memory are stored to last nearly 1,000 years.

The Arctic World Archive, the unique repository for the benefit of future generations, was opened in 2017. Several governments have since deposited items there for long-term storage in a facility designed to withstand natural and man-made disasters.

Supported by India’s ministry of culture, the Ajanta images and a paper on the caves, titled ‘Revelation of Ajanta Caves’ by noted photographer Benoy K Behl, were deposited by a group that included representatives of the National Museum of Norway, Unicef Norway, the Norwegian Defence Museum and Mjøndalen Sports Association.

The Bhagwad Gita was deposited in the archive in February 2018, a spokesperson of Norwegian data-storage company Piql AS that created the archive with the National Museum of Norway said. The Ajanta items were deposited by Indian data enterprise Sapio Analytics, which has been working with various ministries on the project.

Ashwin Srivastava of Sapio Analytics said: “This deposit is the initiation of deposits of digitised and restored murals of Ajanta Caves. We are starting off with one of Benoy Behl’s masterpiece photographs of Ajanta paintings, widely regarded to be the best ever art by any human being. We also have a few other restored works and papers in this deposit. This marks the start of preserving the gateway of culture of Asia for eternity.”

Behl added: “The murals of India have been established as one of the greatest and most sublime traditions of the art of the world. The murals on Ajanta Caves are one of the greatest art created ever in the history of humankind.”

“This is India’s deepest cultural connection to all the countries of Asia. The paintings of Ajanta are recognised and deeply revered by art historians and Buddhist priests. I am proud to see my work on Ajanta Caves getting saved.”

The Ajanta items were the first deposit in the archive from any Unesco heritage site, and among several others deposited on Wednesday. Since the Ajanta paintings cannot be photographed with lights, a special low-light photographic technique was used. Deep learning artificial intelligence was also applied, with inputs from historians, to restore broken images.

Rune Bjerkestrand of Piql said at the event: “The data you have deposited today (physically or virtually) contributes to richer picture of our era for the generations to come”.

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