Prasad Pawar is an artist-sculptor and research photographer with a global recognition for his dedicated work in the research, documentation and digital restoration of paintings at the 2000-year-old Ajanta-Ellora Caves in Maharashtra. Indus Scrolls interviews the ‘man on a mission’
What inspired you to start this 27-year-long research?
In 1989, when I was studying at the College of Arts, paintings from Ajanta were taught to us as part of our curriculum. It was then that I realised that a large portion of the rare and ancient paintings was already lost. This thought left me dejected. Actually, paintings are a medium of communication but when I visited the Ajanta Caves I was left speechless and the next thought that struck me was will the paintings survive the next generation. It was then that I decided to research and document them.
What kind of research has gone into this project?
Thousands of hours were spent on research. I travelled over 35,000km on Indian roads through Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala and so on. I studied the paintings and sculptures of Indian history and consulted 200 experts worldwide with an aim to save and preserve the Ajanta paintings. The world requires peace today. This sermon of peace was delivered to the world about 2300 years ago by Lord Buddha on the soil of India. I think no Indian can sit idle when Ajanta is fading.
Can you elaborate on the initiative on Prasad Pawar Foundation?
Currently, I am working on the digital restoration of paintings at the Ajanta caves. For this, I have developed a 22-feet high tripod for accurate photographic images. For the restoration programme, we visited 200 caves, from Bhimbetka to Bedsa and did an in-depth study of the Ajanta times. We spent more than 5000 hours photographing and researching the ancient Indian art and their lifestyle. So far, we have achieved 14,000 square inches of digital restoration. And 2,23,200 square inches work of digital restoration is in progress.
Prasad Pawar Foundation has also hosted exhibitions of the restored paintings in more than five cities in India and interacted with 1,90,225 Indians to spread awareness about the masterpiece references to Indian lifestyle, jewellery, hairstyles, and fashion styles of ancient times. I also aim to spread the message of ‘living in peace’ that was given by Lord Buddha. The foundation wants to help people communicate about the Jataka tales that are carved in these caves. Photography is the medium which can communicate to every individual, no matter whether he/she can speak or not. Even if an individual has any disability, he/she can relate to the photographs taken. We have created three touch-and-feel paintings for easy appreciation of visually challenged. Our aim is to make the entire world know about the Ajanta caves, its heritage value and the wealth these caves store.
You are an artist-sculptor and a research photographer. What skill do you enjoy the most?
Research photography excites me the most. Because research photography requires background knowledge of elements to be shot, study, patience, stamina, hard work, focus, technical knowledge, vision, analysis, time and psychology. I think I possess all these qualities which are required to become a research photographer.
What would you say is more important good knowledge or good equipment?
Good knowledge creates good equipment. And good equipment brings good results, so both are equally important.