Due to Ajanta’s location deep in the mountain, they were lost to the world and find no references in any contemporary or later literature till 1819 when they were discovered by john Smith and a group of British officer attached to the Madras Army.
At that time painting were badly damaged. The ruler of the Deccan known as the Nizam of Hyderabad shouldered the responsibility of restoring the paintings, much of the painting were repaired. In later age due to the climatic condition, water seepage, bat excreta, human vandalism and several other reasons the paintings continue to be disfigured, darkened or discoloured and now Ajanta the world’s finest heritage of mankind is on the verge of ruins.
Ajanta may not be dying yet. But like Venice it is incurably sick. The unique cave paintings of Ajanta, for decades, have awed visitors from all over the world, are rapidly becoming a tragic monument to archaeological neglect. The condition of the famous Buddhist cave paintings has visibly deteriorated over the years and even though the caves - one of the world's oldest monasteries - have now been put on the world heritage list, the historic works of ancient Indian art are being starved of the expert attention they urgently require. The biggest threat to these ethereal cave paintings - which date over various centuries from the second century onwards - comes from gawking visitors. Today, on an average, the caves are visited by between 3,000 and 5,000 people every day. Not surprisingly, therefore, carbonization caused by human breath has affected the paintings adversely.
Lights pose yet another danger. Tourists can hire 40 watt bulbs for one and a half hours for certain caves, provided they do not spend more than 15 minutes in each cave and not too long before any one painting. But this rule is observed more in the breach: the lights are focused well beyond the allowed time on the more well-known works like the Black Princess and the apsaras with the famous swaying 'S' curve.
Ultra-violet rays are harmful to the paintings and make them fade, say restorers. Moreover, visitors bring in dust on their shoes and on their person - adding considerably to the dust already on the paintings. The denuded hill opposite the caves only aggravates the dust problem.
Besides the deterioration caused by age and the callous visitors, there are the more deliberate acts of man damaging the paintings. A few have been destroyed in restoration work. Others have been tampered with by over - zealous restorers. Attendants also clean paintings and in the process rub hard things against them."
Many efforts have been put forward by scholars and researchers all over the world to preserve this shrine beauty of Ajanta. Ajanta also has its own painter's devil, Scientist-L. Cecconi had tried to preserve by applying the layer shellac, a varnish on wall painting to make frescos clear and fresh, but after a due period of time these chemical reacted awfully which damaged frescos more terribly, the shellac, which was not uniformly applied, attracted carbon and other matter. It first became brittle and then translucent. Some of the paintings even became chalky and when the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) restorers tried to remove this varnish, hits of the paint came off with the varnish, leaving gaps in the paintings.
ASI started pasting cement blotches wherever painting surface pilled off, with this result, in most of the caves what is conspicuous more is blotches of cement more than paintings. Likewise almost all struggle were failed. Now only option leftover is to restoring World Heritage separately on sheets of paper or canvas without touching and damaging original monument. As per the rule of ASI.
Under such conditions, it is little wonder that the beauty of the paintings and its historic legacy is being gradually buried under layers of neglect and official apathy. And if the present situation is allowed to continue, it won't be long before the enigmatic smiles on the serene faces of the apsaras are wiped out forever.