The famous paintings of the Ajanta and Ellora caves are rapidly deteriorating, according to a study by Megha Deshmukh of the Government Institute of Science in Aurangabad. The caves were excavated in hill ranges composed of chaotic piles of irregular basalt flows. The lower parts of some of the flows had several joints. As a result, although the paintings on the flows have a smooth appearance, the statues and pillars along the joints have developed cracks. According to the study, 17 panels in Ajanta and 117 in Ellora have already been affected.
The presence of chlorophaeite in the basalt rocks have also contributed to the degradation. Chlorophaeite has a tendency to absorb moisture, resulting in the formation of thin scales on the rock surfaces. The scales fall off in summer, disfiguring the paintings. Deshmukh says 13 panels in Ellora and 6 in Ajanta have been affected in this manner.
Deshmukh also claims that the percentage of harmful reactive chemicals in the atmosphere has increased substantially due to uncontrolled industrialisation in the Aurangabad and Jalgaon districts of the state and this is affecting the paintings in the caves. He suggests sealing of the cracks in the rocks with epoxy resin and applying a thin chemical coat on the affected panels to constitute a humidity-proof transparent film over the paintings.
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