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Digitization of paintings of Ajanta Caves begins

By IndianMandarins- 29 Oct 2020


Images of the rock sculptures and restored paintings of the Unesco world heritage site Ajanta Caves would be digitized for future generations. AI and deep learning are being utilized to digitize the paintings.

For this purpose, Arctic World Archive, through Norway-based PIQL, has partnered with Mumbai-headquartered government advisory firm Sapio Analytics.

The ceremonial deposit for digitization commenced on October 21 this year. It included a special photograph of Ajanta Caves by world-famed photographer Benoy Behl, showing a king renouncing all worldly pleasures, a paper called Revelation of Ajanta Caves, quotes from India Inc’s business leaders about Ajanta Caves and this restoration, some sample restored work, among others.

Speaking at the ceremonial function, a message from former Union Minister Suresh Prabhu, who is India’s Sherpa to the G-20 nations, was broadcasted by the MD of Piql, “The ancient art is now getting preserved for all generations to come, for their inspiration, peep into history and pleasure. Ajanta is an example of how rich we as past humans were and how we could build on that in the future when humans will become live machines, thanks to robotization. Art and culture which kept our inner faculties to develop will be on the wane, but no one can develop technology unless human faculties work to optimum, getting creativity to fore. This art will help us all know how to develop us all as true fully grown humans.”

Sapio Analytics’ Heritage Restoration division recreates ancient heritage and culture in its original glory, using digitization and artificially intelligent technologies. It has also partnered with legendary art historians like Benoy Behl to help in such restoration. Restored heritage is then preserved for eternity at the Arctic World Archive by Piql. Ajanta Caves’ restoration and preservation were initiated in the ceremony.

The Arctic World Archive is a growing digital repository of world memory located at the remote island of Svalbard in the Arctic Ocean. Piql’s innovative approach to archiving repurposes photosensitive film to be a digital medium. Data is stored using high-density QR codes with all information needed to recover the information also stored on the film, making it self-contained and future-proof. This tried and tested technology can keep data alive for hundreds of years, without the need for migration.

“We have access to the greatest photographs depicting Ajanta Caves. We are using a team of art historians, leading photographers, and other experts on Ajanta Caves along with deep technology researchers to try and restore Ajanta Caves’ paintings to what they would have been thousands of years ago. We know that this culture needs to be made immortal, and hence we are preserving these works for eternity in the Arctic World Archive. Copies will also be saved in India at our centers.”, said Hardik Somani, COO of Sapio.

‘We are pleased to welcome Ajanta Caves as the first deposit of a UNESCO world heritage site into the Arctic World Archive. Recognized around the world for its significance both in art and culture, this is a very worthy addition to this growing repository of global memory”, said Rune Bjerkestrand, Managing Director of Piql in a statement.

These paintings cannot be captured using lights and hence this preservation is special. "The ancient caves are dark and strong lights were not allowed to be used inside, as these would damage the invaluable paintings. I had fortunately developed a technique of photographing in extremely low light.", said Benoy Behl about how he was able to photograph these paintings over decades, thus helping reveal many hidden aspects of this wonder.

“We are going to use A.I. and Deep Learning to restore the broken images in the said paintings. In order to restore these images, deep learning is applied along with knowledge from the leading art historians of the world, to create the right labels that are being fed into the deep learning models. Dataset training is done through the manual restoration of some paintings.”, added Somani.

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