Cave 4 is the largest vihara (monastery) at Ajanta, planned on a large scale but never finished. It was sponsored by Mathura, one of the inaugurators of Ajanta’s renaissance in the early 460s. Between 469 and 474 CE, when the cave had been abandoned, a part of the hall ceiling collapsed due to a geological flaw and architectural adjustments to the cave had to be made. The patron, Mathura must have hurriedly finished and then inscribed his huge Buddha image by mid-478 CE. During this period the Vakataka patronage of the site ended due to the Asmaka aggression shortly after Harisena’s death. The cave’s old-fashioned porch colonnade reflects its early beginnings although the decoration of the main door is very elaborate. The excavation of the porch walls or the planned painting program was never fully finished even in the excavation’s post-475 phase.
The lintel is decorated with seated Buddhas and ganas, while the topmost band has five chaitya window motifs where three of them contain Buddha images. At the upper corners of the door frame are the bracket figures of sardulas (vyala motif) with riders. To the right of the door is a rectangular panel carved with the figure of standing Avalokitesvara at the center with worshippers praying to him for deliverance from the Eight Great Perils. The Bodhisattva holds in his jata-mukuta a Dhyani Buddha in dharma-chakra-pravartana (teaching) and not in the appropriate dhyana (meditation) attitude. Thus the iconographical canons had not yet crystalized into rigid forms. In the two top corner of the panel are two seated Buddhas, with a third one above within a chaitya window. There is a panel with a carved Buddha in teaching attitude on the other side of the door. The main Buddha image has Vajrapani, with crown and vajra, is on the right, while Avalokitesvara, with his jata headdress, his lotus, and antelope skin, is on the left. The patron however was unable to get the colossal main image finished and dedicated.