Ajanta • Maharashtra: Cave No.4 - 5th Century Buddhist Monastery

Cave 4 at Ajanta, India, is one of the significant Buddhist caves within the UNESCO World Heritage site. Dating back to the 5th century AD, this cave is also known as the "Cave of Scenes from Life."

Cave 4 stands out for its sculptures and bas-reliefs depicting scenes from the life of Buddha, as well as key episodes from his teachings. The skilled artisans of the time created intricate details in these sculptures, showcasing remarkable artistic craftsmanship.

The interior of the cave also provides a spiritual ambiance, with its nooks and meditation spaces. Visitors can admire the decorations and sculptures that narrate the story of Buddha.

Grotte 4 at Ajanta is a valuable testament to the art and culture of ancient Indian Buddhism. It attracts visitors from around the world who come to immerse themselves in the history and aesthetics of this remarkable Buddhist cave.

Ajanta • Cave 4 ( India, Maharashtra )

Ajanta • Cave 4

Ajanta • Cave 4 ( India, Maharashtra )

Ajanta • Cave 4

Ajanta • Cave 4 ( India, Maharashtra )

Ajanta • Cave 4

History of Ajanta Cave No. 4: A Majestic Buddhist Monastery of Ancient India 

 

Ajanta Cave No. 4 is part of the famous site of Ajanta, located in the state of Maharashtra in India, which has 30 Buddhist caves dating back to the 2nd century BC. AD to the 6th century AD. These caves, classified as World Heritage by UNESCO, are precious witnesses of Buddhist art and spirituality in ancient India. In this article, we will examine the history, architecture and cultural significance of Ajanta Cave No. 4. 

 

I. The origin of Ajanta Cave No. 4 

 

Ajanta Cave No. 4 is one of the site's more recent group of caves, excavated during the Vakataka period, which corresponds to the development of Mahayana Buddhism in India. Dug in the 5th century AD. AD, this cave was commissioned by an anonymous benefactor, probably a member of the local nobility or a high official, with the aim of creating a place of worship and meditation for Buddhist monks. 

 

II. The architecture of Ajanta Cave No. 4 

 

Ajanta Cave No. 4 is the largest cave-vihara on the site, that is to say a Buddhist monastery composed of a central sanctuary and cells for the monks. The cave is dug into a basalt cliff and has a vast inner courtyard surrounded by colonnades. 

 

The central shrine, or chaitya-griha, houses a colossal statue of the Buddha seated in a meditative position, flanked by sculptures of bodhisattvas and protective deities. The shrine is also adorned with carved reliefs depicting scenes from the life of the Buddha and floral and geometric motifs. 

 

The monks' cells, located around the courtyard, are simple living and meditation spaces, with stone beds and niches for personal effects. 

 

III. The cultural and historical significance of Ajanta Cave No. 4 

 

Ajanta Cave No. 4 bears witness to the importance of Mahayana Buddhism in ancient India and the generosity of benefactors who supported monastic communities. The carvings and reliefs in the cave offer valuable insight into Buddhist iconography of the time, as well as the artistic and architectural techniques used to create these religious monuments. 

 

Although Cave No. 4 does not contain murals like some other caves in Ajanta, it remains an important example of Buddhist art and architecture from the Vakataka period.

Majestic Architecture of Ajanta Cave No. 4 

 

I. Type of Structure 

 

Ajanta Cave No. 4 is a cave-vihara, that is to say a Buddhist monastery. This type of structure is composed of a central sanctuary and cells for the monks. Carved into a basalt cliff, it is the largest cave-vihara on the Ajanta site. 

 

II. The Central Sanctuary 

 

The central shrine, or chaitya-griha, is the centerpiece of the cave. It houses a colossal statue of the Buddha seated in a meditation position. This statue is flanked by sculptures of bodhisattvas and protective deities, testimony to the rich Buddhist iconography of the time. 

 

The sanctuary is also adorned with carved reliefs. These reliefs depict scenes from the life of the Buddha and are complemented by floral and geometric motifs. 

 

III. The Monks' Cells 

 

Around the central courtyard are the cells of the monks. These spaces were intended for daily life and meditation. They are rather simple, with stone beds and niches for personal effects. 

 

IV. The Architectural Ensemble 

 

The whole of Cave No. 4 offers a clear vision of the Buddhist monastic architecture of the time. It testifies to the know-how of the artists and craftsmen of the Vakataka period in terms of stone carving and religious architecture. 

 

In conclusion, Ajanta Cave No. 4 is an important example of Buddhist art and architecture from the Vakataka period. Its size, richly decorated sanctuary and monastic arrangement provide valuable insight into Buddhist religious practice in ancient India.

Monument profile
Cave No.4
Monument categories: Monastery, Rock Sanctuary
Monument families: Monastery • Rock Sanctuary and Monumental Bas-reliefs
Monument genres: Religious
Cultural heritage: Buddhist
Geographic location: Ajanta • Maharashtra • India
Construction period: 5th century AD
This monument in Ajanta is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1983.

• Links to •

• Dynasties that contributed to the construction of the monument •


• List of videos about Ajanta on this site •

Ajanta Caves • Maharashtra, India

• References •