The meandering river Banganga and five hills ensconce picturesque Rajgir, ancient Rajgriha (literally, the abode of kings). During the lifetime of the Buddha this was the capital of the powerful Magadhan kingdom, ruled by the virtuous king Bimbisara. The hills and caves surrounding Rajagriha were home to spiritual teachers, ranging from the materialism of the early Charavaka School to the metaphysics of Upanishadic philosophers. Like many others in search of Truth, Prince Siddhartha, after he renounced his royal heritage came to this city to seek the path of salvation.
Siddhartha overwhelmed the citizens of Rajagriha with his serenity and grace. Even the king went to meet the ascetic and was amazed to learn that he was a kshatriya of royal descent. Bimbisara offered half his kingdom to Siddhartha but all he received was an assurance that when Siddhartha achieved his goal he would return to Rajagriha.
The city of Rajgir (ancient Rajagriha or Rājagṛha; Pali: Rājagaha) was the first capital of the kingdom of Magadha, a state that would eventually evolve into the Mauryan Empire. Its date of origin is unknown, although ceramics dating to about 1000 BC have been found in the city. The epic Mahabharata calls it Girivraja and recounts the story of its king, Jarasandha, and his battle with the Pandava brothers and their allies Krishna. It is also mentioned in Buddhist and Jain scriptures, which give a series of place-names, but without geographical context. The attempt to locate these places is based largely on reference to them and to other locations in the works of Chinese Buddhist pilgrims, particularly Faxian and Xuanzang. It is on the basis of Xuanzang in particular that the site is divided into Old and New Rajgir.
Entering Rajgir from Bodh Gaya one glimpses the remains of the Cyclopean walls which extend from the east to the west, from on hill to another. Once 40kms long, these walls encircled the city built by Bimbisara.
Off the main road, towards the south are the venerated Griddhakuta Hill, or Vulture Peak, and Ratnagiri. The metalled road follows the path originally laid by Bimbisara as a footway through the jungle.
The Vishwa Shanti Stupa
The Vishwa Shanti Stupa is a marble structure with niches bearing golden images of the Buddha, built by the Nipponza Myohoji sect of Japan. Opposite the Stupa stands the Saddharma Buddha Vihara.
A fifteen-minute walk from Vishwa Shanti Stupa leads to Griddhakuta, sanctified by the Master's presence. The strange rock protrusion resembling a vulture's beak probably gave the hill its name. In the rock cut caves here the Buddha spent many rainy seasons, meditating and preaching.
It was at Griddhakuta that the Enlightened One delivered the Lotus Sutra, which promises salvation for all beings. At the hearts of these sutra is the compassion of the Buddha whose concern is with attain Enlightenment, whoever may have folded their hands of uttered name of the Buddha.
The Buddha also delivered the Prajnaparamita or Perfection of Wisdom Sutra at Griddhakuta.
The easy climb down from Griddhakuta Hill crosses the site of Mardakukshi Vihara. The queen tried to get rid of her unborn child when it was prophesied that her son would one day kill his father. The Enlightened one was first brought here when he was wounded by a rock hurled by his envious consin Devadatta. Along the road to the new town built by Ajatashatru are the ruins of Jivakamravana Vihara, the mango grove presented to the Buddha by Jivaka, the royal physician, who cared for the Lord after Devadatta injured him. Stone foundations of large elliptical halls and subsidiary rooms suggest the existence of a large monastery.
Across the road are the remains of the jail where Bimbisara was imprisoned and killed by his son, Ajatashatru. From here the unfortunate king could see the Master as he meditated on Griddhakuta. Ajatashatru, along with Devadatta, had conspired to take the life of the Lord by letting loose a mad elephant. But the Lord tamed the wild elephant. But the Lord tamed the wild elephant which stood still, overcome by the Lord's serene visage. After killing his father, Ajatashatru was filled with remorse and later embraced the faith.
A couple of kilometres away is Venuvana Vihara or the Monastery of the Bamboo Grove. This was Bimbisara's first offering to Lord Buddha. Close by is the Karanda Tank where the Buddha bathed.
On the road leading to Nalanda can be seen the ruins of Ajatashatru Fort. Towards the west, excavations have revealed the ruins of Ajatashatru Stupa, built over his share of the relics of the Buddha. Rajagriha sank into oblivion when Ajatashatru's son, Udayin, shifted the capital to Pataliputra (modern Patna).
Rajgir is also famous for its seven hot sulphur springs, Satadhara. Situated at the foot of Vaibhava Hill it is a ten minute walk from Venuvana. The hot springs are a part of the Lakshminarayan Temple complex.
On the hills above are the Pippala caves, hewn into the stone platform, popularly known as Jarasandh ki Baithak after the mythical Hindu king Jarasandh. A rocky path from Pippala caves leads to the seven caves of Saptaparni, where the First Buddhist Council was held to codify the teachings of the Great Master.
Vardhaman Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara , spent 14 rainy seasons here and many of the hilltops are crowned with Jain temples. A short drive from Venuvana Vihara leads to Virayatna, a Jain ashram, with a residential area and a museum. The cylindrical Jain shrine of the Maniyar Math is decorated with stucco figures. The Sonebhandar caves were built a short distance from Maniyar Math by the Jain saint Vairadeva.
Location and Transport
Rajgir is a city and a notified area in Nalanda district in the Indian state of Bihar. Hundred kilometres south east of Patna, Rajgir is connected by an excellent road to Patna as well as to Bodh Gaya,which is 70kms away. The ancient university, Nalanda, is just 11kms from here. The town's many attractions draw both pilgrims and tourists. It is advisable to hire your own vehicle. The town also boasts the largest number of horse drawn carriages or tongas anywhere in India.
One may visit Rajgir from Patna. Another way is to come via Begusarai junction or Mokameh, after arriving by train in an overnight journey from Kolkata. Rajgir is a diversion from somewhere midway on the Barauniand Patna highway. It is located in a verdant valley surrounded by rocky hills. Recently Indian Railways have started trains from Rajgir to Kolkata and Delhi.
Patna - 100 kms
Bodh Gaya - 70 kms
Nalanda - 11 kms
Bhakhtiyarpur - 54 kms on the Delhi-Howrah main line
Patna - 100 kms
This place has been associated with Lord Buddha and Mahavira. Rajgir has also developed as a health and winter resort due to its warm water ponds. These baths are said to contain some medicinal properties that help in the cure of many skin diseases. The added attraction of Rajgir is the Ropeway that leads uphill to the Shanti Stupa and Monasteries built by the Japanese Devotees of the Buddha on top of the Ratnagiri hills.
Rajgir had a population of 33,691. Males constitute 53% of the population and females 47%. Rajgir has an average literacy rate of 52%, lower than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 61%, and female literacy is 41%. In Rajgir, 19% of the population is under 6 years of age.