Rajgir, which means ‘house of the king’, was the ancient capital city of the Magadha kings until the 5th century BC when Ajatsatru moved the capital to Pataliputra. Forty-six km from Bodhgaya, the town is sacred to the memory of the founders of both Buddhism and Jainism and houses historical remains like the cyclopean wall and marks engraved in rocks.
Rajgir is an important Buddhist pilgrimage site since the Buddha spent 12 years here, and the first Buddhist council after the Buddha was hosted here at the Saptaparni caves. Lord Buddha often went into retreat at the Jivkamaravana monastery in a beautiful orchard. One of his most devoted and prosperous devotees, surgeon Jivaka also lived here. The rich merchant community here soon became the Buddha’s followers and built many structures of typical Buddhist architecture.
Lord Buddha converted the Mauryan king Bimbisara, one of his most celebrated followers, to Buddhism at the Griddhakuta hill, where he delivered many of his sermons as well. The Japanese have built a Stupa on top of the Ratnagiri hill, linked by a rope way. It was here that the teachings of Buddha were penned down for the first time. Rajgir is also an important place of pilgrimage for the Hindus and Jains. Other places to be visited are Bimbisara ka jail, Jarasandha ka akhara, Venuvana, Karand tank, Maniyar math, Swamabhandar cave, Pippala cave, Viswa Shanti Stupa, the famous hot water springs and ruins of an old fort.
Location and History
The Buddha lived in the sixth century BC Mahavir was born in 567 BC and the traveller in Bihar will encounter them both constantly. Rajgir is 10 kms. south of Nalanda and sacred to the memory of the founder of both Buddhism and Jainism Lord Buddha spent many months of retreat during the rainy season here, and use to meditate and preach on Groddhkuta, the “Hill of the Vultures”. Lord Mahavir spent 14 years of his life at Rajgir and Nalanda.
It was in Rajgrih that Lord Buddha delivered some of his famous sermons and converted king Bimbisara of the Magadh Kingdom and countless others to his creed. Once a great city, Rajgir is just a village today, but vestives of a legendary and historical past remain, like the cyclopean wall that encircles the town and the marks engraved in rock that local folklore ascribes to Lord Krishna’s chariot. This legend, like many others, associates Rajgir to that distant time when the stirring events recorded in the epic Mahabharat were being inacted.
|Pilgrimage Attractions of Rajgir
- Griddhakuta or Vulture’s Peak
This was the place where the Lord Buddha set in motion his second wheel of law and for three months every year during the rainy season, Preached many inspiring sermons to his disciples. The Buddha Sangha of Japan have constructed a massive modern stupa, the Shanti Stupa (Peace Pagoda), at the top of the hill in commemoration. A bridle path leads up to the hill but it is much more fun to take the Aerial Chairlift which operates every day except Thursday. One way ride takes 7.5 minutes and the view is splendid over the hills of Rajgir.
- Jain Temples
On hill crests around Rajgir, far in the distances one can see about 26 Jain temples. They are difficult to approach for the untrained, but make exciting trekking for those in form.
- Hot Springs
At the foot of the Vaibhava Hill. A staircase leads up to the various temples. Separate bathing places have been organised for men and women and the water comes through spouts from Saptadhara, the seven streams, believed to find their source behind the “Saptaparni Caves”, up in the hills. The hottest of the springs is the Brahmakund with a temperature od 45 degree Celsius.
- Pippala Cave
Above the hot springs on the Vaibhava Hill, is a rectangular stone sculpted by the forces of nature which appears to have been used as a Watch tower. Since it later become the resort of pious hermits, it is also called Pippala Cave and popularly known as “Jarasandha ki Baithak” after the name of the King Jarasandha, a contemporary of Lord Krishna described in the epic Mahabharat.
Site of the monastery Venuvana Vihar built by King Bimbisara for Lord Buddha to reside. This was the King’s first offering to Lord Buddha.
Other Places of Attractions
Other archaeological sites including the Karnada Tank where Lord Buddha used to bathe, the maniyar Math that dates from the 1st century AD, the Maraka Kushi where the still unborn Ajatshatru was cursed as a patricide, the Rannbhumi where Bhima and Jarasandha fought one of the Mahabharat battles.
The Chariot Route and shell inscriptions are worth a visit for the strangeness of the phenomenon, two parallel furrows cut deep into the rock for about thirty feet giving credence to the local belief that they were “burnt” into the rock by the speed and power of Lord Krishna’s chariot when he entered the city of Rajgir during the epic Mahabharat times. Several shell inscriptions, undeciphered characters current in central and eastern India from the 1st to the 5th centuries AD, are engraved in the rock around the chariot marks. Virayatan -a Jain temple and Museum.
- Swarajpur – Baragaon
18 kms.the lake with its temple of Surya, the Sun God, is a pilgrim destination twice a year in “Vaisakha” (April-May) and in “Kartika” (October-November) during the Chhath Puja or Sun Worship.
The Digamber sector of the Jains believe that Lord Mahavir was born at Kundalpur, 18 kms. from Rajgir. A Jain temple and two lotus lakes -the Dirga Pushkarni and Pandava Pushkarni mark the spot.
35 kms. A sinless city, It is a great pilgrimage centre of the Jains. Mahavira Teerthankara, the greatest profounder of Jainism had delivered his last sermon here, took Mahaprinirvana here and was cremated here. Jalamandir and Samosharan are two beautiful temples.
- Bihar Sharif
25 kms. away, this little town on the top of a craggy rock, attracts thousands of pilgrims of all religions who visit the tomb of Makhdum Shah Sharif-ud-din, a Muslin saint of 14th century. Bihar Sharif was once the capital of Muslim Governors of Bihar between the 13th and 16th centuries when the city was an active cultural centre and an important seat of Muslim thought and learning.
10 kms. where ruins of the great ancient University have been excavated. The University of Nalanda was founded in 5th century AD, this great seat of learning flourished until 12th century. Once 2000 teachers and 10,000 students crowded its portals. King after king built monasteries and temples here.
|Other Attractions of Rajgir
- Malamasa Mela
Rajgir celebrates the Malamasa Mela when a fair is held here every three years. The Indian calendar every three years has a 13th month which is considered auspicious.
- Makar Sankranti
Another festival specific to Rajgir is the Makar Sankranti Mela, held on the last of the lunar calendar month “Paus”, around middle of January. Devotees make flower offering to the deities of the temples at the Hot Springs and bathe in the holy water.
- Rajgir Dance Festival
Department of Tourism, Bihar organises every year, this colorful festival of classical and folk dances at Rajgir from Oct. 24 to 26.
|How to Reach There
The nearest airport is Patna (107km)
The nearest railhead on Delhi-Howrah main line is Bhaktiyarpur, 54 kms., though the loop line connects Rajgir.
Rajgir is connected by road to Patna, Gaya and Delhi/Calcutta.
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