Rajgir, meaning the abode of gods, is a town in Nalanda district about 93 km southeast of Patna. It was ruled by King Jarasandh of Mahabharat and even finds mention in the Hindu epic. Though the exact date of origin is not known it is believed the city is about 3000-years-old.
The city is divided in to two parts. The fortified part is surrounded by seven hills and the other part was established by King Bimbisara’s son, Ajatshatru.
There are two local beliefs about the name of the town. One belief is that the town gets its name from the Hindi word ‘rajgriha’ which means royal house and the other belief is that the town gets its name from the Hindi word ‘rajgir’ which means royal mountain. Rajgir remained the capital of Magadha till the 5th century BC when Ajatshatru made Pataliputra the capital of his kingdom.
The town finds mention in the Mahabharata as Girviraj. Jarasandh was from Rajgir and he had defeated Krishna 17 times but during the 18th encounter, Krishna fled the battlefield as he had forsaken arms.
King Jarasandh it is believed was slain by Bheem in a wrestling match. A wrestling arena known as Jarasandh’s Akhada stands at the place where it is believed the wrestling match took place.
Along with the Mahabharat, the town has been mentioned in ancient scriptures of the Jains and Buddhists as well as in diaries of Buddhist travellers who visited the region during the Mauryan era.
The town has been an important part of major religions like Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. Relics connected with Jain and Buddhist religion have been unearthed during archaeological excavations. Gautam Buddha is said to have spent many months in meditation on Gridhakut which means Hill of Vultures. Mahavir spent about 14 years of his life in Rajgir and in nearby regions.
The ropeway can be used to reach the Vishwa Shanti Stupa. A ride on the ropeway provides amazing views of the town and the Shanti Stupa itself. The ropeway can take only one person at a time.
The hot springs, known for their medicinal values and religious value, are popular among pilgrims and tourists. There town is surrounded by hills all around which give numerous opportunities to go trekking.
There are a few temples and Maniyar Math that is dedicated to Mani Naag, the local deity. There are other places of interest in the town like Bimbisar’s Jail which was built by Ajatshatru to imprison his father.
WHERE TO STAY
There are a few budget and mid-range hotels located near the railway station and on state highway 71. There are three tourist bungalows maintained by Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation that offer ample space for big groups at affordable rates.
WHERE TO EAT
There are very limited options to eat here. All restaurants and food stalls serve vegetarian cuisine. North Indian, Punjabi and Chinese cuisine are mainly available in the town.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit Rajgir is between October and March.
WHAT TO SEE
Sonbhandar Caves: There are two caves that have been carved out of a single rock with one chamber believed to be the guard room. There is a doorway in the back of the cave which is believed to lead straight to King Bimbisar’s treasury. There are inscription in Sankhilpi or shell script which are believed to have the instructions on how to open the door but the inscriptions are yet to be deciphered.
Hot Spring: Located at the foothills of the Vaibhav Hill, there are separate bathing places in different temples with natural water sprouting out of the ground. The water comes from the seven streams known as Saptadhara that are believed to originate from the Saptarni caves at the top of the hill.
Pipala Cave: Located atop the Vaibhav Hill, Pipala Cave is a rock sculpture believed to have created due to wind erosion and rainfall. It was used as a watch tower. It was inhabited by hermits and came to be known as Pipala Cave. It is also known as ‘Jarasandh ki Baithak’ after King Jarasandh and has been mentioned in the Hindu epic, Mahabharat.
Swarna Bhandar: It is believed to be store the golden treasure of King Jarasandh. The storage is locked and can only be opened by decoding the inscriptions on a stone which remain a secret till date.
Gridhakut: Lord Buddha set his second wheel of law in motion at this site and preached his devotees for three months. There is a modern Shanti Stupa built by the Buddha Sangh of Japan on top of the hill. The stupa can be reached by an aerial chair lift on all days of the week except on Thursdays.
Jivakameavan Garden: Lord Buddha is believed to have been treated by Jivaka, the royal physician during the rule of Bimbisar and Ajatshatru.
Ajatshatru Fort: Built in the 6th century by Magadha King, Ajatshatru, a 6.5 sq m stupa stands atop the fort and is believed to have been constructed by Ajatshatru.
Vishwa Shanti Stupa: Located on a hill at an elevation of over 1300 ft, the Vishwa Shanti Stupa is made from marble and there are four statues of Lord Buddha, at every corner. It can only be reached by ropeway.
Venu Van: This is where the monastery of Venu Van Vihar was built for Lord Buddha by King Bimbisar as his first offering to Buddha. Karanada tank nearby is where Lord Buddha used to bathe.
NEAR TO RAJGIR
Patna: About 93 km northwest of the town, Patna is one of the oldest places in the world that has been inhabited without a pause. Located on the southern banks of the holy Ganga River, it is the capital of the state of Bihar and was earlier known as Pataliputra when it was the capital of the Magadha Empire.
Bodh Gaya: About 70 km southwest of the town, the sacred city of Bodh Gaya is known mainly because of its association with Lord Buddha. Bodh Gaya is the place where the wandering prince Siddhartha (Gautam Buddha) sat in meditation below a Bodhi Tree. The first three days of his meditation and following seven weeks of enlightenment have been closely associated with various places in Bodh Gaya.
Barabar Caves: About 84 km west of the town, Barabar caves date back to the Mauryan period. These caves are the oldest rock-cut caves in India. Located in the Jehanabad district in Bihar about 31 north of Gaya, some of the caves have inscriptions that date back to the Ashoka period.
Swarajpur: About 18 km away, there is a lake and a Sun Temple. The place is a popular pilgrimage in the months of April-May and October-November for worshipping the Sun god also known as Chhath Puja.
Kundalpur: About 15 km north of Rajgir, there is a Jain temple and two lotus lakes. Digambar sect of Jains believed that Lord Mahaveer was born at Kundalpur.
Pawapuri: About 31 km northeast of Rajgir, Pawapuri is also known as Apapuri that means a faultless city. Mahaveer Tirthankar had delivered his last sermons in this town before embracing Mahaparinirvana and was cremated here.
Bihar Sharif: About 23 km northeast of the town, Bihar Sharif is a small town that attracts many pilgrims from all over India. There is a tomb of Makhdum Shah Sharifuddin, a Muslim saint of the 14th century.
Nalanda: About 12 km north of the town, there are ruins of the erstwhile Nalanda University which was founded in 5th century and flourished till the 12th century.
The average minimum and maximum temperature of Rajgir is as given below. The best time to visit Rajgir is also specified.