Rajgir is a town steeped in history, situated in the Nalanda district of Bihar state, India. It served as the capital of the Magadha Empire in ancient times.
Rajgir, the former capital of the Magadha Empire, has become a renowned pilgrimage site for Buddhists due to its significant historical events. The town witnessed the first Buddhist council and the first monastery gifted to Buddha. Several tourist attractions in Rajgir include Griddhakuta Hill, Pippahli Cave, Venuvan, Jeevakaram Math, Tapodharma, Saptaparni Cave, Jarasandha Arena, Gold Reserve, and Shanti Stupa.
In addition to Buddhist sites, Rajgir is also home to several Hindu and Jain temples. The town’s hot springs also provide a relaxing and therapeutic bathing experience. Historically, Rajgir, previously known as Rajagriha during the Magadha Empire, has significant importance and even gets mentioned in the Mahabharata. Bhima killed Jarasandha here in a famous battle. After the shift of the Magadha capital to Pataliputra, Rajgir’s significance gradually diminished.
Vulture’s Peak is a sacred Buddhist site in Rajgir, believed to have been frequented by Lord Buddha during his visits to Rajagriha. According to legends, Lord Buddha survived a fatal attack by his cousin Devadatta on this hill. Vulture’s Peak played a pivotal role in the development of the Mahayana sect, and the famous Lotus Sutra was dedicated to the monks here.
The renowned scholar Hiuen Tsang also mentioned Vulture’s Peak in his writings. Even today, Vulture’s Peak remains a crucial pilgrimage site. And the hill features the Shanti Stupa and a ropeway built by Japan.
This cave holds great significance in Pali literature and is associated with the Buddhist Guru Mahakashyap, who is said to have resided here on numerous occasions. Adjacent to the cave is a house bearing the same name.
Venuvan, a bamboo grove located in Rajagriha, was gifted by Emperor Bimbisara to Lord Buddha. The site was where the first Buddhist monastery was constructed. Emperor Bimbisara gave the grove to Buddha with the intention that he could rest in the serene surroundings of the garden and spread his teachings to the people when he visited Rajagriha.
Tapodharma Math is situated in close proximity to the hot springs, and the site is now home to a Hindu temple dedicated to Lakshmi-Narayan. During Lord Buddha’s time, there was a monastery in this location, and Emperor Bimbisara is said to have visited the nearby hot springs for bathing.
Under the leadership of Mahakashyap, the first Buddhist Council was held at this cave, which had also served as Lord Buddha’s residence on multiple occasions. During that time, the cave was utilized as a dwelling place for Buddhist monks.
Battle Ground of Jarasandh
The Jarasandha Arena is believed to be the site where the great warrior Jarasandha used to practice. It is said that Jarasandha made 24 attempts to capture and kill Lord Krishna in Mathura.
Laxmi Narayan Temple
The pink-hued Lakshmi-Narayan temple is constructed on the banks of the Brahmakund hot spring. The temple is devoted to Lord Vishnu and his consort, Goddess Lakshmi. In the past, during Lord Buddha’s era, Tapodharma Math was built near spring. It is believed that Emperor Bimbisara used to come to bathe this spring.
Rajpath of Rajgir
The path that leads to the palace in Rajgir is believed to have been the main entrance in ancient times. According to legends, Lord Krishna entered the palace through this path. Today, visitors can see two stone pillars along the path, which is about 30 feet wide.
It is said that during the Mahabharata period, the stones on the way were burnt due to the speed of Krishna’s chariot.
The width of the path indicates that several chariots could pass through it at the same time. The path provides visitors with a glimpse of ancient times and the events that took place during that period.
In the forests of Rajgir, there are the remains of a circular building, which was believed to be a prison in ancient times. This building held significant strategic importance back then, and it was here that Ajatashatru imprisoned his own father Bimbisara. The discovery of this relic was made in 1914 AD. Interestingly, this building was later converted into a monastery during the first century, showcasing the transition of its use over time.
The ancient fortification in Rajgir is known as Ajatashatru Fort, and it is believed to have been built by Emperor Ajatashatru during the 6th century AD. Additionally, adjacent to the fort, there is a 6.5-meter-high stupa that is also attributed to Ajatashatru.
The fort offers a panoramic view of the city and the surrounding hills. The fort is a popular tourist attraction and is visited by many tourists every year.
The fortification surrounding Rajgir was an impressive structure stretching 40 kilometers in length and made entirely of stone. This wall dates back to the pre-Mauryan period, making it a remarkable example of ancient engineering.
Even today, remnants of the wall can be seen along the route between Rajgir and Gaya, serving as a tangible reminder of the city’s rich history and the incredible feats of the people who built it.
The Vishwa Shanti Stupa, also known as Gridhakoot, is located on a hill 400 meters high and is made of white marble. The stupa was constructed by the Government of Japan and enshrines the idol of Lord Buddha. Visitors can reach the stupa either by foot or by taking the ropeway. The hill is also known as Gridhakoot.
Karand Talab is a historical pond that was constructed with elaborate structures and it speaks of the glorious past of the Mauryas.
According to the legend, Lord Buddha used to bathe in this pond during his visits to Rajagriha. Local people believe that this pond holds the hidden gold treasure of Emperor Jarasandha.
There is a belief that the Swarna Bhandar cave, which holds the treasure, can only be opened by deciphering the ancient script written on the cave walls. However, there is no evidence to support this claim, and it remains a popular local myth.
Rajgir boasts 26 stunning Jain temples situated on the hills surrounding the city. These temples are quite challenging to reach, but for adventurous mountaineers, the journey can be quite thrilling and exciting.
Located on the side of Vaibhav Hill, there is a natural hot water spring that has separate bathing areas for men and women. Additionally, there is a unique Saptadhara waterfall shaped like a lion, where hot water gushes out from the mouths of seven lions.
It is believed that this hot water originates from the Saptaparni cave. Another attraction in the area is the Brahmakund, a natural hot water well with a temperature of 45 degrees Celsius. The Lakshmi-Narayan temple is built near this well, and visitors can take a dip in the kund’s holy water.
Places to Visit
Surajpur Bhatgaon: Surajpur Bhatgaon is located approximately 18 kilometers away from Rajgir. It is a popular destination for pilgrims due to the presence of a lake and the well-known Sun Temple. The Chhath festival, which is celebrated twice a year in the months of Vaishakh (April-May) and Kartik (October-November), is a significant event in the region, drawing people from various parts of the country.
Kundalpur: Kundalpur, located 18 kilometers from Rajgir, is a significant site for followers of the Digambara sect of Jainism. It is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Mahavira. Visitors can explore the Jain temple here and enjoy the beauty of two Lotus lakes, namely The Dirga Pushkarni and Pandava Pushkarni. These lakes add to the charm of this place and attract many tourists.
Pawapuri: Pawapuri, also known as Apapuri, is a significant Jain pilgrimage site located around 20 km away from Rajgir. It is believed that Lord Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, gave his last sermon here and also attained Mahaparinirvana here. His last rites were also performed at this site. Two prominent Jain temples, Jal Mandir and Samosharan, are situated here and attract a large number of pilgrims. The Jal Mandir is a temple that is surrounded by a pond filled with lotus flowers, and the Samosharan temple is known for its beautiful architecture and intricate carvings.
Bihar Sharif: Bihar Sharif, a city situated about 25 km from Rajgir, is an important pilgrimage center for Muslims. It is situated on a rocky cliff and is home to the mausoleum of the revered Muslim saint, Makhdum Shah Sharfuddin. Apart from its religious significance, the city also has historical importance, having served as the capital of Bihar during the Sultanate period. It was a prominent center of Muslim education during the medieval period and was known as Odantapuri at that time.
Nalanda: Nalanda, located 10 kilometers from Rajgir, is an important historical site. During excavations in the area, the remains of the ancient Nalanda University, a renowned center of learning in ancient India, were discovered. The university was founded by the Gupta ruler Kumaragupta in the 5th century and is believed to have been one of the world’s first universities. The site also contains many stupas, monasteries, and temples, providing valuable insights into the rich history and culture of ancient India.
How to Reach
By Air: If you are planning to travel to Rajgir by air, the nearest airport is the Jayaprakash Narayan Airport located in Patna. You can easily find regular flights from major cities like Kolkata, Mumbai, Delhi, Ranchi, and Lucknow to this airport. Indian Airlines is one of the airlines that operate flights to and from this airport.
By Rail: Rajgir has its own railway station and is well-connected to major cities in India via rail. One can easily find trains to Rajgir from different parts of the country.
By Road: If you prefer the road to travel, Rajgir is well-connected to cities like Patna (110 km), Nalanda (12 km), Gaya (78 km), Pawapuri (38 km), and Bihar Sharif (25 km) through a network of buses and private vehicles.